The Marlins have had major issues driving in runs over the first two months of the season.
But it’s usually not so bad when Brian Anderson is up to bat.
On a team that ranks last in the majors in run production, Anderson has emerged as one of the National League’s best hitters with runners in scoring position.
In such situations, Anderson entered Wednesday’s game hitting .407 (22 for 54), which ranks second in the National League among hitters with 50 such plate appearances behind only Freddie Freeman.
Anderson, who went 3 for 5 with three RBI and tied a season-high three hits in the Marlins’ 7-4 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday, has driven in 24 runs in those situations, which is also tied for 14th among all NL hitters.
The next-highest average with RISP by a Marlin is Starlin Castro (.255).
“He’s had competitive at-bats all year long,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “What we’ve liked the best is his consistency. He’s hit good pitching and guys have changed how they were pitching him early because he was swinging the bat so good. He’s made adjustments to that.”
While his clutch hitting has been precious to a Marlins’ lineup that ranks second-to-last in the National League ahead of only Arizona with runners in scoring position (.230), Anderson has emerged as one of the NL’s best rookie hitters overall.
Anderson’s .298 batting average leads all NL rookies with at least 100 at-bats this season. His 28 RBI rank second among the same group behind only San Diego Padres third baseman Christian Villanueva.
Anderson also leads all such rookies in doubles (14), triples (two), on-base percentage (.371) and ranks third in OPS (.788). He also has 20 multi-hit games, has reached base safely in 50 of the Marlins’ 60 games.
“I shouldn’t say he’s a big surprise because I always liked his swing,” Mattingly said. “Last year he didn’t have a ton of success during the [major-league] call-up, but there’s a lot to like. His body, he’s physical. He’s getting stronger. There’s a lot to like about Brian Anderson.”
Anderson showed a glimpse Tuesday of his potential power game, which is the only element that has really yet to come along.
Anderson tagged a 91.9 mph fastball from Cardinals reliever Preston Guilmet and sent it opposite field 371 feet for a three-run home run that drove in the decisive runs in the game. It was his first road home run of the season.
“I think that's something I pride myself on, to be able to use the whole field,” Anderson said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to hit opposite-field home runs all the time, but I’m definitely trying to let the ball get deep, and use the whole field.”
Anderson hit 22 home runs combined last year in the minors at the Double A and Triple A levels.
Anderson has only three homers so far this season, and playing part of the time at spacious Marlins Park hasn’t helped those numbers.
But Mattingly believes Anderson’s power will emerge over time.
“I think he’s a 20-25 [home run] guy if he just stays with his swing,” Mattingly said. “How many balls has he hit off the wall [at Marlins Park]? As he gets stronger, you could see it when he came into camp this year. He knows that [power] is gonna keep coming.”
The Marlins on Wednesday recalled right-handed pitcher Ben Meyer from Triple-A New Orleans to make his major league debut and join the team's bullpen.
Meyer, a 25-year old lefty, is 3-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 10 starts (50 2/3 innings) at New Orleans. He struck out 39 and walked 14 at Triple-A. The Marlins drafted Meyer (6-5, 180 pounds) in the 29th round in 2015 out of the University of Minnesota. The Marlins optioned right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne to New Orleans.
Mattingly said the club was expecting to recall right-handed starter Trevor Richards from Triple A on Thursday and move him into the rotation to start that day’s game against the Cardinals. Right-hander Elieser Hernandez would move from the rotation to the bullpen. The Marlins would then have to make a corresponding roster move.
The Marlins wrapped up their first draft under their new ownership group on Wednesday selecting pitchers with 19 of their final 30 picks with 17 of them college pitchers.
Their selections were: Meridian Community College CF Davis Bradshaw (11th round), University of Kansas RHP Zack Leban (12th), C Keegan Fish, Ohio Lakota West High (13th), RHP Eli Villalobos, Long Beach State (14th), RHP Zach Greene, South Alabama (15th), RHP Sam Bordner, Louisville (16th), LHP Alex Vesia, Cal State East Bay (17th), RHP Zach Wolf, Seattle U. (18th), RHP Justin Evans, Columbus State U. (19th), RHP Cam Baird, Texas State (20th), RF Connor Grant, North Greenville U. (21st), Milton Smith, Jr., Meridian CC (22nd), RHP Giovanni Lopez, U. Missouri Columbia (23rd), RHP Nathan Alexander, UT San Antonio (24th), SS Luke Jarvis, Auburn (25th) RHP Tyler Jones, Wichita State (26th), LF Harrison Dinicola, Texas A&M Corpus Christi (27th), SS Gunnar Schubert, Gonzaga, R/R (28th), RHP C.J. Carter, Troy (29th), LHP Garrett McDaniels, Pee Dee Academy (30th), OF Steve Scott, Vanderbilt (31st), RHP Jake Norton, Stephen F. Austin (32nd), SS Andrew Martinez, UC Santa Barbara (33rd), RHP Joe Strzelecki, Nova Southeastern (34th), RHP Jackson Rose, Minnesota (35th), RHP Riley Egloff, Colorado Heritage HS (36th), RHP Robby Martin, Tampa Jefferson (37th), RHP Bryce Miller, Blinn College (38th), 3B Andrew Turner, Long Island U. (39th), LHP Andrew Miller, Kentucky (40th).
Thursday: Miami Marlins RHP Elieser Hernandez (0-3, 4.29 ERA) vs. St. Louis Cardinals RHP Miles Mikolas (6-1, 2.49), 1:15 p.m., Busch Stadium.
Friday: Marlins LHP Caleb Smith (4-6, 4.03) vs. San Diego Padres LHP Eric Lauer (2-3, 6.82), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.