Miami Marlins

Ignore the numbers, Mattingly says. Magneuris Sierra is ‘going to be good’

Miami Marlins center fielder Magneuris Sierra bunts during the tenth inning of a Major League Baseball interleague game against the New York Yankees at Marlins Park on Tuesday, August 21, 2018.
Miami Marlins center fielder Magneuris Sierra bunts during the tenth inning of a Major League Baseball interleague game against the New York Yankees at Marlins Park on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

His batting average is poor. His on-base percentage is miniscule. And yet Marlins manager Don Mattingly sees a potential future star in rookie outfielder Magneuris Sierra.

“The kid’s going to be good,” Mattingly said. “He’s going to be a player.”

The numbers might not say so now. But Mattingly and others in the organization are still bullish on the 22-year-old outfielder they acquired from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna deal last winter.

“It’s just a lack of experience,” Mattingly said. “They main thing for Mags is just to keep playing because he’s going to be a player.”

Sierra is hitting just .198 with a paltry .228 on-base percentage. Of the 400 players with at least 125 at bats, Sierra ranks 399th with an OPS of .442.

The statistics don’t scream future All-Star.

But neither did Kenny Lofton’s when he first hit the major league scene, and Mattingly sees a Lofton-type of talent in Sierra.

“Some people kind of compare him to Juan Pierre,” Mattingly said of Sierra. “I compare him more to Kenny Lofton and Kenny Lofton was a really good player.”

Lofton hit just .203 with a .253 on-base percentage as a September call-up for the Houston Astros in 1991. By the time his 17-year career was finished, Lofton was a six-time All-Star with a .299 career batting average and 622 stolen bases.

Sierra has experienced his own growing pains since coming up from the minors in late July. It took more than 100 plate appearances before he drew his first walk, all but nullifying the sheer speed he brings to the base paths.

But he has shown recent glimmers of progress. He went 5 for 9 in the final three games of the Marlins series with the Reds and reached base three times on Sunday with a pair of hits and walk.

“In the last few games I’ve changed my routine,” Sierra said through a translator. “I knew I had to do something. Before, I used to take a lot of swings (in batting practice and the indoor cages), and it was more tiring than benefitting me in the game. I’ve condensed everything in the pre-game to stay fresh in the game.”

Mattingly said Sierra just needs experience.

“He’s a young 22,” Mattingly said. “This is a kid you feel like is an 18 year old playing up here, which is okay. The more baseball he plays, the more situations he’s in, the more chances he has to learn from them.”

Sierra said he intends to play winter ball in the Dominican to continue sharpening his skills.

But Mattingly said there’s no doubt in his mind that Sierra will one day be a success.

“He runs too good. He throws too good,” Mattingly said. “He’s got good hand-eye coordination. We’ve seen some good signs. When experience comes, he is just going to continue to get better.”

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The Marlins’ minor-league teams finished with a cumulative record of 315-363, which ranked them 26th over the 30 organizations, according to Baseball America.

Not a single minor-league affiliate of the Marlins made the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Rays finished atop the organizational rankings with a combined record of 444-307 for a .591 winning percentage. Five Rays affiliates reached the postseason.

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