Miami Marlins

The Marlins have been looking for long-term pieces for their rebuild. They found a few

In the midst of their second season of this rebuild, in the midst of a 100-plus loss season, the Miami Marlins have done their share of evaluation.

They’ve analyzed their roster, experimented with different lineup configurations and personnel groupings, all with the intent of finding who — if anyone — on this youth-filled roster has the potential to be long-term pieces for the franchise.

A lot of those players, the Marlins hope, are still waiting in their minor-league system.

But over the course of the 2019 season, which ends Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami has found a handful of young players to anchor this rebuild.

Brian Anderson

A fractured left hand ended Anderson’s season a month early, but there was no denying his impact on this lineup. His 33 doubles and .468 slugging percentage still lead the team despite playing only 126 games, and his 20 home runs are second only to Starlin Castro.

Anderson’s long-term future, the Marlins believe, is at third base but he was stellar defensively at both third and right field.

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Miami Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas grabs a single by Philadelphia Phillies’ Brad Miller during the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum AP

Miguel Rojas

The Marlins proved their commitment to Rojas by giving him a two-year contract extension last week — and it was a fitting gesture considering what he has meant both in the clubhouse and on the field.

Rojas, 30, has been an anchor for his younger teammates this season, most of whom are going to the trials and tribulations of a 100-plus loss season for the first time. He helped keep them grounded through the process. He has expressed his willingness to be a leader in this rebuild multiple times this season.

Rojas also had arguably his best season on the field, too. In his first full year as an everyday starting shortstop, Rojas has hit a career-best .284 with 29 doubles, a triple, five home runs, 46 RBI and 51 runs scored. He has committed just 11 errors defensively. His 11 defensive runs saved are the sixth most by a shortstop this year, according to FanGraphs.

Rojas will continue to anchor the infield for another two years, giving the Marlins time to develop their shortstops in the minors with a little less urgency.

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Cincinnati Reds left fielder Phillip Ervin (6) slides as Miami Marlins shortstop Jon Berti (55) throws to first base to complete the double play during the tenth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Marlins Park in Miami on Thursday, August 29, 2019. DAVID SANTIAGO dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Jon Berti

Berti up until this year was a career minor-leaguer, trapped in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system for eight years before getting his crack with the Marlins this year.

The utilityman showed glimpses of what he could do early this year, but since returning from an oblique injury on July 31, Berti has evolved into one of the Marlins’ most consistent players.

The 29-year-old rookie is hitting .284 with 20 RBI, 12 doubles a triple, four home runs and 39 runs scored in his last 49 games. His 16 stolen bases are tied for the most in that span with the Mariners’ Mallex Smith and the Orioles’ Jonathan Villar.

His average spring speed of 29.8 feet per second ranks fifth in MLB among those with at least 100 competitive runs this year.

And defensively, Berti can start at any of the three outfield spots as well as second base, shortstop and third base.

Garrett Cooper
The Miami Marlins’ Garrett Cooper celebrates with third base coach Fredi Gonzalez after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, at Marlins Park. Michael Reaves Getty Images

Garrett Cooper

When he’s healthy, Cooper has the potential to be a middle of the lineup hitter for this Marlins team. The slugger belted out 15 home runs, drove in 50 and scored 52 runs of his own in his first full major-league season before a left knee injury against the San Francisco Giants sidelined him for the year.

His .281 batting average and .446 slugging with both likely finish as the second-best on the team this year.

First base is his best position defensively, but he is able to play in the corner outfields as well.

But staying on the field is Cooper’s main liability at this point. He missed significant time with injuries this year — first a left calf strain (25 games), then a left hand contusion (nine games) and finally a left knee injury (15 games).

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Miami Marlins’ Jorge Alfaro, left, begins his slide as Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Elias Diaz receives the relay throw during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Diaz had the ball knocked out of his glove and Alfaro was safe on the play. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Gene J. Puskar AP

Jorge Alfaro

When the Marlins traded J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies in February, they were hoping Alfaro would be able to at least replication some of the production from their former All-Star catcher.

And while Alfaro still has room to grow defensively — his 10 passed balls are tied for the third most in MLB — he has more than held his own at the plate in his second full big league season.

Alfaro, 26, is hitting .262 (10th among catchers with at least 300 at bats) with 18 home runs, 57 RBI and 44 runs scored. His strikeout rate (33.4 percent) is still higher than desired, but he has shown increased plate discipline over the final month of the year that the Marlins hope translates into next season.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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