(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Marlins' Brian Anderson emerges among MLB's top rookies

July 23, 2018 - 10:25 am
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By STEVEN WINE ,  AP Sports Writer

MIAMI (AP) — The rebuilding Miami Marlins may have found their third baseman of the future. Or their right fielder.

It's the same player: Brian Anderson, who has blossomed into a contender for NL rookie of the year in his first full major league season.

Anderson began the week batting .282 with eight home runs and a team-high 49 RBIs. It's increasingly clear he'll be one of Derek Jeter's rebuilding blocks, but it's uncertain where Anderson will play.

He was a third baseman in the minors and began this season at that position. But when veteran third baseman Martin Prado returned from an injury in late April, Anderson was moved to right field, a position he hadn't played regularly since he was at the University of Arkansas.

He has thrived in the outfield, winning raves for his strong arm. And he continues to hit.

"I just try to stay as even keel as possible," says Anderson, 25.

He has been in the majors only since last September, which is why manager Don Mattingly — never one to gush — tempers his praise of Anderson's hitting.

"This guy is solid," Mattingly says. "He had a heck of a first half. We'll see what happens here the second half."

Critiques at this point are only positive. Anderson has been a plus defender in right, as he was at third base. He hits to all fields with pop, and began the week with 34 extra-base hits and an average of .404 with runners in scoring position. He ranks among the leading rookies in the majors in average, on-base percentage, slugging and RBIs.

Teammates praise his mature, professional approach.

"He has that old-school mentality, which is to hang around and ask questions and talk about baseball," Prado says. "It's rare in this generation to see guys with that mentality at that stage. In the years to come he's going to be a really solid player."

With new CEO Jeter building from the ground up, the Marlins are looking for potential cornerstones, and Anderson is being given every chance to show he should be part of the long-term plan. He has started all but one game this season and leads the team with 439 plate appearances.

Like the front office, Anderson is curious to find out how good he can be.

"I'm just trying to keep healthy and stay consistent and see what I can do," he says. "That's something I pride myself in — to keep myself on the field as much as possible to help the team any way I can."

Miami drafted Anderson in the third round in 2014 after he hit .328 as a junior at Arkansas. He batted only .235 in Single-A the following year but has steadily improved his average and power numbers since. A .339 average in 33 games at Triple-A New Orleans last year earned him a promotion to the majors.

Anderson has been a big part of this season's surprising surge by the Marlins, who were awful early but have gone 23-19 since June 5. He delivered his first walk-off RBI to beat the Giants last month, and hit a three-run homer to trigger an eight-run inning as Miami rallied past the Phillies in the final game before the All-Star break.

"He has been a sparkplug for us," All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto says. "And he still hasn't tapped into his full potential. He has actually had some unlucky outs. His at-bats have been even better than his numbers. He's just going to continue to improve."