Fit, fun Aguilar energizes Marlins camp

Versatile utility man Berti ready to 'help this team win'

February 25th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- Arguably no other player better exemplified the 2020 Marlins than . The fun-loving first baseman knew there was a time for fun and a time to be serious. Both were underdogs experiencing a renaissance during the franchise's first postseason run in 17 years.

A struggling Aguilar, who was a 2018 All-Star, found his career at a crossroads a year later when the Brewers dealt him to the Rays. Miami then claimed him off waivers from Tampa Bay that offseason, and he bounced back to play a pivotal role in helping the Marlins go from 105 losses and last in the National League East in '19 to an appearance in the NL Division Series in '20.

"Obviously a guy that hit, just to start with the performance side of it," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on Zoom. "You know, he was good against righties and lefties, guy that was a force in the middle of our lineup. But if you get past that, I feel like he's good defensively. For a big guy over there, you would think he wouldn't move, but he moves good, he's got good hands.

"And then you get really to his influence I think within the team and the way he plays with energy. Good with all our players, keeps it light, but knows when to get down to business. I think all aspects with Jesús [have] really been positive."

Aguilar was one of just two position players (the other being ) to avoid missing time during the truncated 2020 season. The 30-year-old, who was tendered a contract in December for his performance, slashed .277/.352/.457 with a 120 OPS+ in 51 games. He ranked 40th among MLB qualifiers in pitches per plate appearance (4.08), parlaying that into respectable numbers for xBA, strikeout percentage, walk percentage, whiff percentage and xwOBA.

The universal designated hitter is not expected to return for 2021. Aguilar and split time between first base in '20. Entering the spring, it looks as though Aguilar will get the majority of first-base reps, with Cooper spending time at the outfield corners.

Thursday on Zoom, Aguilar admitted that he got too comfortable coming off his All-Star campaign in 2018, and it carried over into his preparation the following Spring Training. Since then, he has worked to keep off weight, eliminating sugar and arepas from his diet. They have been replaced by arugula, fruit and fish.

"I said before, I gotta be on my 100% to try to compete here," Aguilar said on Zoom.

Berti's versatility
While and No. 4 prospect Jazz Chisholm are the front-runners for the second-base job, utility player 's value cannot be overstated. Berti's ability to play six defensive positions would help the ballclub should Miami elect to go with a short bench. Since joining the Marlins in 2019, Berti has appeared at all three outfield spots as well as third, second and short.

"Honestly, wherever Donnie and the staff [need] me," Berti said on Zoom. "If that's playing every day at a certain position, great. If that's bouncing around playing everywhere like I kind of have the last few years, that's great, too. Just trying to do my best to help this team win on a daily basis and, you know, let them figure that part out of it and just work hard every day."

Thursday's scene on the back fields
• General manager Kim Ng was making the rounds during batting practice.

• Reliever Richard Bleier and Rule 5 Draft pick Zach Pop were among the Miami pitchers to throw live batting practice. The Marlins also worked on communication drills among the infield and outfield.

He said it
"I have not worked on the crawling aspect yet, kind of been keeping that one to myself. Maybe I'll open it up to the other guys and let them in on my secret on how not to fall on your face when you start stumbling." -- Berti, on giving baserunning advice