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Berti makes versatility his Major asset

Super-utility man establishes himself as option at five positions
@cdenicola13
February 18, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- You'll have to forgive Jon Berti if it takes a moment for him to recall his natural position. After all, the Marlins' super-utility player took the field at five spots (third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots) during his rookie season in 2019.

JUPITER, Fla. -- You'll have to forgive Jon Berti if it takes a moment for him to recall his natural position.

After all, the Marlins' super-utility player took the field at five spots (third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots) during his rookie season in 2019.

"I'd say the place we were most surprised and happy about was [shortstop]," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on Tuesday from the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. "He plays a lot of second, he'd played some outfield, he'd played third. Short was the one position that he hadn't played that much, and he ended up grading out above average [there]. [He had] more arm strength than we knew, and [showed] plenty of arm strength for short. We were happy with Jon all over the field, but short was a surprise as to how good he was."

Oddly enough, Berti grew up as a shortstop, but when the Blue Jays selected him in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft, they moved him to second base. By his fifth professional season, he started moving around the infield and outfield -- starting just six games at his natural position over parts of eight Minor League seasons.

In the offseason of 2018, Berti elected for free agency and signed with the Marlins with just four big league games under his belt. Unproven, a 29-year-old Berti made the most of his opportunity upon his return from the injured list in late July.

Berti slashed .273/.348/.406 with 14 doubles, one triple, six homers and a team-high 17 stolen bases over 73 games. His sprint speed (29.8 feet per second) ranked sixth among players with a minimum of 100 opportunities. And he finally got the chance to return to his roots at short, where he appeared in 32 games (26 starts) with Miguel Rojas sidelined by an injury.

"I always thought I had the ability to play shortstop, but until you actually are given an opportunity to go out there and do it, you never truly know," said Berti, who recorded one Defensive Run Saved and 0.5 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) at the position. "I was just really thankful and fortunate to get an opportunity to go out there and display what I can do and show that I can play shortstop at the big league level."

One year later, Berti is more established and he projects to play regularly. Twelve-year veteran Sean Rodríguez -- another super-utility option -- signed on with Miami as a non-roster invitee, and Jonathan Villar may see time in both the outfield and infield.

It's a role Rojas took on not too long ago, serving as Adeiny Hechavarría's backup and moving around the diamond as a late-inning defensive replacement in 2016.

That versatility naturally benefits a National League club in terms of pinch-hitting and double switches. It also comes in handy in relation to injuries and workloads.

"To always be ready for the opportunity," Rojas said. "I feel like Berti earned his opportunity to be here, to be part of this club, and I'm so happy that I can help a guy that is going through the same thing that I did when I was younger. He had the opportunity that he can play in the outfield, too, which is even better. But at the same time, I'm so happy the way he goes about his business, because he's the kind of guy who's never going to say no to any assignment that he gets.

"I like the way that he plays the game, and I think he's just going to be fine with whatever they ask him to do. He's a guy who's always upbeat, always positive about things, and he's taken advantage of every opportunity that they give him. I have to reflect on my [own] career. Four years ago, I was kind of that guy who was coming into Spring Training fighting for a job, wherever it was."

Berti may balance time at various spots, but he only juggles two gloves -- one for the outfield and another for the infield. In order to stay sharp, he goes around to different infield spots during batting practice and takes a round in the outfield. Berti will also get reps in at the position he is penciled in to play on a given day.

"I understand some people want to be an everyday [player at a] certain position and stuff like that," Berti said. "I get that, but for me, I enjoy the fact being able to play all over the field and have them trust my ability to play all over the field."

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.