NEW YORK -- A lineup decision Marlins manager Don Mattingly found himself having to make daily was who to start at shortstop. It wasn't always cut and dry, because he had two options -- Miguel Rojas and JT Riddle.Rojas got the starting nod on Friday night in the series opener
NEW YORK -- A lineup decision Marlins manager Don Mattingly found himself having to make daily was who to start at shortstop. It wasn't always cut and dry, because he had two options -- Miguel Rojas and JT Riddle.
Rojas got the starting nod on Friday night in the series opener with the Mets at Citi Field. It was the 29-year-old's 82nd start at shortstop. But Riddle, a left-handed hitter, has started 74 games.
"I think we're probably better served if one guy is playing there most of the time, to be honest with you," Mattingly said. "I think that's a discussion going into the winter, trying to put that position in perspective on which way we want to go with it."
Of the two, it's a tough call.
Rojas has been the steadier of the two, and he's the most versatile player on the roster. He's played shortstop, third, second and first, and is arguably the best defensively on the team at each position. In 151 total games going into Friday's game against the Mets, he's hitting .247/.294/.342 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs.
Riddle, 26, opened the season on the disabled list as he was recovering from surgery on his left shoulder. Due to the surgery, he wasn't able to work out last offseason, which caused a decrease in his power.
"It's a hard one because Miggy has shown that he's playing every day and swinging the bat well," Mattingly said. "Riddle has had flashes, but it's been inconsistent. We don't know if it's coming from the winter of lack of work, and things like that because of the shoulder surgery."
Riddle has slashed .230/.277/.378 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs.
A case could be made that collectively, the two have combined for 20 home runs and 88 RBIs. So, they could continue to share the role.
But because shortstop is a premium position, ideally, organizations would like to have one to handle the role.
"It's a tough call, in my mind," Mattingly said. "But it seems like it should be a little more settled, instead of trying to see both guys."
Digging deeper into the analytics, Riddle impacts the baseball a little better. According to Statcast™, Riddle's average exit velocity is 86.9 mph, compared with Rojas' 84 mph. And Riddle's hard-hit rate (95-mph exit velocity or above) is 28.9 percent to 23.1 percent for Rojas.
In terms of sprint speed, Riddle covers 27.8 feet per second, on average, to 26.6 percent for Rojas.
Before Riddle's shoulder injury in 2017, his average hard-hit rate was 31.7 percent in April and May.
With the organization in a transitional season, the Marlins gave extended playing time to players to see what they could do.
Another scenario also could surface in 2019. If second baseman Starlin Castro is traded in the offseason, then Rojas or Riddle could be a second-base candidate. Of the two, Rojas has more experience playing other positions.
"This year has been a little different," Mattingly said. "As we've gotten into it, and it was pretty evident that we weren't going to be a playoff-contending team, then it was just a matter of playing both guys. Obviously, I don't think that's the best way."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.