Diamonds in the Rough: Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich Have Been Bright Spots for the Marlins
Heading into this season, the Marlins were an intriguing team to keep an eye on.
National Leauge MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton was returning after missing the final month of last year and NL Cy Young candidate Jose Fernandez was returning in July. The team had traded for Martin Prado, Dan Haren, and All-Star Dee Gordon, while signing free agents Mike Morse and Mat Latos to bolster the roster.
However, manager Mike Redmond was fired just 38 games into the season, Morse, Latos, and Haren were all traded at the deadline, and nearly every starter had spent some time on the disabled list. Heading into the final 28 games, the Marlins sit at 55-79, with the fourth worst record in baseball.
Due to the team’s poor performance and health issues, many young players were given the opportunity to get at-bats. Two players that have made the most of their opportunity this season are Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich.
The Marlins acquired Bour via the Rule-5 draft in 2013, and he made his Major League debut last year, playing in 39 games and hitting .284/.361/.365 in 83 plate appearances.
Before the season began, the Marlins expected Michael Morse to get the majority of at-bats while playing first base. But, he struggled at the plate, spent time on the disabled list, and was eventually traded.
Bour has proceeded to hit .257/.326/.457 in 100 games this season, launching 15 home runs and 15 doubles. Despite having the eighth most plate appearances on the team, Bour ranks second in the home run category. His OPS+ of 113 and wOBA of .337 trail just Dietrich and Stanton among batters on the Marlins with over 150 plate appearances.
Bour’s batting average and on-base percentage dropped a bit compared to his 2014 season, but that could be expected due to his abnormal .370 BABIP in ’14. This year it is down to a more reasonable .288. More importantly, Bour’s wOBA, OPS, and ISO, which measures power, have all increased with more at-bats this season. Bour’s ISO of .200 this season ranks third on the team and rates out as “great,” as an ISO of .140 represents “average” power.
Justin Bour has clearly shown he is valuable at the plate, but certainly needs work in the field. Bour currently owns a -1.1 dWAR, which is a defensive measure of wins above replacement, factoring in solely the defensive performance of the player. He also registers a UZR/150 rating of -8.1, meaning Bour is about eight runs below average as a fielder per 150 games.
Miami acquired Dietrich in December of 2012 via a trade with Tampa Bay. He made his debut in 2013 and showed improvement from ’13 to ’14, as his OPS+ rose from 85 to 99.
Due to injuries to third baseman Martin Prado and outfielder Christian Yelich -- plus outfielder Marcell Ozuna's demotion -- Dietrich was able to get some at-bats this year. In his limited opportunity, he has absolutely raked.
In just 206 plate appearances, Dietrich has hammered 10 home runs, 12 doubles, and a triple, while putting up a slash line of .263/.359/.514. His OPS+ of 137 and wOBA of .373 both rank second on the team, trailing just Stanton. Additionally, Dietrich’s oWAR ranks third on the team, trailing just All-Stars Dee Gordon and Stanton.
If Dietrich could maintain this rate for a full season, the Marlins would be looking at an on-base percentage around .360, approximately 25 home runs, and 30 doubles. Any team would love to put a guy with those numbers right in the middle of their lineup.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Marlins do not appreciate Dietrich’s ability. Nine other guys on the Marlins have more plate appearances than the team’s second best hitter. Ichiro Suzuki for some reason, is the team’s primary fill-in and bench player, and he has 160 more plate appearances than Dietrich. However, Ichiro's OPS of .612 pales in comparison to Dietrich’s .874.
Like Bour, Dietrich also needs to work on his performance in the field. Dietrich played 166 innings at third, but after registering an atrocious UZR/150 rating of -21.8, he was moved to the outfield. Dietrich has been better in his 235 innings in the outfield, but still not very good, with a UZR/150 rating of -11.3.
The Marlins rank 29th in the MLB in home runs, SLG, and OPS, so both Dietrich’s and Bour’s performances at the plate have been helpful. Dietrich may be a negative in the field, but his offensive performance is so strong that he ranks seventh on the team in WAR at 0.7. The other six players he trails all have approximately double his number of plate appearances.
Both Dietrich and Bour have shown impressive potential at the plate for the Miami Marlins. If they can work on their defense this offseason and show improvement in that area, there is no reason why these two players won’t be in the lineup everyday for the Marlins in 2016.