Relive all of the ups and downs of the 2023 Miami Marlins with our Fish On First Season Review, containing detailed articles about a wide variety of players. The FOF staff analyzes the individual impact that each of them had and what it means for their future with the organization.
This installment focuses on catcher Nick Fortes.
Season Stats: 108 G, .204/.263/.299, 52 OPS+, 6 HR, 26 RBI, -0.1 WAR (age-26 season)
Nick Fortes had a lot of Marlins fans excited heading into the 2023 season, clamoring for him to get more playing time. Fortes was seen as a likely upgrade over main starting catcher Jacob Stallings. However, he underperformed almost as much as Stallings this year, at least in terms of individual offense.
During the early portion of his major league career, the perception was that Fortes had a serviceable bat that could cover up for defensive deficiencies. He has completely flipped that script. Fortes this season turned into one of the best blockers in MLB, ranking third among all catchers with 13 blocks above average, according to Baseball Savant. He improved from the 40th percentile in framing to the 66th percentile from year to year, moving up to the 80th percentile in total fielding run value.
The only negative in Fortes’ defense was his inability to throw out baserunners. He was near the bottom of the league in terms of pop time. He committed 12 errors, the third-most in MLB. Nine of those were throwing errors.
Now the elephant in the room: Fortes had a huge dip in his offensive numbers this season. He got off to a very slow start to the season, batting .200 with only one extra-base hit in 19 March/April games. He then had a somewhat promising May, batting .279 with two home runs in those 18 games. But he never truly got hot at the plate.
Fortes did a good job at putting the ball in play, especially against left-handed pitching (13.3 K% vs. LHP). The problem was a lot of weak contact, affecting his on-base and slugging numbers.
Fortes frequently changed his batting stance during the season. He used to be a guy with a tall stance and high leg kick. He strayed far away from that this season, even experimenting with a Paul Goldschmidt-esque, no-stride swing.
Overall, Fortes’ .562 OPS was his worst single-season mark at any level since his freshman year at Ole Miss (.550 OPS in 2016).
Future with the Marlins
For Fortes, his best asset is the relationship he has been able to develop with the Marlins’ young arms. The synergy between them is very visible and that brings added value, indirectly preventing runs from scoring. Maintaining his high-level defense should keep him on the roster in 2024. However, new president of baseball operations Peter Bendix will have to spend this offseason searching for a starting catcher with a more impactful bat.
Catcher is probably the weakest position in the whole Marlins organization. There isn’t a clear-cut starting solution at any level. Jacob Stallings is seemingly out the door as the non-tender deadline approaches next week. Will Banfield (FOF’s #20 prospect) and Paul McIntosh (#25) are candidates to push their way to the big league roster, but they have incomplete skill sets at this stage of their careers.
We will just have to wait and see what direction the Marlins go in.
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