With Riddle, Marlins may wind up with puzzle

Prospect improving on offense while filling in for Hechavarria

With Riddle, Marlins may wind up with puzzle

MIAMI -- J.T. Riddle is giving the Marlins something to think about.

Ranked by MLBPipeline.com as Miami's No. 12 prospect, the 25-year-old is making the most of his first big league opportunity, and he's building a case to eventually become the everyday shortstop.

The question is becoming a matter of when, though there is also a big if involved. Riddle is filling in for Adeiny Hechavarria, who has been on the disabled list since May 10 with a right oblique strain.

Hechavarria is expected back at the beginning of June at the earliest, and the organization will then have to figure out playing time for both.

Since Riddle was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on May 9, he is batting .275/.295/.450 with four doubles, a home run and seven RBIs. He's struck out eight times in 40 at-bats, and he has two walks in 44 plate appearances.

In 22 big league games, Riddle's slash line is .241/.254/.426. It's hardly a big sample size, but he is continuing to show promise.

Mattingly on prospect Riddle

"His at-bats have gotten better and better," manager Don Mattingly said. "It's the same for anyone, it's how they handle the bat. At that position, you obviously have to play defense. That's got to be No. 1. You've got to be able to catch the ball and make the plays there at short.

"Then, how good he can be kind of rides with the bat. To see what kind of player he's going to end up being."

The Marlins have had their struggles in May, posting a 5-17 record in the month, but Riddle has been a bright spot.

According to Statcast™, Riddle's average exit velocity is 87.1 mph since May 9. During that same stretch, among his teammates, he's ahead of Derek Dietrich (86.6 mph), J.T. Realmuto (86.4) and Marcell Ozuna (85.5 mph).

"Just getting reps," Riddle said. "The more [at-bats] you get, the more comfortable you get. Just learning pitchers and everything. Pitchers have tendencies, just picking up on that, and being more relaxed."

Riddle scorched a line drive to right field in Wednesday's 4-1 loss at Oakland that was tracked at 107.5 mph. Statcast™ recorded the drive as a "barrel," which is an extremely well-struck ball that factors in exit velocity and launch angle.

The blistered line drive was dropped by Matt Joyce, who struggled picking the ball up in the sun, for a two-base error.

Riddle's first MLB stint was April 11-18, when he was promoted after Hechavarria's first DL trip. Riddle went 2-for-14 in that stay, and his average exit velocity on 11 balls in play was 75.7 mph.

"We've always felt he could be an everyday player in the Major Leagues," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "It's just a matter of when that would happen."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.