Justin Bour's emergence gives Marlins big-time power potential
MIAMI -- Make no mistake: The 2015 Miami Marlins didn't live up to the hype and expectations.
As the New York Mets celebrated its first division title in nine years, the Marlins and Atlanta Braves battled for third place in the beleaguered National League East.
But what has been cooking over the past month to the tune of baseball's best record has many, including All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton, excited for what the future holds.
Leading the way is rookie Justin Bour, who recorded his first multi-homer game as the Marlins swept the Braves with a 9-5 victory on Sunday afternoon. With the win, Miami finished 41-40 at Marlins Park -- its first winning record in South Florida since 2010. It also clinched third -- a seemingly improbable feat at the trade deadline.
Stanton, who signed the richest contract in North American sports history last offseason, will likely team up with Bour for a potent middle part of the lineup in 2016.
Bour ranks fourth in club history with 23 dingers as a rookie in 123 games. He passed Stanton -- of all people -- on the list with Sunday's production.
"We knew the power was there," said Stanton, who will travel with the club to St. Petersburg but hasn't announced whether he will return from the disabled list. "Now he's putting it together with good form. I think the league adjusted to him after his first month, month and a half, and he adjusted back. It'll be a good place to finish the year and he'll learn and look over his whole season and see the differences in the way he did for next year."
Miami acquired Bour from the Chicago Cubs in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 Draft in 2013 for $12,500.
After two stints in the majors in 2014 that spanned 64 days, Bour began 2015 with the Zephyrs before filling in for Michael Morse, a free-agent signee and World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants last fall.
When Morse struggled and got injured, Bour took advantage of the opportunity. He never relinquished it. As a result, Morse -- given a two-year deal last winter -- was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"The potential is there," manager Dan Jennings said. "Our scouting staff has done a nice job over time. Dan Uggla and what he was able to do as a Rule 5. JB in the Triple-A phase of that for $12,500. And for him to swing the bat the way he has is phenomenal."
Until recently, the 27-year-old first baseman still hadn't locked up the job. The Marlins remained coy about what their plans were for the position.
That can't be the case now when Bour has homered in four of his last five contests. He ranks third behind Kris Bryant (26) and Joc Pederson (25) amongst NL rookies, with far fewer plate appearances. Bour has shown the ability to adjust at the plate. His catch, stumble and flip on Martin Prado's web gem showed there is defensive potential in the big man.
"Honestly, it's just not trying too hard," Bour said. "I got to give some credit to (David) Phelps. The last three days he's picked out a bat for me every day and I've gone back to him for three straight days now and I have home runs. I've got to give a little credit to him on that. I made sure he marked my bats to use on certain days (on the road)."
Prado, the unofficial captain and 10-year veteran of this ballclub, admitted he doesn't follow front-office decisions. Miami's recent play, however, should help the case for many guys auditioning for roles.
Bour is one of them. His status has drastically changed within the year.
"If my teammates stay healthy the whole year we can do something special," Prado said of 2016. "I'm not a guy that actually believes that come to spring training and talk, talk, talk, what we're going to do. 'We're going to do this, going to do that.' You just got to make it happen. Be quiet. Be a sleeper team. Just go out there and play, man. Play 162 games and see what happens and not just making predictions."