by Eno Sarris //
The Marlins are used to plugging in young players around the diamond and watching them perform. This year will be no different, as the team faces unsettled situations at second base, third base, and left field. How those battle play out will be interesting in fantasy leagues – at least deeper ones.
Left field used to be the dominion of former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan. But after he hit the DL last season with a knee injury, former first base prospect Logan Morrison took over…and probably did well enough to keep the job. Though he didn’t show great power (.164 isolated slugging percentage, .150 ISO is about average), Morrison walked 14.3% of the time in his debut – and that number fit his minor league profile, as he walked 18.4% of time at Double-A and 16.4% in Triple-A. Morrison’s batting average on balls in play (.351 BABIP) was a little high, as he struck out 20.9% of the time last year in the majors (vs. 16.5% of the time in Double-A, and 14.7% of the time in Triple-A). Fewer strikeouts and a lower BABIP may just result in a similar batting average next year. Don’t expect the power to grow too fast, though – he only showed a .181 ISO in Triple-A, and power’s not the strongest part of his game.
But Morrison can play left, which pushes Coghlan to center field. It’s a curious move, given Coghlan spent all but one of his 289 minor league games at second or third base. Last year, Coghlan struck out much more than he ever had before (23.5% last year, compared to 15.3% in his rookie season, and 13.5% at Double-A), and his ISO fell (.115 last year, .139 in 2009, .130 in Double-A). If those numbers regulate a bit, Coghlan could break double-digits in both steals and home runs with a decent batting average; if he plays some third base as has been rumored, he’s add the bonus of dual outfield and infield eligibility.
The Marlins are expected to slide newcomer and 2010 All-Star Omar Infante in at second. Infante totaled his second-most plate appearances last year (506), but a high BABIP (.355 in 2010, .313 career) gave him a batting average (.321) that hid his lack of power (.096 ISO) or stolen base ability (seven stolen, six caught). These flaws, along with Infante’s value as a superutilityman and Wes Helms being the top third baseman on the Marlins’ depth chart right now, leave the door slightly ajar for other infielders in the Marlins system to step forward in spring training.
The top candidate on the farm for the third base job is Matt Dominguez, a solid gloveman who also has some power. The 20-year old might make for a better choice than Helms or the flawed Emilio Bonifacio, despite Dominguez’s lack of experience above Double-A. Still, the situation is so jumbled, cases have even been made for Ruben Gotay and his strong walk rate.
Infante, Coghlan and Morrison figure to see ample playing time one way or another this season. Despite their collective lack of power, each should find some use in fantasy leagues, if only because of their interesting eligibility and what will likely be decent batting averages. In standard leagues, they may not make great picks on draft day, but feel free to invest a draft pick in deeper mixed and NL-only leagues.
By Eno Sarris //
Biggest Surprise: Gaby Sanchez
Gaby Sanchez opened eyes in his freshman season mostly by not striking out (17.7%, average is 20.7%). His high-contact approach did lead to a decent batting average (.273) and some RBI (85), and it’s not like he’s completely without power – his .175 ISO was above-average for all players (.150), just not first basemen. Deep keeper leaguers will find a place for him, but otherwise he’s best in standard mixed leagues as a utility player, taken late in 2011 drafts.
Biggest Bust: Chris Coghlan
Even during his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009, Chris Coghlan didn’t show a ton of power or speed. He did ride an unsustainable BABIP (.365) to a great batting average (.321), and with a nice end to the season he caught a lot of eyes. He still showed a high BABIP in 2010 (.336), but with his higher strikeout rate (23.5%) and lower power (.115 Isolated Slugging), his line was devoid of interest. And that’s not even mentioning the injuries that limited him to 400 plate appearances. As a third baseman next year, Coghlan could still be interesting in deeper leagues.
2011 Keeper Alert: Mike Stanton
Mike Stanton is not yet 21 years old and yet his isolated power (.248) would have been 12th-best in the major leagues if he had qualified for the batting title. That’s impressive, even if his strikeout rate (34.3%) means he may have a hard time putting up high batting averages in the future. After hitting 22 bombs in his short first season, he could easily hit more than 30 home runs next year, thus making him a promising keeper even with the batting average risk. Logan Morrison is also interesting (especially on Twitter), but he profiles a little more like Gaby Sanchez right now, albeit with more power upside long-term.
2011 Regression Alert: Dan Uggla
We all know who Dan Uggla is. Lots of power, not a great batting average – a boon at a tough position, especially for teams starved for power. Then again, Uggla had a career-high .287 batting average this year, on the back of an unsustainable-looking BABIP (.330). That part of the package probably won’t return in 2011, so don’t overbid.
By Tommy Rancel //
Although he has the size (6’3″/235) and he plays the positions (first base and corner outfield), Logan Morrison‘s game does not match his size. Still, that hasn’t stopped Morrison from being rated as a top-20 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America for the past two years.
Morrison, 23, spent most of his minor league career as a first baseman. However, with Gaby Sanchez‘s solid play at first and Chris Coghlan‘s injury leaving a void in left field, Morrison has found a new home with the Marlins – at least temporarily. While his defensive responsibilities have shifted, Morrison is still doing what he does best – hit and get on base.
The Marlins rookie is hitting .310/.427/.492 in 225 plate appearances since getting called up from the minor leagues. With that said, his .310 batting average is largely fueled by an unsustainable .378 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), and he is not likely to carry a .919 OPS over 600 a full season. However, don’t mistake this hot start as just a fluke.
In more than 1900 minor league at-bats, Morrison hit .292/.383/.465. That’s a far cry from his current slash line, but still above-average. As mentioned, Morrison has the look of a hulk-smashing home run hitter, but that’s not a major part of his game – at least not yet. On the other hand, he has shown some solid doubles power, including 38 in 130 games at A-ball in 2008.
Currently, Morrison has a .182 ISO (Isolated Power – slugging percentage minus batting average) despite having just two major league home runs. Lacking the power to put the ball over the wall, he is simply spraying it all over the field. He has already racked up 18 doubles and five triples this year.
In addition to the gap power, Morrison is showing a very good batting eye, with a 16% walk rate. He is striking out 19.8% of the time, but his 20.7% O-Swing (swings at pitches outside of the strike zone) and 6.5% swinging strike percentage show further signs of a solid batting eye.
Because of his extra-base hits and the favorable walk rate, Morrison has already scored 36 runs despite playing in just 48 games.
While his red-hot slash line is not likely to be reproduced in the near future, Morrison looks ready for an everyday spot in the Marlins lineup next season. Whether it comes as a first baseman or an outfielder is unknown. But don’t let that stop you from picking him up right now in NL-only and mixed keeper leagues.
For more on Logan Morrison and potential NL keepers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits