We continue on our trip around the diamond for the 2010 Florida Marlins, and now we turn our attention to the outfield. To start, let’s discuss left field, where many Marlins were not expecting to see the incumbent return for a second season in left.
Chris Coghlan was expected by many to take over for the vacated second base position Dan Uggla was supposed to leave. But as it stands, Uggla will be a part of the plan in 2010 for the Fish, and that leaves Coghlan and his bid to continue his Rookie of the Year success in his sophomore season over in left field rather than in his more natural infield position. What does that mean for the Marlins this year?
Starter: Chris Coghlan
Backup: Brett Carroll
Minor League Depth: Scott Cousins and Bryan Petersen
The Marlins will enter the 2010 season with Coghlan once again manning the position. This development pretty much seals off any opportunity for Carroll, who looked great defensively in his limited playing time last year, to get significant time on the field this year barring an injury.
The Marlins snatched Coghlan out of Triple-A last year, giving him one game’s worth of time to warm up in left field in the minors before throwing him into the major league fire. His bat did not catch on early, as Coghlan hit .252/.335/.370 (.319 wOBA) in 281 PA through July. But in August and September, Coghlan went on an absolute tear, collecting 100 hits in the two months and batting .387/.440/.547, good for a .425 wOBA in that span. Undoubtedly this hot streak of awesome proportions catapulted Coghlan to the top of the National League Rookie of the Year race, which he eventually won.
No one can take away what an awesome two months Coghlan, but there’s reason to suspect that a repeat performance is more or less out of the question. The Marlins cannot count on Coghlan repeating a .365 BABIP next season, for one thing. Of course, this doesn’t mean Coghlan won’t have an above average BABIP; both CHONE and the Fans project a BABIP of around .336 due to Coghlan’s speed and ground ball rates. Last season, Coghlan above average BABIP’s on both grounders and fly balls; expect the fly balls to drop a bit closer to the league average.
Still, Coghlan displayed the type of skillset you would want out of a leadoff hitter in 2009. His 9.0% UIBB% was above average and ranked third on the team behind Uggla and Jeremy Hermida. Coghlan displayed power typical to his minor league numbers, and expecting another adjusted ISO of around .127 would be a good bet (CHONE has a projection of .127, the Fans are more pessimistic at .115).
The defense at left field was an interesting question. Clearly, the NL Rookie of the Year voters did not consider defense when discussing Coghlan’s candidacy, because by most measures he played very poorly in 2009. Now, this is of little fault of his own; Coghlan had not played the outfield in his professional career and wasn’t given much time to warm up. But with UZR rating his as 10 runs below average and Dewan’s +/- rating him at an astonishingly bad -18 runs, it’s fair to say that Coghlan was decently below average in 2009. After regressing to the league mean, I still ended up with a regressed UZR of -8 runs, not a pretty sight.
What can we expect overall this season?
Projection: 670 PA, about 2.6 WAR
This is a conservative guess, as a lot of media have him more around 3 WAR this season. In this, I assumed a good approximation of a .358 wOBA (the average between the Fans and CHONE, and also what my gut instinct would be for Coghlan’s offense). Both CHONE and the Fans project very similar batting lines; CHONE has Coghlan hitting .296/.371/.434, which I think most Marlins fans would be more than happy with. It’s on the defensive end where things get tricky. Because Coghlan plays left field, a less scarce position, he gets his value docked 7.5 runs per 162 games. At 670 PA, I estimated 150 games for him, meaning he loses about seven runs back from playing an easier position. Beyond that, I gave Coghlan what I feel is a fair estimate of -5 runs / 150 games in left field, putting him down 12 runs on defense alone. That number, however, could be anything next year. With Coghlan gaining a year of experience in left, combined with his naturally athletic form, he could be a much better left fielder in 2009. I would guess that the best-case scenario is around two runs better than average, but even an average season in left for Coghlan would give him a 3 WAR season.
Populating the bench as the team’s fourth outfielder is Brett Carroll. Carroll last season showed one major skill, and that skill was in full display in right field. The man can play defense. By all metrics, Carroll had one of the best defensive seasons last year; UZR totaled him at 14 runs better than average in just 319 innings in the outfield, while TotalZone had him at a ridiculous +20 runs! These absurd values are at least confirmed by our eyes, as the Fans in the Fans Scouting Report rated him the second best right fielder in the game, behind only Ichiro Suzuki. At this point, I might be willing to go that far myself. Carroll is expected to see most of his playing time as a defensive replacement in the late innings, so his top-notch defense is going to definitely come in handy.
Carroll is more than capable of playing every outfield position, but he’ll primarily be backing up right and left field. Barring injury, he shouldn’t receive too many PA, because he is a liability at the plate. Carroll more or less has one tool at the plate, which is his power. However, he has yet to show much of it in the majors, and that is in part because he has difficulty making contact; Carroll has struck out 54 times in 228 non-IBB PA, a rate of 23.7%, in his career. CHONE expects a dismal performance at the plate, a .236/.301/.391 batting line that very closely mirrors his 2009 season. That would give Carroll a measly .304 wOBA.
My best estimate after regression for Carroll was a +14 /150 games defender in either corner outfield spot. Estimating 44 total games (not appearances, games based on his innings in the outfield), that would give him +4 runs on defense. Two runs get docked for him playing the corners. Assume that .304 wOBA for about 200 PA and it gives you -4 runs on offense. The total package in that much estimated playing time would be 0.4 WAR, not close to his absurd 1.4 WAR from last year, but not bad for your fourth outfielder and defensive replacement.