Defensive projections for 2011 Marlins starters


With the Fans Scouting Report complete for the 2010 season and UZR numbers fully available to anyone and everyone willing to click over to FanGraphs, I figured it would be an interesting exercise to calculate preliminary estimates on each position player’s defensive capabilities at their expected positions next season for the Marlins. This may seem a bit premature, given that our season just ended, but the truth is that next year’s starting lineup is basically set (outside of catcher) barring a trade of Dan Uggla. We can safely assume that we have the 2011 Marlins starting lineup on our roster right now.

The other primary reason why I am interested in these numbers is that the Fish will be breaking in some new guys in a few positions. As we know, Chris Coghlan appears to be set to move to the infield, while Logan Morrison will continue his experiment in the outfield. With these changes, along with a few other players in whom I have a vested interest defensively, defense is going to be a very intriguing aspect of the 2011 Marlins season. So let’s take a look at how the defense is going to pan out.

Method

For these projections, I will do a 5/4/3 weighting (5 for the most recent season, 3 for the least recent season) of UZR runs saved, which means we will only look at the 2008 season and beyond. I will estimate defensive games played with innings played/9. In addition, I will regress this sample of UZR with 100 defensive games (125 for the outfield) of a 50/50 split between the Fans Scouting Report runs above average and the league average at the position (+0 runs). For players who have no games played at their respective positions, I’ll estimate via the Fans Scouting Report and the league average only. I’ll discuss the results of only the expected starters on next year’s team, in order of personal interest.

Chris Coghlan (-1.5 runs / 150 games)

This is the only position change going on between 2010 and 2011. Chris Coghlan is expected to move from left field, where he has resided for a bit more than one full year in the majors, to third base, a position he used to play in the University of Mississippi. It is a vital transition for Coghlan and the Marlins, as the Fish do not currently have a backup plan for Coghlan should he falter. The team wants both Morrison and Gaby Sanchez in the lineup somewhere and does not want to trade either player unless it is forced to do so. In order to get the best defensive player into the most difficult position, the Marlins will shift Coghlan to accommodate the two first baseman types. This estimate says that he can handle the position, as -1.5 runs is essentially a league average defender. Of course, the questions of whether his bat will recover are another all-important question to answer.

Logan Morrison (-7.0 runs / 150 games)

The Marlins got a jolt out of Morrison and his extreme plate patience, but there have been concerns about his defense ever since he stepped out into left field. Morrison is not athletic enough to be an asset defensively in left, but the question will be whether or not he can be good enough at the plate to make up for his poor outfield defense. This method projects him as a -7 / 150 games outfielder next season, which sounds pretty reasonable given what most fans think of his game. At this sort of level, Morrison would have to be a +15 or so hitter to be a league average player, equating to a wOBA of around .350. This sounds like a decent goal to shoot for for Morrison this year.

Hanley Ramirez (-4.0 runs / 150 games)

Hanley had a down season at the plate this year, but UZR had him with a down season with the glove as well. The team’s best player put up a -10 run performance apparently, which is pretty disappointing given his recent defensive progress from 2008 and 2009. Of course, regression should set in nicely and bring both of those numbers back up. Last year, I had Ramirez projected as a -5 defender, and that projection has not changed much as 2007 passes and 2010 enters into the system. Either way, I think the Marlins would take -5 defense from Ramirez along with a +30-40 run bat that we should see next season.

Mike Stanton (+6.5 runs / 150 games)

Boy, I sincerely hope Stanton is this kind of defender. We all know that Stanton won’t repeat the kind of performance he had in 2010 for one reason or another. He might get buried his second time around in the majors and struggle to recover from his strikeout issues. Then again, he may adjust appropriately, cut down on some K’s, and hit 40+ home runs en route to an All-Star season. Stanton may be the most interesting player of all of the 2011 season, Marlins or otherwise. But even if Stanton struggles at the plate, a +7 defensive performance just may buoy his play enough to keep him relevant throughout the year. We know he has a cannon of an arm, but will his range stick, or was 2010 a small sample UZR mirage?

Dan Uggla (-5.8 runs / 150 games)

I am not in the least bit concerned about this. We’ve known for a long time that Dan Uggla was a poor defender at second base. What is scary is that this season’s results in the Fans Scouting Report show that he would be a poor third baseman as well, and that he may indeed be better off playing left field than anywhere else, at least in a vacuum. With his bat, however, the Marlins can probably live with him playing -6 defense at second base, especially if he performs as well as he did in 2010.

Gaby Sanchez (+1.2 runs / 150 games)

I think the Marlins fans voting in this ballot made the mistake of comparing Sanchez to other first basemen rather than the league as a whole; there is simply no way, for example, that Sanchez has above average spring speed/velocity when compared to the league as a whole. However, this didn’t do much to change how well Sanchez ranked in this projection, as he rates as essentially an average first baseman. This is in line with his scouting information that I have seen, so I would be willing to accept that.

Cameron Maybin (+1.4 runs / 150 games)

Most Marlins fans voted as I did in the Fans Scouting Report, hyping up Maybin’s top-end speed while deriding his bad instincts and jumps in center field. Nevertheless, he came off as a -4 defender according to the fans’ scouting eye, while UZR has him projected as slightly above average. Again, I think most Marlins fans would be fairly happy with an average player defensively if he can wake up and play better offensively. Whether or not that will happen is a questionable situation at best.

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