Maniac reader Ehsan brought this to my attention recently, and it’s a damn good point:
Mike Stanton in his minor league career has also racked up time in CF, something (sic) that Coghlan and Morrison can’t say that have experience of. Stanton was actually a really good defender out in center in fact. In 46 games in center, Stanton has RF/G of 2.52 (actually higher then what his numbers in right. And his RTZ is pretty good as well. Stanton also has the speed to play center. Mike Stanton could make the perfect center fielder for the Marlins.
As always, the best Marlins fans are instinctive and insightful. Why shouldn’t the Marlins look towards Mike Stanton in center field rather than Chris Coghlan? As Ehsan points out, experience has no bearing on this, as Stanton is actually more experienced than Coghlan in center field (not by much, as he only played 46 games professionally, but still more than Coghlan). He has graded out as a very good right fielder in the stats in limited playing time, while Coghlan has had a season and a half of mediocre play in left field according to those same statistics.
What about the scouts? Well, I don’t have access to scouting information, but I do have access to the Fans Scouting Report. Running the numbers in the report, I got an estimate of +4 runs per 162 games for Stanton in right field, along with -2.5 runs per 162 games for Coghlan in center, without adjusting for any time that they have spent at those positions or comparable positions. Compare that to an estimate of +1 runs per 162 games for Stanton in center along with -2 runs per 162 games for Coghlan in right field. Just using that comparison, which I believe is questionable in scale, and you get a net difference of 2.5 runs to having Coghlan play center field.
That’s a strange result to me, and it certainly doesn’t make logical sense. The scouting information reflects what the Marlins seem to think, that Coghlan’s primary defensive skills are well suited for center field and as a result he will not suffer much from the transition. I think that forcing him to cover more range when he has already had some difficulty getting to balls in left field will stretch his defensive limits, but I am also wary of forcing Stanton to work in center as well; I do not believe Stanton has a whole lot more range than Coghlan, though he appears to be a bit more athletic. If you consider the addition of defensive statistics and adjustments for how defense changes going from the corner outfield to center field for the average player (center field is around 10 runs per season more valuable to play in terms of additional opportunities and such) and maybe the scale tips towards moving Stanton to center. Ultimately, this may be a question only the scouts can answer again, but it should be an option the Marlins should consider.