Marlins Snarkbox: Outfield defense and third base offensiveness

Joe Frisaro of MLB.com has restarted his inbox article feature, and so it is with great pleasure that I also restart the Marlins Snarkbox, with me providing answers for Marlins fan questions with the occasional snarky lean. Let’s get started.

Before the season, I was one who was skeptical about Chris Coghlan playing center field. I know it’s early, but maybe I was wrong about him. He looks fine out there. Do you think Coghlan is the long-term answer in center?
— Elias S., Doral, Fla.

I’ll admit that, in the little that I have seen of Coghlan’s defense in center field, he has not looked bad. There is not much in the way of early returns for defensive statistics; UZR has not been posted yet on FanGraphs, and DRS (otherwise known as Dewan’s plus/minus system) has Coghlan as costing two runs so far this year. Still, with the extremely limited sample, I would say that as of now he is neither an asset nor an extreme liability. Then again, how many balls have gotten out to center field that looked like they could have been caught by better outfielders. I saw a few during the games that I have seen, which leads me to believe that we may yet see the other shoe drop on Coghlan’s center field play. In other words, none of us are trained enough to really tell the difference in this amount of time, so stay tuned.

It seems like the Marlins are down on their luck at the third-base position. Donnie Murphy was hit by a pitch, and Matt Dominguez temporarily is out of the lineup. Having said that, is there even the slightest possibility that they could make a free-agent signing of a certain third baseman named Troy Glaus? I realize he’s said that he wants to stay close to his family and that’s why he’s turned down other offers, but it may be worth the shot to make him an offer to play. And if by some miracle he agreed, he would certainly add some extra pop to the lineup to go with Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Gaby Sanchez.
— Luis S., Miami

I tend to agree somewhat with Frisaro’s response in that the Marlins are looking for someone who could play defense a bit better than Glaus could at third base. Troy Glaus is at least two seasons removed from being a full-time third baseman, and at this point in his career I would say he has the third base skill of Jorge Cantu. Do you want Jorge Cantu one-hopping throws to Gaby Sanchez again? I didn’t think so. Glaus could easily cost the Marlins almost a win full season at third base after the extensive shoulder work he has had done on himself over the past decade.

Beyond that, Glaus isn’t that good a hitter anyways. He lost all of 2009 recovering from shoulder surgery. He returned on a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves and was about an average hitter (.240/.344/.400) playing first base. With his declining defensive capabilities, we would need more than just that line to consider spending extra money. He would not be a huge upgrade.

Nagging injuries have slowed down Stanton. First, in Spring Training he was hurt. Then, he injured his hamstring in the opener. Do you think these are injuries that will bother him the whole season?
— Bonnie R., Hollywood, Fla.

Here’s the beginning of Joe Frisaro’s response:

You’re seeing why the Marlins never gave serious thought to moving Stanton to center field. Keeping him healthy and having his bat in the lineup is so crucial. Obviously, he has to run in right field, but it’s not nearly as taxing on his legs as playing center field. We’ve already seen the 21-year-old slugger deal with ailments to both of his legs.

Never mind that the Marlins put a player who had just recovered from a torn meniscus in his knee to play center field over a player who was a known good corner outfielder with range and no previous history of leg injuries. This is exactly the sort of confirmation bias that is helping fuel the Coghlan-in-center propaganda. As for Stanton, you figure that his legs are going to be sore throughout the year given that he is likely still recovering from his quad and hamstring ailments. However, I doubt that affects his game too much going forward. What is more important is how these injuries affect his future health; Stanton was projected as a decent risk to miss at least one day, and he’s already topped that early in the season. How will this injury history change our perception of his health going forward?

The Marlins are about to face the Braves and then the Phillies. Do you realistically think they can compete with them for the division title?
— Anthony T., Boca Raton, Fla.

Baseball Prospectus has the Fish projected at about a 13 percent chance to win the division. This sounds perfectly reasonable for a club that is the third-place team behind two solidly better ballclubs. I would go with that until further notice.

If the Marlins are in it, will they make a trade this season? And who can they get?
— Alberto D., Miami

The only places the Marlins could look to improve are at third base and possibly starter, depending on how Javier Vazquez continues to perform. But honestly, unless the team is in serious contention (meaning in the lead in the division or Wild Card by the trade deadline), it is unlikely that the Marlins will make a move. The club likes the core it is currently boasting, and the farm at the moment is so bereft of talent beyond the first two or three top guys that few teams would offer significant pieces in return.

Tags: Chris Coghlan Donnie Murphy Matt Dominguez Miami Marlins Mike Stanton Snarkbox Troy Glaus

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