What do we have in Bryan Petersen?

The Marlins have been having a terrible month of August. Their record is 5-17 this month, eerily similar to the 5-23 record the team had in the awful month of June. Hanley Ramirez has a good chance of not returning this season. It is very unlikely that Josh Johnson returns this year as well. The team demoted fan favorite Logan Morrison and have been winging it in the outfield since then (really since Chris Coghlan was hurt).

One thing that has been a pleasant surprise (outside of the continued excellence of Mike Stanton) has been Bryan Peteresen. Petersen has hit pretty well in 2011 in his limited time in the majors:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Bryan Peteresen 127 .266 .349 .431 .348 118

Petersen has impressed in his brief stint, showing many of the skills that made him a borderline top prospect for the Fish just a few years ago. At this point, he is too old to be considered much of a prospect (he is 25 years old this season), but with the Marlins having possible holes to fill in center field (or even a corner depending on how the Morrison situation turns out), the team may do well to find out what type of player they have in Petersen.

The early peripherals

Petersen K% UIBB% XB/H ISO BABIP
Triple-A (2011) 14.5 11.3 0.621 .218 .386
Majors (2011) 17.3 8.7 0.621 .165 .318

Petersen’s 2011 numbers have shown a lot of improvement over his previously established levels. For one thing, his power has crept upwards after two straight seasons of essentially being absent. Those extra base totals and ISO may not be all that impressive, especially given the fact that the Triple-A marks were accomplished in the Pacific Coast League, but they are an improvement over Petersen’s previous two seasons in Double- and Triple-A (.135 and .116 respectively). Again, we cannot be certain that those power changes will stick, but they are very encouraging.

As for Petersen’s plate discipline, it continues to impress. Indeed, his best skill that he had shown in the minors for much of his career was his ability to avoid strikeouts and draw walks, much like Gaby Sanchez and other patient Marlins minor leaguers before him. This season, Petersen cut down on his swings taken, down to 40.8 percent of pitches in Triple-A and 36.9 percent in the majors. He is also whiffing at fewer pitches, down to 16.3 percent of pitches swung at in the majors this year. For Petersen, his ability to make contact and draw walks is going to be crucial because of the lack of power, and the early strikeout and walk totals in the big leagues this year look promising and realistic.

The defense

The problem with Petersen has always been with his classification as either a corner or center fielder. He is capable of playing center field, but has been considered a classic example of a “tweener,” much like Scott Cousins. Petersen has was never considered a strong defender in center field, but he was always good enough to play a decent, if not above average, corner outfield. The problem is that his bat profiled better as a center fielder, but his defense did not match that position as well.

The early major league numbers are positive but not close to conclusive. UZR has Petersen as contributing positively defensively in center field, but there simply is not enough data to be certain that that is indeed IS positive or that it is indicative of his future performance. The same can be said of other defensive measures, which have Petersen showing varying degrees of success. Obviously, it’s just too early to tell anything from the numbers.

One thing that is encouraging is that the Marlins may be willing to try Petersen in center field anyway, provided he hits decently enough to play in the majors. The team has suffered through its share of awful players at the position, but more importantly than that, they have also suffered through defensive difficulties at the position as well. After all, the Marlins tried to shift Coghlan to center field without much warning , and you figure that they would not hesitate trying a player with more experience in the outfield and particularly in center field. Provided he continues to hit well, Petersen may get a chance to stick in center if the team has given up Coghlan at the position.

The availability

The Marlins will at least have room for a fourth outfielder, with Emilio Bonifacio likely sticking somewhere in the starting lineup, possibly at third base. However, if the team has difficulty filling a hole in center field, they could turn to Petersen if he continues to impress. In addition, the team could also look to Petersen to fill a corner outfield spot if the Marlins choose to resolve the Sanchez/Morrison dilemma. It is clear at this point that Morrison is not going to be good in the outfield, and the team may be better off trading one of the two and moving the other to his natural position, provided they have a sufficiently good replacement. Either Petersen or Cousins could be that replacement.

There are a couple of potential spots available for Petersen in the near future, and the Marlins would be wise to explore him as a potential option. His power may not stick, but the plate discipline is there and the team could use a strong approach at the plate as a basis for a potentially average hitter.

Topics: Bryan Petersen, Miami Marlins

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