With pitchers and catchers ready to report to Jupiter, Florida for spring training on February 16th, Marlin Maniac is set to bring you everything you need to know about the upcoming Marlins’ season. We will start our season preview by projecting each position and what you should expect from each player. Today we begin with the catchers.
The Marlins big off-season acquisition addressed one of their biggest needs in 2013, a catcher that can hit. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was one of the more desirable free agents available and the Marlins secured his services for 3 years and 21 million dollars. Salty has historically struggled against left-handed pitching, and even though he is a switch-hitter, he will be a safe bet to get his days off when the Marlins face a lefty.
That being said, the Marlins did not bring him in to be a platoon player. Jarrod is still young and, barring injury, he should get over 120 games played this year. After winning the World Series last year, Salty brings a winning pedigree to a young team that sorely needs to learn how to win games.
Miami will rely on Saltalamacchia to offer some balance in the lineup. Salty is a gap-to-gap hitter who is capable of hitting double-digit home runs. After a big spike in doubles last year, 40 to be exact, it would be reasonable to expect a regression back to career levels around 20 however, I predict that those numbers will stay closer to 35, as Marlins Park provides him with spacious gaps that attract baseballs. If you are looking for Salty to post 20+ home runs, I wouldn’t count on it. He will struggle to get to 15 in Marlins Park, with less protection in the lineup than he enjoyed in Boston.
I believe that Miami will slot him in the 3 spot to begin the year. Obviously that was where Giancarlo Stanton hit last year, but I believe that Miami will move him to the cleanup spot this season. If he hits in front of Stanton, he should see more pitches to hit and Miami will be desperate for him to capitalize on those opportunities.
When Salty gets a day off, Jeff Mathis will get the start. Mathis is a defensive catcher who calls a great game and really did wonders with this young pitching staff last year. Salty will rely heavily on Mathis to give him information on each pitcher to succeed. Mathis will definitely be a liability offensively, but is a solid backup.
If anyone gets hurt, look for Rob Brantly to get another crack at the big show. This may be Brantly’s last season to prove that he can be a catcher at the major league level. He should start in triple A, and will need to show marked improvement, particularly on defense. Many believe that he can hit at this level, he has to show that he can fulfill his backstop duties. Few players need a great spring as much as Brantly.
2013 saw Marlins’ catchers perform beyond poorly. While we can certainly expect an uptick from that production, be sure to temper your expectations even with the Saltalamacchia signing. This position will still be one of the weakest that the Marlins employ.