Today we continue our 2014 Miami Marlins season preview with our most interesting position, center field. The remaining 7 fielding positions are pretty much locked in on who the opening day starter will be, with the exception of potential injuries. In my opinion, center field is still wide open.
The good news for Marlins’ fans is that it isn’t due to a lack of talent that Miami hasn’t solidified their starting center fielder. Miami has two young center fielder’s that are each intriguing in their own way.
Last year, Marcel Ozuna burst onto the scene when Giancarlo Stanton was injured early in the season. Ozuna played so well during that stretch that manager Mike Redmond was forced to find playing time for him upon Stanton’s return. This move shifted Ozuna into center field. Unfortunately for Ozuna, his hot start was not to continue as he regressed, presumably because pitchers began to figure out his weaknesses at the plate.
Ozuna finished the season with a .265/.303/.389 slash line, not exactly great. Marcel really struggled to identify pitches outside the strike zone, and gained a reputation as a player that would swing at almost anything. Fortunately for Ozuna, this wasn’t a complete disaster, as I see a bit of Vladimir Guerrero in him. Guerrero could pretty much hit anything that was thrown at him, and Ozuna’s ceiling is a poor-man’s Vlad.
Marcel has good speed and has a great arm. In fact, he is pretty much a prototypical right fielder, but not center fielder. He may be a little to aggressive for center field and will occasionally take poor lines to the baseball. All this seems like Ozuna isn’t going to be a good player, but for all of his faults, he is not bad, and he is still very young. At 23-years-old, many of these flaws are things that can be improved upon.
One strength of Ozuna’s was his ability to come up big with runners in scoring position. He posted a .347 batting average in those situations to go along with a .520 slugging percentage. He was one of the few Marlins to actually be successful in those instances last year.
This offseason, Ozuna spent time playing winter ball and has reportedly shown signs of improvement. Right now it would appear that Ozuna is the best option that the Marlins currently have for center field, but that may be changing.
One of the Marlins top prospects has been Jake Marisnick. Marisnick is a true center fielder. He is very solid defensively, good speed, above average arm, and great instincts. He has shown the ability to swing the bat well in every stop that he has made in the minor leagues. Last year, Marisnick received a call-up at the same time that fellow outfielder Christian Yelich did. While Yelich was immediately successful, Marisnick struggled. It was difficult for most people not to compare the two rookie outfielders, but it was very unfair to Marisnick. Yelich is much more advanced in his approach to the plate than Jake is, and I think that when Jake started to struggle, he pressed and stopped letting the game come to him. That resulted in a debut that no one expected.
Marisnick finished the season with a slash line of .183/.231/.248, not exactly what you are hoping for from one of your top prospects, but the fact that this is still an open competition heading into spring training, tells you just how talented Marisnick really is. Miami will be looking for Jake to put together a solid spring training, but barring an unbelievable spring training, and Ozuna really faltering, I believe that Marisnick will start the season in double A Jacksonville. Don’t be surprised if any one of the current outfielders are injured, Marisnick will get a call-up to start in centerfield.
Who do you think the starting center fielder should be this year? Let us know in the comments below and as always, Go Fish!