There’s no question that the Miami Marlins biggest offseason acquisition had to be former Red Sox catcher and World Champion, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That’s one reason that the Marlins improving from their record from a season ago hinges on how much success Saltalamacchia has moving from the hitter friendly Fenway to the more pitcher friendly Marlins Park.
In 2013, no team in baseball had worse production from their catching position than the Marlins did. Here’s a comparison of the Marlins catchers did compared to what Salty did:
Last month, this is what our co-editor Chris Logel had to say on what to expect from Saltalamacchia in 2014 in his season preview for the catcher:
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.
It has not been determined where manager Mike Redmond will bat Saltalamacchia in his lineup, but I’d figure he’ll be the Marlins 4-5 hitter. If he hits clean up, his chances of driving in runs rises, as he will have plenty of plate appearances with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton getting on base.
While the power for Salty is unlikely to approach the 20-mark in the spacious Marlins Park, he’ll still have a chance to hit plenty of doubles, as he hit 40 last season with the Sox.
The batting average and on base percentage should also tumble for Salty, as his BABIP of .372 is unsustainable and well above his career .322 BABIP mark. While his near 30% strikeout rate is a concern, it was not nearly an issue during the 2013 season for the Sox. The Marlins are hopeful for the same thing in 2014.
He has however show improvement in his walk rate each of the last three seasons, starting at a lowly 6.2% walk rate all the way up to a 9.1% last season. If he can continue down that road, the Marlins will see an improved hitter, despite the strikeouts.
While it’s unlikely that Saltalamacchia puts up the same numbers as he did last season, the optimistic view for his 2014 season would be the following:
If Saltalamacchia is able to post a season similar to those projections and give the Marlins decent defense behind the plate, the signing will look like a smart decision on the Marlins part. He would also provide security for Stanton, with the Marlins hoping Giancarlo sees more pitches to hit.
More important than how he hits will be how Salty handles the Marlins young pitching staff. The early returns of feedback on Salty’s leadership with the Marlins in the beginning parts of the Spring seem to be positive. Hopefully that will be maintained throughout the season.
Tune in later today to see the worst case scenario for the Marlins starting catcher later today.