Is the Future Now? The 2013 Miami Marlins Offense, Prospects and Run Creation


May 5, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Marcell Ozuna (48) during an at bat during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Marlins defeated the Phillies 14-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins have had a lot of trouble scoring runs this year, that is obvious for all too see. There have been a few bright spots at the batter’s box: Justin Ruggiano showing some good pop, Marcell Ozuna and the hot start to his major league career and Nick Green who filled in admirably for Adeiny Hechavarria during his DL stint last month. The bright spots are signs of hope in an otherwise uninspiring lineup. A collection of bench players, over-the-hill everyday players and rookies trying their damnedest to be productive. There isn’t much of a mystery to explaining why the Marlins have scuffled so much in scoring runs so far this season. But I want to illustrate below what can be isolated to make the team better in the short term. Later in the article we will see how just time and the return of two major middle-of-the-lineup pieces will improve the Marlins offense.

Apr 28, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) connects for a two run homer in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins lineup so far this season has operated around to very important foundations both with Giancarlo Stanton on and off the lineup. The importance placed on veterans Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco being “catalysts” or at least a stabilizing force for such a young lineup. Pierre has hit in the leadoff spot in most games this season and Polanco has served as the team’s cleanup hitter and as its three hole hitter. I would say the experiment has failed and lieu of any more roster moves in the foreseeable future; I propose these changes to the lineup.

Adeiny Hechavarria and Nick Green would be the best double play combination for the fish to field until Donovan Solano comes off of the DL. In April when filling in for Hechavarria at Shortstop, Green was having a very good season with a .310/.333/.483 and a .343 wOBA. Although those numbers might be a tad unsustainable as his career triple slash line is .238/.304/.351. along with a .291 wOBA but baseball is a very complicated sport to explain and maybe he will remain hot as the season goes on. Since returning from his injury Adeiny Hechavarria in 27 PA has doubled his line drive percentage from 9.8% in April to 18.2% in May while lowering his groundball to flyball ratio from 2.70 to 2.00. These facts along with a higher wOBA and OPS (.229 and .516 in April; .318 and .759 in May) shows that the young Cuban shortstop may be making progress as a hitter to be placed on top of a major league lineup.

Ruggiano and Ozuna are the teams two best hitters at the moment and deserve a shot of anchoring the lineup. In Giancarlo Stanton’s absence and until the return of Logan Morrison to the lineup sometime in June these players who have shown true hitting skills in a bad lineup deserve a shot at more than hitting behind Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs. Ruggiano has put a 20% HR/FB ratio this year, placing him in company with players like Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holliday, Evan Longoria and Ryan Howard. Ozuna’s case may be entirely unsustainable for many reasons, first of all small sample size and second, he may be hot right now and there is no telling how long he will be able to keep this up.

The six, seven and eight spots in the Marlins order for the foreseeable future will be the biggest problem for the team. Especially Polanco and Pierre two players past their primes who are doing more to hurt the team then they are to help it at the moment. It is true that unless many things change in the next few weeks, Pierre and Polanco will remain with the big league club. Otherwise the Marlins need to find replacements for these two players as soon as possible.

My Projected Lineup 5/10/2013 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Adeiny Hechavarria SS.260.645600.0
Nick Green 2B.343.8161170.0
Justin Ruggiano CF.328.7501070.9
Marcell Ozuna RF.4311.0051780.5
Greg Dobbs 1B.280.58059-0.4
Rob Brantly/Miguel Olivo C.255.571560.0
Placido Polanco 3B.267.59265-0.4
Juan Pierre LF.258.567590.0

It might be cliched to say, but time heals all wounds, and the 2013 Marlins are the best way to prove that old adage. The Marlins as presently constituted in the first third of May will look very different from the team that will take the field sometime in the middle of June.

Mar 9, 2013; Melbourne, FL, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich (76) against the Washington Nationals during a spring training game at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Pierre and his .239/.294/.274 slashes are not long for a lineup that is struggling to score runs. Further, I remember him saying that if he lost his job to a talented young stud prospect like Christian Yelich that he would be willing to step aside to let him take his place. Yelich seems to be ready to take over, if there is one thing that is certain about baseball is that hitters succeed at any level. That very often minor league success is likely to be converted into major league success, LoMo and Chris Coghlan in their rookie years are prime examples. Yelich’s career .323/.390/.675 slash line in the lower minors maybe inflated or impossible to live up to in the near major league future. But other recent phenoms like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have proven that talent is talent and is easily convertible to an everyday major league player.

Yelich is important, but the return of a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison cannot be underestimated. I don’t need to sit here at my computer and tell you all how important a hitter as transformational as Giancarlo Stanton can be to the Marlins or any other team, his return will be huge. LoMo’s return on the other hand is more important to parse out. In 2010 and 2011, Morrison when healthy collected a respectable .259/.351 /.460 slash line hitting 25 HR in 185 games with a .372 wOBA in 201 and a .346 wOBA in 2011. If Morrison is healthy he will provide a much needed boost to the middle of the lineup and credible protection to to Giancarlo. The Marlins seems to have gone on a path of promoting their prospects and Derek Dietrich is a player that will be in constant competition with Donovan Solano for plate appearances as the season goes on

Middle of June Projected Lineup

Christian Yelich LF*.281.63969.0.0
Adeiny Hechavarria SS.260.645600.0
Giancarlo Stanton RF*.3980.941473.7
Justin Ruggiano CF.328.7501070.9
Logan Morrison 1B*,308.7071080.9
Rob Brantly/ Miguel Olivo C.255.571560.0
Placido Polanco 3B.267.59265-0.4
Derek Dietrich 2B*.299.690820.4

*projected statistics according to ZiPS

Finally, the Marlins offense has been bad so far this season perhaps historically so. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The return of Giancarlo and LoMo from injury, the promotion of Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich and decreased dependence for run creation from the bats of Placido and JP will improve the team’s offense greatly as we reach June and into the rest of the season.