Martin Prado, Infield Will Be Key To Miami Marlins Contending in 2015.


The Marlins were by all accounts surprising in 2014. Just a 62 win team in 2013, they over-performed all expectations and won 77 games. With increased expectations in 2015, the Marlins went out this winter hoping to build on that momentum.

Their young outfield was one of the best in the game, Christian Yelich showed true five-tool skill and Marcell Ozuna improved his plate discipline and became a much less streaky hitter. Giancarlo Stanton had an MVP-caliber season and could have hit 40 home runs if he hadn’t gotten injured in September.   The outfield was a positive and even after some teething issues the bullpen became an asset for a team that was just one step away from contention.

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However, the team had some deep problems that had to be addressed this offseason.

The Marlins biggest issue in 2014 was their awful infield defense which ranked last at -47.1 RAA according to StatCorner, by the far the worst in MLB.  Second, the Marlins struggled to consistently hit for power behind Giancarlo Stanton. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones were by far the biggest culprits in causing this issue and hopefully the Marlins will be more consistent behind Stanton this year.  Third, although Casey McGehee won the Comeback Player of the Year last year it was all masked by an overtly ridiculous .369 BABIP in the first half, highlighted by a .380 mark over the month of June.  The Gods of BABIP are fickle and the San Francisco Giants will have to deal with the real McGehee this year a player that compiled a .620 OPS and .282 wOBA during the second half.

In short the Marlins infield overhaul is an attempt by the front office to put a product on the infield dirt that matches the product on the outfield grass.  Sadly, outside of the Martin Prado deal, who I consider to be a slightly worse version of Chase Headley, the Marlins did not do enough to improve their infield. Mike Morse is at best a bad defensive player, who is too often injured and strikes out too much. And I have made my thoughts clear on the Dee Gordon trade. The Marlins mortgaged their future by trading a likely top of the rotation guy and two very versatile and intriguing players for a one dimensional, speed guy.  Morse, Gordon and Prado are all necessary moves to a club trying to right the direction of the win curve.

Martin Prado is good for 2-3 win season every year and is a clear upgrade over McGehee defensively. Prado has totaled 12.9 UZR over his career at third base. Since breaking into majors in 2006, Prado’s 12.9 UZR is the nineteenth best in the league during that stretch.

Having a plus player at third base is key for a team to contend. Just look at last year, as both teams that went to the World Series had two of the best defensive third basemen in the game in Mike Moustakas and Pablo Sandoval.  Although, he is not a power hitter at the very least he has track record of being a good productive hitter with a career 108 wRC+.

Part of the reason why I like the Prado deal so much is that, unlike Gordon and Morse, Prado is a multidimensional player who can hit for a little extra base power, has decent plate discipline, and is one of the better and most versatile defensive player in the game. Prado can play good defense at third base, second base and left field.   If the Marlins plan on making a deep run into October, Prado having a good season will be one of the keys.

The Marlins acquisition of both Mike Morse and Dee Gordon are two sides of the same coin. Two guys who are honestly defensively limited, have average on-base skills but have eye popping single tools.  Morse in 2014 had a .196 ISO and .475 slugging percentage but in less than 500 PA.  He is undeniably a great power hitter but is not enough of an asset to make the Marlins a cinch for the playoffs. And at age 32, he is unlikely to change his game enough to strikeout less and walk more, raising his on base percentage. In addition his defense is below average although a clear improvement from Garrett “Clank” Jones.

The Marlins fall in love with players that have “tools” instead of players who have value. Dee Gordon is the best example of this; Gordon who had 101 wRC+ last year and a thoroughly pedestrian, if not bad UZR of -3.4.  I’m not denying that 62 stolen bases is a lot, it is, but I think that other skills are more important to have such as an above average on base percentage and at least a little bit of extra base power. The Marlins would have been better served to have Kike Hernandez play second base this year rather than Dee Gordon.

Martin Prado, Adeiny Hechavarria, Dee Gordon and Mike Morse are a better group than last year’s infield.  Especially thanks to Prado’s better production both on the field and at the plate and Morse being a clear upgrade to Jones.  If the Marlins are able to improve their infield defense and be more consistent at the plate they can clearly prevent the infield from being a detriment to the team and possibly a tremendous asset.

Next: Marlins Top 10 Prospect per Keith Law