2015 ZiPS Projections: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Catcher was once again a point of weakness for the Miami Marlins in 2014. The team signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year, $21 million contract before the season as he was coming off a career year with the Boston Red Sox where he hit .273/.338/.466, had a 117 wRC+ and was worth 3.5 fWAR (all career-high numbers).
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There were some questions as to how his success would carry over to Miami, and those questions were well-warranted. In his first year with the Marlins, Saltalamacchia’s production fell back down to earth and he hit .220/.320/.362 with 11 home runs, a 91 wRC+ and a 1.3 fWAR. Salty struck out more but also walked more, and his isolated power (ISO) took a 50-point nosedive.
After J.T. Realmuto got his first cup of coffee with the Marlins last year, the possibility of an eventual replacement for Saltalamacchia became more likely. Realmuto, the Marlins number 5 prospect, put up solid numbers at Double-A in 2014, and held his own during a brief 30 plate appearance tenure with Miami. Salty is projected to be the Opening Day starter in 2015, but is owed $7 million this year and $8 million in 2016, and could be a trade candidate if Realmuto steps up sooner than expected.
ZiPS projects a decent improvement for Saltalamacchia in 2015. In 437 PA, he projects to hit .237/.311/.406 with 14 home runs and 22 doubles. It predicts a 9.8% BB rate (down from 12.6% in 2014), 30.4% K rate, .169 ISO and .313 wOBA. It gives him a 96 OPS+ compared to an 89 mark last year.
Those are all virtual spitting images of his career averages, and in his age 30 season it makes sense that Saltalamacchia probably won’t improve drastically in any area at this point in his career. He should hold almost the same value as he did last season, improving marginally with the bat but his defense will still be shaky; ZiPS gives him a team-worst -6 Def, which accounts for fielding runs above (or in this case, below) average.
He projects to be worth 1.5 zWAR.
What Fangraphs doesn’t take into account however is pitch framing, which is not a strength of Saltalamacchia’s game. For what it’s worth, Baseball Reference gave him a 0.0 bWAR in 2014, the huge drop likely a result of his poor framing skills.
The Marlins don’t have a great defensive infield to begin with. Dee Gordon and Mike Morse are below-average with the glove, and Adeiny Hechavarria plays replacement level defense. Martin Prado in 2014 posted the best dWAR of the Marlins 2015 infield starters, a 0.8 mark. It could be a rough season for the Marlins on defense, but the team improved its lineup notably, which could balance out those shortcomings.
The Marlins already tried to trade Saltalamacchia this offseason but found no takers. It remains to be seen whether the frugal Marlins will want to continue paying him for about one win a year, or being perfectly replacement level according to other systems. A win is worth around $7 million in terms of WAR, but with a much cheaper option in Realmuto waiting in the wings, the Marlins might have a decision to make somewhere down the line.
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