Marlins Season Preview: Best case scenario for Jarrod Saltalamacchia?


Year one of Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s return to South Florida didn’t go as planned. After a big season with the World Champion Red Sox in 2013, Salty’s 2014 season was nothing short of a disaster, as his defense and offense, while an improvement over what the Fish got in 2013, left a lot to be desired. 

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Earlier today, co-editor Travis Honeycutt went over the worst case scenario for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, which painted a scary picture for the 29-year old backstop.

"Player A: .244/.295/.354, 6 HR, 22 2B, 6.3% BB, 19.4% K, .289 wOBA, 1.6 WARPlayer B: .237/.311/.406, 14 HR, 22 2B, 9.8% BB, 30.4% K, .313 wOBA, 1.5 WARWith defensive value factored in, the two players end up as a virtual wash. Player A is Realmuto and Player B is Saltalamacchia. Salty projects to repeat a season’s worth of power very close to his career average, while Realmuto is expected to suffer growing pains at the plate while still trying to figure out big league pitching, but his glove will make him a very serviceable backstop. These figures assume Realmuto gets nearly a full season’s worth of action at the MLB level."

While defense is a major question mark for Saltalamacchia in 2015, he’s still a better hitter than Realmuto at this stage. Even as a switch hitter, Saltalmacchia still brings the Marlins a strong bat for the Marlins from the left side, which the team lacks outside of Christian Yelich.

In his three full seasons with the Red Sox, Salty averaged a .213 ISO, 18 home runs, and 26 doubles a season for the Sox. His career ISO sits at .176, with ZiPS projecting him to hit at a .170 ISO next season. While Marlins Park will suppress a lot of the home runs, Saltalmacchia can still rebound to his 2013 doubles levels, elevating his offensive game to a level above what it was last season, when he posted a career worst (as a regular) .142 ISO, just 11 home runs and 20 doubles.

ZiPS also projects Jarrod Saltamacchia to improve on his ugly 32% strikeout rate, lowering it nearer to his career norm of 30%, all while he improves his walk rate from a career 9% to closer to 10%.

Another thing running in Saltamacchia’s favor will be his familiarity with the staff. This will be his second full season of work with Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler, with just under half a season of work with Jared Cosart, as well. It will also be his second full season in the National League, which should be plenty of time for him to adjust to both the pitching staff and the new league.

Jarrod Saltamacchia signed a 3-year $21 million deal with the Marlins last winter, with the team still on the hook for $15 million over the next two seasons. If he reaches his 1.5 zWAR projected above, he’d be worth a little more than his contract, assuming 1 WAR is worth $7 million. So the argument that Realmuto is a better option than Salty does have legs, but I don’t believe J.T. is quite ready for a full-time job in the majors.

In 2013, Realmuto posted a 93 wRC+ in his first season at Double-A. Last year, in his second full season in the league, he posted a 132 wRC+. So, in my opinion, a bit more seasoning in Triple-A would be more of a benefit to Realmuto than throwing him out in the majors to sink.

I still believe in Jarrod Saltamacchia’s ability to bounce back on offense in 2015. In fact, I believe he will have a season even better than what ZiPS is currently projecting. However, there are questions still about his defense and his ability to hit from the right side.

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