Chris Coghlan and the Future Marlins

The 2011 Marlins possess two distinct characteristics: youth and flexibility. Yet they might have taken that idea a step too far this winter when they named former NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Chris Coghlan the starting center fielder. While Coghlan has experience in the outfield, he has never played center as a professional, and his defensive numbers in left field have been below average. It makes me wonder if they made the move to ensure future flexibility.

Coghlan will roam center field mainly out of necessity. I’m sure even the Marlins believe that his defensive skills profile better in the corner spots than in center, but there just aren’t any corner outfield spots available. Mike Stanton has right field in the bag. Logan Morrison is a natural first baseman, but Gaby Sanchez impressed enough last season to keep his job there. Thankfully for the Marlins, Morrison can slide into left field. That leaves precious few options for Coghlan.

In the minors Coghlan primarily played second base, but Dan Uggla blocked his path to the majors. That prompted the move to left field, where Coghlan looked uncomfortable at times during his rookie season. He could move back there this year, but the team did acquire Omar Infante when dealing Uggla, and they likely want to see if he can repeat his production from the last two seasons, in which he produced a total of 3.9 WAR in 735 PA.

Coghlan also manned third base in 42 minor league games, and it’s easy to envision him sliding over to that position. But the Marlins appear determined to give Matt Dominguez the job, if not right out of camp than not long after the season starts. If they moved Coghlan there they’d have to move him off the position relatively soon, and I’m sure they would rather have him at a set position rather than moving him around willy nilly.

Given the issues with him playing the infield, installing him in center field is the only remaining option if they want to keep his bat in the lineup. He will in all likelihood cost the team runs, but they have to be confident that his bat will help compensate. Then, as the season plays out, there could be opportunities for him to move into a more natural position, which would be left field or second base. There are a few scenarios that could bring about a more permanent move for Coghlan.

Scenario 1: Infante is ineffective

While Infante has impressed in his last 200 games, in the 590 prior to that he was, for the most part, a light-hitting utility infielder. It won’t take too much for him to carry his weight as a second baseman, but if his production declines enough the Marlins might want to make him the utility man. That would open up second base for Coghlan.

The issue with this scenario is that Osvaldo Martinez is knocking on the door and could force his way into the second base conversation at some point this season. If he is producing at AAA the Marlins will face a similar situation as they do with Dominguez. It makes little sense to move Coghlan back to the infield just to have him move again when Martinez is ready.

Scenario 2: Sanchez is ineffective

Gaby Sanchez played well enough last year to garner some Rookie of the Year support, but he was one of the older rookies in the league. His minor league track record is strong, so we could see some improvement from him this year. If he hits a sophomore slump, the Marlins might be inclined to make a move, especially if they’re contending with the Braves and the Phillies.

The logical move there is to reinstall Morrison at first base and slide Coghlan over to left. This is what I see happening eventually, anyway. Maybe the Marlins find a taker for Sanchez on the trade market and improve their team elsewhere. But in any case, long-term I believe Morrison will play first and Coghlan will play left. An ineffective Sanchez in 2011 could expedite that scenario.

Scenario 3: Dominguez isn’t ready

Since we’ve established that the Marlins probably don’t want Coghlan to play third, an unfamiliar position, only to have him move when Dominguez is ready, we could see Infante take over that position temporarily. That would open up second for Coghlan. That again raises the issue of Martinez, but as with any prospect, he doesn’t provide any guarantees. The Marlins might be more comfortable enough with Coghlan at his most familiar position that they wouldn’t mind moving him between there and the outfield.

Chris Coghlan does provide flexibility, in that he can handle infield and outfield positions, but the team is stretching that by playing him in center field. By all indications, however, this is a temporary move designed to keep his bat in the lineup while the rest of the team shakes out. One way or another he’ll move off the position in time. Whether that means playing left field or second base will depend on how the season progresses. There will be opportunities, and when they arise the Marlins will be ready. That’s the payoff for building a flexible roster.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


25 Responses to “Chris Coghlan and the Future Marlins”

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  1. jj says:

    first

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  2. Expos67 says:

    All these scenarios have Coghlan moving from CF to LF/2B/3B. But who would take the place of Coghlan in CF?

    The only name i’m thinking here is Scott Cousins

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  3. Danny says:

    I think scenario 2 is the most likely, and really the most obvious. I would have liked the Marlins to have kept Maybin, put Morrison at first, Coghlan in left then used Sanchez as the placeholder for Dominguez at third. Essentially, Sanchez could have slid into the Wes Helms role. But that’s just me.

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  4. FieryFurnaces says:

    Nice article Joe. I have been vexed by the Marlins’ inability to play Coghlan at second for some time. Is the real problem that they don’t have a center fielder? What if Coghlan sucks in center? Who will replace him? Regardless, I figure he will be at third when pitchers refuse to throw Dominguez fastballs and he starts striking out at a 40% clip.

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  5. Cody says:

    Bryan Peterson is the closest thing to a major league ready CF that the Marlins have.

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    • Undocorkscrew says:

      Wasn’t his OPS last year around .500?

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      • Put me in coach says:

        It was more than that, but still below league average. On that idea though, why are the Marlins considering installing Coghlan anywhere in the starting line-up. He wasn’t all that valuable as a poor fielding LF/2B in 2009 and was just horrible last year. Cousins or Peterson would be an immediate upgrade over Coghlan.

        Martinez is also ready and so much better than Coghlan defensively that even if Coghlan were to reproduce his 2009 hitting numbers Martinez would likely be better.

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  6. AustinRHL says:

    Couldn’t it make even more sense for Infante to play center field? He’s done so before, although it’s hard to tell much from the defensive numbers in his limited time in the outfield. The Marlins may feel that they would be taking him away from his natural position, but he’s really only an average second or third baseman. I don’t know how well Coghlan’s second base defense was regarded in the minor leagues, but it seems plausible that the team could do a little better by returning him to the infield and having Infante in center.

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  7. will says:

    ya I agree. Infantes only with the marlins this year, and then he’s a free agent. Just put infante in center then replace him with scott cousins at the end of the year. Their 2012 lineup would look something like this:

    2b chris coghlan
    Lf Logan Morrison
    SS hanley ramirez
    RF Mike Stanton
    1b Gaby Sanchez
    C John Buck
    3b Matt Dominguez
    CF Scott Cousins

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  8. Powder Blues says:

    Will, it looks good.

    Is there any way to break up the L, L, R, R in the top 4 spots? Think Coghlan, Ramirez, Morrison, Stanton would work?

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    • fredsbank says:

      they wouldn’t want to damage hanley’s already wacky psyche by having bat such a low-profile position as second, even though as the best hitter on the team that’s where he should be hitting…

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  9. Greg says:

    I wouldn’t say that third base is unfamiliar for Coghlan. He played at third for three years at Ole Miss.

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  10. Rob says:

    I see this scenario as Dominguez faltering at 3rd this year and demoted. Infante sliding over to 3rd base, Coghlan to second, with an eye on the future & Peterson to CF.

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  11. johan says:

    As someone already stated, Omar Infante can in fact play CF. He did so for the Tigers at one point, albeit very briefly and not very much. A simple switch would allow Coghlan to play his natural position. And Infante is actually pretty decent out there. Better than Coghlan. I don’t worry about Infante’s bat really. He’s going to hit for average.

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  12. Randy says:

    If Infante can cut it offensively, but Coghlan struggles in CF, moving Infante to CF is an option.

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  13. shthar says:

    Just to save the florida bloggers some time this season.

    Error: bad job, blunder, boner, boo-boo, delinquency, delusion, deviation, erratum, failure, fall, fallacy, falsehood, falsity, fault, faux pas, flaw, glitch, goof, howler, inaccuracy, lapse, misapprehension, misbelief, miscalculation, misconception, miscue, misdeed, misjudgment, mismanagement, miss, misstep, misunderstanding, offense, omission, oversight, screamer, screw-up, sin, slight, slip, slipup, solecism, stumble, transgression, trespass, untruth, wrongdoing

    (James? Bill James? Never heard of the guy)

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  14. Kevin Waisfeld says:

    While Coghlan struggled at times playing LF, it is because, as you said, he played solely 2B with a little 3B his entire minor league career. There was an opening in LF in 09 and they gave him a shot.

    With that said, he has improved extremely playing the outfield. Obviously not as a full starting CF, but some more improvements could make him an average CFer.

    He is pretty aggressive playing the outfield, which has it’s ups and downs, but he has the agility, speed, and quickness to play center.

    If anything, I can see them trying to get somebody like Jarrod Dyson or Derrick Robinson from the Royals to man CF.

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  15. Joncarlos says:

    Thing is, Coghlan isn’t just playing CF, he’s playing between a couple of guys who don’t have great range (LoMo and Stanton). It’s not like playing between Ichiro and Saunders out there.

    I agree with the consensus that they should just move Infante to CF. But why not give Coghlan a shot?

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  16. chris says:

    Anyone else incredibly surprised by Coghlan’s 27.9 UZR?

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