They say the Marlins are loaded with quality young pitching. Our own numbers disagree, at least as far as this coming season is concerned, but that’s what they say, and there are clearly some promising hard throwers slated to wear the uniform. Based on the pitching staff, you’d think the Marlins might have some kind of shot at the playoffs. The problem is almost literally everything else. You might’ve noticed a theme while scrolling through the positional power rankings so far. A lot of the Marlins’ positions look terrible. Marlins position players are projected for the lowest combined WAR in baseball, a hair behind the Twins and a wig factory behind the Dodgers. As such, the Marlins are also projected for one of the worst records in baseball, and though there’s talent in place for the future, the future ain’t 2014.
The Marlins project last at first base, third base, and shortstop. They’re tied for last at catcher, and they’re third-to-last at second base. They’re tied for first in right field — look at that! — but they’re average in left and below-average in center. With every individual projection, you can quibble. There’s less quibbling to be done when a unit looks this bad as a group.
But remember: projections are averages. Or medians. I don’t really know. So projections come with downsides, and projections come with upsides. What if we talked about the Marlins’ upside? What if we stretched the definition of “possible” to examine perhaps the greatest realistic Marlins possibility?
Here’s the idea. We have the Marlins depth chart, with author-submitted playing-time estimates. Let’s keep all the players the same, and let’s keep all the playing times the same. But instead of looking at the projections, let’s turn back to 2013. Pretty much all of these players played in the majors in 2013. They put up largely unimpressive overall performances. But what if we selected each player’s best month, and then extrapolated out? One could argue that month would represent the upside — after all, the players put up those numbers. As an example, last September, Jarrod Saltalamacchia slugged .588. What if he didn’t slug .588 only in September? That would be a good catcher to have!
A few quick notes. First, I’m talking about regular months, like the ones you see in the drop-down menus on the leaderboards. I’m not selecting from, say, April 16 – May 15. Also, there are some players who didn’t play last year. For those guys, you’ll see just their regular projections identical to the ones you see in the current depth chart. This is important for Rafael Furcal and Casey McGehee, and then there are a few other guys who are projected to play hardly at all so they don’t make much of a difference anyway.
So let’s get to the fun stuff. Meet your 2013 Miami Marlins position players, not as they’re likely to be, but as they could be, not-impossibly, since they’ve been like this in the recent past:
Broken down by position:
Now this is a hell of a baseball team. At least, it’s a hell of a group of position players, to go along with the talented group of pitchers that a lot of people seem to like. The Marlins would project to have the best catchers in the league. They’d project to have the best corner outfielders, and they’d project to have the best bench in the National League. Currently, the Dodgers lead the way with 26.4 projected WAR from position players. These Marlins would blow those Dodgers out of the water, perhaps because Marlins are most comfortable in water. These Marlins wouldn’t be without their weaknesses, but with that amount of strengths, who could even care?
Looking at this, you’d have to wonder about some of the playing-time allocations. In Ty Wigginton’s best month last year, he was worth negative WAR. Over 210 plate appearances, he’d be an extrapolated disaster. Why not use more of, say, Ed Lucas or Donovan Solano? Mike Redmond would probably take some heat for that. There’s also Brian Bogusevic with a near-four-digit OPS and just 154 trips to the plate. Granted, it’s not like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna would leave him many opportunities to pick up extended playing time. The Marlins would be faced with what people refer to as “a good problem to have.” That’s not unlike the current real Marlins, except with the word “good” in it.
I think maybe the funniest part: the projection above puts Stanton at 4.2 WAR. Our actual 2014 projections put Stanton at 4.4 WAR. Stanton projects to be better this coming season than he was even in his best month last season. And, yeah, there’s that situation at third. That’s also a funny part, but see how extra-realistic things look? Even the impossibly-possible-upside Marlins have some issues and splashes of reality.
In this hypothetical, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would make for a reasonable NL MVP candidate. The same could be said of Ozuna and Yelich, although they might end up splitting votes on account of sharing a roster. The Marlins, overall, would project for the highest WAR in the National League, but they’d still be just below the Red Sox and Tigers, so they wouldn’t be shoo-in World Series favorites. That’s one of the reasons you’d think they’d do something to deal with the Wigginton problem. With this projection, Wigginton would end up at -4.7 WAR since the start of 2009.
The season before that started, Wigginton slugged .526 and was worth almost three wins to the Astros in two-thirds of a year. Wigginton, overall, has 3.2 WAR in 4949 plate appearances. He collected 88% of that WAR in 8.7% of the action. You never know when one player might just erupt.
And if one player can do it, one or two dozen players can do it. The Marlins, mathematically, can do it. And if just about all of them do it, the 2014 Marlins will be a playoff contender. Stay tuned!
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