Five little speckled frogs
Sat on a speckled log
Eating some most delicious grubs.
One jumped into the pool
Where it was nice and cool
Then there were four green speckled frogs.
The Marlins outfield is a nursery rhyme right now. Going into the season, it was going to be Giancarlo Stanton, Emilio Bonifacio and Logan Morrison patrolling the Miami outfield grass. That’s a young outfield — none of them is older than 30 — with power and speed and patience, for the most part. Sunday night the Marlins started Donovan Solano, Justin Ruggiano and Austin Kearns at those same positions. That’s an old outfield — one of them is under 30 — with very little power, speed, or patience.
They’ve fallen far. Crisis — in this case brought on by a knee surgery for Stanton, a need for Bonifacio on the infield, and a looming knee surgery for Morrison — means opportunity for fantasy players, usually, but in this case, it might just be a crisis.
We looked at Donovan Solano and decided that he’d make for a decent fill-in shortstop with the bat. Because of his lack of experience before turning thirty, Ruggiano would be lucky to put up another 1800 plate appearances in his career. Kearns was 40% worse than league average in 179 plate appearances with the Indians last year.
And it doesn’t get any better behind those nominal starters. Greg Dobbs is a pinch-hitter with a bad glove and bad platoon splits who hasn’t been above average with the bat since 2008. Scott Cousins has a center fielder’s glove, but hasn’t been able to hit above .200 or strike out less than 30% of the time in the major leagues. Bryan Petersen might not have any power and gets caught as often as he successfully steals most years. Since both Cousins and Petersen are lefty center field types, there’s not even an obvious platoon situation there.
There doesn’t seem to be an opportunity here.
Of course, Ruggiano is the attractive name in deep leagues. The 30-year-old did always show power and patience in the minor leagues, and he’s finally making good on that. But to believe in his .272/.328/.432 ZiPs RoS, you have to believe he’ll put up a .349 BABIP going forward this season. The good news is that his xBABIP, given his batted ball mix, is .342. There’s a chance Ruggiano can continue to put up the good line drive rates that should drive that stat, considering he’s now put up an above-average line drive rate in his 356 major league PAs.
That’s still a small sample. And depending on a .340+ BABIP to get to a .270+ batting average is risky. The power might beat the rest-of-season projections — a .160 ISO would be low for both his major league (.206) and minor league (.196) careers — but the batting average seems riskier. The thirty-year-old has also continued to steal bases even as his speed has declined somewhat. Call him a .265/8/10 guy the rest of the way and you might have your playing-time-and-sanity-check rest-of-season fantasy projection. That’s a fantasy tweener, just between deep and mixed league usefulness. Mixed leaguers with five outfielders and a deep bench could maybe use him as a speed boost.
Anyone else in that outfield? Pass. Cousins needs to make contact and Petersen needs to show more power — if either do and earn playing time for it, they are deep league options. Chris Coghlan could factor in if he re-finds his power stroke and gets more BABIP love (in the major leagues, considering he’s in Triple-A now). Kearns could be okay, but the Marlins might be tempted to see about their young players. Dobbs is Dobbs. Solano is a middle infielder at best.
Maybe there’s still one fantasy-relevant outfielder sitting on that log in the Miami outfield. Maybe.