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Donovan Solano: Suddenly Important

Coming into this season, the Marlins had Hanley Ramirez at third base, Omar Infante at second base, and a full outfield. Donovan Solano? Well… he was a mystery. Literally:

Guess Non-Roster Invitees don’t usually register like this. Well, at least now we know where he signed. And especially after Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante have left town, he looks like the starting third baseman for the Fish. And with Matt Dominguez gone, the team doesn’t have an internal prospect ready to take the job away. The only mystery remaining with this suddenly important Marlin is how he’ll do with all that major league playing time.

Can he handle the position defensively, might be the first question. After all, Solano first came up to help in the outfield. But in the Cardinals organization, he played mostly shortstop, while sprinkling in work around the diamond. In the Miami org he played second and short. His defensive ratings weren’t good at shortstop, but the fact that his organizations continued to play him there speaks well of his ability to fake the position. And if he can fake shortstop, he can play third base for a team that had Hanley Ramirez at the position.

But if he was a shortstop coming up, the question immediately switches over to whether or not his bat can be good enough for third.

The one thing Solano won’t do for you is hit home runs. The 24-year-old has been adding a little power every year as he’s aged, but he started A-ball with a .013 ISO, so he’s still got a long way to go before he even slugs at a league-average rate. Solano also won’t steal you many bases. His career high — set in the Marlins organization this season, in 160 PAs — is four. He won’t walk a ton, either. He’s only once managed a league-average walk rate. He strikes out a little too much, too, for a guy with this profile — 12.9% over his MiLB career, but closer to 15% in the high minors.

So far, with a .424 BABIP, Solano has managed a nice batting average. His increased playing time will make him enticing to some fantasy managers. In real life, his glove will probably mean that he can remain above replacement for the Marlins.

But fantasy managers will eventually feel the sting of depending on an NRI with no power, patience or speed — as will the Marlins. With only whiff-meister Donnie Murphy as competition, and no third base prospects in the minors, and only Kevin Youkilis appearing on the 2013 third-base free agency radar, it might be the suddenly important but still mediocre Solano manning the hot corner for some while.