Juan Pierre Returns to Miami

On Saturday night, the Marlins followed up their latest salary dump by welcoming back Juan Pierre. With Logan Morrison expected to become the team’s starting first baseman, assuming he’s not traded as well, Pierre should see everyday at-bats in left field. With every other lead-off option now gone, Pierre will likely hit atop the lineup on a regular basis.

Pierre makes excellent contact and is regularly among the league leaders in having the lowest K%. That has allowed him to nearly always contribute in batting average, despite a BABIP only a bit above the league average for his career. He hits a ton of ground balls, as someone with such limited power should, and usually sports an above average line drive rate. None of these skills appear to be in danger of declining due to age, so he should once again generate some positive value from his batting average.

Pierre has a whopping 17 career home runs and his career high RBI total is just 55, so we know he’s not going to contribute anything in either of those categories. But, with good speed and the possibility of 600+ plate appearances, he could earn some additional value from a solid runs scored total. The problem, of course, is that the Marlins offense is not looking very good at the moment. Giancarlo Stanton is really the only guarantee for strong production. Justin Ruggiano may prove that this season’s small sample breakout was no fluke, but the 30-year old is much more likely to regress, and perhaps significantly, given his mediocre minor league career and high strikeout rate. Logan Morrison is another wild card, and he may not even still be with the team when spring training begins. With an offense that appears average at best at this point, Pierre may only be able to score about 75-80 runs if he remains healthy all season.

I saved the best for last. We fantasy owners obviously draft Pierre for one thing – his speed. He has never stolen fewer than 27 bases in a season and although he was 34 years old for most of this season, he still stole an impressive 37 bases, while getting caught just 7 times. Oh, and that came in only 439 plate appearances. He also hit six triples and his IFH% was right near his career rate, so all the evidence points to Pierre still not having lost a step. That’s pretty crazy as speed is the first skill that age typically robs, but Pierre is too stubborn to let it go.

Nearly a month ago, the Marlins fired their first year manager Ozzie Guillen and replaced him with Mike Redmond at the beginning of the month. We have no idea what Redmond’s philosophy on the basepaths will be, so it’s impossible to say how Pierre’s stolen base opportunities may be affected. However, Pierre’s offensive value is mainly driven by his base running, so it would be foolish of Redmond to give him anything but the green light. This, of course, assumes that father time doesn’t come suddenly and Pierre doesn’t show up to spring training having clearly lost speed. Last season’s stolen base total prorates to 56 swipes over 600 at-bats, so he remains a running machine. While it would be unwise to project that many for a 35 year old, 40+ should be a lock.

With a strong stolen base contribution, positive batting average and possibly a bit of value earned from runs scored, Pierre should be on mixed league radars in next year’s draft. In my experience, even in his heydays of 60 steals, he was usually undervalued. So he may once again be a nice, cheap source of steals.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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The Marlins have a manager. Mike Redmond.