“Out of crisis comes opportunity.”
That’s the mantra anyone contemplating the Marlins infield should probably try to hold on to. Cause it’s definitely a crisis, that squad. Practically every position is up for grabs, and some new players will own starting roles in Miami this year. The problem, though, is that most of the players that might take the opportunity born of this crisis are flawed, and some are extremely flawed. There might not be a mixed league starter in the whole crew.
Let’s start with the guy most likely to register in most leagues. At different points in his career, Logan Morrison has shown the ability to take a walk, hit for average, and slug with authority. The problem is that he’s had a three-year career and has only shown one skill separately in each season. His first season was the one with the batting average, but that was propped up by a .351 batting average on balls in play he’s not likely to show again (and hasn’t). Then again, he strikes out at a rate that’s better than league average and isn’t an extreme fly ball hitter, so the low batting average and BABIPs since are almost a little confusing. Hopefully his line drive rate, which has hovered around 18% and is below the league average, hasn’t yet found it’s true-talent level. If he can hit a few more frozen ropes, he’s shown (in 2011) that he can have decent power. If the knee is healthy, a .280/25/80 season is within his reach, even if the projection systems are more bearish. That’s their job.
Catcher holds some promise. Rob Brantly only got 113 plate appearances last season in his debut, but it was encouraging to see that he made contact at a rate that was similar to his minor league performances. You won’t own him for power — he’s hit five home runs in 388 plate appearances in the high minors — and he won’t steal you any bases, but with his ability to make contact, he could hit for a batting average that beats the league’s (.255 last season). At catcher, that makes him a deep league sleeper, a two-catcher must, and a mixed-league watch list guy. With Jeff Mathis hurt, Kyle Skipworth will mostly swing and miss and occasionally connect for a powerful drive in the playing time he manages to carve out.
The rest of the infield might not be worth anything to most fantasy owners.
At second is Donovan Solano, who excited some in his debut, but is a flawed player. Even with some speed, a high ground-ball rate, and a stellar line drive rate, his impact was modest. He’s not likely to continue showing a line drive rate close to 30%, and considering his minor league batting averages, there’s no great reason to expect a batting average good enough to make up for his complete lack of power. After stealing eight combined bases in the three years leading up to last season, Solano did pilfer 11 bags over the full course of 2012. Give him that as a full-year total, a home run or two, and a meh batting average, and you have a warm body for the deepest of leagues.
Shortstop might not even reach those heights. Adeiny Hechavarria has sweet glove, but with his poor minor league success rate on stolen bases, mediocre power, and iffy contact rates for a player of his type, he doesn’t have sweet bat or fantasy upside. Maybe he can show an isolated slugging percentage over .100 and use his feet to push his batting average into positive territory. And maybe his team will let him steal despite the poor success rates to date. And maybe he can show a strikeout rate closer to 15% than 20%. If all those things happened, he could hit .275 with single digit home runs and double-digit stolen bases. That would be deep-league worthy, but then you have to remember all the hoops you had to jump through to get to those numbers.
Third base has long been a nemesis for the Marlins, and it will continue to be. Placido Polanco is 37 years old. As his power and speed — never superlative — have dwindled to terrible lows, his batting average (once his best asset) has disappeared as well. He’s still got glove and makes contact, but without a good batting average, neither of those things will help your fantasy team. Greg Dobbs is 34 and a platoon player. If you limit him only to righties, perhaps he can show you a decent batting average, but that’s about it.
There isn’t help on the way, at least not immediately. The only infield prospect that made any top ten list anywhere and wasn’t listed above was Derek Dietrich, the former Tampa Bay Ray. Dietrich has major contact rate concerns, even if his power shows at the major league level. Maybe Zack Cox can help, despite the pessimism that seems to pervade his writeups these days. If he continues to improve his strikeout rate, he already has more power upside than the veterans keeping third base warm these days in Miami.
This is a dreadful infield in fantasy, and it’s not much better in real life. Maybe all we had to say is that it looks like the 35-year-old Chone Figgins could make the team as a backup infielder.
Early Depth Chart: