“Through early morning fog I see,
Visions of the things to be,
The pains that are withheld for me,
I realize and I can see,
That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes,
and I can take or leave it if I please”
While I’m not advocating or equating the aforementioned lyrics, it’s become pretty obvious that this will be a M*A*S*H unit which Mike Redmond will preside over. Three of the most ‘established’ players on whom Redmond would have liked to lean upon — relatively speaking — are either injured or questionable to start the season.
It starts behind the plate, where Jeff Mathis is out with a broken collarbone. He was injured in late February, and expected to have a six-week timetable, so it’s likely Mathis may be ready before we get too far into April. A backup catcher with a career hitting line of .198/.256/.314, Mathis has no fantasy value anyway but is likely being counted on by Redmond to mentor an unequivocally young/inexperienced team. Behind, or rather in front of Mathis is Rob Brantly. There’s been very little talk about Brantly in the tea leaves, but he appears to be the unquestioned starter.
Brantly certainly didn’t conquer Triple-A before his promotion, and didn’t appear to have a ton of power in the minors (.112 ISO). But he did fare rather well in his cup of coffee last season (.290/.372/.460), so he could be possibly worth a look in deep NL-only leagues. Backing up Brantly in the short term will likely be Kyle Skipworth, a former top-100 prospect who has flamed out with a .219/.282/.377 triple-slash through five minor league seasons (and none above Double-A). Needless to say, these catchers will lean heavily on their skipper to find their way early in the season.
Logan Morrison would be the unquestioned starter at first if not for knee surgery last September. He’s still yet to play in a spring training game, and as a result is questionable for opening day. Fantasy owners projecting power from Morrison’s imposing physique were completely left in the dark in 2012, as his slugging dipped from .468 to a Delmonian .399. The average of the five projections on his player page suggest 18.4 home runs and a .452 slugging percentage. To that end, you have to ask yourself if that’s enough production out of first base. Coupled with injury worries, I’d aim higher. Backing up LoMo are Casey Kotchman (not presently on 40-man) and Joe Mahoney (40-man rostered). Kotchman provides nothing with the stick and his defensive reputation may be receding. Mahoney has thumped three home runs this spring but has the look of a Quad-A thumper to me.
Donovan Solano is the clear cut second baseman here. He’s hit quite well this spring (.467/.485/.533), and did also do OK with the stick last year in about a half-season worth of at bats. The .717 OPS won’t charm anyone, but a .295 batting average would play in a lot of leagues at second base. One just has to sufficiently hedge his .357 BABIP, 1.7 GB/FB rate, and 28.3% line drive rate. With those marks he may be able to stray a bit higher than your usual BABIP, but are you really going to deviate for a guy who *might* just poke 150 singles? I’m skeptical.
The decaying remains of Chone Figgins seem to be in the Marlins plans to sort of back up all over the place, so I figured second base was a spot to slot him in here. Figgins hasn’t even been a reasonable offensive player since 2009, which encompasses the entire time he was in Seattle. Seriously, he hit in the .180s the past two seasons. Somehow he keeps getting work. It shouldn’t be from you.
At short is Adeiny Hechavarria, who came over in the Marlins-Jays blockbuster. Hechavarria projected to largely be just a defensive-minded shortstop, but his bat has rounded into form as he worked up the ranks with the Jays, though it’s important to note he did so in the PCL. All the projection systems have him in the .280s for wOBA, making him hands-off except maybe in Scoresheet leagues where defense can help you. Even then, he might not be adequately rated yet. Nick Green seems like he might back up here? A lot of depth charts list Solano and Hechavarria backing each other up the middle, so it would seem to me like Solano could play short while someone else fills in at second that day, such as Figgins. All-told, one would probably do well to avoid this situation.
And finally we come to third base, where Placido Polanco is penciled in. Polanco has been limited to only four games this spring due to lingering back issues, which wouldn’t bode well for his durability this season. It matters not, as the ship has long sailed on Polanco’s fantasy utility. Behind Polanco is pinch hitter extraordinaire Greg Dobbs, who is also experiencing the Placido effect on his one of his calf muscles. And behind them is former top prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff, who already has his ‘final game’ listed on Baseball Reference. You get where I’m going here. The only one worth monitoring is Zack Cox, who will open 2013 at New Orleans, but could easily hop over these three also-rans to steal the job in-season.
Many prospect types I’ve talked about are skeptical that Cox can be an impact bat at this level, but he was a highly regarded college hitter coming out of Arkansas in 2010, and has moved rather quickly up the Cardinals system prior to the trade. The Marlins actually sent him back to Double-A after the Cardinals had him in Memphis, and he seems to have regressed afterwards. I think what was most troubling to me was how he regressed in batting average, as he typically would hit .290 or higher and was right around .250 all season. That doesn’t bode well for a guy who didn’t have much power to begin with. I’m extremely tepid on Cox, but he’s obviously the future here. You could do worse for a deep third base prospect-type option, but don’t hang any sort of hat on him.
EARLY DEPTH CHART
C- Rob Brantly, Kyle Skipworth
1B- Logan Morrison*, Casey Kotchman, Joe Mahoney
2B- Donovan Solano, Chone Figgins
3B- Placido Polanco, Greg Dobbs, Kevin Kouzmanoff, (Zack Cox)
SS- Adeiny Hechavarria, Nick Green