The 2013 Miami Marlins recognized that their situation at third base was lost in a major way when Placido Polanco faltered in a big way. The Fish did not have any real contingency plans for playing anyone other than Polanco at third base, so the team appeared all but set to leave his corpse there to rot for the year. But the random promotion of minor league veteran Ed Lucas, who got his first plate appearance in the majors at age 31, gave the Fish a slightly better option. Miami turned to Lucas quickly and was pleasantly surprised by a hot start.
That hot start, not surprisingly enough, was quickly erased.
Lucas was quietly having a good year in Triple-A New Orleans, but that season was entirely fluky in nature. Lucas had not really changed any of his minor league career parameters, as he was striking out and walking at about the same level. He had not developed any additional power. He had simply run into a few more pitches this season, as evidenced by a .360 BABIP after a career Triple-A mark of .315. But that performance was enough to garner his first trist into the majors.
And what a first trist it was. By the end of June, his first month in the majors, he had earned a starting role and hit .299/.371/.356 (.329 wOBA). While that was not impressive in a vacuum, it is above average and a good deal better than Polanco, who by that same time was hitting .238/.299/.285, Lucas looked like a godsend compared to a lot of the rest of the Marlins offense.
But that too was a mirage. Lucas was hitting .357 on balls in play, and that seemed unlikely to continue given that he was a 10-year minor league veteran before the promotion and had held a significantly worse career Triple-A BABIP. And sure enough, slowly but surely, Lucas began his decline towards his true talent level at the plate. After that nice one-month stretch, Lucas hit .242/.290/.330 (.275 wOBA) through the rest of the season, showing many of the same problems that plagued other weak-hitting infielders on the team like Polanco and Donovan Solano.
The difference between Lucas and these players is that he had one very strong month that kept his batting line just good enough to be supported by his decent defense. Lucas was known as a versatile defender, and much like Solano last season, he was asked to take on many roles on the 2013 Marlins, Initially, he basically supplanted Polanco at third base. Later into the season, however, Lucas was asked to spell Logan Morrison at first base, and he made 19 starts at the position as the team's primary backup. He also played most of the games in which Adeiny Hechavarria missed time, either due to injury early in the year or the occasion off-day.
Depending on who you ask, Lucas performed those roles well. He rated as above average according to UZR, but his small samples at various positions went very well according to DRS, which had him as 10 runs above average combined at multiple positions last year. It is unlikely that he is the next Ben Zobrist defensively, but he certainly seemed versatile enough to spell players at multiple positions.
Unfortunately, the Marlins will likely not use him in that role next year, and there is a good chance that, like Solano, Lucas may have earned a more permanent playing time role thanks to one hot stretch. His 2013 season was a relative success given his expectations heading into the season, but the Marlins should not confuse him for even a passable regular.