2013 Marlins Season Review: The other outfielders

Chris Coghlan stopped diving for balls in the outfield when he returned from injury in 2013. - Mike Ehrmann

The Miami Marlins employed a few other outfielders in 2013, but Chris Coghlan and Jake Marisnick, among others, may not find any room in a crowded 2014 situation based on their 2013 Major League stints.

The Miami Marlins featured two other important outfielders beyond the four that made the most impact on the club in 2013. The Fish had to play one to see if he had any juice left from a Rookie of the Year season long past. The other had to be tried out as a potential 2014 option, but the Marlins found out that that player could afford to get some more minor league seasoning.

Chris Coghlan
Marlins, 2013 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA fWAR rWAR
Chris Coghlan 214 .256 .318 .354 .298 -0.5 -0.4

The Marlins wanted to give Chris Coghlan another opportunity to prove himself. After three years of injuries, poor offense, and terrible defense in the outfield, the Marlins were still looking for him to maybe recapture some of his 2009 Rookie of the Year form. And at the plate, it looked like he was becoming at least passable this year. By June 8, Coghlan was hitting a perfectly fine .277/.326/.412 that would have looked magnificent given the team's lineup this year.

But even that line was a little on the fluky side. Coghlan was hitting .347 on balls in play, and unlike in his first few seasons, he was not complementing his balls in play with walks or a lack of strikeouts. By that time, Coghlan had walked in just 6.5 percent of plate appearances, while he struck out in 20.6 percent of them. Had his season ended there, that would have been the lowest walk rate and second-highest strikeout rate of his career. While it also would have been the best batting line he has put up since his rookie season, it would have been one fraught with warning lights about regression.

Coghlan never got to regress from that point, however, because he got hurt and was out until September with a hip injury. When he returned, he hit a terrible .215/.301/.231 and did not look like the same hitter. The overall season ended with a .322 BABIP and a .298 wOBA, showing once again that Coghlan may not be worth trying in the outfield.

But the Marlins may not continue trying him in the outfield given their attempt to work him at third base at the end of the season. For his career, Coghlan has averaged about seven runs a season below average in left field and 12 runs worse in center field. The early jury in terms of defensive metrics did not look great for his third base experiment, but there were only 67 innings in that sample. We have two seasons of data on Coghlan's poor left field play and less than a year of his awful center field play. It's worth trying him in the infield now.

Jake Marisnick
Marlins, 2013 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA fWAR rWAR
Jake Marisnick 118 .183 .231 .248 .216 -0.2 0.1

The Marlins brought up Marisnick alongside Christian Yelich in late July thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness from Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich. But while Yelich took off and became one of the team's better players immediately, Marisnick was left to struggle. Part of that was that he was clearly less advanced at the plate in terms of his approach. He had a great year in Double-A, batting .294/.358/.502 (.391 wOBA, 150 wRC+) in 298 plate appearances sandwiching an injured period. But during that time in the minors, he also whiffed in 22.8 percent of his plate appearances and walked in just 5.7 percent of them, His batting line was dependent on BABIP and a surprising 11 hit-by-pitches (3.6 percent rate).

Those plate discipline problems continued and were amplified in the majors. Marisnick whiffed in 22.9 percent of plate appearances and walked in just 5.1 percent of them in 118 Major League plate appearances. He wildly swung at a lot of pitches, as he hacked at 52.1 percent of pitches this season, including 35 percent of them out of the zone. That rate would have ranked 16th in baseball this year among qualified players.

But those problems also came with a combination of poor contact and bad luck, as evidenced by a .232 BABIP. It was just an ugly Major League cup of coffee for the young prospect, and it would be best if the Marlins left his bat to simmer a little more in the minors. The glove, at least according to scouts and early defensive metric numbers, looked good enough to play, so Marisnick needs to approach average to be more than a solid contributor. But at this point he still looks a little far from that point.

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