The Miami Marlins' promotion of top prospects Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick is a major shake-up to the team's established roster. Because of the subsequent demotions of Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich, a number of spots on the roster have opened up, while others have been closed. But which players will step in to fill these new roles, and how will that affect the team?
The obvious first part of the roster that will change is the outfield. Yelich and Marisnick were not promoted to be part-time players, so naturally this means that they will start in left and center field respectively starting tonight against the Colorado Rockies. They should continue to do so for the foreseeable future, as the Marlins have essentially committed to playing these guys for the rest of the year with their late-July promotion.
But who loses out thanks to the outfield crunch? As we have detailed here at Fish Stripes before, outfield seems to be the team's deepest spot, even before Yelich and Marisnick arrived. The presence of a performing Justin Ruggiano would have precluded the Fish from promoting both players, especially considering how well Ozuna was playing before this month. A simple swap of Yelich for Ozuna would have allowed Ruggiano to retain his starting role either in center field or left field, but he has struggled so badly this month (.073/.215/.145, .177 wOBA) that the Marlins decided to turn elsewhere.
This not only means that Ruggiano will take on a permanent fourth outfielder bench role, but that the Fish may be more inclined to trade him before the 2013 trade deadline. The Fish were previously uninterested in dealing Ruggiano because of the team's lack of outfield depth due to injury, particularly the injury suffered by Chris Coghlan. But now the franchise is flush with five outfielders in the majors and one player in the minors who could easily be slotted back into the lineup in case of injury. If the Marlins could get a decent return for Ruggiano despite his struggles, it might be worth a look.
As for Juan Pierre, the team's other former starter, this all but signals the end of his time as a starting player. The only thing that was keeping Pierre in the radar as a starter was the team's loyalty to him, and that loyalty was good enough to stave off Ruggiano for a good while. But since June 19, Pierre has only made seven starts and Ruggiano has covered the remaining games, meaning Pierre was likely on his last legs. Now with the younger prospects on board, expect Pierre to see extremely sporadic playing time and service only as a pinch hitter and pinch runner.
Second / Third Base
The other major change to the roster is at second base and, due to personnel, third base. Dietrich had earned essentially all the regular starts at second base, being given the occasional day off as needed. Previously, those days off were handled by Ed Lucas, who is the team's regular starter at third base. Placido Polanco would then move back into his old starting spot after he was deposed by Lucas. Later on, the Marlins got back Donovan Solano and promoted him to provide extra middle infield depth.
Now with Dietrich in the minors, the Fish are going to turn to the three-headed monster of Lucas, Solano, and Polanco to man both positions. The likely primary setup is going to be Ed Lucas at third base and Donovan Solano at second base. That mirrors the team's use of Solano last season. But because of the presence of the veteran Polanco, expect a few more starts with Lucas at second base and Polanco at third base then we saw with Dietrich. The Marlins have less of a reason to trust Solano full-time than they did with Dietrich.
How will that affect the Fish? The performance of players like Solano and Polanco is likely to be worse than that of Dietrich's, even with Dietrich's struggles in July. The Marlins are likely to lose parts of a win in this shift from Dietrich to more playing time for worse hitters.
The Marlins' latest promotion move definitely sends some shock waves throughout the roster. The losses by Justin Ruggiano and Juan Pierre are offset by the gains by Placido Polanco and Donovan Solano, except that the Marlins are giving more playing time to the worse set of players. However, with the benefits to the team's long-term goals and the fact that the 2013 season is more or less meaningless results-wise, the Marlins are rightfully more than willing to swallow the loss of Ruggiano's production and take on more of Polanco and Solano. That is how important the development of Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick are to this team's future.