Fish Stripes 2014 Marlins Season Preview: Donovan Solano, Derek Dietrich

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With the signing of Rafael Furcal, the Miami Marlins have relegated Donovan Solano to the bench in 2014, while sending Derek Dietrich to develop further in the minors.

The Miami Marlins signed Rafael Furcal to a one-year contract with the intent to replace the flotsam that manned the second base position last season. The only problem is that Furcal is not significantly better than that flotsam, as Solano and Dietrich are at least young and have one quality of interest over Furcal. The Fish opted for veteran age and championship pedigree from his World Series victory with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, but would either of the younger players have done a better job?

Donovan Solano

Imagine a role reversal for the 2014 season for Solano. How different would that be for Miami? For one, there is a decent chance the Fish get a lesser hitter, as Solano for his career so far has been 2011-2012 Furcal with more strikeouts and fewer walks. Solano's plate discipline is not a disaster, but it leaves much to be desired given that his power is essentially nonexistent (.073 career ISO). Solano's 2012 season was definitely a mirage, but given that the team's chosen alternative is about as good as he is, the Marlins could have at least considered the younger of the two players.

One thing that is on Solano's side is his line drive rate. He has posted a career line drive rate of 25 percent versus a 48 percent ground ball rate, which is better than Furcal's more slap-hitter style on the ground. Batted ball data outside of ground balls is fraught with bias, so Solano's work should be taken with a grain of salt. But it is at least something that points to a more promising future for Solano over his older counterpart.

The other thing to point out when arguing for Solano in 2014 is his defensive ability, and that in fact may have been what forced him out as well. Solano is not a whiz with the glove, but he is solidly average at second base. Because he was brought up as a shortstop, he also displays some versatility and can fill in for Adeiny Hechavarria in a pinch. That flexibility is what makes him a desirable bench option for the Marlins but not someone who could justify starting, especially with his poor plate numbers. But because of the injuries expected to Furcal and the likelihood of other players going down, Marlins fans may still see plenty of Solano in 2014, so do not fret.

Derek Dietrich

Marlins fans are likely to see very little of Dietrich unless Furcal suffers a serious, long-term injury. Dietrich served some time in the majors last season, batting just .214/.275/.405 (.297 wOBA) but flashing good power. The Fish are desperate for power, and Dietrich's nine homers gave the team a nice tease of what he could deliver for the team. But Dietrich whiffed in 24 percent of plate appearances and nary drew a walk, confirming concerns over his plate discipline from the minors.

Dietrich will be given plenty of time in 2014 to work on his deficiencies in Triple-A. Before the Furcal signing, Dietrich had a chance to win the second base job and push Solano to the bench, depending on the results of Spring Training. But Furcal's arrival means that Dietrich will get time to learn how to draw walks in a decent hitting environment like the Pacific Coast League. Furcal's injury history makes it possible for Dietrich to leapfrog Solano if he is performing well in Triple-A, but it is far more likely that he only sees a promotion if Furcal proves to be out for an extended period of time. Chances are that, if the Marlins will replace Furcal for a 15-day disabled list stint or a similar injury timetable, they will turn to a no-consequence veteran like Ed Lucas to fill the backup void while promoting Solano to the starting lineup.

None of those players have the potential of Dietrich to be the second baseman of the future, and that is actually the point. Dietrich should get a full season to work on his game as a starting player rather than spending time on the Major League bench. Once the Marlins deem him ready, he can be recalled and allowed to face big-league pitching again after it mostly dominated him last year. Keeping him in the minors is what is best for his development.

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