Miami Marlins' Casey McGehee providing adequate protection in lineup

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee is off to a hot offensive start, and as a result, has provided sufficient protection for Giancarlo Stanton. McGehee has been the Marlins' cleanup hitter after Garrett Jones' struggles.

When the Miami Marlins signed third baseman Casey McGehee, they were looking for a player to both provide offense from a position that lacked it in the past and temporarily buy time for prospect Colin Moran to develop. McGehee had a solid offensive year in Japan last season, and his continued success at the plate has indirectly benefited Giancarlo Stanton.

McGehee entered the season 17 RBIs short of 300 in his major league career, and after batting .316 and driving in 20 runs through 30 games, he has hit that mark.

McGehee and teammate Giancarlo Stanton have been among the best in the National League at taking advantage of their RBI opportunities. According to Baseball Prospectus, Stanton ranks third (26.1 percent) and McGehee eighth (23.4 percent) in percentage of all runners on base batted in among NL hitters with at least 75 plate appearances. Through Thursday, Stanton (24) and McGehee (18) ranked first and second in other RBI, calculated by subtracting home runs from the player's RBI total.

Garrett Jones was thought to be Miami's primary cleanup hitter being that he is a lefty bat to complement that of Stanton, but his lack of success against lefties and his slower start gave McGehee an opportunity.

For a team that ended 2013 with historically poor offensive numbers, McGehee's contributions have made teams consider whether or not they want to pitch to Stanton in key situations. Stanton has already been intentionally walked several times, but McGehee's ability to drive the ball to all fields, even with two outs, could eventually lead to Stanton seeing better pitches to hit.

Stanton thought last year that because of the inconsistencies and inexperience of the starting lineup he was seeing fewer solid pitches to hit. But with Christian Yelich's success in the leadoff spot and the ability of McGehee to get on base (.383 OBP), he has seen more pitches over the plate, evident by his eight home runs in the first five weeks of the season.

Stanton (65) and McGehee (53) have totaled a combined 118 plate appearances with men on base. The Marlins are the only team in the NL with at least four players with 53 or more turns with men on. Garrett Jones and Marcell Ozuna entered Friday's game with 57 and 56, respectively.

While Stanton and McGehee have transformed Miami's offense, the ability of Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to work counts and get on base has also punctuated the transformation.

Although the offense ended the first month of the season in the top of several offensive categories, Miami's pitching depth doesn't require a six or seven run game on a nightly basis. Stanton's hot start has been complemented nicely by McGehee's success, and if both can stay healthy and consistent, the Marlins' offense should continue to be solid.

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