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Miami Marlins Season Preview: Left Field

Welcome to the Miami Marlins Season Preview! After this, check out the other previews:

02/24: Catcher
02/27: First base
Second base
Third base
03/05: Shortstop

The Marlins have already started their Spring Training activity, and here at Fish Stripes, we cannot let up if the team has not. We roll on with our continued preview of the positions being occupied in 2012. The Marlins' outfield situation is stable in the corners and a little off up the middle, as the team has two big bats that they can fit in the outfield but will undoubtedly have to pidgeonhole a mediocre player in the center field spot.

Luckily the Marlins have no questions about who will man left field. The only question really is whether he should be in left field at all.

Depth Chart

1. Logan Morrison
2. Bryan Petersen

Minor League Depth: Scott Cousins, Aaron Rowand

The Marlins will start their second season with Logan Morrison in left field. Though the team is confident (as it should be) that Morrison can rebound from a perceived sophomore slump at the plate, the team should also be worried that his defensive output is helping to stymie any offensive value that he can provide.

On offense, Morrison struggled in his second year. but he did so with things that are very easily reversible and likely had much to do with bad luck. His BABIP hit a career low and a number that would seem inconceivable given his 2010 success (.351 BABIP) and his minor league acumen (.321 BABIP in the minors). Given the previous numbers, we should expect Morrison to continue to do well at the plate and snag a few more hits on balls in play.

The rest of 2011 was an offensive positive for Morrison. He did not maintain the massive walk rate he posted in 2010, but his approach at the plate was still spectacular as expected. The power increase was a pleasant surprise for Morrison, as this was the one question most people had about him going into the majors. He responded by posting a .221 ISO and bashing 23 home runs. However, we should also expect to temper some of that home run power, as he hit those homers while maintaining a similar fly ball rate as his 2010 version. Naturally, he is not likely to hit home runs at a HR/FB rate of 18 percent; to get a perspective, players like Miguel Cabrera (18.8 percent), Adam Dunn (18.4 percent), and Adrian Gonzalez (18.4 percent) hit dingers at a similar rate since 2009, and I do not believe that Morrison is as strong at the plate as any of those hitters.

So we have some good regression to expect in BABIP and some bad regression in power, with the power going down less than the BABIP will go up. Where should either of those numbers be? Let's take a look at the projections.

ZiPS 577 .261 .360 .456 .354
Steamer 576 .267 .368 .479 .367
PECOTA 562 .262 .357 .439 .290
Fans 593 .278 .370 .497 .375

The Fans seem most optimistic, as expected, while PECOTA seems the most pessimistic of the projections. How does Morrison fair in terms of the peripherals of interest in these projections?

Morrison, Proj XB/H ISO BABIP
ZiPS 0.750 .195 .298
Steamer 0.809 .212 .298
PECOTA 0.667 .177 .298
Fans 0.786 .219 .307

As you can see, the systems almost exactly agree with Morrison's chances at a BABIP bounce back, as they each have him hitting .298 on balls in play. The power ranges from numbers close to his career average (.201) to a 2010 low (.164) to close to his 2011 high (.221). I would lean closer to ZiPS projection than anyone else's, though you cannot go wrong with ZiPS or Steamer.

Indeed, we could maybe split the difference between ZiPS and Steamer and get a projected .361 wOBA. The question now becomes how will Morrison perform defensively. UZR and TotalZone both have Morrison as a major negative contributor on defense, and this is not surprising given his lumbering frame and some of the things we as fans have seen over the last year and a half. Other systems, however, such as DRS and Baseball Prospectus's FRAA, have Morrison as closer to a three- to four-run offender at the position over a given season. My personal opinion in watching him play is that he is an atrocious left fielder, but the Fans have suggested that he is merely bad rather than unbearable. FanGraphs fans, on the other hand, were asked to put a number on Morrison's defense and said that he would be worth nine runs worse than average in 2012.

How do we reconcile all of these differences? We will split the difference and call him a true-talent -10-runs defender over a season. When we add up all of these contributions, what do we get?

Projection: 600 PA, 2.5 WAR

The Marlins would expect to have another above-average contributor on their hands if he ends up playing a decent amount of time. Morrison did miss a month in the previous season with a foot injury, so being sidelined for medical reasons is not a new or unfounded occurrence with Morrison. Still, if the Fish can keep Morrison healthy, he should be a valuable team contributor to the Marlins and should get a chance to prove himself (rightfully or not) with the glove and bat.