The Miami Marlins were forced into difficult circumstances in 2013, when an already-depleted roster had to dip even further into its minor league position player depth to fill out their roster thanks to injuries. In the case of Donovan Solano, the Fish lost their expected second baseman in early May, and that forced the team to look deep into the roster depth, not for a Quad-A veteran fill-in, but for a prospect.
The Marlins had acquired Derek Dietrich from the Tampa Bay Rays in return for Yunel Escobar. Dietrich was known as a free-swinging middle infielder better suited for second or third base than shortstop and one who had surprising power for a smaller player. He turned out to be exactly all those things in a mixed 2013 season.
Dietrich showed us what we expected from him in 2013. On the one hand, he did bring power to a team that was dead last in the league in home runs. In 233 plate appearances, Dietrich hit nine home runs, and that total was actually still good for third on the team behind Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Ruggiano. Dietrich hit homers on 16.7 percent of his fly balls, and while it might be possible he is the second coming of 2006 Dan Uggla, it is far more likely that that rate drops. Still, that is promising power, especially for a lefty hitter in Marlins Park and its historically long right field home run porch.
Sadly, Dietrich brought little else to the table other than home runs. Like Solano, he was an aggressive swinger at the plate and then some, swinging at a shade over 50 percent of the pitches he saw. Unlike Solano, Dietrich struggled to make contact on those pitches, as he put bat on ball on just 78 percent of pitches swung at versus Solano's 84 percent. As a result, Dietrich's strikeout and walk rates looked awful. Dietrich struck out in 24 percent of plate appearances and walked in just 4.7 percent of them this past year, yielding an awful strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.1. That mark was the 20th-worst strikeout-to-walk ration in baseball among hitters with more than 200 plate appearances.
Dietrich also struggled on the defensive side of the ball, as most metrics said he was between four to six runs below average on the season. While it is unlikely that he was that bad, it does mesh with the idea that he was not a talented minor league shortstop and not a player who could stick at that position long-term. He did look less sharp and less capable on balls to either side than Solano, who appeared at least more experienced at the position. The Fish do see him as either a second or third baseman, but Dietrich will have to prove he can handle second base now that the team has a long-term third base option in Colin Moran.
Dietrich is by no means a guarantee as a long-term option at second base, but 2013 did show some flashes. Still, he would need to fix some of the significant holes in his game if the Marlins are to depend on him for more than just 2014.