The Miami Marlins came into 2014 with a plan at second base, and that plan primarily featured free agent addition Rafael Furcal. By the end of the campaign, that plan had included six different players who made starts at the position, and the player who played the least at the position was the one whom they expected to start all season. While Furcal spent essentially all year on the disabled list with hamstring troubles, the Marlins ran through second base options like they were going out of style. While one player seemingly differentiated himself from the others, all of them exhibited enough warts to bring up serious questions about their standing with the team.
Furcal signed for $3.5 million this year, with incentives for playing time. Given his checkered injury history, it was never likely that he would hit those playing time marks, but even the Marlins could not have expected this kind of disaster. Furcal injured his hamstring during Spring Training and missed the first two-plus months of the season.
When Furcal finally got into the lineup, he hit poorly in just nine games. In a game against the New York Mets, Furcal entered late in the contest and hustled down the line to beat out an infield single. He stepped on the bag awkwardly and re-injured that hamstring, and that was enough to sideline him the rest of the year.
The Marlins got 37 plate appearances from Furcal's $3.5 million, and it capped off the worst-case scenario for an injury-prone veteran. Money poorly wasted.
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The Marlins wanted Derek Dietrich to be the primary replacement for Furcal, and for a while, it seemed like he might even steal the job away from the veteran outright. Dietrich was hitting well by the time Furcal was ready to return to the roster, as he was batting .246/.342/.431 by June 1. It seemed the Marlins had found their answer.
But Dietrich was demoted to Triple-A when Furcal was ready despite being the second-best hitter on the roster by the time he left. The stated reason was simple: Derek Dietrich was struggling on defense badly. He was tied for the most errors at second base by the time he left, and his advanced defensive statistics since 2013 had not been impressing anyone.
Did the Marlins really save any runs demoting Dietrich and his superior bat? Almost certainly not. But the team wanted him to work on his defense instead of sitting on the bench, and the club did not want him starting because of that ugly defense early on. This approach missed the forest, or the total picture of the player, for the ugly trees, as Dietrich was clearly the best second baseman on the team in 2014, even if he was on pace to be just a one-win player in a full year.
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The Marlins demoted Dietrich, but they brought him back to play after Furcal was hurt. But then Dietrich himself was injured and missed two months himself, and at that point Miami turned to a litany of players. The most dependable one was Donovan Solano, who was always a steady hand defensively and someone who could not hit. Solano kept to that reputation: he rated as an above-average defender at second again, but he was 10 runs worse than average in just 343 plate appearances. Like in 2013, Solano failed to find the BABIP luck that buoyed his batting line in 2012, and once again he ended up hitting terribly, as he batted .252/.300/.323 (.281 wOBA).
Solano at this point is who he is. He is a decent defender and can backup multiple positions, but is a bad player overall.
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Valdespin got a chance at the job after the Marlins tired temporarily of Solano's meek bat. He helped his own cause by hitting a few clutch drives and some home runs early on, which propped up his standing among Marlins fans. But it was easy to see through that and see that Valdespin's bat was just as bad as Solano's and others who played second this year. Valdespin did hit three homers in 113 plate appearances, but he also hit just .214/.280/.347 (.282 wOBA), and his reputation at the position is a lot worse than Solano's. He probably suffered from some bad luck with BABIP, but it is not exactly like he has ever shown anything worth Major League playing time before this year; Valdespin has now gotten 463 big-league plate appearances and has nearly an identical batting line to last year's mark.
Ed Lucas was just like the first two guys, but essentially with none of the positives. The punchless minor league veteran somehow managed to collect singles on a whopping 87 percent of his hits in 2014, up from 79 percent last year. Lucas did manage one home run, but he had by far the lowest power output of any Marlins second baseman.