The Miami Marlins are depending on Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton to lead the way offensively for the team, and they would like their center field candidates to assist in becoming solid players for the foreseeable future. We already discussed the prospects of Marcell Ozuna, who is expected to play center field for the team on a regular basis. But the team has two other outfielders who could see prominent playing time in 2014. Who are they and how well might they do?
The Marlins acquired Bogusevic in an offseason trade involving Justin Ruggiano, essentially a one-for-one swap. Ruggiano was the team's second-leading home run hitter last year, and this is a club that was struggling badly to find home runs. Still, Bogusevic was in his third pre-arbitration season and figured to be a cheaper lefty alternative to Ruggiano.
Last year, Bogusevic had a strong 155 plate appearances with the Chicago Cubs, batting .273/.323/.462 (.339 wOBA) and putting up a one-win season off the bench. If that is what the Marlins could expect to get, they would be thrilled. However, just a year before that, Bogusevic ran into all kinds of bad luck en route to a .203/.297/.299 (.271 wOBA), so nothing is a guarantee. The projection systems expect him to bat around .240/.315/.370, good for around his career .303 wOBA. His career splits indicate that he is a righties-only hitter (.320 wOBA against righties versus a .189 wOBA versus lefties), so that further limits his offensive input. In addition, the Marlins do not have a significant platoon need in the outfield, as they have one star and one left-handed hitter already starting for the team.
Bogusevic will play the fourth outfielder role, but his ability to play center field may be most important. The team's weak link in the outfield is the winner of the center field battle between Marcell Ozuna and Jake Marisnick, and Bogusevic may be asked to step in more regularly for those players. He played center field about as often as the other two outfield positions in the minors, but he is a better defensive fit in the corners and appears to be a "tweener" in that respect. Miami will also need him more often because of the likelihood of a Giancarlo Stanton injury.
Marisnick is still involved in a battle for the center field spot, and early Spring Training results have him playing well compared to Ozuna. Still, he began the race behind Ozuna because of a weak 100-plus plate appearances in a trial run last season, and he would be better off starting the year in Triple-A rather than being forced into a starting role against Major League pitching again. Last year, Marisnick exhibited the same, if not more extreme, plate discipline problems that Ozuna had, and that turned out to be his undoing. He swung at 52 percent of the pitches he saw, including 35 percent of the ones outside of the strike zone. The good news is that he had better contact rates and made better contact (25 percent line drive rate), but it seems he had bad luck in the process and ended up with a horrific BABIP.
Marisnick will likely begin in Triple-A New Orleans, but keep an eye on his performance there. Any uptick in play, combined with a weak start by Ozuna, and the Fish may pull the trigger and promote him. Despite Ozuna's surprisingly effective defensive play in center field, Marisnick remains the better prospect defensively, as he has the athleticism to survive the cavernous Marlins Park center field and a more-than-playable throwing arm. The Marlins could man the very best outfield they have ever put up defensively if they put him next to Yelich and even a declining Stanton. If the bat comes around strong in the minors for a second straight year, do not be surprised to see him up in the majors sooner rather than later.