The Miami Marlins were expecting production when they signed free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three year contract last offseason. And to this point, Miami's front office isn't alone in noticing a decline in offensive numbers.
Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald cited a major league source who made it clear he had high expectations that Saltalamacchia has to this point failed to meet.
"I would have expected better," a National League scout said of Saltalamacchia. "His swing is too long."
While spending time on the disabled list, Saltalamacchia has posted a .223/.332/.379 batting line to complement ten home runs and 36 RBIs. The Marlins were not confident in Rob Brantly's development and instead added the former Boston backstop, who was coming off of a .273/.338/.466 , 65 RBI season.
Saltalamacchia has been a liability in terms of striking out, however while the power may not be solid, the switch hitting catcher has posted the highest walk rate of his career.
The expectations may have been too high, considering the Marlins signed John Buck, who struggled, in 2011 coming off of success with Toronto.
In addition to Saltalamacchia's offensive inconsistencies, he also has a major league-leading 12 errors compared to Buck's five in his first year with the Marlins.
What's more, Saltalamacchia is hitting just .165 with runners in scoring position. There also have been grumblings internally about his defense, but the Marlins believe he will be better next season after a full year in the National League.
When the Marlins decided to add Saltalamacchia, it was a decision that was likely based on both his offensive and defensive success. Saltalamacchia has handled a young pitching staff without Jose Fernandez well, although even Fernandez has favored throwing to backup Jeff Mathis.
Mathis has put together .201/.270/.281 line with just ten RBIs in 2014. He has been productive in spot starts, and has made just one error. Mathis has also had success throwing runners out, however looking at the number of potential base stealers thrown out is skewed by the fact Miami's starters are, for the most part, slow to the plate.
Mathis may not be the Marlins' long term solution, but if Saltalamacchia's struggles continue into 2015, Miami can call upon J.T. Realmuto, who is having a solid year with Double-A Jacksonville.
If he’s not, they could eventually trade him back to an AL team (he’s due $7 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016), especially if well-regarded prospect J.T. Realmuto (.295, 6, 51 at Double A) keeps emerging. Realmuto easily has surpassed Rob Brantly (.259, 3, 31 at Triple A) as a prospect. "I would have expected better," a National League scout said of Saltalamacchia. "His swing is too long."
Saltalamacchia will have a chance to overcome adversity, and will likely be more productive next season. High expectations were likely premature, however Jeff Mathis may see more playing time of Saltalamacchia's struggles continue.
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