The Miami Marlins rightly identified that they needed to upgrade at the third base position after a season spent using Casey McGehee at that spot. McGehee had a hot first half, but struggled mightily in the second half en route to a league average year, but despite all the smoke around the possibility that the Fish were confident in him heading into 2015, they went in another direction. The Marlins traded McGehee and acquired another third baseman in New York Yankees infielder Martin Prado. The trade was a costly one, as Miami gave up Nathan Eovaldi and paid the Yankees a promising prospect in Domingo German in order to take Garrett Jones off of their hands.
Whatever the cost, the Fish at least ended up getting what they were expecting from Prado all along: a solid season at the plate and plus defense on the field.
Prado did not start the season off as a success, as he was hitting just .277/.311/.370 (.299 wOBA) by the start of the All-Star break. Prado was doing what he usually does after a slow first month, except that he was missing the power that he had able to display in Arizona and New York in past seasons. In 271 plate appearances, Prado only hit four home runs, which put him well behind his pace in Arizona. But he also only hit 12 other extra-base hits, putting him on tract to hit only 26 doubles or triples in a 600 plate appearance year. Two years ago in Arizona, Prado smacked 38 such hits in 664 plate appearances, and even last year he mustered 30 in 573 chances.
The big change in the second half is Prado's return of good fortune on balls in play. Prado has hit .311 on balls in play for his career, and he was hitting just .298 for the Marlins in the first half. He corrected that all the way back to his baseline in the second half, riding a .329 mark to a season average of .313 on balls in play, right in line with his career numbers.
Prado also improved on his modest strikeout-to-walk numbers. It seems at this point that Prado will be losing a bit of his contact edge that he had for many years with the Atlanta Braves; this is the second season in a row in which he made contact on "just" 89 percent of swings versus the 90 to 91 percent rate he boasted in his best years. However, he did still make contact with over 90 percent of pitches in the zone, and he used his typical patient approach to avoid out-of-zone swings. His 26 percent out-of-zone swing rate was the lowest he posted since 2009 and it was second lowest on the team only to Christian Yelich. Prado was fairly selective at the plate, and his high contact rates helped him at least lower his strikeouts down to 12.3 percent from 14 percent last season. In the second half, he swung a little less than in the first half and gained more than a few walks; in only nine more plate appearances, he doubled the amount of walks from the first half to the second half.
Prado has always been missing power, and the move to Marlins Park was rough on his pop. His .106 ISO and nine homers is the lowest he has posted in any season with at least 500 plate appearances in his career. The gap hits and homers never came back up in the second half; he simply picked up more singles than he did in that first part of the season.
However, Prado's calling card has never really been the plate. He was always known for his versatility on defense, being able to capably play at least three positions in his career. Prado's versatility was not required in 2015; he only started nine games and played 71 innings in a position other than third base. This paid off, as Prado was able to show off his hot corner skills this season with a great set of teammates. He, Dee Gordon, and Adeiny Hechavarria set up the best double-play trio in baseball this year, with each ranking at the top of their position for double play runs above average. Prado vacuumed up balls in play on the left side in a way Marlins fans have not really witnessed since the Mike Lowell days. Prado completed plays on 76.5 percent of plays in his "zone of responsibility" according to BIS data, behind only Manny Machado and essentially tied with Nolan Arenado.
Overall, Prado put up a three-win campaign according to various sources without needing 600 plate appearances, as he missed time with injury in his first season with Miami. While he may not have been worth giving up three team-controlled years of Nathan Eovaldi, the Marlins definitely got what they expected out of Prado: an above-average player who helped solidify a strong defensive left side of the infield.