The Miami Marlins are heading into the 2015 season with a bench primarily made of spare parts from last season and one big-name signing whom the team is hoping will not have to play a lot by the end of the year. Ichiro Suzuki was the big addition to a bench crew that remains pretty static from last year and should repeat similar performances this upcoming year. How will these players fare next year?
Jeff Mathis, C
Mathis is the ever-present and quintessential backup catcher, and he is back for a third season with the Fish. Last year, he hit .200/.263/.274 (.241 wOBA) and somehow garnered 195 plate appearances worth of playing time. He is a train wreck at the plate for his career, but his exceptional skills behind the plate do help salvage his value slightly. Mathis is good enough defensively that he evens out his negative bat value, but that leaves him as a replacement-level player. Given that, for his career, he has been worth somewhere around two wins below replacement, a replacement projection sounds appropriate for the master of illusion. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is likely to play something like 440 plate appearances given potential injury and platoon issues, so Mathis may get upwards of 150 plate appearances with very poor play.
Projection: 150 PA, 0 Wins Above Replacement
J.T. Realmuto, C: 50 PA, 0.2 WAR
Jeff Baker, IF
Baker signed a two-year contract last year primarily to serve as the right-sided part of a potential platoon with first baseman Garrett Jones and to provide flexibility in playing first, second, or third base as a lefty masher. Last year, he definitely mashed lefties to the tune of a .319/.362/.462 line (.358 wOBA), but he struggled mightily against righties once again. Since Baker is still owed $2.1 million, you can expect that he will primarily serve as the backup at the corner infield spots, particularly first base. If Michael Morse misses time with injury, Baker should be first off the bench to replace him primarily, even with his troubles versus right-handed pitching. That makes it likely he and the Marlins might struggle in those situations.
Projection: 320 PA, 0 WAR
Donovan Solano, IF
The Marlins will enter yet another season with Solano as their primary infield backup. Miami trust Solano's steady infield glove, even without the presence of a Major League bat. Solano has hit a career .264/.315/.336 (.290 wOBA), indicating that he has no batting skills significant for a big leaguer. Truthfully, he appears to be riding the positive wave of his 2012 end-of-year performance when he hit .295/.342/.375, as he has recorded almost 400 plate appearances in two straight years since then without deserving it at the plate. Solano is an adequate-to-good defender who can fill in at the three primary infield positions, so his versatility keeps him in Miami. Just do not expect much.
Projection: 190 PA, 0.4 WAR
Derek Dietrich: 70 PA, 0.2 WAR
Justin Bour, 70 PA, 0.1
Ichiro Suzuki, OF
Ichiro is expected to be the primary backup for all three outfield spots. Miami initially wanted to find him more playing time by settling him at first base as well, but he balked at the idea. As it stands, the Fish will hope Ichiro will not be needed heavily this season, but the possibility is still there. Last year, he struggled in maintaining a batting average necessary to support his low-walk, low-power approach. Such an approach actually fits him perfectly on Miami's bench, as it matches with players like Solano. At the same time, Ichiro still boasts strong contact in the strike zone, though his swings out of the zone have begun to decline in quality. He is no longer the Gold Glove defender at any outfield spot, but he will be asked to spell all three outfielders and will probably get a good number of chances during interleague games.
Projection: 340 PA, 0.2 WAR