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2015 Miami Marlins Season Preview: Martin Prado

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Martin Prado has always been a solid, average Major Leaguer, and the Miami Marlins are counting on that consistent production once again in 2015.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There are few things as consistent, like clockwork, than Martin Prado. Since becoming a regular starter in 2009, he has posted only one season below league average and two years well above that mark. His last few campaigns with the Arizona Diamondbacks seem disappointing in the backdrop of his All-Star caliber 2012 season, but the truth is that Prado did his usual thing as he always does.

Now the Miami Marlins would like for him to do the same thing while playing yet another position. Prado is tasked to take over the third base job left by Casey McGehee and provide improvement over the incumbent's surprising 2014 year. The Fish paid a steep price by sending four years of team control for Nathan Eovaldi and a prospect in Domingo German, so the team is not taking its investment in Prado lightly. It is looking for Prado to guarantee wins in 2015.

Depth Chart

1. Martin Prado
2. Donovan Solano
3. Jeff Baker

Minor League Depth: Derek Dietrich

Prado follows a high-contact, low-walk approach that emphasizes on finding his pitch to swing at. In terms of patience, Prado is among the quietest bats in baseball. He had the 12th lowest swing rate in the game among qualified Major Leaguers since 2012, alongside the likes of Jose Bautista and Josh Willingham. However, unlike those guys, he makes so much contact that he rarely gets a chance to walk. Prado's 90 percent contact rate is ninth in baseball in that same time frame, along with Darwin Barney and Victor Martinez.

This approach has not changed at all since he became a big leaguer, so it does not seem likely to shift now in Miami. The one big concern was the jump in strikeout rate, up to 14 percent last year. Prado's contact rate dropped to a career-low 89 percent last season, the first time it had dipped below 90 percent since his 2008 rookie season. However, in 2008 and 2009, when he had similar swinging strike rates, he was still whiffing only 11 percent of the time. With this modest drop in contact, we should not expect a huge climb in strikeout rates, and that 14 percent mark is due for some mild regression back to his career norms.

The only thing that should be affected in Prado's game is his power. The move to Marlins Park should sap some of his already-mediocre power game. Last year, he struggled with knocking the ball out of the park until he reached Yankee Stadium, which reinvigorated his righty bat. He posted a .226 ISO and seven homers in 137 plate appearances with the New York Yankees, but that will not happen with the deeper dimensions in Miami.

Perhaps the best news regarding this is that at least Prado's home runs from 2014 are not likely to fall short even in Miami. Courtesy of ESPN Hit Tracker Online:

Prado is primarily a pull power hitter, and that left field area near the Clevelander is the best place in Miami to hit one out. Aside from right field down the line, the left field porch is the shortest part of the field and does not contain the old monstrous scoreboard from Dolphins Stadium, so Prado may still be able to launch his share of homers out at home.

Defensively, Prado has the same boring, consistent reputation that he does at the plate. Prado has primarily spent the last two years playing third base, and the zone-based metrics think he has been well above average. UZR has him as the 12th best third basemen by rate among guys with at least 1000 innings played since 2012. That rating holds well when checked with the Fans Scouting Report, which ranks him 12th overall as well. Not surprisingly, the Fans have him as a bit above average everywhere, which fits Prado's modus operandi perfectly. His age is still a limiting factor as we look at his defense going forward, but with both the eyes and fielding numbers mostly in agreement, we can reasonably guess Prado to be above average in the field.

Photo by Chris Trotman, Getty Images

Projection
Prado, 2015 PA AVG OBP SLG WOBA WAR
ZiPS 625 .280 .327 .394 .319 2.7
Steamer 630 .274 .324 .398 .319 2.5
PECOTA 572 .275 .321 .385 --- 1.9

The projection systems each have about the same numbers for Prado, not surprisingly. Each system sees a dip in his true talent in getting hits on balls in play, but they are also projecting nearly identical strikeout and walk rates compared to his career standards. ZiPS and Steamer are in near agreement, as both systems expect about 10 or 11 home runs, a dip in power, and stable numbers elsewhere. PECOTA is expecting just seven home runs. All three systems see a very similar number of doubles and triples, however.

The overall expected batting line on average is .276/.324/.392, which corresponds to about a .318 wOBA. Prado has been a model of health as well over the last three years, having only missed more than ten games just once in that time frame. That came last year, when he missed 13 games after a bout of appendicitis, which naturally cannot reoccur and is not athletically-associated. It would not be unreasonable to expect 630 plate appearances and about three runs better than average at the plate.

Combine that with slightly above average defense and you have a winning ballplayer. You could expect a 2.5-win season from Prado given these numbers. Like clockwork, the expectation for Prado is exactly what you saw in 2013 and 2014. The Marlins paid the price of upside to guarantee third base production, and Martin Prado is in line to deliver it.