Ichiro Suzuki’s favorite fellow Miami Marlins player and power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour took batting practice this week. He is getting closer and closer to returning from the high ankle sprain he suffered in early July, and if you think the Marlins infield is crowded now, just wait until Bour gets back.
It’s been a revolving door at first base base since Bour went down with injury, and things got even more complicated when Dee Gordon returned from his suspension and took over the second base position. The return of Gordon put Derek Dietrich, who had been playing well at second base in Gordon’s absence, into the first base mix.
The big question is, what will happen with the Marlins lineup when Bour returns? Let’s take a look at a few scenarios.
The first option for Marlins manager Don Mattingly is to just insert Bour right back in as the (almost) everyday first baseman. Bour started 61 of Miami’s first 81 games before going on the DL, and he could continue that pace when he returns. Bour was slashing .268/.347/.526 before the injury and had belted 15 home runs, which is great production that can be easily inserted back into the lineup. Miguel Rojas would also continue to be a defensive replacement for Bour at first base late in games.
The little varaition of that situation is put Bour in a true platoon situation at first base. Bour would still start most games, being a left-handed hitter and most pitchers being right-handed, but there would be a few other options to start at first against the lefties.
Chris Johnson could platoon with Bour at first base, but Johnson, who in his career has owned lefties with a .303 average against them, has struggled in that spot this year. Johnson has reverse splits so far, hitting only .210 against lefties but .242 against righties in 2016.
The other platoon option would be Miguel Rojas. Rojas has spent most of his time lately as a late-game defensive replacement, showing how well he can play every infield position, but he has also hit very well against lefties this season. In 48 plate appearances in 2016, Rojas is batting .277 off left-handed pitching. He also of course gives Miami a great glove at first base for the entire game.
But, the real issue here is how to get Derek Dietrich into the lineup, especially against right-handed pitchers. Dietrich is slashing .277/.366/.402 this season and done great against the righties, batting .294 with a BABIP of .359 (which has some luck involved, but the Marlins will take that luck). It would be tough to execute a true righty/lefty platoon with Dietrich and Bour, considering both struggle against lefties and thrive against righties. Dietrich is hitting .213 against the southpaws this season while Bour is hitting .227.
Against left-handed starters Dietrich should be on the bench, but against the righties, the Marlins could try something maybe a little controversial: start Dietrich over Adeiny Hechavarria. I realize that this probably would never happen, as Hechavarria is far too valuable to the fish defensively and actually hits betters against righties than lefties, but that lineup would be scary for right-handed pitchers. Gordon would move to shortstop and Dietrich would play second base, keeping Bour at first. There would then be an entire infield that is hitting over .275 against righties this season, making the Marlins lineup even tougher and even more terrifying.
The final idea is simple: just get the National League to adopt the DH. Yes NL, it’s time to have the same rules across all of Major League Baseball. I think this idea would really appeal to the Marlins, considering Miami’s pitchers are hitting only .094 on the season, which ranks 14th in the NL. Now, just imagine if the Marlins actually had a real hitter in that number nine spot.