KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions about each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Miami Marlins?
Justin Ruggiano: Robin to Giancarlo Stanton's Batman?
Dig deep in MIA
Or Sancho Panza to ... OK, Stanton is no Don Quixote. But Ruggiano batted .313 with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases in 320 plate appearances in his age-30 season, his first with extended action at the major league level. And there are plenty of reasons besides his age that prospective owners will be skeptical. Ruggiano's strikeout rate and semi-correlated contact rate, from both his MLB and minor league dossier, indicate difficulty ahead in maintaining a healthy batting average.
The right-handed hitter has several things working in his favor, however. In terms of raw ability, Ruggiano can hang. He hits the ball hard. His size, athleticism and track record purport an easy 25-25 capability. His splits versus right-handers suggest that he's not merely platoon material. The Marlins have no reason (read: no prospects in center field who should be exposed to the majors quite yet) not to see if he'll pass a greater exam.
Still, Ruggiano has the look of a player who, when an opportunity arises, will seize it, in the short term. His weaknesses - pitch recognition and control of the strike zone - will inevitably expose him. NL-only managers should have an easier time squeezing value from him because of the likelihood that they'll keep him around. In mixed leagues, he's most likely nothing more than an end-game choice and a pickup to plug and play.
Where are the diamonds hidden in this rough?
Rest assured, Marlins enthusiasts: Management will sell off the studly Stanton soon enough! OK, no one can be certain, but the organization's 1,418 faithful fans want something to look forward to, and they're tired of waiting for Logan Morrison to overcome chronic knee problems and put together the .280-30 campaign of which he's capable.
Miami houses no fantasy saviors, but backstop Rob Brantly figures to be an asset in two-catcher mixed leagues, perhaps, and NL-only formats, for sure. He brings deft batting-average skills (something in the neighborhood of .280 is reasonable), if not much else. Miami should platoon their catchers, but Brantly is on the strong side of it.
He, Donovan Solano and, at least in the short term, Adeiny Hechavarria, figure to be little more than playing-time assets, however. Until the Marlins believe that third baseman Zach Cox and center fielder Christian Yelich (a possible star) are ready, there's not much about which to be excited.
And how about in the rotation?
There's more immediate hope here, but you know Ricky Nolasco's deal: He's in and around the strike zone so often that he'll yield fantastic results in some outings and horrendous ones in others. You will not predict which will be which, so please do not try. And southpaw Wade LeBlanc? He's just keeping a seat warm.
Henderson Alvarez, 23 in April, throws four-seam (with little movement) and two-seam gas and lives to produce ground balls and weakly hit liners or pop flies. His move from the Toronto Blue Jays to the NL may do something for his K/9 - like bring it into Mark Buehrle territory - so don't overestimate the impact of his plus velocity. He should have a much easier time keeping the ball in the yard, however, and that bodes well for his ERA.
Former Los Angeles Dodger Nate Eovaldi has upside kind of like Bud Norris', but of course he uses so many pitches to get through an inning that he's spent by the sixth. He also has only two major league-caliber pitches; his fastball and slider were more than good enough to get him here, and he may survive, but he's still learning on the job.
The best of the three youngsters projected to make this club's rotation could easily be right-hander Jacob Turner, acquired from the Detroit Tigers last year. His farm record reports plus control (prior to last season) and a penchant for keeping the ball in the yard, and he's long received good marks for his makeup and pitching know-how. A chance to grow up in the Senior Circuit won't hurt his development curve.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.