Baseball HQ Divisional Outlook: NL East - One closer down. ...

by BaseballHQ.com on February 14, 2013 @ 12:48:35 PDT

 

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Miami Marlins

The Marlins signed Placido Polanco, 37, (3B, MIA) to a one-year contract in an attempt to solidify third base. However, there is certainly reason to question that decision. He is coming off a career worst season that saw him appear in only 90 games due to a lower back injury. A 92% ct% sounds good until you combine it with 56% GB%, 48 PX and 81 Spd.

The veteran figures to lose some playing time, to Greg Dobbs (3B, MIA). Dobbs isn’t an everyday option though, as evidenced by his .252/.284/.290 vs. LHP. Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B, MIA) and Chone Figgins (3B, MIA) are in camp as non-roster invitees. Kouzmanoff managed a mere .270/.304/.379 with 2 HR in 347 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Figgins has not been able to muster a batting average better than .188 over the past two seasons and there are no signs of an impending rebound.

There isn’t much in the way of help at the minor league level. Zack Cox (3B, MIA) is the closest in their system to being ready, but he struggled mightily with plate discipline (90 K/22 BB) in 394 AB between Double-A and Triple-A after putting up a solid 2011 minor league campaign (.306/.363/.434 with 13 HR in 516 AB combined at Single-A and Double-A).

Unless someone surprises, third base looks to be bereft of much offensive production.

Philadelphia Phillies

The outfield corners in Philadelphia will be interesting to watch this spring, with John Mayberry Jr. (OF/1B, PHI), Domonic Brown (OF, PHI) Delmon Young (OF, PHI) and Darin Ruf (OF/1B, PHI) all in the running for playing time.

Young was signed with the hope that he would man right field, though he has pretty stark splits (.256/.288/.382 vs. RHP in 2011 and .247/.279/.370 vs. RHP in 2012) and his contract suggests that he may not necessarily be guaranteed an everyday job. He is likely to miss the first couple of weeks of the season after November ankle surgery. 

Mayberry figures to have a roster spot locked up, as he is out of minor league options and has proven to be a weapon vs. LHP (.284/.328/.547 with 20 HR in 320 career AB vs. LHP). He can also play center field in a pinch.

Brown, now 25, has not developed as expected since 2010. While the former top prospect has increased his ct% over the past couple seasons, his power has gone in the opposite direction (PX trend, 2010-12: 129-101-103). He owns a lifetime .208/.284/.302 slash line vs. LHP. The Phillies have not yet given him an extended look in the starting lineup -- and it remains to be seen whether or not he'll get one in 2013.

Ruf is perhaps the most intriguing candidate. The 26-year-old hit 38 HR at Double-A Reading and 3 HR in 33 AB with the Phillies in 2012. The right-handed hitter has also shown the ability to hit RHP (.286/.371/.498 over the past two years in the minors). A first baseman by trade, he is a work in progress in left field. But Ruf could early fairly significant playing time with a strong spring.

Washington Nationals

Danny Espinosa (2B/SS, WAS) revealed recently that he played the final month of last season with a torn left rotator cuff. He elected to not have offseason surgery and instead opted to strengthen the muscles around the affected area and attempt to play through it. The switch-hitter managed just 13 hits in 74 AB with 27 strikeouts after suffering the injury on September 7th (that doesn’t include 1-for-15 with 7 K in the postseason). He claims to be feeling much better now, but this certainly bears watching.

If problems arise, Steve Lombardozzi (2B/OF, WAS) would be in line for more playing time. Lombardozzi produced an 88% contact rate in 384 AB last year with very little power (52 PX). He sported a .360 OBP and 30 SB in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011, but the speed hasn’t yet manifested itself in the majors.

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