Charlie McCarthy examines the Marlins lineup entering the 2013 season.
By CHARLIE McCARTHYFS Florida
Miami Marlins enter the 2013 season with an offense that will rely on manufacturing runs.
Small ball. Getting on base. Plate discipline. Advancing runners. Stealing bases.
Those are all phrases rookie manager Mike Redmond hopes will be applied often to his team this season.
Sure, Giancarlo Stanton is among the majors’ top power hitters, but he’ll have trouble hitting bombs without seeing quality pitches.
Other Marlins hitters will need to give opposing pitchers reason to battle Stanton. Otherwise, the slugger will be walking a lot, striking out a lot, or both.
Below are the players who figure to comprise Miami’s lineup and bench when the season starts Monday in Washington.
Last year’s batting average-home runs-RBI in parenthesis.
1. Juan Pierre, LF (.307-1 HR-25 RBI): A member of the Marlins’ 2003 World Series champs, Pierre returns at 35 to be the table setter and show young players how to approach the game. His job will be to reach base and steal bases. If he struggles, that will have a big impact.
2. Donovan Solano, 2B (.295-2-28): A nice surprise during last season’s second half, the Colombian solidified his spot with a strong spring. Sidelined with back tightness late in camp, he appears ready to go. Could be a fine No. 2 hitter who can hit-and-run and gives himself up to move a runner.
3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF (.290-37-86): His mammoth home runs were among the highlights seen during the first year at Marlins Park. Don’t be fooled by his physical presence – Stanton is only 23. He will hit his homers this season, but plate discipline will dictate the batting average.
4. Logan Morrison/Casey Kotchman, 1B (.230-11-36): Kotchman will be the opening day first baseman while Morrison works his way back after knee surgery. Kotchman offers tremendous defense – in 2010, he set the MLB record or consecutive errorless chances. LoMo’s lefty bat will be pivotal in protection for Stanton. He hopes to return my mid-May. It’ll be a major blow if he’s sidelined for longer. Don’t be surprised to see various players batting cleanup until LoMo returns.
5. Placido Polanco, 3B (.257-2-19): The 15-year veteran also can play second if Solano struggles or gets sidelined. Polanco owns a .299 career batting average. He has been to the postseason five times with St. Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia.
6. Justin Ruggiano, CF (.313-13-36): Perhaps the Marlins’ most pleasant surprise in ’12, Ruggiano figured to own the center-field job when spring started. But he had a dismal spring, largely due to a back injury. Chris Coghlan and Pierre also could see time in center.
7. Rob Brantly, C (.290-3-8): Acquired from Detroit before last season’s trade deadline, Brantly made his major league debut with the Marlins. His defense needs some work, but a strong work ethic and good bat could keep him in Miami for a long time.
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS (.254-2-15): The Cuban, who’ll turn 24 on April 15, made his big-league debut with Toronto last season. Gold Gloves could be in his future – his defense is that good. The question is: Can he hit enough to stay? He struggled greatly with the bat this spring, and.250 might be a lot to ask.
Chris Coghlan, OF (.140-1-10): He has had a tough time since winning the ’09 NL Rookie of the Year Award. Won over Redmond with a solid spring and the ability to play several outfield positions. Don’t be shocked if he plays 3B or 2B in emergency situations.
Greg Dobbs, 1B-3B (.285-5-39): The top left-handed bat off the bench, Dobbs also can play first or third in late-game situations or if others need a day off. His spring was hampered by a right calf injury.
Austin Kearns, OF (.245-4-16): The top right-handed reserve bat, and not for a spring that saw him down around the Mendoza line (.200). Still, he’s a veteran pinch-hitter who spent part of last season with Miami.
Kyle Skipworth, C (Rookie): There should be an asterisk next to the name, because Redmond has expressed concern about starting the season with two young catchers. The Marlins signed veteran Koyie Hill to a minor league deal a few days ago, and there’s talk of signing former Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo, who was let go by Cincinnati.
Chris Valaika, IF (Minors in ‘12): His only MLB experience has been two brief stints with Cincinnati in 2010 and ’11. Valaika earned the utility role over veteran Wilson Valdez, who was given a shot late in camp after being released by San Francisco.
The Marlins likely will begin the season with five players on the disabled list: RHP Jose Ceda (Tommy John surgery), 1B Joe Mahoney (oblique strain), C Jeff Mathis (fractured collarbone), 1B Logan Morrison (knee surgery) and OF Alfredo Silverio (elbow).
The obvious strength is the presence of Stanton – but will his power be allowed to fuel the offense?
Pierre and Polanco offer veteran bats. It would be a surprise if either has a very poor season.
The young players. Solano and Brantly hit well in 2012, but need to do it during their first full seasons. Hechavarria hasn’t proven he can hit enough at this level yet.
Ruggiano stood out last year but needs to show he can produce on an everyday basis. A center-field platoon with left-hitting Coghlan wouldn’t be shock.