Today, we continue along in the National League East division with the Marlins. Naturally, the team that finished with the worst record in the NL last season has got a lot of potential holes. Luckily for some of the expected starters normally at risk of losing their jobs, there are no viable prospect alternatives to steal playing time. Any lose playing time is likely to be sopped up by veteran hitters on their bench. Players at risk of poor play and lost playing time without the threat of a prospect behind them is Jorge Alfaro and Jesus Aguilar.
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At Risk: Isan Diaz
Replacement: Gosuke Katoh
After a breakout performance at Triple-A last season, fantasy owners were excited about Isan Diaz’s debut. Unfortunately, it went poorly, as his strikeout rate spike, while his BABIP and power collapsed. Perhaps he just wasn’t ready quite yet and will perform closer to what we hoped for this year, or perhaps there was some flukiness to his Triple-A performance and his pre-2019 results are closer to his true talent. Clearly, he’s at risk of losing his job, given the chance he doesn’t rebound enough off his weak debut results.
A long-time Yankees farmhand, Gosuke Katoh was signed by the Marlins last December and he displayed the most power of his career. During his first tour of Triple-A, his HR/FB rate surged into the high teens for the first time, and only the second time the mark has been in double digits at any minor league stop. His walk rates have sat in double digits at every stop except one, and while his strikeout rates are a bit higher than you would like to see, his SwStk% have hovered between 10% and 11%, which is basically league average. He also possesses some speed. Overall, he looks to have the ability to do a bit of everything, without standing out anywhere, which is always undervalued in fantasy circles.
Strong defense at shortstop could ensure Miguel Rojas keeps his starting shortstop job, but if that defense slips, he doesn’t have the offensive capability to stay in the lineup. He makes fantastic contact, but only league average BABIP ability, a lack of walks, and no power, means he’s not doing anything well except making contact at a better than average rate.
Jon Berti is already 30 years old and had been playing in the minors since 2011 before he finally got the call to the Majors in 2018. Last year, he recorded 287 plate appearances with the Marlins and swiped 17 bases, giving fantasy owners hope he’s open the 2020 season with a starting job. He’s likely to open in a utility role, but could find himself starting if Rojas (or any number of starters at other positions) falters.
Lewis Brinson was expected to get another shot at regular playing time even after posting an ugly .205 wOBA and getting demoted to Triple-A. While I still would be open to rolling the dice here for cheap, he’s done nothing to suggest he could hit at the Major League level.
Harold Ramirez played almost a full season with the Marlins last year, but wasn’t much of a fantasy contributor due to a lack of power and any speed. However, the lack of power was mainly due to a low fly ball rate, rather than a lack of actual punch. Hitters don’t generally dramatically alter their batted ball type distribution (unless you’re Christian Yelich, but even he took years to do so), so don’t expect Ramirez to do so overnight. But if he is able to get that FB% over 30%, he’s suddenly interesting in fantasy leagues thanks to his better than average strikeout rate.
Sheesh, 65 grade Raw Power and 60 grade speed?! Say hello to the team’s sixth best prospect, Monte Harrison. Last year, he was on a 20 homers, 40 steal pace at Triple-A, assuming a full season’s worth of plate appearances. The problem here is he swings and misses often, and at least at Triple-A, hit an even lower rate of fly balls than Ramirez discussed above. That said, a shortened season means his batting average can bounce anywhere, so I would be buying the power and speed.
At Risk: Jose Urena
Replacement: Elieser Hernandez
After two seasons out outperformance, Jose Urena’s ERA finally jumped toward his unimpressive SIERA. With a weak strikeout rate, he’s at the mercy of his defense, and his defense let him down, leading to an inflated BABIP last year. He moved between the rotation and bullpen last year and even earned three saves, so a poor rotation showing again could push him permanently into relief.
Elieser Hernandez has already thrown about a season’s worth of innings over two years for the Marlins, and has posted an ugly 5.11 ERA. But, he posted an elite 34.3% strikeout rate backed by a 15.5% SwStk% at Triple-A last year, while both his four-seam fastball and slider generated above league average SwStk% marks while with the Marlins. The question is whether the team views him as a starter or reliever, as he has shuffled between both roles during his two stints with the team. He has been an extreme fly ball pitcher, which is risky in this home run happy environment, but also helps suppress his BABIP, so at least those homers are more likely to be solo shots.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.