- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
One gets the feeling the Miami Marlins really don’t have much of a plan, and they’re winging it from day to day, but since their offense could again feature the No. 14 option from ESPN live drafts as early as Monday night, fantasy owners have no choice but to pay close attention. A few days ago, it was believed that right fielder Giancarlo Stanton would return from his hamstring injury later this week. Now, oddly enough, because of an injury to underwhelming teammate Casey Kotchman, Stanton could come off the disabled list Monday and be worth activating in weekly formats. Whatever the case, fantasy owners are running out of time to buy low on one of the premier sluggers in the game. I mean, the Fish face the terrible Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff this week. Activate Stanton!
We’ve been over this myriad times how Stanton will be able to produce enticing statistics commensurate with what he did a year ago, despite being featured in the worst offense in baseball. A year ago the Marlins were terrible, yet Stanton smashed 37 home runs and hit .290 in only 123 games. There’s no such thing as lineup protection to start with, so move on from that notion; Stanton was terrific in 2012 and will be again, and while I wouldn’t call him a safe top-20 hitter the rest of the way, he’s close. What interests me is how there are several intriguing pieces on this Miami offense -- for deep leagues, of course! -- especially if the team decides to really go young.
Stanton is the team’s signature asset. He wasn’t off to a great start this season, but the guy has serious power and it would be a shocking development if the team traded him. He’ll be in right field. Prospect Marcell Ozuna has capably handled right field in Stanton’s absence, hitting .331 and topping the Player Rater for Miami options over the past 30 days. Ozuna is, according to his coaches, a quick learner and does bring power potential. He’s expected to move to center field regularly. And lurking in Double-A Jacksonville are top prospects Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick. The Marlins can be patient with each, or they can promote one to handle left field immediately. Marisnick, who recently had a game with two grand slams, is probably closer to getting the call; Yelich is on the minor league DL with an abdomen strain.
Anyway, quite a few names on the baseball’s least proficient offense could be interesting for fantasy owners, so let’s just rumble through them one by one, in order of value for the final four months.
Giancarlo Stanton: I say he turns his season around quickly. He’s at three home runs now, but finishes with 25, and hits .270 the rest of the way. Buy low.
Marcell Ozuna: As nice a story as it is, he can’t hit .331 for long with his walk/strikeout rate and an unsustainable .422 BABIP. But he could hit .260 with 10 home runs, and unlike Marisnick/Yelich, he’s already here and playing.
Juan Pierre: The Marlins have every reason to trade him for whatever they can get and play the kids, but that’s probably why he’ll lead off for the next two-plus months and steal 15 more bases.
Logan Morrison: The mad Tweeter finally made his season debut Sunday. He should handle first base until the next injury sidelines him. That’s pretty negative, but Morrison’s knee problems are well-chronicled. In 2010 I thought that with his plate discipline, we’d get a .300 hitter with pop. In 2011 I thought, well, he could hit 30 home runs. Now I think he profiles as a .260 hitter with perhaps 20 home run potential, at best. Perhaps that’s worth adding in your league.
Derek Dietrich: The unproven second baseman has five home runs in a month since his call-up, which warrants attention in 12-team formats. Unfortunately, poor plate discipline will hurt him too, and he’s already hitting .229. Don’t be shocked if he hits .240 with 15 home runs, though. Will your team’s middle infielder do this?
Justin Ruggiano: Nobody said he was a burgeoning star, just that there was potential for a 20-homer, 20-steal season. He’s proving, despite sporadic playing time, he can surely do that; he’s on pace for 21 homers and 18 steals. Alas, he had lost playing time in center field to Chris Coghlan recently, and now Stanton’s return should adversely affect him as well. Ruggiano strikes out a ton, but he’d reach 20/20 with 400 at-bats. It’s just hard to see the opportunity happening.
Donovan Solano: Probably lost the second base job to Dietrich while injured, but either can play third base. Solano hit .295 in 93 games last season with the Marlins, and it wasn’t fluky. But there’s no power here.
Rob Brantly: The starting catcher has yet to homer or show much at the plate, and it’s not expected he will this year. I could see him hitting .270 the rest of the way, though, in case you need a second catcher in a deep league.
Adeiny Hechavarria: The slick-fielding shortstop can’t hit. At all. And the Marlins should have known this in advance.
Jake Marisnick: I doubt we see him until September, unless Ozuna or Stanton gets hurt. He’s really not having a good season at Double-A Jacksonville (.313 OBP), and he’s 22. By the way, it seems the Marlins tend to promote from Double-A rather than Triple-A New Orleans, so if you’re watching their kids, remember that.
Christian Yelich: See you in September. There’s exciting power potential here for 2014, though. Stanton-Yelich-Ozuna hitting in the middle of the order will be worth watching.
Chris Coghlan: He had his chance. No power, no speed, no future with this outfield.
Joe Mahoney, Casey Kotchman: I thought the former had a shot to do something, but then he got hurt. Kotchman broke the franchise mark for most at-bats without a hit to start the season. It’s at 20. No, really.
One gets the feeling the Miami Marlins really don’t have much of a plan, and they’re winging it from day to day, but since their offense could again feature the No.