Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scouting Report: Marlins at Nationals (9/23)

Well, let's see. Our colors are better. The weather will be gorgeous. They have Paul Lo Duca.

That's all I can muster by way of optimistic spin. Here's my take on game one of a the final home series of the year.

When the Marlins Are Up
--Cameron Maybin: The crown jewel of the Dontrelle Willis-Miguel Cabrera booty, the 21-year-old Maybin is a five-tool future star centerfielder considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He was called up last week after finishing his minor-league season with a .277 / .375 / .456 line in 390 at-bats for in the Southern League. Good, but not fantastic numbers for a guy with his hype. Last year, he was rushed to the majors and although he managed a dinger of Roger Clemens, otherwise he was exposed with a .143 BA in 53 AB. This year he's off to a better start, but you have to wonder if the Marlins are serious about auditioning him to play every day next season. This team has shown that they are ready to accelerate the rebuilding process and to put an under-seasoned prospect--even a fantastically talented as Maybin--in center. But regardless, with the kind of offense this Florida team will be getting from SS and CF within a few years, they have some very, very nice pieces in place for the future.

--Jeremy Hermida: one of the legions of newly arb-eligible guys the Marlins will have after this season, Hermida's been giving up playing time to Maybin. Whoda thunk it, but it's looking like Cody Ross, not Hermida, could be joining Maybin and Willingham in the OF next year, and Hermida could be cheap trade bait. The reason of course is that he's really regressed this year, seeing his OPS+ drop from 125 in '07 (meaning he's 25% better than league-average) all the way to 90. But then again, he's only 24. But still, his walk rate is down, his strikeouts are up, and his power numbers are way, way down. And last season he was floating on an unsustainable .356 BABIP. We may not see him this series at all. It's been quite a fall from grace.

--The middle of the Marlins' order features the triple hack-attack of Mike Jacobs, Cody Ross, and Jorge Cantu. All of them hardly ever walk, but they're also all slugging around .500. Pretty good, but unlikely to continue next year, if you ask me.

--Twenty-seven-year-old rookie John Baker has settled in as the everyday catcher and damned if he isn't hitting .304 / .394 / .464. Screw the Marlins. Grrr.

--I don't need to remind you how good Hanley is. He has a great eye, slugs a ton, and draws a ton of walks, even in a line-up that hits homers at a league-leading pace. If you want to nit-pick, his Ks are up this year 5 percentage points.

Pitching Match-Up

Scott Olsen: Last time I previewed him, I gave Olsen quite a bit of grief about the 'personality conflicts' he's had with teammates and the occasional taser-wielding cop not to mention his plummeting strikeout rate (8.27 in '06 to 5.05 this year), declining velocity (FB down from 91 mph in '06 to 88 this year), new-found flyball tendencies (43.2% compared to 38% before this year) and lucky BABIP (.266).

But guess what? The lefty has had two good starts in a row (including the one against us, so I guess that really makes just one in a row against major league competition). And you still gotta appreciate a 24-year-old who's knocking on the door of 200 innings with a 4.20 ERA. It should be close to a run higher, but who cares. Kid's had a nice year.

Fastball, slider, change is the repertoire, and when he's been better at missing bats in the past, the slider was the out pitch. He's throwing it a lot less this year, so who knows if he's lost command or is just under-utilizing his best pitch.

Shairon Martis: Last time out, he finally turned into a pumpkin. His ERA says 6.23, but he's been worse than that. The BABIP against is .244 (.290-.300 is typical, any big difference is defense and luck). He's walking an outrageous 6.92 per 9 innings. Total, he's thrown 120 balls and 146 strikes. The command just isn't there.

As I've said before, there's a lot to like about this kid. He's missing bats like a real prospect--his 10.39 Ks per 9 innings is the best on the team now, small sample size notwithstanding. His low-90s fastball is a lively pitch, and his change has been his best off-speed out pitch. He also throws a curve and slider.

But look for Speigner and his 9.82 ERA to get some innings if Martis doesn't last. I'm hoping we don't see Bergmann, since he should be resting up for one last start!

Fearless Prediction
Season Record: 31-20
Shairon's last start of the year saves us from having to watch him get pummeled next spring. The kid's not ready, and although the team seems dead set on force-feeding him into the rotation, he needs more time. Martis is gone by the 4th, and the Marlins win 11-2.

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