Saturday, August 27, 2011

What to Expect from Chris Marrero

Chris Marrero makes his major league debut tonight. It's been a long time coming for the 2006 first round pick, who Jim Bowden at the time comped to Miguel Cabrera.

Moreover, it's been a long time coming for the entire draft class of 2006, which was stacked with high school players who didn't pan out. In fact, as NFA Brian points out on Twitter, Marrero is the first high school player from that entire draft to appear in the majors, and Cole Kimball is the only player of any pedigree from that draft to make the bigs (although they did turn fourth round pick Glenn Gibson into Elijah Dukes).

Brad Peacock, the 41st round pick from 2006, probably won't be far behind, and he's suddenly looking like the guy who could salvage an otherwise miserable draft conducted by a scouting department gutted by MLB ownership of the franchise.

But after that the cupboard is pretty bare. It's possible that a couple relievers like Hassan Pena, Cory Van Allen, or Zech Zinicola will some day throw some mop-up innings in the majors, and "Don't call me Mary" Tyler Moore has followed up his breakout 2010 enough that he'll probably be a bench guy at some point.

But Chris Marrero is the man of the hour, and the question is, what can Nationals fans expect from him?

The short answer is that you should keep your expectations in check. He's a former #1 prospect, and you've been hearing about him for a long time, but he's really not a top prospect anymore.

First, you gotta have a really premium bat to be an even average MLB first baseman, and Marrero has yet to demonstrate that he can be that kind of hitter. First basemen who hit and throw right-handed have an even steeper mountain to climb. He hasn't appeared in the Baseball America top 100 list since 2007, and he fell all the way to #9 among Nationals prospects coming into this season.

He has a long swing, and he's very slow, which means he's going to struggle with batting average at the major league level. And while he has some raw power, his hit tool hasn't allowed the power to materialize in game situations. He's a bad fielder.

This year he's hitting .300 / .375 / .449 at AAA, which sounds ok, but there's a huge gap between AAA and the majors. A decent rule of thumb is to shave 20% off the top of whatever a guy is doing at AAA (though in fairness the International League is a pretty pitcher-friendly place).

Recently Marrero's been slumping, going 8 for his last 39 with 8 Ks, 3 walks, and just one XBP in his last ten games. He gets to debut in Great American Small Park against RHP Mike Leake.


Positively Half St. said...

I know you were expecting a comment when you said he is a bad fielder, so I will be glad to pose it without aggression. We have heard that his is vastly improved at first base, and has made few errors. Are there UZR numbers or the like that explain your comment, or is this just a case of not buying into the hype?


Steven said...

He's not athletic, and the upbeat assessments on his fielding are entirely from the team (or beat reporters repeating what the team tells them)--which is fine. What are the going to say, that he's an awful fielder and not getting any better? But it's a little like saying, "the CEO of General Motors says their cars are a lot more reliable than they used to be, so they must be."

Steve Shoup said...

Also, Moore didn't sign out of that class, so even if he does anything he shouldn't count.

Harper said...

So Mitch Moreland? Ryan Garko? At least the Nats can lay claim to a type of player you rarely see in the majors. The first-baseman you hope to hit .280 with 15 homers who ISN'T a great fielder.

CoverageisLacking said...

It's funny how Jesus Montero is a ballyhooed prospect and his call-up was such a big deal. Yet his stats in AAA this season were basically the same as Marrero's. And their ages are not significantly different. Maybe Montero is just the typical over-hyped Yankee prospect, but in any case it is an interesting contrast.

Steven said...

No, sorry. Jesus Montero /= Chris Marrero. Not even close.

CoverageisLacking said...

Steven, I understand that is the consensus. But on what basis?

Don't tell me you are now paying more attention to scouts than stats when it comes to prospects? ;-)

Steven said...

just cuz you're anti-statistical analysis doesn't mean I'm anti-scout.