The Florida Marlins’ left fielder Chris Coghlan has received rookie of the year consideration from quite a few sources this year, on the wings of his impressive .372 wOBA rookie season. This puts him at the top of the rookie class this year for the entire major league. Despite poor marks by UZR at an unfamiliar position in LF, Coghlan’s 2.4 WAR still ranks among the best in the league by a rookie.
Another less heralded rookie for the Marlins saw significant time at the other corner outfield position this year. Brett Carroll played 73 games (32 starts) in RF and also saw time in 43 other games (15 starts) in the other outfield positions. His batting line of .306/.383/.689 OBP/SLG/OPS (.302 wOBA) did not elicit the kind of fanfare as Coghlan’s season. However, Carroll played excellently in the field, rating as a +13.8 outfielder between all 3 positions. With positional adjustments, Carroll was worth +10 runs in the field. Overall, Carroll was worth 1.2 wins in a mere 158 PAs and 513 innings in the field. Over a full season, that’s a nearly 3-4 win player.
The Marlins certainly have a pair of talented players here, but each has his downsides. Coghlan’s performance is entirely built on his batting and Carroll’s on his fielding. We know that sample sizes of a single season, for both offense and defense, can lead us astray. What can we say about these two players?
For Coghlan, much of his success was built on a .366 BABIP. Coghlan carried a .326 BABIP through his minor league career, which doesn’t suggest that he will be able to sustain a high number like some players (Ichiro Suzuki, Matt Kemp) have. His ISO is slightly below average and his BB% is right around average. His minor league numbers don’t suggest that his walk rate or ISO should rise, as his minor league ISO sits at an unimpressive .153, and his walk rate at 11.8%. Coghlan’s profile resembles that of a league average hitter, which would struggle to sustain his poor glove in LF.
However, it is unlikely that he will remain in left field. Coghlan’s natural position in the minors was 2B, and his defensive reputation there is far better than in LF. Minor League Splits has his most recent defensive seasons as well above average, but the sample sizes are small and must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, simply moving from LF to 2B adds a full win to his defensive value, and numbers and scouting both suggest his marks should improve there.
Carroll, on the other hand, has a season built almost completely on 530 innings of UZR, a very small sample. However, looking at the Fan’s Scouting Report, ran by Tom Tango, the fans rated him as the 2nd best right fielder in the league, only behind Ichiro Suzuki. Again, due to the low amount of votes for Carroll, there is a high standard deviation on the rating, but it only supplements his UZR in declaring him an excellent fielder.
His batting stats may rise, as well. He was plagued by a .286 BABIP and shows no reason not to expect an average .300 BABIP with his skill set. He’s not going to walk very much, but he provides average to above average power with an ISO of .149 and a minor league ISO of .223, and if the ball bounces his way next season his wOBA will inch closer to average. He won’t outslug guys like Matt Holliday, of course, but his hitting shouldn’t keep him off the field.
Coghlan and Carroll represent two very key pieces in building a young club. Both players should be quite productive in the years to come, and at a minimal cost to the Marlins.
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