Leadoff options? Maybe Bonifacio
On May 8, 2009, the Marlins promoted Chris Coghlan from Triple-A New Orleans in an attempt to upgrade production at the top of their order.
From an organizational standpoint, the decision was an easy one. Coghlan was batting .344 with a .418 on-base percentage after 96 at-bats for New Orleans. He initially slid into the No. 2 spot, but eventually secured the leadoff spot.
The rest of the story, you already know. Coghlan became a terrific story. He caught fire in the second half, and won the N.L. Rookie of the Year, batting .321.
Almost a year later, the Marlins find themselves in a similar situation. Once again, theys are struggling to find consistency at the top of the order.
Coghlan opened the year in the leadoff spot, but he struggle and was swapped to second for Cameron Maybin. The trouble now is both Maybin and Coghlan are scuffling.
Maybin is batting .238 with a .304 on-base percentage. He’s having trouble with strikeouts, having fanned at least once in 16 straight games. He struck out twice on Wednesday night, and was pinch-hit for by Wes Helms in the late innings.
Coghlan, meanwhile, is hitting .180 with a .240 on-base percentage in 89 at-bats. Of late, he has not started against left-handed pitching, with Brett Carroll getting the nod. And manager Fredi Gonzalez has said it isn’t automatic that he will bat second when he is playing.
Gaby Sanchez may get more of a look at that spot.
The problem facing the Marlins is, what are the alternatives? Unlike last May, the organization doesn’t have a natural leadoff-type hitter tearing it up in the Minor Leagues.
One alternative is Emilio Bonifacio. Actually, bringing back Boni and playing him every day for a while leading off may be what the team decides. Bonifacio was optioned to Triple-A a few weeks back. He’s hit leadoff for the Zephyrs, playing a number of different positions.
On Wednesday night, Bonifacio started in center field, which may be a sign of what the Marlins are thinking. Boni, though, has struggled getting on base consistently in 18 games and 74 at-bats. His batting average is .257 with a .286 on-base percentage.
What works in Boni’s favor is his game-changing speed, and the fact the Marlins want to see if he can turn it around. So promoting him and giving him an opportunity may be what the team decides. That move may be coming quickly.
The Marlins have Minor League outfield depth, especially now that John Raynor was returned to the organization after he was released by the Pirates. Last December, Pittsburgh selected Raynor in the Rule 5 Draft. Since he was designated recently, he once again rejoins Florida. The Marlins did explore a trade with Pittsburgh, but nothing could be worked out.
Bryan Petersen is a talented speedster who someday projects to be in the mix to lead off for the Marlins. Petersen is enjoying a strong first half for New Orleans. But not being on the 40-man roster hurts his chances of a quick promotion. Bonifacio, on the 40-man roster, is more likely to get the call than Petersen or Raynor, who also isn’t on the 40-man roster.
The way Mike Stanton has been dominating at Double-A Jacksonville makes it highly likely he will get called up in early June. At that point, the organization will have to create space on the 40-man roster for Stanton.
With so many talented outfielders in their Minor League system, a trade is quite possible after June. Raynor, Petersen, Stanton and Scott Cousins are close to being big league ready.
Some have speculated that Dan Uggla could be dealt by the July 31 deadline. That is highly doubtful, because the Marlins are expecting to contend. Uggla is having a strong season, and it is unlikely he would be moved during the season. Now, after the year is over, that is certainly possible.
The Marlins traditionally have made their trades based on depth in the organization. There isn’t an automatic replacement for Uggla at second right now. Some say Coghlan, but he has one game at second since joining the big leagues. The team wouldn’t switch him there in midseason.
Cody Ross may become a trade option, if the team hopes to put Stanton in right field. Again, the Marlins are trying to win this year. Ross is a proven player.
The way things are shaping up now, Stanton would project to replace either Maybin or Coghlan, if neither has turned it around by June.
– Joe Frisaro