Monday, October 5, 2009
Chris Coghlan's big second half
A little-noticed nugget, courtesy of Elias:
Chris Coghlan capped his torrid second half with three hits on Sunday and he finished the season with 113 hits after the All-Star break. That's a National League record for most post-break hits in one season by a rookie and it's the highest total by a freshman since Boston's Dave Stapleton collected 120 hits after the break in 1980. Before I launch into the inevitable sniping, let me say this: the Marlins deserve a great deal of credit for sticking with Coghlan. Despite having played only 25 games in Triple-A, Coghlan joined the Marlins in early May. In his first 25 games with the big club, he put up a .205/.337/.282 line. As you can tell, he drew plenty of walks but did almost nothing else.
The Marlins kept playing him, though, and from June 6 through the end of the season Coghlan batted .343/.400/.493. Not bad for a guy who's got a .298 career average in the minors. OK, now for the sniping ...
From Baseball America's preseason report:
Predominantly a third baseman in college, he has made himself into a solid second baseman. His baseball smarts and work ethic bode well for him. Coghlan's hands aren't the softest, and he remains a work in progress around the bag at second. He probably won't hit for much power, though he does tend to find the gaps. It was a surprise when the Marlins acquired slick-fielding second baseman Emilio Bonifacio from the Nationals in November. Coghlan is a superior hitter and could bounce back to third base if needed, but his fast track to the majors as Dan Uggla's eventual replacement has gained a potential roadblock. The real surprise came when the Marlins shifted the light-hitting Bonifacio to third base ... and just kept playing him there, game after game after game. Among the 76 National Leaguers who played enough to qualify for the batting title, Bonifacio might have been the worst. He finished with the lowest OPS in the league and wasn't much of a third baseman, either. Meanwhile, the Marlins shifted Coghlan to left field -- where he was just awful -- and left Cameron Maybin, an outstanding outfielder, in the minors for most of the season. Was the Marlins' solution to this puzzle really the best they could do?
They finished five games behind the Rockies in the wild card standings, and were pretty lucky to get that close. But the last week of the season could have been more exciting than it was, for the few Floridians who hadn't shifted their attentions to the football.
Is Coghlan the new Stapleton? The Marlins have to hope not. Stapleton (most famous for not playing in this game) played regularly for a few seasons as a super-utility infielder, but suffered a serious knee injury in 1984 and wound up on the end of the bench in each of the next two seasons. He went to spring training with the Mariners in 1987, but was released and never played again.
There's really no reason to think that Coghlan's career will follow a similar path. Oh, he could become a super-utility player. We know he can play second base and third base, and of course left field (if poorly). But Coghlan's two years younger than Stapleton was as a rookie. And Coghlan's already had a better season than Stapleton ever did.
So, no: He's probably not the new Dave Stapleton. But this winter the Marlins need to decide what he will be. Because he probably shouldn't again be an every-day left fielder.