Attention Houston Astros fans! I hope you like old time baseball terms.
The Houston Astros outfield is one of the most intriguing position groups in baseball. Between Carlos Gomez, George Springer, Colby Rasmus, and Jake Marisnick, the Astros possess one of the more athletic outfields in baseball. The team’s overall success depends greatly on the contributions of all four players. However, one of them is not like the others. While Gomez, Springer, and Rasmus are quality fielders, each is more well known for their potent bats. But Marisnick on the other hand is known for another reason: his glove. And despite his early season surge in 2015, there are legitimate questions about his bat long term. This begs the question whether we should choose to think of Marisnick as a “leather player” going into the 2016 season?
And for those who do not know, a “leather player” is a good defensive player but a weak hitter; one who is likely to be known for his fielding rather than hitting prowess. The term itself was introduced way back on January 21, 1937 by Edward J. Nichols of the New York Daily News. But for portions of the 2015 season Marisnick was not just a “leather player.” In fact, one can argue that he was one the primary catalysts in the early going that propelled the Astros to an impressive April last year.
Marisnick couldn’t do any wrong the first month of last season. He slashed an incredible batting line of .379/.422/.621 with an amazing 184 wRC+ in 58 at-bats. Then his production fell off a cliff. And it just kept falling. From May through August, Marisnick failed to maintain a batting average over .204 with a wRC+ never exceeding 46. That is just bad, just bad. He did experience a resurgence of sorts in September and October before the playoffs, slashing .275/.367/.510 with a 140 wRC+.
A poor heart of the season left Marisnick hovering around a 80 wRC+ and a .288 wOBA to finish the 2015 season. However, the athletic outfielder finished the season with a 1.8 WAR, which was greatly benefitted by his 9.6 Def rating. And like his statistics indicate, it appears that Marisnick will continue to draw upon his defensive prowess for the majority of his value.
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So what should we expect from the almost-25 year-old outfielder in 2016?
Much of the same from last season to be honest. Defense remains Marisnick’s calling card. Unless he improves with the bat, which could definitely happen, he will likely be the Astros fourth outfielder. Even if that is truly the case, he should still be of value to the Astros. In fact, ZiPS projections have Marisnick finishing the 2016 season with a 4.8 Def rating and 1.3 WAR over the course of 139 games. This isn’t terribly surprising considering the tools he brings and the role he will likely play in 2016.
And here are my 2016 projections for Marisnick:
Batting line: .251/.301/.384
When it is all said and done, I do expect Marisnick to carry a slightly more impact than what he did last year. While his defensive value takes a hit mainly due to the loss of playing time with Gomez now aboard for a full season, I wouldn’t be surprise if he improves with the bat in his second full major league season. But when he does play in the field, expect him to make great plays with the glove.
Hopefully this time next year we can talk about how Marisnick is no longer just a “leather player”. Maybe he will become one of the more dynamic outfielders in the American League who could make the Astros looming decision on Gomez’s future in Houston an easier one this offseason. Of course, this is asking a lot. But who knows, maybe his 2016 will be the season where he finally puts it all together and surpasses all of the projections.
Be sure to continue checking out Climbing Tal’s Hill for our ongoing 2016 projections series! We still have some big names coming up over the coming days and weeks.
**Statistics and projections provided by Fangraphs**