Early Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals recalled 1B Chris Marrero from Triple-A Syracuse to fill the roster spot of RHP Ryan Mattheus, who went on the disabled list with shoulder tightness. Marrero, 23 years old, was batting .300 with 14 home runs, 30 doubles, 69 runs batted in, and a .825 OPS (on-base % plus slugging %) in 483 at-bats this season at Syracuse. For his minor league career spanning parts of six seasons, he produced a career batting average of.285 with 83 career home runs, 134 doubles, 369 runs batted in and a .809 OPS.
Marrero has long been a top prospect of the Nationals since being selected in the 1st round (15th overall) in 2006 out of a Florida high school as a power hitting third baseman. Long known as a bat-first prospect, it was known during his draft year that he would be moved off third base in professional baseball, with the assumption that he would develop into a power hitting, mediocre defensive corner outfielder. Unfortunately what athleticism Chris had when he was drafted was sapped when he severely broke his leg in a game during the 2008 season, forcing a very long rehabilitation and an eventual position switch. When Marrero returned for the 2009 season, he was permanently moved to first base, a position switch he struggled with for his first two years before making drastic improvements prior to 2011. His improvements defensively along with his promising bat continue to make him an interesting prospect.
So why do the Nationals bring him to Washington now? There are a few reasons: First, he has hit the ball well this season in Triple-A and has improved defensively, so frankly, he deserves a promotion. Secondly, with some of the recent struggles the Nationals have had, the focus has shifted a bit toward 2012, and in this instance, where does Chris Marrero fit into the Nationals plans for next year. Manager Davey Johnson has said to expect Marrero to play most every day, probably only sitting against the toughest right-handed pitchers. He should see 100-125 at-bats the rest of the season, which should be invaluable to his development and a sample size for the Nationals to judge Marrero going forward. Finally, I cannot help but think the Nationals are showcasing Marrero for a possible trade this off-season. With Adam LaRoche scheduled to return from shoulder surgery next year and Mike Morse cementing his status on the team, at-bats likely will be tough to find next season which might allow the team to include him in a trade this winter.
I am very excited to see how Marrero responds in his “tryout” for the rest of this season. I have been on the bandwagon for Marrero for many years and have long believed that he would be a successful major league hitter. In fact, it would be very fair to say that I am probably his biggest supporter, certainly in the baseball community (if I can humbly lump myself into that category) as I think he has a true, pure right-handed swing with a good batting eye, quick wrists, solid bat speed, and developing power. The consensus amongst baseball people and scouts is Marrero will top out as a platoon or bench player in the major leagues: I think he settles in more as a right-handed Adam LaRoche, with less defensive value. Chris Marrero is one of the few players I have stuck my neck out for while writing NatsGM, and the next 30-35 games will give him a tremendous opportunity to showcase himself… Here’s hoping he proves me right!
Big “Tip of the Fedora” goes out to Mike Flanagan and his family and friends. Mike was a tremendous baseball player and a true Oriole, but over and above that, he was an even better man. The baseball community and the city of Baltimore lost a true ambassador and he will be missed. Thanks for many great years and fond memories.
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