There are many stories this spring that can be illustrative of the direction of the Miami Marlins. One of them extends from a freak injury, after a game winning hit during the 2010 season was rewarded with a cream pie in the face. The player tossing the cream pie on Wes Helms’ face had found a strong spot on this team but also found that his knee became severely damaged right after the joke. He was the reigning 2009 rookie of the year in the National League, hitting .321 with 9 home runs and compiling 162 hits. He came up as a 2B and had since moved to the OF always showing an ability to make contact and get on base.
Yet over the past few seasons, Chris Coghlan has seemed to flame out. Dealing with injuries, he wasn’t able to really get things going last season, hitting .140 in 39 games and getting sent to AAA New Orleans. This spring, however, Coghlan is getting another look and will be considered for a utility role being flexible enough to play CF, LF, and even 2B – his natural position.
Although the role is small, it does give Coghlan, a Florida native, a chance to work his way back onto the big league roster and reclaim his career. Something interesting has developed though: Justin Ruggiano, the slated starter for CF, has a back injury that may linger a bit and open up more time for Coghlan. Right now, Coghlan has to battle Gorykys Hernandez and top prospect Christian Yelich for ABs.
“I’m going into two years now after surgery,” Coghlan said. “I feel great. I was able to get my legs back under me during the winter. I made some swing changes that I had to evaluate myself, that was tough. But I did that.”
All indications are that with the new coaching staff, Coghlan is going to be getting a long look and more ABs to distinguish what he can do. He was able to get a single and a double today (2 for 3) against the Braves and score a run. Currently, Coghlan is batting .400 this spring, and it will be interesting to note if his contact will convert into hits instead of just dead outs (72% of his balls are in play over his career).
Coghlan fits into the philosophy of what the Marlins are trying to do – move runners and put the ball into play. He has a very low strikeout rate for his career (16.2%) and over the first three years of his career, about 23% of his contact were line drives. Last season, that figure was just 10% – so if he can get back to making contact and spraying the ball, he will be a very serviceable utility player with a chance to steal a starting spot.