District on Deck's 2012 Top 15 Nationals Prospects: #12 Chris Marrero


Image coutesy: minorleagueball.com

Name: Chris Marrero

Date of Birth: July 2, 1988

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 210

Marrero was originally drafted by the Washington Nationals in 2006. He was the 15th overall selection in the 1st Round – a class that includes Evan Longoria (#3), Clayton Kershaw (#7), Tim Lincecum (#10), Ian Kennedy (#21), and Daniel Bard (#28), among others – out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School (Opa Locka, FL). By July 1st Marrero had signed his first professional contract, at age 17, and had been assigned to the organization’s Gulf Coast League affiliate. In 22 games before the season ended he batted .309/.374/.420 with 16 RBI in 91 plate appearances.

To begin the 2007 season Marrero was assigned to Hagerstown, in the South Atlantic League. In 57 games for the Suns he batted .293/.337/.545 with 14 HR and 53 RBI in 243 plate appearances. He also showed good plate discipline early one, striking out only 39 times during that span. Midway through the season Marrero was moved up to Potomac. In 68 games he would hit .259/.338/.431 with 9 HR and 35 RBI in 290 plate appearances. His strikeouts would increase (to 63), but so too did his walks (to 32 from 14).

He would end up repeating High-A, returning to Potomac for the 2008 season. However, instead of playing a corner outfield position as he had his entire career to date, Marrero was shifted to first base at the start of the year. He wasn’t considered a poor fielder, though his range was limited, but the organization felt he would be more valuable as a first baseman. He struggled at the plate once again, batting .250/.325/.453 with 11 HR and 38 RBI in 289 plate appearances. Injury cut his season short, however, as on June 18th Marrero was hurt while sliding into home. He broke a bone in his leg and tore ligaments in his ankle (very similar to Buster Posey‘s injury last May). Marrero had been named to Baseball America’s Top 100 MLB Prospects list prior to the season (#27).

To begin the 2009 season, Marrero once again found himself in Potomac. However, now fully recovered from his injury, he batted .287/.360/.464 with 16 HR and 65 RBI in 469 plate appearances (112 games). He had returned to form offensively and the transition to first base was also smooth. He was promoted late in the season, to Double-A Harrisburg, where he’d play in 23 more games. In 84 plate appearances he batted .267/.345/.387 with a HR and 11 RBI.

In 141 games the next season he .294/.350/.450 in 577 plate appearances. He added 18 HR and 82 RBI while spending the full season in Double-A. With it being his fifth minor league season, Marrero was showing signs of improvement but he was still moving slowly through the organization’s minor league system. His defense continued to improve at first base and it seemed like only a matter of time before he would be given an opportunity in Washington.

Marrero would begin the 2011 season with Triple-A Syracuse, where he’d spend the better part of the season. He batted .300/.375/.449 in 546 plate appearances over 127 games, adding 14 HR and 69 RBI. Perhaps most importantly, however, Marrero was once again showing solid patience at the plate. He earned a career high 58 walks, versus a three year low 97 strikeouts. It was enough to warrant a call to Washington in late August. Marrero would make his MLB Debut on August 27, 2011 – a 6-3 Nationals loss at Cincinnati. Marrero started the game at first base, batting seventh. He went 1 for 4 with a strikeout. His first hit came in his second at bat of the afternoon, a fourth inning single to left field off of Mike Leake.

As rosters expanded a few days later, Marrero would remain with the Nationals for the remainder of the season. He would receive regular playing time, appearing in 31 games while batting .248/.274/.294 with no home runs and 10 RBI in 117 plate appearances. Strikeouts were a problem (27 of them) but that is often the case with many players when they first arrive in the Majors. Defensively he looked comfortable, though not spectacular, at first base.

Top Prospect Rankings

Baseball America (Top 10): Unranked

MLB.com (Top 10): 7th

FanGraphs (Top 15): 12th

Seedlings to Stars (MLB Top 100): Unranked

DoD Editor Aaron Somers (Top 15): 13th

DoD Staff Writer Michael Natelli (Top 15): 3rd

DoD Staff Writer Andrew Flax (Top 15): 15th

Scouting Report

From FanGraphs:

An ’06 first round pick out of a Florida high school, Marrero has developed slower than expected. It remains to be seen if he can produce the type of offense that clubs expect from the first base position. The organization originally tried to play him in left field but he eventually found his way back to the infield and has made some strides defensively over the past year but he’ll probably never be more than average at the position.

And from MLB.com:

He has plenty of raw power that he’s still learning to tap into. He’s a below average first baseman, though he’s worked hard to become acceptable.

The Positives

Marrero has long shown power potential, part of why he was originally a 1st Round draft pick in the first place. He consistently has been able to hit 20+ doubles a season with solid gap power. Despite averaging only 14 HR per season over his six year minor league career, Marrero still seems to have the potential to develop into a consistent 20-25 HR threat as he reaches his prime.

His patience at the plate (i.e. plate discipline) is also both a positive and a not-so-positive for Marrero. He has shown improvements each year, increasing his walk rate and at least maintaining a consistent strikeout rate. However, these abilities will need to translate to the Major League level in order for him to maintain consistent playing time. In his brief MLB time thus far, plate discipline was a major concern for Marrero as he walked only 4 times while striking out 27 times in his first 117 plate appearances.

The Not-so-Positives

As evidenced by the two above scouting reports, Marrero’s defense at first base is not a strength. He is widely considered to be a below average fielder, though he has reportedly continued to work very hard at improving his abilities at the position which cannot be overlooked.  That work ethic will help him but continued improvement would go a long way towards earning more consistent playing time.

2012 and Beyond Expectations

Entering the current offseason it was widely expected that Marrero would likely come to Spring Training to compete for a spot on the bench when the 2012 season begins. Presumably Marrero could have served as a backup first baseman and a bat off the bench. In order to help his case, Marrero had been participating in the Dominican Winter League to gain a few more at bats (he had been batting .288/.387/.327 in 52 at bats) and continue his defensive work while playing for the Licey Tigers. However, in a game in late October the now 23 year old tore his hamstring while stretching for a ball at first base. He has since undergone surgery which will cause him to miss some time during the 2012 season. How much time remains to be seen, though Marrero has publicly stated that he will not be out for the entire season.

The extent to which Marrero misses time in the 2012 season will likely go a long way towards shaping the immediate expectations for him. It seems safe to say he could join the team midseason, though until his rehabilitation begins we won’t truly understand the extent to which this injury will affect him. If he is able to come back and return to form offensively while continuing to show adequate defense at first base then he could factor into the organization’s plans moving forward, particularly considering that Adam LaRoche will be gone after the 2012 season. Marrero and Michael Morse could then share playing time at first base.

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