In his first game managerial duties with the Miami Marlins, skipper Don Mattingly penciled in a new-look lineup in an exhibition game against Miami (FL).
Behind leadoff speedster Dee Gordon, Mattingly plugged in Marcell Ozuna at the two hole, followed by Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton. Martin Prado, who hit top five in the order a season ago, batted sixth on Tuesday.
Although it’s only one sample, there’s reason to believe this could closely resemble Miami’s Opening Day lineup come April.
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The biggest surprise when the lineup was released is seeing Ozuna – who was recalled to a stint in Triple-A last year – batting second. In 2015, the center fielder made just seven appearances in the spot, hitting .313 with only three strikeouts in 32 at-bats. With Yelich and Stanton waiting behind him, Ozuna, who recorded a 34.5 percent hard contact rate second only to Stanton, is primed to see a lot of fastballs.
Stanton batting cleanup was a head-turner in its own right after just 16 looks in the spot under Mike Redmond and Dan Jennings. But six of his 20 hits were homers, and Stanton transitioning to the cleanup spot full-time could bring greater upside if Yelich makes significant strides in his development.
“I want to put him (Stanton) in a spot where we’re protecting him, but you want people on base when he gets up there,” Mattingly told the Palm Beach Post.
Yelich served as the primary two-hole hitter last season, but also hit third in 43 games. His inside-out swing produced the highest ground-ball percentage in the majors last season (62.5), but his ability to get on base is what the Marlins are looking for from a hitter near the top of the order. Yelich led the team with a .366 on-base percentage in 2015, so he could provide Stanton more chances to produce runs.
As Tom D’Angelo points out, Stanton batting fourth also gives Gordon more freedom to swipe bases, as there’s no need to risk a baserunner when Stanton is in the box.
The idea Mattingly is utilizing replicates his lineup building midway through last season with the Dodgers. When Yasiel Puig returned from injury on June 7, Mattingly inserted him second in the order, shifting Jimmy Rollins toward the bottom. It’s similar to moving Prado down, just not as far as eighth, which is where Rollins landed.
Prado remains a dependable piece Mattingly can rely on, but early indications suggest the new head man is placing his young outfielders in position to get more plate appearances. If Ozuna is unable to reach base consistently, the Marlins can simply flip he and Prado.