The air smells a little sweeter in Pennsylvania right now, and I think I know why.
While some less-enlightened folk point to the arrival of spring, I sadly shake my head in disagreement. What's really happening is the coronation of the newest king of the Phillies. King Lou is here, and he is not leaving (hopefully).
Just for fun, let's take a look at his numbers and projections, as well as how they stack up against the lovable Chooch, best known for his prowess at blocking Lidge sliders in the dirt and GIDPs.
2007 (A+): .373 OBP, .120 ISO, .346 BABIP, 11.7% BB, 20.4% K, 28.3% XBH
2008 (AA): .433 OBP, .102 ISO, .389 BABIP, 17.4% BB, 21.7% K, 22.8% XBH
2009 (MLB Bill James-171 AB): .392 OBP, .106 ISO, .362 BABIP, 14.1% BB, 22.2% K, 24% XBH
Now, James' numbers are a little high, but the other FanGraphs projections all have him in the ballpark of a .350 OBP. (CHONE-.348, Marcel-.353, Oliver-.347, ZiPS-.336)
Let's examine these numbers a little bit. You can probably attribute the insane 2008 OBP to the huge BABIP, but his walks increased substantially and his strikeouts stayed almost flat as he made the biggest jump in the minors. That is more than just a small deal...it is a big heap of hitting skill. The power, as shown by the painfully bad ISO, is a concern...but my feelings on his power are:
(1) It will come with time. As he gets older and stronger, his bat speed will improve, resulting in more distance off the bat.
(2) Even if it doesn't come, he's proven he's such a skilled hitter he can be a valuable basepath-clogger even if he only ever hits singles.
James thinks his power will increase a tad, but is still projecting a very high BABIP. This probably stems from Marson's swing -- he is a true line drive hitter who sprays to all fields and doesn't elevate the ball frequently. It's possible the power could come as he gets stronger and improves his bat speed, a la Chase Utley, but he will still be valuable without double digit home run power. That's because the Phillies currently run this guy out there:
career (MLB): .329 OBP, .116 ISO, .263 BABIP, 10.6% BB, 12.3% K, 32.4% XBH, 49.9% GB, 77 OPS+
This is not to bash away at Carlos. He's a wonderful backstop, and I would love to see the Phils keep him around as a backup as long as he's affordable (since his original signing bonus was $8,000, he's been the ultimate bargain ballplayer). He is great on defense, blocks the plate well, hustles his butt off and is an all-around good guy (and he gets dirt on his uniform, which gives Bill Plaschke a massive erection). But he is simply not a good offensive player.
While his awful average last year was partially because of an outrageously low .237 BABIP, the fact that his career number in that department is .263 means it wasn't that fluky.
And we all know why it wasn't THAT fluky: a career groundball rate of 1/2. That means a lot of outs, some singles, and a home run every once in a while. His OPS+ is far below league average, and I imagine it is in the neighborhood of replacement level for his career
As far as defense goes, Ruiz is one of the best, but Marson is said to be no slouch. He is an excellent natural athlete, and the scouting reports indicate he is at least average with room to improve. He also threw out 35% of basestealers last year, a good sign.
With an aging, strikeout-prone lineup, the Phils are in desperate need of some semblance of offense from the catcher spot. Marson is a patient hitter (with possibly developing power) who is on base frequently who will give the Phightins more than league average offense from the 8-hole. I think his ceiling is Kendall-esque if he doesn't develop power, and Martin- or McCann-esque if he does. All in all, I'm excited what he can do over the next couple of weeks.