By Evan Brunell
The Marlins demoted Chris Coghlan to the minor leagues in a surprising move Friday, recalling veteran outfielder DeWayne Wise to fill the roster spot.
Florida, which has lost 15 of 16 (and 17 of its last 18), is scrambling to find a way to reverse its fortunes as it tumbled from 30-20 on May 29, just two behind first place to 32-37, in last place and 11 1/2 games out. Part of that solution was to fire hitting coach John Mallee, which resulted in a public dustup with Logan Morrison, who criticized the firing. The second part of the solution appears to be the demotion of Coghlan, hitting a paltry .2390/.296/.368 in his third season.
Coghlan has yet to reach the promise he displayed in 2009, when the then-24-year-old hit .321/.390/.460 as a left fielder after coming up through the minors as a second baseman. He stayed in left for 2010 and hit just .268/.335/.383 in 400 plate appearances before suffering a season-ending injury at the worst time. Coghlan hit .377/.463/.642 in June of 2010, before falling flat in July and injuring his knee during a game-winning celebration.
Then, to start 2011, Coghlan was asked to move to center field, a pretty demanding position and a lot to ask someone coming off knee surgery. Indeed, while it's a fallacy to rely entirely on a season's worth (less than half, actually) of fielding data, the early returns on Coghlan's impact on defense were far from rosy. Who knows if the position adjustment is to blame for Coghlan's hitting woes, but it certainly didn't help.
Looking at Coghlan's offensive numbers, it's easy to see why he's struggling to hit. Despite an acceptable walk rate, cutting down his strikeout percentage and flashing more power than he has yet in the bigs, Coghlan's only seen 26 percent of his batted balls fall in for hits. Compare that to a league average of 30 percent and a career mark of 33 percent; Coghlan's offensive decline seems tied more to luck than any discernible failure or shift in his offensive profile.
Wise, meanwhile, was released from the Blue Jays last week and inked a minor-league deal with Florida before getting the call. Perhaps best known for his amazing catch to save Mark Buerhle's perfect game in 2009, Wise will now split nine years in the majors between 2000 and 2011 with five different teams. Last season for Toronto, he hit .250/.282/.393 in 118 PA, pretty much the most you can hope for out of the 32-year-old's bat.
Wise will likely share time in center going forward with Emilio Bonifacio. The club also has a black hole at third base, with Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs and Bonifacio all getting time there as well. If the Marlins want to reverse their slump, they may want to consider adding a bat and exercising more patience with Coghlan.
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