Welcome to Over The Monster’s One Big Question series. For the next 40 (week)days, we will be trying to answer one important question for each player on the Red Sox 40-man roster. The goal is to find one interesting portion of each player’s game to watch for, whether that be in spring training or the early regular season. We’ll be going straight down the list on the team’s roster page, meaning we’ll be going in alphabetical order through each position group, starting with the pitchers. Today, we’re highlighting Deven Marrero.
The Question: In which direction will Deven Marrero’s career move this year?
While the Red Sox have been outstanding at building up their farm system in recent years, they’ve had some extremely notable misses in the first round, too. Trey Ball is the one that will stand out the most — and rightfully so, since he was a top-ten pick — but Deven Marrero is a big part of that group as well. The shortstop was selected 24th overall in the 2012 draft out of Arizona State and was expected to be on the fast track to the majors. He’s never made good on that potential, despite being a wonder with the glove. Now, as he enters the 2017 season, he may be looking at his last chance to make good on any potential big-league career he could have.
While Marrero was drafted just a few years ago, he’s already reached the most pivotal moment of his career. He was first called up to the 40-man roster in 2015, meaning he’s already burned two of his minor-league option years. He’ll almost certainly burn the third this season, meaning that if he can’t latch on this year he’ll have to go through waivers to get to the minors next year. What he does in 2017 will determine whether or not he’ll be able to make it through waivers. On top of that, since he was drafted as a college player, he’s a bit older than some other prospects. This coming year will be his age-26 season, meaning his development years are mostly behind him. Long story short, he’s gotta make good on his potential this year if he wants to have a major-league career.
Unfortunately for Marrero, the talent just doesn’t appear to be there. To be fair, he does have the one carrying skill that will at least keep teams interested in him for years to come. For as poor as he is at the plate, he’s phenomenal in the field at shortstop. Oddly enough, his major-league advanced defensive numbers grade out average-at-best, but that comes over an impossibly small sample that is safe to ignore. Every scouting report agrees that he is well above-average in this area. He’s a good athlete who can make even the toughest plays look routine, and has a strong arm to back it up.
Yet, you have to hit a little bit even when you have such a great glove. We’ve been over this with Christian Vazquez, and the problem is even greater for Marrero. For one thing, with the advancement of our knowledge in the world of pitch framing, it’s clear that catching defense is more important. In other words, the bar is going to be higher for someone like Marrero. On top of that, Marrero has shown much less potential with the bat than Vazquez has.
Over the span of the last two years, Marrero has only come to the plate 70 times against major-league pitching, and he’s been horrible. With a career OPS+ of 36, there’s no defensive skillset that can make the bat playable.
Obviously, this is a small sample size but his minor-league numbers don’t offer much more hope. He’s had success at two levels in his minor-league career: Double-A in 2014 and short-season in 2012. The former is impressive, though it only came during a half-season, but the latter was the New York Penn League as a college draftee. All college first rounders should dominate that level. What’s particularly concerning was his performance at Triple-A last year. As a 25-year-old for whom this was his third partial season at the level, there’s really no excuse for not hitting well. Marrero hit .198/.245/.242 against International League pitching. He was far and away the worst hitter in the entire league.
The scouting reports don’t offer up much more hope, either. His best bet at making a big leap at the plate is the advancement of his hit tool. He’s shown some flashes of being average in this regard in the past, as he’s been able to spray line drives and make contact in general. As he’s moved up the ladder, however, his strikeout rate has risen. This suggests he has holes in his swing that can be exposed by advanced pitching. In his short major-league career, Marrero has an atrocious 34 percent K-rate. If he can improve this, maybe he can be an acceptable hitter, but he has a long way to go. Beyond that, he has no power to speak of and has mostly lost his ability to draw a walk since reaching Double-A.
All of this is to say it’s unlikely that Marrero will ever make good on his first-round pick status. Given Boston’s lack of infield depth in Triple-A, Marrero will probably play in the majors some this year and will stick with the organization for the entire season. After that, it’s looking shaky. His defense will probably entice some team enough to give him another chance, but he’s going to be 27 at that point and will be out of minor-league options. If he wants to guarantee himself a career that will last beyond this year, he’s going to have to show major strides at the plate.