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Around the Horn: Outfielders

Eddie Altamonte

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Around the Horn: Outfielders

01/23/2008 10:00 AM ET

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com


The following is the fourth in a series of weekly stories on MLB.com examining each Major League club, position by position. Each week until Spring Training camps open, we'll preview a different position. Today: Outfielders.

MIAMI -- In an otherwise dismal second half of the 2007 season for the Marlins emerged some encouraging signs.


One of the bright spots down the stretch was certainly the improvement of right fielder Jeremy Hermida.


Showing why he was a first-round Draft pick in 2002, Hermida posted big numbers after the All-Star Break: a .340 average with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in that span. His on-base percentage was .401, while he added a .555 slugging percentage.


Hermida's strong finish countered a rough, injury-marred first half, and enabled him to wind up the year with a .296 average with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs.


If the Marlins are to make strides towards becoming a .500 club and eventually a contender, Hermida is expected to be a big part of the plan.


The left-handed-hitting outfielder is about to enter his third full big league season, and he won't turn 24 until Jan. 30.


A few years ago, Hermida was regarded as one of the top Minor League prospects in the game. He got his first starting break in 2006, but much of his rookie season was slowed by injuries. And in Spring Training of last year, he was the victim of tough luck at the plate when a foul ball ricocheted off his right kneecap. It caused a bone bruise that kept him on the disabled list until mid-May.


The fact that Hermida has produced nicely at every level of pro ball has the Marlins optimistic that he will eventually hit. In the second half, he started to make a steady climb: batting .338 in July, .353 in August and .328 in September.


"Being able to stay healthy, being consistent and getting into a groove," Hermida said of why his season turned around. "All of baseball is about adjusting. You adjust pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat."


Hermida saw a big increase in his numbers when he moved into the third spot, batting ahead of Miguel Cabrera. At No. 3, his average was .322 with a slugging percentage of .512.


The Marlins dealt Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in December, creating two big voids on the roster.


"You take Miguel Cabrera out of any lineup in baseball, and that's a big hole," Hermida said. "I don't think any one person should try to fill his void. He's one of the best hitters in the game. He definitely was a big part of our lineup.


"But up and down our lineup, we can hit."


Collectively, the Marlins outfielders can pick up some of the slack for Cabrera's absence.


Left fielder Josh Willingham is a steady and clutch performer.

Willingham hit 21 homers and drove in a personal-high 89 runs last year while batting .265 with a slugging percentage of .463.


With runners in scoring position, the Florence, Ala., native batted .345 with seven homers and 69 RBIs.


Willingham, however, was hampered by a herniated disc in his back late last season, limiting him to 15 games in September. He didn't play the final two weeks, and the back problem was part of the reason he batted .200 (11-for-55) in September before being shut down.


In 2006, Willingham collected 26 home runs in 142 games, and he appeared in 144 games last season.


In center field, the Marlins will give Cameron Maybin every opportunity to win the job in Spring Training.


Acquired from Detroit as part of the Cabrera deal, Maybin will turn 21 on April 4, days after the regular season starts.


A first-round Draft pick in 2005, Maybin still has had very little professional seasoning. Last year, he spent 83 games at Class A Lakeland, batting .304 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. He played in just six games at Double-A Erie, before seeing time in 24 games with the Tigers.


In 49 MLB at-bats, he finished with a .143 average with one homer and two RBIs.


Listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Maybin is regarded as one of those freakish players who is blessed with size, speed, power and athleticism. He projects as someone who can hit 30 homers and steal 40 bases, which makes him a possible candidate to leadoff or bat third.


If Maybin isn't ready by Opening Day, the Marlins have Cody Ross and Alfredo Amezaga as options to platoon in center field.


Amezaga, also a backup infielder, saw 87 games in center field a year ago.


Ross made 36 appearances in center field in '07, and he also plays both corner spots.


Staying healthy has been a concern for Ross, who missed substantial time with a left hamstring problem. Ross had the hamstring treated in October, and he's done extensive rehab work to make himself strong for Spring Training.


At the plate, Ross turned in nice numbers in '07, batting .335 with 12 home runs in 173 at-bats. The question is whether he can hold up enough to become an everyday player.


Plz no more Pasta in CF!

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