Rookie Review: Chris Coghlan
Chris Coghlan was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the supplemental first round in 2006, out of the University of Mississippi, where he'd hit .350/.437/.513. Scouts loved his quick swing and polished hitting approach, but were uncertain he'd have the power for third base (his college position) which hurt his draft stock slightly. He hit .298/.373/.372 in 28 games for Jamestown in the New York-Penn League after signing, drawing 13 walks against just nine strikeouts in 94 at-bats, clearly demonstrating both his polish and the lack of big power. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2007 book, noting that he could develop into a Bill Mueller-type player.
Coghlan began 2007 with Greensboro in the South Atlantic League, where he hit .325/.419/.534 with 19 steals in 81 games. Promoted to Jupiter in the Florida State League, he pitched into a bad slump and hit just .200/.277/.331 in 34 games. The Marlins wrote off his bad performance to a hernia that cropped up right after the promotion. The other factor was a position switch: they moved him to second base. He made 19 errors on the season, but most scouts felt he would be decent at the position with more experience. I gave him a Grade B in the 2008 book, cutting him some slack due to the injury.
2008 was spent at Double-A Carolina, where he hit .298/.396/.429 with 34 steals in 44 attempts. He drew 67 walks against 65 strikeouts in 483 at-bats, continuing to demonstrate excellent plate discipline and contact ability. Scouts rated him as an average defender, but praised his work ethic and ability to get the most out of his tools. I rated him as a Grade B- in the 2009 book, noting that he should be a very solid major league hitter but probably not a star player.
Beginning 2009 with Triple-A New Orleans, Coghlan hit .344/.418/.552 in 25 games, earning a promotion to the Marlins in early May. He didn't skip a beat in the majors, hitting .321/.390/.460 in 128 games, drawing 53 walks against 77 strikeouts in 504 at-bats. I really like the fact that he maintained his strong strike zone judgment against major league pitching. He was especially effective in the second half, hitting .372/.423/.543 after the All-Star Break. He was effective against both righties (.323/.391/.472) and lefties (.316/.385/.429). He also did this while learning a new position: he played left field in the majors, a position at which he had just one game of minor league experience. Not surprisingly, he wasn't great with the glove in the outfield, posting a -9.7 UZR, but with more experience he should be okay out there eventually.
Coghlan does not have the classic home run power of a corner outfielder, and he'll have to be a consistent .300+ hitter to be an above-average regular in the long run with his current balance of skills. But it's quite possible that he could do that, and there's always a chance he could move back to second base, where his bat would be more valuable. Overall it was a very impressive rookie season, and while I don't expect him to hit .321 every year, I don't think his success was a fluke. If he builds on his current skills, he could be a batting champion someday.