Some think a .281/.314/.489 line with 20 home runs and 66 runs batted in equals $18million over three years. It does if you’re a catcher in the major leagues. John Buck of the Florida Marlins could not be happier. Those are the career best numbers Buck, the only major leaguer born in Wyoming, put up last year with the Toronto Blue Jays. Those numbers earned John a spot on the 2010 American League All-Star team, where he went 1 for 2 with a double, and a 3 year contract with the Marlins.
Some question whether the 1998 7th round draft pick of the Houston Astros, who came to the Kansas City Royals in the Carlos Beltran trade, has finally come into his own or if his season was merely the result of 437 plate appearances in a hitter’s ballpark in Toronto in a line up with fellow All Stars Vernon Wells and Jose Bautista. Buck, who turns 31 in July, will be starting his 8th season in the big leagues when he steps onto the field as the opening day starting catcher with the Marlins. His first 6 years in the majors, were spent with Kansas City before leaving for Toronto prior to the 2010 season. He was a career .235 hitter through 2009 with a career high of 18 home runs in 2007 and 50 rbi’s in 2006 with the Royals. Buck has not been in the majors because of his hitting. He has never shown much plate discipline, striking out 23.9% of the time while walking just 6.5% of the time. But with Victor Martinez out of the Marlins price range, it’s assumed they put a premium on Buck’s intangibles and leadership qualities he’d shown in Kansas City.
But Marlin fans are hopeful Buck can help fill the void created when secondbaseman Dan Uggla took his 33 home runs and 105 rbi’s to Atlanta in the off season. Early projections has put John batting seventh in the Marlins lineup ahead of rookie thirdbaseman Matt Dominguez, the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft. Rightfielder Mike Stanton, who hit 22 homeruns in only 100 games last year as a rookie, is believed to be the cleanup hitter in the revamped Marlin lineup. Make no mistake, the key to the Marlins offense is shortsstop Hanley Ramirez and his .300 batting average, 21 home runs, 92 runs, 76 runs batted in and 32 stolen bases, hitting third. Chris Coghlan coming back from injury and putting up similar numbers he produced in his rookie season of 2009 when he hit .321 in 504 AB’s with 31 doubles and 6 triples but in the leadoff position in 2011 would be everything the Marlins could hope for. But if Buck can show the power he displayed last year in Toronto, there is definitely room in Florida for John to move up into the heart of the lineup.
Even if John can put up similar numbers to his 2010 season, I don’t think they will earn him an appearance in this years All-Star game, nor will they vault the Florida Marlins any higher than another 4th place finish in the powerful National League East. But coming from Toronto, Buck knows all about playing in a tough East division. If my projection of 70 Marlin victories for this season comes to pass, John Buck might even think he’s back in Kansas City. But this time, he’ll have an $18mm contract, the memory of a positive experience in the 2010 All-Star game and another year in the big leagues……and that would make anyone happy……no matter where you’re from.