Marrero’s one of the more unusual players in the game. He started off with a very ordinary career path. He was a hot catching prospect in the Cards system, a guy with good defensive skills, fairly high batting averages, some power, and not many walks. And like a lot of catching prospects, he didn’t play very well when handed the job, hitting .244/.318/.370 in 1998 and .192/.236/.297 in 1999.

And then he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

He played some, and a little better, in 2000 after cancer surgery. Sharing time with the useless Mike Matheny, he played a little bit better yet in 2001, and Tony LaRussa started using him in the outfield some as well as catching. And in 2002, with Jim Edmonds and J.D. Drew fighting through their usual injuries, and with LaRussa staring at a completely punchless bench, Marrero had a defensive position pattern perhaps not seen since the dead ball era. He caught 44 games, played right in 46, left in 39, and center 36. (That’s more than 162. He moved around a lot during games.) It’s not that unusual for a player to move from catcher to center — Dale Murphy, for one, did — but not many move back and forth between the two. And Marrero’s offense picked up a little more, to .262/.327/.451, credible for a fourth outfielder or a regular catcher. With Edmonds relatively healthy, he was basically a platoon right fielder/backup catcher last season. And then he hurt his ankle.

Marrero runs pretty well, as you’d expect, and is generally considered a “smart” baserunner. He’s slump-prone, and isn’t likely to put up OBPs much better than Mark DeRosa’s, but he does have a little more power than the rest of the Braves’ reserves and is a better athlete than any but maybe Matthews. The Braves have given him a third baseman’s glove and if he can fight the position to a draw might use him there. He could pick up time at first base, another of his positions, if LaRoche fails or Franco gets hurt, or could catch if Estrada is a flop. He might go back to platooning with Drew if the Braves decide to go that way, and if any of the outfielders is down for an extended period would seem to be the best option.

Eli Marrero Statistics –