I had a clever opening for this week’s article all laid out. I was going to mention how there are instances where something good is out there that we don’t recognize or know about. Then, I was going to compare the mostly under-the-radar Marlins offense to my recently discovered love for Nutella, something I had never tried before last week. The comparison was coming together nicely in my head, and the lead-in was practically going to write itself.
Then word broke of Jose Fernandez’s injury. Torn UCL. Season over.
My desire to be witty and lighthearted suddenly took a backseat to sympathy for one of, if not the best, young pitcher in the game. Fernandez was leading all of baseball in strikeouts (70) at the time and had the lowest FIP (2.15) in the National League. Like Harvey and Strasburg before him, Fernandez is yet another phenom who will see roughly a year of his career disappear while rehabbing from what looks like certain Tommy John surgery. The rise in the number of serious elbow injuries for pitchers was alarming, but seeing it happen to Fernandez has brought it to full-blown epidemic status.
I still can’t decide whether it’s more frustrating seeing all these pitchers needing TJS or knowing that no one can agree on what exactly is causing this outbreak. I have my opinions, but I’m no doctor. I’m just a fan who thinks it’s a shame that we are losing so many talented arms for such an extended period of time. Best of luck to Jose Fernandez and all the other sidelined pitchers on a speedy rehab. Can’t wait to see you back on the mound.
Before all the Fernandez news, there was something else brewing on South Beach: good baseball. The Marlins, yes those Marlins, actually resemble a major league team this season. And at home? Not only are they good, they have the best winning percentage in the majors, and it’s not all that close. They are second in runs scored and OPS at home (behind the Rockies of course), which leads me to two major takeaways:
1) You cannot spot start against them when they are at home. As of right now, they’re on the same plane as the Rockies, the Tigers and the Angels as teams I won’t even consider streaming against. Nope. Pass. Move on, nothing to see here. You simply cannot take that risk against a team like this with a marginal starter. Now when Miami is on the road, have at ’em. They are barely putting up three runs a game on the road, so make sure to check your schedules accordingly. At some point I think these extreme splits will normalize to a degree, but I’m not going to pay to guess when that happens.
2) With all these juicy numbers, there has to be some fantasy goodness we can exploit beyond just the artist formerly known as Mike. There are a few names that have begun to creep into standard league circles, and while I’ll be sure to touch on those, I’ll also dive a little deeper into some of the less heralded hitters that have garnered a closer look. And to give you a point of reference, I’ll toss out a few more established names that I think are not as valuable as their Miami counterparts, just to get the argument started. Let’s go fishing…
Giancarlo Stanton, OF: I’m not exactly breaking ground here by saying Stanton is good. Real good. I picked him as my comeback player of the year in the NL, not necessarily because I thought he’d win the award but to emphasize my belief that 2013 was an outlier season. Indeed, Stanton is back to his mashing ways so far this year (11 HR, 42 RBI, 1.023 OPS), but I wanted to point out that very quietly he just posted his fourth SB of the year. His career high is only six so let’s not get carried away, but double-digit steals on top of everything else he’s capable of is Pujols-esque (2010 season is where I’m looking) and only adds to his enormous value. I’m going (somewhat) bold and planting my flag with Stanton yet again.
I’d rather own him than: Any OF not named Trout
Christian Yelich, OF: A buddy of mine asked me at the beginning of the season if I preferred Yelich or Michael Brantley. I told him I liked Yelich but that I was concerned he was tied to a weak offense so his run scoring potential could be limited. Here we are at the season’s quarter pole, and Yelich currently sits tied for fifth in the NL in runs. If he was tied to a weak offense, this article doesn’t get written, so I’ll happily take that one on the chin. The upside is still there for 20+ SB and he’s starting to provide a little pop as of late. Combine that with a respectable AVG and OBP, and you’ve got a solid contributor in your OF.
I’d rather own him than: Shane Victorino, Austin Jackson, Michael Brantley
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: This forecast would’ve looked a whole lot more promising about two weeks ago, around the time Wilin Rosario landed on the DL and Salty became the replacement of choice. In April, he sported a .299/.409/.571 triple slash along with five HR and was among the top backstops in the game. But it’s been a different story in May as Saltalamacchia currently finds himself mired in an 0-for-20 slump over his last 6 games (all on the road). The splits are dramatic between home (.348/.405/.591 in 74 PA) and road(.120/.279/.300 in 61 PA), however half of his HR have been away from Marlins Park (someone desperately needs to slap a nickname on this place: The Aquarium, The Fish Tank, etc.). He’s one you’ll definitely want to think about platooning in your lineup but will carry value moving forward, especially with the rash of catcher injuries we’ve seen early on.
I’d rather own him than: A.J. Pierzynski, Derek Norris
Marcell Ozuna, OF: Another young slugger in the Marlins outfield, Ozuna (23) is in his first full season as a member of the big club. He recorded three straight years of 20+ HR in the minors, but couldn’t find his power stroke last year when he was called up (3 HR in 275 AB). In 2014, Ozuna has already hit six HR to go along with a .259/.296/.415 triple slash. As with most of this team, his home/road splits are telling as 18 of his 22 RBI have been recorded in Miami. He grades out as your typical free-swinging power hitter (career 21.1% K-rate, 4.9% BB-rate), so don’t expect much from him in terms of AVG or OBP, but I do think he hits 20-25 HR and will contribute more in the RBI department than expected.
I’d rather own him than: Chris Colabello (I warned you about him), Corey Hart
Casey McGehee, 1B, 3B: It’s been four years since McGehee delivered something resembling fantasy relevance our way. Four years if you don’t include last year’s stint with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan where he hit 28 HR and drove in 93. That output helped earn McGehee another go-round in the majors, and he now finds himself parked in the middle of the lineup as protection for the aforementioned Stanton. All McGehee has done with his opportunity is hit .289 with 25 RBI through 40 games. No one expects his 100-RBI pace to continue, and McGehee, like Saltalamacchia, has hit a rough patch this past week (4 hits in his last 25 AB). But as he has shown, there is definite value in being in the middle of the order with guys in front of you who are consistently getting on base, even if he doesn’t bring much power to the table (only 1 HR this year). If McGehee can stick in that lineup, he should continue to be a decent source of RBI and is a solid short-term replacement for Aramis Ramirez.
I’d rather own him than: Marcus Semien, Mike Moustakas
Derek Dietrich, 2B: I thought about making Garrett Jones my final inclusion, but I think most of us would agree that his outlook is pretty unspectacular. While Dietrich isn’t exactly the second coming of Robbie Alomar, this former (and fellow) Yellow Jacket does give NL owners some interesting skills to consider. He’s grabbing most of the ABs against RHPs in the Marlins current 2B platoon and has put up a .241/.355/.392 triple slash in 94 PA this year. The OBP definitely stands out among those numbers and, based on his minor league stats, is legit as Dietrich has never posted less than a .338 OBP across any season. He won’t provide much in the way of speed, but Dietrich did hit 22 HR in 2011 while a part of the Rays farm system and already has 4 this year. There’s nothing sexy here, but Dietrich can provide meaningful ABs if you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for a middle infielder in deeper leagues.
I’d rather own him than: Luis Valbuena, Dan Uggla (I’m DONE with him)