The Miami Marlins finished the month of April on a sour note, losing three of four games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and dropping to 8-14 for the month. There is not much to be happy about with regards to the Fish, who have suffered through a team-wide slump and need a strong month of May to recover from the mess in which they currently reside.
But it does not mean that the Fish do not have that month in them. Indeed, we mentioned yesterday that a number of players on the offensive side can only go up going forward, so theoretically the team should have hit rock bottom during this latest awful run. So going into the month of May, who should we be buying and who should we be selling in terms of their future performance? Who among the Marlins is going to improve on a rough start in 2012, and who among them is going to cool down or, worse yet, continue to stay cold? Let's run down some of the Fish's prospects in "buy or sell" format.
Buy: Jose Reyes
Let's look at some peripheral numbers for Jose Reyes.
All of these numbers point to one thing bringing about Reyes's struggles thus far this season: an extended run of bad luck. There is nothing repeatable about Reyes's .229 BABIP, which ranks in the bottom 20 among qualified players in baseball thus far. There are no marks that indicate a sudden loss of skill. Reyes is hitting line drives at the exact same rate as expected and his infield fly ball rate is actually lower than his career mark. His BABIP on all batted ball types is lower than his career average. Despite prototypical strikeout and contact rates and even better walk rates, Reyes is still struggling. At this point, you have to expect good things going forward given his peripheral performance. There is nothing to worry about regarding the Marlins' newest $106 million man.Sell: Omar Infante
I am as happy as the next guy when it comes to Infante's performance thus far, as he has been the only Marlin that has hit decently. But if you ask me whether I think he is good enough to be consistently hitting fifth in the lineup for the Fish, I would tell you the answer is an emphatic "no." Having said that, I suspect this first month does bode well for Infante going forward, and his projection has indeed improved slightly, so while this headline says "sell," it really means "do not buy him as the best hitter on the team."
Buy: Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez is in a similar boat as Reyes, suffering from a .222 BABIP that does not seem any more repeatable than Infante's hot streak or Reyes's supposed struggles. In addition, the problems that Ramirez was previously having with ground balls seemed to receded for now, as he is boasting a 35 percent ground ball rate that would be the lowest of his career. Instead, he is hitting more fly balls, as his rate is up to 47.4 percent. Once balls start falling in for hits, this will assuredly help Ramirez's power output. Ramirez's hot home run-riddled second week of the season already boosted him up to an 11.1 percent HR/FB rate that equals his career mark. With some better luck on balls in play, he should also be set, as he already is one of the few Marlins with acceptable numbers for his position.
Sell: Emilio Bonifacio
I am not selling Bonifacio's ability to hit his projection; a .303 wOBA as ZiPS is projecting seems more than doable, and I actually think he can approach .310 as soon as he starts hitting anything but singles. What I am selling are Bonifacio's chances of hitting what he did in 2011. He now officially holds a .339 BABIP, identical to his career BABIP, and he is hitting .247/.337/.247, good for a .295 wOBA. He can certainly improve, and it does seem like a more patient approach has elicited results in terms of walks, but his strikeouts are also up as his contact rate is a tad below his career mark. I did not have much confidence in him repeating his 2011, and after he began red-hot, he has cooled significantly and confirmed my suspicions.
Buy: Giancarlo Stanton
This one is mostly on faith, and I fully admit that. Stanton has gotten different, more confusing results despite approaching his work at the plate in the same way as he has throughout his career. Pitchers are attacking him at a different angle, and he has struggled to muscle up hits against them. He may require some work with hitting coach Eduardo Perez with regards to how to change his approach, because so far, whatever pitchers are doing, it is working. However, the sight of the sort of strong contact that Stanton has made, for the most part, makes you think like he will be snapping out of it, and that most recent home run does certainly make you feel better about that.
Sell: Heath Bell
Look, I do not know yet what is wrong with Heath Bell. He had another terrible outing yesterday during which he walked a man, allowed a base hit, and let through two runs without striking out a hitter or getting so much as a single swinging strike. He is now down to 4.2 percent of his pitches going for swinging strikes this season, He is not inducing swings and misses, he is missing pretty high on his fastball, his control is down, and we do not know what is going on with him. All of this despite the fact that, at least in terms of raw data, his stuff does not seem to be in decline. If Randy St. Claire and the video guys cannot find something with Bell, it may not get much prettier soon, though I will reserve full condemnation until at least we see 30 or so innings of his work.
Buy: Josh Johnson
In terms of velocity, we may have to accept that Johnson is going to pitch at a slightly lower one than previously accepted. Even after the video crew and Randy St. Claire found that he was not using the same timing mechanism and not loading up as well as he was in years before, Johnson's velocity is still down more than one mph from last season. But after discovering that little issue, things are starting to climb back up, chief among them his swinging strikes. Johnson is now up to 8.9 percent of his pitches going for swings and misses, and that total is creeping towards his career mark. The only problem is that anomalous .436 BABIP that we have noted in the past to include a number of incidental bloops and bleeders rather than hard-hit balls in play. Once those start falling into gloves rather than open grass, Johnson should approach his play from the past once again.
Sell: Anibal Sanchez
He has looked great in this first month, but regression should be on the way to knock him down a peg to something a little better than his 2011 season. It is fun to see him having such a huge strikeout rate (30.6 percent) and boasting a 2.45 FIP, but Sanchez's swinging strike rate out of his total pitches is not all that different than it was last season (10.9 percent in 2011 versus 11.2 percent in 2012). In reality, Sanchez has had just four starts, and one of them was a dominant 14-strikeout masterpiece that is heavily affecting the rest of his numbers. He obviously is not as good as his last four-game sample, but it does not mean that he is bad, just not ace material. Keep in mind that Sanchez's velocity is also down this season one mph much like Johnson's, seemingly with no explanation.