Another month is in the books, and another month of struggles and disappointments for the Miami Marlins. As hard as the Marlins have been to watch, there are still some bright spots and some players that we would rather not see for much longer. What did July tell us about a number of the team's players?
Buy: Jose Reyes
Is this even the least bit surprising given how well Reyes hit in July following his best month of 2012 in June? After hitting .283/.350/.472 (.354 wOBA) in June, Reyes topped himself in July as the rest of the team continued to struggle. In July, Reyes picked up 115 PA and hit .292/.336/.509 (.365 wOBA) and pulled his season average up to .277/.344/.417 (.333 wOBA). This line is very similar to the one he posted in 2010 in a disappointing three-win season, but this year the signs have Reyes trending way upwards after a weak April.
The key to Reyes's month of July was power, as he banged out five home runs along with six doubles and a triple. That line drive swing was finally finding gaps and landing past the outfield wall. In June, Reyes's two homers were from the right side of the plate, but all five of his homers in July came from the left side, and they were all hit fairly hard. In fact, who could forget the Pittsburgh homer that nailed a concessions guy in the back?
The return of some of Reyes's power is a very good sign that all of his game is finally back in action. We have seen a lot of his patience at the plate with the heavy walk rates, but this month looked a little more like his 2011 season with just a 7.8 percent strikeout rate and 6.1 percent walk rate. Then again, when you're getting good swings like he was, you do not need to do much walking.
Rest assured, Marlins fans, the real Jose Reyes has been around for some time now, and it looks like he is here to stay.Buy: Justin Ruggiano
I am buying Justin Ruggiano as being a league average hitter at this point. It is hard to envision him falling short of that given how hot he has been, but the longer he continues to hit, the better for his projection. His current .355/.419/.652 line (.447 wOBA) is obviously completely inflated, but his July of .333/.389/.609 (.418 wOBA) did not offer much in the way of understanding how good he is.
We did see a number of negative indicators. His strikeout rate grew to enormous values, up to 27.4 percent in July. We know he will not hi .422 on balls in play going forward, so that batting average and OBP are sure to fall. We also know he will not continue to square up home runs at the Giancarlo Stanton-esque rate that he has been hitting them now.
But what do we know about Ruggiano? It seems he does have pop, as even if you regress the home run and doubles rates, you are still looking at at worst a league average power hitter, and one look at his swing and you can see that the ball can explode off that violent bat swing. We know he can take a walk, provided pitchers don't get ahead of him too early in the count; he is still letting 24 percent of pitches out of the zone go for balls rather than offering at them. Those are still positive indicators that he can get away with a few more strikeouts on his ledger.
We cannot be sure yet, and anyone can have two good months. But I feel confident we will at least see a decent bat going forward from Ruggiano, especially since he is a passable center fielder and a good corner outfielder defensively.
Sell: Rest of the Lineup
I am not particularly interested in the rest of that lineup that the team is boasting while Stanton remains out with a knee injury. Bonifacio remains a passable player being touted as more than he is, and Carlos Lee is as Carlos was expected to be, but the rest of lineup is simply atrocious. Bryan Petersen and Scott Cousins are worth watching just to see if they can become fourth outfielders and contributors, and you hope that John Buck can snap out of his season-long slump, but the odds of any of this happening feel extremely low right now. Some bounce back from these guys is expected, but do not count on an offensive renaissance even after Stanton returns.
Buy: Josh Johnson
We still have not figured out how much bad luck is going into his extended bout of hit-itis, But for the last two months, Johnson has been more and more like his old self. His 3.23 ERA and 3.08 FIP since the start of June very closely resembles his career numbers, and while the strange anomalies out of the stretch are confusing, they are by no means predictive of the future at this stage. His strikeout rate of 23.6 percent in the last two months matches his 2011 rate, and the walk rate is also fairly similar to his career line. The only true thing that is different is that his velocity has fallen, but it seems Johnson is actually no worse for the wear despite that. This seems like a clear case of an extended bout of under-performing with runners on which should rectify itself going forward.
Buy: Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi's performance on Saturday would not have earned a "buy" status from me normally. He did strike out five batters in 5 2/3 innings, but two of those strikeouts were the pitcher, so color me still unimpressed. He did display the same control issues as well, so there is still work to be done. But what makes me optimistic about Eovaldi's chances is the inclusion of a cutter to his repertoire. That cutter could help him with his issues against lefty batters because it is another pitch he can use with a very small platoon split. In addition, it can be his complimentary third weapon against righty batters as well. It is worth keeping an eye on that cutter in his start tonight against the Atlanta Braves.
Sell: Jacob Turner
Don't get me wrong, the trade the Marlins pulled to snag Turner was still worth it; he is still a top pitching prospect. But his 2012 season has left some cause for concern. He was obviously shelled in the majors this season, but you can likely blame the Detroit Tigers' consistently aggressive promotion plan for that; he was not ready this season or last year. What is concerning are his numbers in Triple-A, as he recorded a career-low 15.1 percent strikeout rate at that level this season. Even with his ERA success at the level (3.07 ERA in 2011 and 2012 in Triple-A), his dependence on suppressing home runs may be more difficult to pull off at the major league level. If Turner does not recover his strikeouts, his control-based gameplan may not be as successful once he arrives in the majors next season. Hopefully the Marlins can figure out a way to get him back up to around 18 percent to compliment his ground balls and low walk rate.