Editor's note: Apologies for the light content today. I'll be studying for a major exam tomorrow for my schooling, so expect this and the game thread later this afternoon. -MJ
The first month of the soon-to-be disastrous 2013 season is over, and while the Miami Marlins finished the month off with at least a bit of a winning streak to salvage some dignity, the month was still a difficult one for the team. But when we look at individual players, there were some winners worth buying and stragglers worth selling thus far with their April performance. Who are you buying and who are you selling thus far in 2013?
Sell: Giancarlo Stanton
Stanton struggled for most of the month of April, but his final week and change of the month was very strong, as it culminated in him hitting his first three home runs of the season in two games versus the Chicago Cubs. Were he to have finished the month normally, I would not have flinched and happily "bought" on Stanton. He was recovering his power stroke, he was getting base hits and better swings for the past week, and the attempt to pitch around Stanton has led to a better on-base percentage, more walks, but similar strikeout counts.
But the Stanton injured his right hamstring and once again went to the disabled list. This followed a one-week stint on the bench for a left shoulder injury on a diving play. In total, Stanton missed about a week and a half of the April season and eight total games. Stanton's injury should keep him out of action until at last early June and much more likely mid June. It also brings up questions of whether he is injury-prone, and those questions are important for the Marlins and potential Stanton trade suitors.
Buy: Justin Ruggiano
I am buying Justin Ruggiano for being more or less who we thought he was. He was not expected to hit with the kind of power he had last season, and he certainly was not expected to hit .401 on balls in play again this season. But if you take a look at the ZiPS projection from before the season, you can see that Ruggiano is matching most of the peripherals exactly.
The major difference is in BABIP, and Ruggiano still has a full season to recover some of the balls in play magic he displayed last season. Even if he hits .315 on balls in play, Ruggiano's season is likely to reach league avearge levels if the rest of the numbers remain similar going forward. There is no guarantee Ruggiano can do this, especially since a .292 average on balls in play is pretty close to the league average, but I feel confident about Ruggiano's chances of being a league average hitter.
Sell: Ricky Nolasco
Ricky Nolasco has matched his ERA and FIP for this month, which seems like an impossible feat given his long history with problems with men on base. However, I do not believe he can continue that performance. After his first start, it looked like we might see flashes of the strikeout-heavy Nolasco from 2009 and 2010, but that appears to have faded in favor of the new ground ball Nolasco. Except that Nolasco only has a 43 percent ground ball rate; thus far, he has been bailed out by a 6.8 percent home run per fly ball (HR/FB) rate that is likely to regress closer to his career rates.
Meanwhile, Nolasco's strikeouts and walks are still at all-time lows and highs, respectively, and that leads to a heavy dependence on balls in play. The Marlins' defense has improved, but Nolasco is not exactly a player who allows soft contact most of the time. His early season success has been nice, but as long as he continues to have problem stranding runners and cannot find the strikeouts to help him do that, I will be selling.
Buy: Kevin Slowey
I am torn on Slowey because I suspect there will be problems coming in the future. As we pointed out yesterday, his pitches are lower in effectiveness despite results equal to that of his best major league season, and that indicates that it is only a matter of time until hitters start figuring him out. Currently, his number are fantastic, as he is sporting a 2.15 ERA and a 3.16 FIP. However, he's also stranded 86.6 percent of runners and has the lower home run rate he has posted in any season thus far. Chances are, even with Marlin Park helping to suppress home runs, his home run count should increase.
But even with all the signs pointing negatively, I suspect may still have an acceptable pitcher afterwards. Slowey may be a guy with an ERA around 4.00, but that may not be a bad thing for this season's Marlins.
Buy: Steve Cishek
Cishek has thrown 12 innings for the Fish and he has a 5.25 ERA. His FIP of 4.44 is not that much more impressive. Yet it is clear that Cishek's numbers should regress shortly as well. So far this season, he has struck out 12 batters and walked only four, and two of those walks were intentional. He also has given up two home runs early on, but Cishek has never displayed an issue with home runs and he has a career 54.3 percent ground ball rate. Combine all of that with the large dimensions of Marlins Park and I suspect that Cishek's only current problem should stay hidden or disappear entirely in the coming months. His stuff is still electric, but he simply needs better timing on his hits than he currently has, as he has stranded 63.4 percent of his runners. That should not last as the home runs dissipate.