The Miami Marlins had a very strange month of April, having started off as bad as can be, only to bounce back late in the month and claw their way back close to .500 by the time May rolled around. The Fish now stand at 12-13, a respectable record given the team's ugly start. Better yet, Miami boasts a robust run +14 run differential, which means that, at least early in the campaign, they have played better than their record shows. It sounds surprising given their awful start, but the Marlins are getting back on track.
In terms of the players, the Fish have a number of odd performances to start the year as well, which is unsurprising given their atypical April. Who are you buying and who are you selling on the team going forward? Let's take a look at some names.
Buy: Giancarlo Stanton
Well, that's obvious. Stanton finished the month batting .284/.376/.593 (.413 wOBA) with six home runs to his name. It was a pretty calm April for him, which is not his routine; Stanton owns just a .254/.341/.474 line (.352 wOBA) in April for his career. Six home runs and that kind of efficient performance is not the norm and is a nice way to start the 2015 season. Stanton's home runs are there, but the doubles output has helped as well, as those six doubles and one triple are contributing to a nice early season ISO of .283.
The only interesting negative thing right now is the contact situation. Stanton is making a little less contact so far this year, and pitchers had noted that and begun throwing a little more in the strike zone to start the season. Stanton has seen 46 percent of his pitches thrown in the zone, significantly higher than the 41 percent he saw the last two years. This may be a blip in the radar from earlier in the campaign, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
Buy: Dee Gordon
We will talk more about Dee Gordon in a full article later today, but suffice to say that the man has had the hottest month imaginable for a slap-hitting infielder. There is no feasible way Gordon continues anything close to this pace going forward, but he has banked enough of a run to put up significant value thus far this season. Batting .494 on balls in play will do that for you.
The issue with Gordon is that little has really changed about his game since we discussed it before April. The most notable difference thus far has been an increase in swing rate, which has combined with a little more contact and lead to lower strikeout and walk rates. Lowering his strikeout rate is critical because of the lack of power, but the walks are necessary to help get him on base once this fiery hot streak ends.
Still, with all those caveats, Gordon has raised expectations for his game this season, and even after the stroke of good luck ends, I am expecting solid production going forward in 2015.
Buy: Marcell Ozuna
Ozuna has confused everyone at the start of the year as well, on par for the Marlins in 2015. Ozuna has yet to hit a home run this season, but still boasted a ..275/.358/.333 line (.313 wOBA) to start the year. This was a respectable batting line despite the lack of Ozuna's calling card, and the reason for it was the surprising amount of early walks he received this year. Ozuna has walked 11 times in 95 plate appearances this season; in comparison, he walked 13 times in 295 plate appearances two years ago in his rookie campaign.
Ozuna is swinging less, but he is not swinging less in a more selective sense. The majority of the decrease in his swing rate has been in the strike zone thus far. However, the fact that he is making a conscious effort may be helpful to his future. He is still receiving the same number of pitches in the zone as he was last year, but his contact rate has improved. If he can keep up the contact rate with this approach, the reintroduction of his home runs eventually should boost his game even further.
Sell: Starting Pitchers
The Marlins' starting pitchers have performed very poorly to start the year, and unlike the offense, this really has not changed in the second half of the month. Right now, Marlins starters boast a 3.79 ERA and 4.15 FIP, good for 23rd in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement. The only Marlins starter meeting expectations right now is Jarred Cosart, who has continued his zone-pounding from late last year and has dropped his walk rate.
The rest of the rotation is a mess. David Phelps has looked good in a few starts, but his 27 percent ground ball rate will eventually lead to some home runs. Mat Latos is still recovering from that first start, and while he has pitched better, he clearly has lost a step in his game. Dan Haren's ERA is shinier than his peripherals suggest, and his home run problem has continued despite the move to Marlins Park. Tom Koehler's home run luck has seemingly run out.
Henderson Alvarez and Jose Fernandez cannot come back soon enough.