What's going on with the Marlins?
Believe it or not, the Mets aren't the only team in the National League East that has been playing surprisingly good baseball since the middle of June. Everyone knows that the Marlins got off to a dreadful start this season, but what not everyone knows is that all those losses in April and May masked that Miami has been pretty competitive since then. From June 20 to July 4, the Marlins went 10-3 against the Giants, Twins, Padres, and Braves. A five-game losing streak against Atlanta and St. Louis followed, but the team bounced back to win a series versus the Nationals right before the All-Star break.
After a nice rest, Miami was embarrassingly shut out in three straight games by the Brewers, but the Marlins have since won series against Colorado and Pittsburgh. The moral of the story is that Miami is just as mediocre as the Mets, Nationals, and Phillies are, but that's not what anyone will be talking about this week. The big story around the Marlins is the resignation of hitting coach Tino Martinez after his alleged physical abuse of second baseman Derek Dietrich. It's kind of shocking to hear about a guy with Martinez's reputation getting caught up in something like this, but then again, reputations are often very different from reality. Good for Dietrich for not putting up with Martinez's behavior and good for Martinez for resigning and not making this situation uglier.
Who are these guys?
Yeah, ha ha, almost everyone on the Marlins is unrecognizable. What's exciting, though, is that the organization just promoted two of its top prospects. Let's meet them!
Christian Yelich was a first-round pick of the Marlins in the 2010 draft who just made his debut last week as a 21-year-old. The left-handed outfielder was hitting .280/.365/.518 at Double-A Jacksonville before getting called up, but he's reportedly had trouble hitting left-handed pitching in the minor leagues. Yelich collected three hits in his major league debut in Colorado, and it should be fun to see how he does for the remainder of the season. He's developed quite nicely so far and could very well be a key part of the next great Marlins team that immediately gets torn down (I hope I'm kidding, Miami fans!).
Jake Marisnick is another outifeld prospect who made his MLB debut for the Marlins last week, but he wasn't drafted by the Marlins. He came over to the team as part of the mega deal with the Blue Jays that sent Jose Reyes and others up north. Besides being unhappy with their results on the field this summer, Jays fans are probably a bit miffed at how much better Marisnick is performing now that he's a member of the Marlins. In 2012 with Toronto's Double-A affiliate, Marisnick hit .233/.286/.336, but this season at the same level he's hit .294/.358/.502 despite an increased strikeout rate. Obviously a BABIP boost from .278 to .351 has a lot to do with that improvement, but an isolated power improvement from .103 to .208 is just as crucial and has less to do with luck.
Who's on the mound?
Monday: Jacob Turner vs. Jeremy Hefner
Turner was a prospect brought over in the Anibal Sanchez trade who is already starting to pay dividends at the big league level. In his 2013 debut — that just happened to be against the Mets — Turner pitched seven shutout innings, and the rest of his season has followed suit. Although Turner's strikeout rates have never blown anyone away, he's always been able to keep his walks down, and a lot of his success this season has come from his ability the ball in the park. Turner has only allowed three home runs in 65 innings this season, which is a big reason why he has a 2.49 ERA so far. His ground ball rate of 47 percent, however, suggests that he's going to give up a few more round-trippers in the future.
Tuesday: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Zack Wheeler
Eovaldi was one of the prizes grabbed by the Marlins when they traded Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, but his ceiling doesn't look much higher than that of a back-of-the-rotation starter. His strikeout rates are even less sexy than Turner's, and he also walks more batters, which makes his 3.54 ERA this season kind of hard to explain. Well, it would be hard to explain except for the existence of the pitcher's haven that is Marlins Park. The cavernous stadium allowed Eovaldi to shut out the Padres for six innings on June 30 while walking three batters and striking out none. At age 23, Eovaldi is still young, but if he doesn't improve his strikeout and walk rates, he's going to be just another guy pretty soon.
Wednesday: Henderson Alvarez vs. Jenrry Mejia
Another product of the Jose Reyes trade, Alvarez has been rock solid for the Marlins since coming off the disabled list (shoulder inflammation) this season. With Toronto in 2011 and 2012, Alvarez stuck in the rotation by getting lots of ground balls and allowing few walks. That seems to be his M.O., but in his last start against Pittsburgh, Alvarez was able to dial up his fastball to 98 MPH and strike out five batters in six innings. Like just about everyone in Miami's rotation, Alvarez has some growing to do, so it will be interesting to see if Alvarez's blistering fastball is just a mirage or if it's the new normal. Mets fans will likely be more interested to see if Jenrry Mejia can produce another great start on Wednesday, but they shouldn't sleep on Alvarez either.
Thursday: Tom Koehler vs. Matt Harvey
At age 27, Koehler is the old man on the Marlins staff right now, and his 4.67 ERA is probably not an indication of his true skill. At Triple-A New Orleans last season, Koehler was able to get his strikeout rate up to 8.23 per nine innings, but he's struggled to dominate hitters like that in the majors. Splitting time this season between the rotation and bullpen, Koehler only has 54 strikeouts in 81 innings. The good news for Koehler is that his 26 walks make for a decent 3.99 FIP, but he'll probably get pushed back into the bullpen at some point because of the preponderance of young arms in Miami's system. Also, if you haven't heard, Koehler played his college ball at Stony Brook.
What about some GIFs?
Miami's 3-2 win over the Pirates on Sunday was punctuated by Giancarlo Stanton manually activating the home run sculpture with this titanic home run to left-center field.
Henderson Alvarez has never been a strikeout pitcher before, but he looked like one when he punched out five Pittsburgh batters in six innings on Friday.