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Buying and selling Marlins hitters


We’re a month into the season (more or less), and as always there’s a lot of weird things going on, what with slumps and hot streaks abound. What can we believe about our 2010 Marlins as of the end of April?

Well, first off, if you read my most recent Call to the Pen article, you would know that nothing that we see in April is likely to be real because everybody regresses to the mean. Still, while everyone should perform closer to the mean than their current performance, there are still some general things that we can look forward to this season and some other situations that aren’t as likely to stick. Which Marlins performances can we buy as (close to) legitimate, and which are likely to fall off in time?

Jorge Cantu’s power: Buy

I’m not buying the sort of pace he is at right now, but Cantu’s home run hitting ways from 2008 could be back. Cantu already has eight doubles and six homers to his name. The 15.1% HR/FB% is a bit high right now, and that should drop, but if some of those homers then turn into doubles, the team should be fairly happy. The key right now is Cantu’s fly ball swing; he’s been avoiding ground balls like the plague, hitting only 33.3% of his balls in play on the ground so far. If that wrist from last season isn’t a problem and he can still get lift on those pitches, a regression down to his career 11% HR/FB% would still give us around 17 more homers in 450 PA (assuming 45% FB%).

The projection systems tend to agree. Both CHONE’s updated hitters projections and ZiPS in-season projections have Cantu hitting 15 home runs by the end of the year, assuming he hits 470 or so more PA. The key will be to keep Cantu healthy, especially since the Marlins are essentially empty at the position outside of Cantu.

Chris Coghlan’s slump: Sell

Of course Chris Coghlan is not as bad as this. As fluky as his .321/.390/.460 slash line last season was, this awful .188/.242/.188 line is equally out of line. Obviously, Coghlan’s true talent is somewhere in between, and the Marlins will eventually get a chance to see it. With his speed, he should be able to manage a BABIP north of .300, and his plate discipline should be good enough to avoid that awful 25.0% K%. Still, Coghlan needs to begin laying off of those poor pitches, as BIS has him swinging at over 30% of pitches out of the zone. If he can correct that, Coghlan has enough contact capability to avoid the strikeout issue.

The other current Coghlan issue is his extreme dearth of power. We’ve gone through a whole month and Coghlan has not gotten an extra-base hit. Of course, he has not had a history of displaying power, and expecting more than a .120-.130 ISO was not going to end well, but this lack of power too is difficult to believe. This may coincide with his BABIP troubles at the moment; the more balls fall for hits rather than landing in gloves, the more we would expect them to land in gaps. Coghlan will get his doubles in due time, but don’t expect a .140 ISO again this season.

Dan Uggla’s slash line: Sell

I’m the biggest Dan Uggla backer there is, but I know he won’t keep this pace. Danny’s made a surprisingly large amount of contact so far this year, up 77% of his pitches seen. That’s higher than any season total he’s posted since 2006. As a result, right now his strikeouts are down to below 20% (17.6% to be exact), which just isn’t likely to stick. Combine that with a regression in BABIP (regressing the other way, opposite of last season) and you’ll see Uggla’s line land a little closer to 2009 rather than 2008.

The good news? Check out these swinging-based peripherals from FanGraphs:

Uggla, 2009: 18.7% O-Swing%, 40.3% Swing%
Uggla, 2010: 18.6% O-Swing%, 40.8% Swing%

I clamored last year about Uggla’s increased plate patience and his improved eye. I’m glad to see he’s still putting it to good use right now in 2010.

Gaby Sanchez’ performance: Buy

Sanchez will regress, but I think his skills will translate to the big league level. So far, he’s drawn a walk in 14% of his PA, and he has only struck twice more than he has walked. Ironically, the plate discipline numbers don’t show the best eye so far, with Sanchez swinging at 30.3% of pitches out of the zone as well. However, he is making enough contact to make that work, and I feel like that should regress down a bit as we go along as well. His current ISO of .150 essentially matches his ZiPS projected ISO, so don’t be surprised if the power we’ve seen so far is the power we will end up getting. We might be safe to see a 1-1.5 WAR performance from Sanchez if he stays healthy this season, right in line with the projections at full playing time.