Just like yesterday, I’ll continue discussion today of the Marlins a quarter of the way into the season and ask whether fans should be buying or selling the Marlins’ pitchers in terms of current performance sustainability and benefit of future performance. How will the Marlins’ pitchers fare in the coming months as the Fish continue to battle for a division crown or a Wild Card berth? Let’s start at the top and work our way down.
Josh Johnson: Buy
I think it should be obvious that Johnson is worth buying. Aside from the slightly higher walk rate (which includes two intentional walks), Johnson is pitching about as well as he has his entire career, with similar numbers all down the line. Oh, and a quick Josh Johnson Road Update: 2.28 FIP / 3.18 xFIP on the road in 26 2/3 innings (103 batters faced). He’s actually pitched a bit better on the road so far this season, but so much of that lies on his splendid Atlanta start that we shouldn’t read much into it.
Ricky Nolasco: Buy
For the first time in ages, Nolasco is finally performing at about the level of his peripheral production. After two straight years of underperforming his peripherals, the Fish are getting about as much run prevention from Nolasco as his strikeouts and walks indicate he should have. He is currently sporting a .293 BABIP that is a bit lower than his career mark (which is a bit higher than the .300 average) but is otherwise underwhelming. He’s stranding a few more runners than usual despite showing the same problems in pitching with runners on as he’s always displayed. Sure, there’s likely to be a bit of a drop-off from this peripheral-matching performance, but I think we can finally expect good things from Nolasco beyond his peripherals this season.
Anibal Sanchez: Buy
Anibal Sanchez has finally fully arrived in the majors. Barring injury, I would not be surprised to see him assume the position in the big leagues that prospect mavens once saw in him when he was labeled one of the better pitching prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization and became a critical piece of the Josh Beckett – Hanley Ramirez trade. Sanchez’s velocity has remained high and in fact is at its highest average of his career. He’s inducing the second lowest rate of contact and the highest rate of swinging strikes per total pitches in his career. Everything right now is going right for Sanchez, and if he can throw another full season in the bigs, all of the question marks he had earlier in his career will have been answered.
Chris Volstad: Buy
Keep in mind that I am buying Chris Volstad for what he is: a perfectly acceptable fourth or fifth starter. Every rotation has to have a guy a bit below the league average to eat up innings at the end of the rotation, and right now Volstad is that player for the Marlins. Think of him as Jon Garland and you will be a lot happier.
Javier Vazquez: Sell
Those projection numbers now look more laughable than ever. There no two ways around it: Javier Vazquez is finished.
Leo Nunez: Buy
In case you missed it, I Believe in Leo Nunez! The strikeout rates are high and within the projected totals, and his projected ERA and FIP match his current FIP, suggesting a performance that should continue. I am a big fan of Nunez’s development and I think he should continue to be about as good as he has been in 2011. Whether that means the rollercoaster rides that are his ninth innings will continue remains to be seen, but he has developed into a pretty decent reliever.
Ryan Webb: Buy
It’s hard for me to trust relievers, and watching Ryan Webb is especially difficult and confusing. On the one hand, his stuff looks exceptional, with a mid-90’s sinker and a sweeping slider as his primary arsenal. On the other hand, he has pitched 103 1/3 innings in his career with a career 16.4 percent strikeout rate, which is pretty bad for a reliever. Having said that, Burke Badenhop has some similar numbers and I’ve championed him before, and it seems both players should have the same problem versus lefties. A part of me is concerned that Webb will become Matt Lindstrom in the future, but for now I’ll stick with trusting him and his stuff.
Edward Mujica: Sell
Mujica may be the most difficult of Marlins relievers to read. He has upped his groundball rate by quite a bit but still has the propensity to give up the long ball. I’m not sure which one of these trends will take over and become dominant, but it is at least a good sign that he is putting the ball on the ground. He isn’t going to strike out the totals we saw last season, and he has lost a little bit on his fastball this season, possibly due to injury. I’m going to sell the package as a whole, but there is hope for a bit of a bounceback given his consistently strong control.
I just need to see a bit more control from Dunn in order to be convinced. He has all of the stuff and he looks like he could be a good reliever, but it does still seem like he is “throwing instead of pitching,” as the old adage goes. The truth is that we just haven’t seen enough of him so far in the majors (or as a professional in general) to make a judgment on whether he’ll be a positive or a negative going forward.