Welcome to the latest installment of “Sleepers Who Have Been Slept On.” The Miami Marlins are the second worst team in baseball if you take into account their run differential. As of Tuesday, they have allowed 44 more runs than they have scored. This is tied for second with the disappointing Toronto Blue Jays.
The Marlins have assembled a young ragtag group of players to begin rebuilding, in the process becoming a tight fisted team that relyies on young prospects and cheap cast offs from other teams to even fill the roster. This type of fiscal management can lead to under the radar bargains for your fantasy team.
Kevin Slowey – SP
Who would have thought one of the most underrated pitchers in the National League would be Kevin Slowey? He has a career ERA of 4.44 and has battled injuries and bounced around the minor leagues for the past two seasons.
A change to the National League and a change in pitching repertoire can sometimes lead to great things. Not many people have noticed what he has done in the early going, posting an ERA of 1.81 and a K/9 of 7.25.
Where did all of this sudden success come from? He has changed his grip and toned down the velocity on his slider. Three years ago his slider clocked in at 85 mph. Currently he is throwing it for an average of 79 mph. A slower velocity is allowing for more movement especially outside of the zone. According to Fangraphs, hitters are swinging 44.7% of the time at his slider when it is outside of the strike zone. That is an outstanding rate which is comparable to some of baseball’s best pitchers.
He is also giving up a career low in homeruns. Moving to Marlins Park has helped Kevin Slowey’s HR/FB ratio tremendously. According to ESPN, Marlins Park allows less than a home run per game, good for 10th best in all of baseball. His current HR/FB ratio stands at 5.7%. His career average is nearly twice that amount. His fly ball percentage is the lowest of his career at 42.7%. All of these factors are helping him keep balls from leaving the park.
Just how sustainable are all of these numbers? Of course, his ERA is not sustainable at 1.81. You could see a increase of nearly two runs per game based on his unsustainable strand rate which currently resides at 87.9%. An average strand rate usually is between 70 and 75%. He is only allowing a BABIP of .250, so his strand rate could stay in the high seventies if things continue to fall his way.
Kevin Slowey is a must start at home because of the park factors mentioned above. I would be very cautious starting him on the road because his Marlin Park advantage will go away. He will not get you a lot of wins because of the awful run support the Marlins give all of their starters but he will give you some very good stats in the other rotisserie categories.
Marcell Ozuna – OF
When Giancarlo Stanton hit the disabled list owners were scrambling to find a replacement. Marcell Ozuna, who replaced Stanton has become a welcome surprise to the Marlins outfield. He has hit safely in his first six games. On Sunday he went 4-5 against the Philadelphia Phillies. The only Marlin to achieve four hits sooner in their career was Hanley Ramirez.
His game is built on raw power and with a new found dedication to being selective in the strike zone he has seen early success. Through Tuesday he has 11 hits in 47 at-bats. He has cut down on his free swinging ways and only is striking out at a 12% rate. His strikeout percentage has been above 20% for most of his minor league career.
Sometimes players who have been called up will become more selective hitters. This seems to be the case with Ozuna. There will be a period where National League pitchers catch up to him and he will have to make adjustments. Over a full season I would expect an average around .260 with 20+ homerun power.
Giancarlo will not return until June at the earliest from a grade 2 hamstring injury. That type of injury can often times be severe and land a player on the disabled list anywhere from three weeks up to three months. Playing time will not be a factor for Ozuna, probably until mid-June.
Here is another factor to consider. There has been a lot of talk of Giancarlo Stanton being traded before the deadline. He wants out of Miami and there will be plenty of suitors making offers for him as the trade deadline looms. This will open up a solidified starting job for Marcell Ozuna.
He has played 399 of 455 games at right field in the minor leagues. He has a cannon arm, which is well suited for right field but he could play any of the outfield positions in a part-time capacity. Justin Ruggiano and Juan Pierre are entrenched in their spots in the Marlins outfield.
At best, enjoy his hot streak while Stanton is out. When he returns you can stash Ozuna on the bench and wait to see how things shake out of the trade deadline. If an injury develops in the Marlins outfield upon Stanton’s return, he will bring you cheap power and good RBI totals at a very cheap price.