This afternoon, the Rays will be kicking off a four game set with the Miami Marlins, playing the first two games in Tropicana Field before moving to Marlins Park for the final two games. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Eshan Kassim of Marlin Maniac about the upcoming series, and about the Marlins in general. I also answered some questions about the Rays for Ehsan at his site here.
Dave Hill: Monday’s starter Jose Fernandez has really burst onto the scene for the Marlins this year. What has helped him to be this successful as he makes the jump all the way from the Florida State League to the Majors?
Eshan Kassim: I think the thing that has helped Jose Fernandez the most has to be his confidence. He came into the majors with a mindset that no major league hitter would phase him, especially after what he has gone through in his life to get to America and the big leagues. It also helps that he has filthy stuff and is never afraid to throw any pitch in any count. He is one of the lone reasons to watch the Marlins in 2013.
DH: Aside from Fernandez, who has been the biggest surprise for the Marlins this year? Likewise, who has been the biggest disappointment?
EK: Kevin Slowey and Marcell Ozuna have been pleasant surprises. I did not anticipate to see Ozuna in the majors until at least mid-2014, but he was tearing it up enough for the Marlins to warrant him a shot when Stanton went down with his hamstring injury. Slowey has recently met up with our old pal regression, but he has been more than what the Marlins bargained for before the season.
As for disappointments, there are quite a few. Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, Giancarlo Stanton all have disappointed as hitters. The biggest disappointment for me has to be seeing Jeff Mathis and Greg Dobbs on the Marlins lineup card. Neither provides much, other than “veteran leadership,” but that does not translate in the win column.
DH: Although it is just Memorial Day weekend, a lot of trade speculation has swirled around Ricky Nolasco and Giancarlo Stanton. Which players from the Marlins are most likely to be moved at the deadline?
EK: With Stanton likely to be sidelined until mid-June at least, I doubt the Marlins will do much more than entertain offers for him. With his early season struggles and injuries, I doubt the Marlins will get exactly what Stanton is worth nor will a team match their asking price. A Stanton trade is more likely in the offseason.
I would say Nolasco is a goner if he keeps pitching like he has the past few weeks. Nolasco is by no means going to bring a huge haul in, but if they can get a brolen prospect like they did in Zack Cox for Edward Mujica and rejuvenate his career, that would be a decent deal.
Steve Cishek, Juan Pierre, and Justin Ruggiano could also hit the trade block come July. Ruggiano is the best of the bunch and is likely to be dealt if Ozuna keeps playing well and the Marlins callup top prospect Christian Yelich.
DH: Which prospects are on the cusp of getting called up to the majors that could help the Marlins in the long term?
EK: The aforementioned Christian Yelich is the player that Marlins fans are most anticipating for the callup. Yelich has absolutely torn up Double-A hitting, although he has struggled as of late. Yelich owns a slash line of .287/.352/.581 slash line with a .410 wOBA. Yelich is striking out 24.8% of his AB’s and has not hit lefties as well as he has in the past. The Marlins would be wise to keep him down until after the super-two deadline and when he gets hot again.
Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn are two pitchers that could see the majors at some point this season. Both pitchers were acquired in the Anibal Sanchez trade last July,with Turner being the more highly regarded prospect. Turner struggled this spring and is still trying to find his groove in Triple-A. Flynn has pitched well in Triple-A after earning a promotion from Double-A earlier this season.
Zack Cox also has a chance to receive a call if the Marlins can move Polanco at the deadline. Cox was in the past a highly touted prospect, but has fallen off in the past couple of seasons.
DH: Could you give us a quick rundown on the rest of the starters the Rays will be facing over this series?
EK: Kevin Slowey gets the nod in game two. He has been a decent surprise for the Marlins in 2013, but has fallen off as of late. After hoisting a sub-2.00 ERA three starts ago, it has risen all the way to 3.30. Regression has made it’s introduction to Slowey and the Marlins are not liking it. He left his last start with a lat injury, but is expected to be good to go on Tuesday.
Tom Koehler gets the ball for the Fish when the series shits back to Miami. Koehler has pitched decently since being shifted into the Marlins rotation in favor of Wade LeBlanc. As a starter, Koehler has pitched 16 innings, allowing just 6 earned runs. He has struck out 11 in that span and walked just four in that span.
Nolasco pitches the finale for the Marlins. Nolasco has had a roller-coaster season for the Fish this year. He has had a few starts when he has not racked up many strikeouts and a few starts where he strikes out nine or more. Nolasco has picked up 22 strikeouts in 20.2 innings in his last three starts. Unfortunately, the Marlins have only won one of those three.
Our thanks to Ehsan Kassim for taking the time to answer a few questions for us the Rays get set for their four game series against the Marlins.