They’re going ga-ga over Yasiel Puig in Los Angeles. They can’t get enough of Shelby Miller in St. Louis. They’re trumpeting Didi Gregorius in Phoenix. When it comes to outstanding rookies, the National League is bulging with them.
But for all the hype and hoopla surrounding the handful of NL rookies who are generating the most buzz and drool during the season’s first half, Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton offered a bit of advice: Cool your jets. Don’t overlook the kids on the Marlins.
“This shouldn’t be a popularity contest,” Stanton said. “It’s not about prom king and queen.”
His point: The Marlins have a cast of young hotshots — from Jose Fernandez to Marcell Ozuna — only without the attention given to those in the major baseball markets. And Stanton, for one, believes that once the dust settles and the season plays out, the Marlins may produce their fourth Rookie of the Year winner in 11 years.
“I sure hope so,” said Fernandez, the 20-year-old pitcher who takes the mound Friday when the Marlins open a weekend homestand against the St. Louis Cardinals. “I don’t care if it’s me. I hope it’s someone on this team. That would make me happy.”
South Florida barely missed a Fernandez vs. Miller showdown to kick off a series that matches the team with the worst record in the majors against the best. Miller pitched for the Cardinals on Wednesday, losing to the Mets, and won’t pitch at Marlins Park this weekend.
But Miller is still 7-4, his 2.21 ERA ranks sixth-best in the majors, and he has struck out 91 batters in 81 innings. Fernandez doesn’t have the raw numbers (3-3, 3.17), but he’s building a fan club. Rays manager Joe Maddon told ESPN baseball analyst Jim Bowden that Fernandez is the best 20-year-old pitcher he has ever seen. Keep in mind, Fernandez’s worst start was against the Rays.
No rookie, though, has folks talking like Puig, the 20-year-old outfielder for the Dodgers. Puig became the second player in major-league history to homer four times in his first five games, and he’s hitting a preposterous .485 after10 games.
“Obviously, what he’s done is incredible,” Stanton said.
Stanton, however, cautioned that it’s far too soon to anoint Puig the second coming of Fernando Valenzuela, who was hugely popular when he was a rookie for the Dodgers.
“C’mon now,” Stanton said of those ready to crown Puig. “You can’t base it on five days.”
What Stanton would like to see is the spotlight to shine a little on Fernandez and Ozuna, if not fellow Marlins rookies Adeiny Hechavarria and Derek Dietrich.
“You never see or hear about them,” Stanton said. “That kind of [stinks].”
Ozuna, 22, is not only raking at the plate, but has done it over a longer period of time. Since making his debut on April 30, Ozuna is hitting .314, put together a 16-game hitting streak and ranks among the league leaders with five outfield assists.
Though his batting average is a not-so-great .222, Dietrich has hit six homers, which ranks in the top 10 among big-league second basemen. But he has half the at-bats as some of the others.
Hechavarria has also struggled offensively. Compared with Gregorius, another rookie shortstop who is hitting .307 for Arizona, his .198 average pales.
Still, the season hasn’t reached the halfway point. It’s important to remember that Chris Coghlan, who in 2009 became the Marlins’ third Rookie of the Year winner, was hitting .255 with only two home runs in mid-June, but came on late. Dontrelle Willis, who received the honor in 2003, was just getting going at this point. He was 5-1 after winning on June 11. Hanley Ramirez in 2006 was the Marlins’ other Rookie of the Year.
No team over the past dozen years has had more.
Chances are, the Marlins — with all their rookies — might win another.
“We’ve got pretty good odds,” Marlins infield coach Perry Hill said. “I like a few of our guys. I kind of like that Ozuna guy, and I kind of like that Dietrich guy, and I kind of like that Fernandez guy, too. I like those three.”
Marlins RHPJose Fernandez
(3-3, 3.17 ERA) vs. St. Louis Cardinals LHPTyler Lyons
(2-2, 3.51), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Marlins RHPTom Koehler
(0-4, 3.91) vs. Cardinals RHPLance Lynn
(8-1, 3.00), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
The Cardinals own the best record in baseball and have been extremely successful over the years in South Florida, where they have gone 48-28 overall and 7-1 the past two seasons.