Stock Watch: Brown breaks out for Phils; Marmol on outs in Chicago?
The uber-talented Domonic Brown finally blossoms for the Phillies. Jon Heyman leads off his Bulls with the National League's HR leader, while disappointing Danny Espinosa tops this week's Bears.
His nice spring (seven home runs, .356 average) provided a tease of what was to come. And in true Brown style, he waited a month to follow through on it.
The fact is, Brown's career didn't exactly take off fast, as he struggled for a few years to live up to a huge billing.
In retrospect, Brown may have been a victim of inconsistent playing time, and as time dragged on, perhaps also fell prey to wavering confidence. In none of Brown's first three seasons did he post an OPS over .725, and folks were starting to question whether he was overrated. Now he knows he belongs.
With his history of delay in mind, it made sense his April was no better than ordinary when folks were expecting a breakthrough. Turns out, that came a month later.
Brown is Mr. May, and this time it isn't any sort of put-down.
He is also a very deserving Stock Watch winner (especially since Chris Davis can't win every week). Here are Brown and the rest on the Bull Market, followed by a trio of Bears, in this week's Stock Watch.
1. Domonic Brown, Phillies, LF: Brown's May was crazy good, with a baseball-best 12 home runs to go with 25 RBI and a .303 batting average. Without him, who knows where the Phillies would be. Among other Phils, only Ryan Howard and Erik Kratz hit as many as four homers.
Brown's month was truly terrific, but it also contained a statistical oddity that was mixed. According to @MLBNetwork, he became the first player ever to hit at least 10 home runs in a month while not drawing a single walk.
Brown, who now leads the National League with 16 homers, has continued his tear into June, finishing just a double short of the cycle on Sunday, the second game of the new month. He also had a walk for a second straight game. So in that way he has already surpassed his May production.
"Iwakuma doesn't have great stuff, but he certainly knows how to pitch," one AL West scout said.
For all the offensive decisions that haven't panned out for Seattle, they've made some wise pitching calls, and Iwakuma is chief among them. Iwakuma also has the best ERA in the American League since the 2012 All-Star break, at 2.32. So he's been even better than Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, at a fraction of the price.
3. Yadier Molina, Cardinals, C: It isn't just his .394 average for the month or .471 average for the week. It's what he does for baseball's best pitching staff, day in and day out. And year in and year out.
It's no coincidence the Cardinals have baseball's best record. And probably no coincidence they lost Sunday when he was ejected early after slamming his helmet down following a close play at first base against the Giants.
No matter who is on the mound for the Cardinals, or who was on the mound for Team Puerto Rico for that matter, Molina is in control. The Cards recognized his special qualities when they gave him a five-year, $75 million contract two springs ago. And since signing that deal, he's taken off offensively as well.
One of baseball's most underrated players has established himself as one of baseball's best. He gets more and more mentions as an MVP candidate nowadays, and he deserves every one of them.
1. Danny Espinosa, Nationals, 2B: There's a reason the Nats recently switched top young prospect Anthony Rendon from third base to second, and put him on a crash course to get him on a fast track to the majors. It's because of Espinosa's offensive struggles. Espinosa gets an asterisk here because he's been playing through a tough wrist injury, but since he's playing, he's eligible.
Espinosa went 11-for-71 in the month of May with just one home run and six RBI. He's had problems with high strikeout totals in the past, so his 27 whiffs in May wouldn't be so alarming, except he only walked once in the month. (That low walk total is OK if it comes with big power numbers, a la Brown.)
2. Carlos Marmol, Cubs, RP: Cubs manager Dale Sveum's midweek putdown didn't exactly light a fire under Marmol, if that was what was intended. Asked by Cubs writers whether he could see Marmol closing again for the Cubs, Sveum said: "To be honest with you, I hope not."
Since then, Marmol has had two straight three-walk outings, adding to his woes. Now Sveum might not want to see him setting up, either. A couple weeks ago Marmol was allegedly overheard by a blogger in Chicago telling his agent that he wanted out of Chicago. It was a story he denied. But at this point, perhaps that would be for the best. Seems Sveum wouldn't mind, either.
3. Wily Peralta, Brewers, SP: The Milwaukee right-hander didn't show his talent in a horrific May, going 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA and 2.00 WHIP. Hard to believe, with his ability, that he could struggle so badly. Peralta bounced back with a solid outing to beat the Phillies 4-3 on Saturday, but is 4-6 with an overall 5.94 ERA. So far the Brewers' plan for a young rotation is nothing short of a disaster.
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