San Diego Padres v Miami Marlins

The Pirates are the darling of the National League in 2013, winners of nine games in a row and owners of the best record in baseball. They were also the best NL team in the month of June, winning 17 games. Somehow, the Braves great season flies under the radar, as they are first in the National League East having just put together a 16 win June.

The NL team with the next best record in June? Why the Miami Marlins, of course.

The Marlins are fresh off a month in which they went 15-10, adding a win yesterday to climb out of the league’s cellar. The Marlins! How could this happen?

Jose Fernandez is a key reason. The 20-year old made six starts since June 1st, striking out 42 against just 12 walks in 40.1 innings, holding batters to a mere .389 OPS. Yes, you read that correctly. Oh-Pee-Ess. He dominated the Padres last night, striking out 10 batters in eight innings, allowing just two hits and a single walk.

His 144 ERA+ is tied for the best rookie mark posted by a 20-year old (or younger) since they lowered the mound in 1969. Through just 16 starts thus far but Fernandez is among elite company already – the rare young starter who is able to produce at the big league level.

1 Dennis Eckersley 144 1975 20 CLE AL 24 6 2 186.2 147 61 90 152 2.60 16 794 .631
2 Jose Fernandez 144 2013 20 MIA NL 16 0 0 92.2 65 32 33 94 2.72 6 374 .545
3 Dave Rozema (RoY-4th) 139 1977 20 DET AL 28 16 1 218.1 222 87 34 92 3.09 25 890 .700
4 Dwight Gooden (RoY-1st) 137 1984 19 NYM NL 31 7 3 218.0 161 72 73 276 2.60 7 879 .545
5 Fernando Valenzuela (RoY-1st) 135 1981 20 LAD NL 25 11 8 192.1 140 55 61 180 2.48 11 758 .549
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/2/2013.

The Marlins were fortunate to see Giancarlo Stanton return to the lineup in early June. Since his return, Stanton has done Stanton things – posting a .930 OPS and playing his usual strong right field. Even Logan Morrison came back from injury and prove himself useful.

The Marlins are still pretty bad. They’re very bad, in fact. They still give regular starts to something call “Tom Koehler” and run out hitless wonders like glove-only shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and Jeff Mathis behind the plate just about every day. But, just like always, the Marlins are on the cusp of something very interesting. Jose Fernandez is making the Marlins decision-makers looks like geniuses for jumping him up from single-A all the way to the big leagues.

The looming trade of Giancarlo Stanton shows how effective the Marlins are at managing their unique situation. If they extend Stanton long-term, they have one of the premier sluggers in the game in place as their young talent comes of age around him. If they deal Stanton, the haul is sure to include Major League-ready talent in addition to one of the top 15 or 20 prospects in the game.

There are no guarantees. When the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera, the haul was rich and included two of the top prospects in baseball at the time, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Neither did much in a Marlins uniform, though Cameron Maybin did net the Marlins…basically nothing.

The Marlins won 15 games in June after winning 14 games in April and May combined. They’re still one three worst teams in baseball, but they’re future seems bright and, compared to some of the other also-rans of the league right now, not too far off. Let’s sit back and enjoy how Loria and his cronies manage to screw up this seemingly positive situation.