(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues Baseball.com)
As I started on Monday, here is a recap of the first half of the Florida State League. In case you missed it, I talked about the North Division the other day, so ipso facto, e pluribus unum, por favor, quid pro quo and all those other terms, today I explore the South Division. It's only fair. Personally, I think the South Division was the more interesting of the two as only one team was over .500.
Like Monday, I'll be talking about who did well, who didn't do so hot, and what to expect for each team.
From worst to first:
Palm Beach Cardinals
Who did well: Right-handed starting pitcher Shelby Miller was smoking in the first half, striking out batters at a ridiculous rate of 13.75 per nine innings. Opponents were only hitting .202 against him before he was called up to AA.
Who didn't do well: The offense. The Cardinals averaged only 3.82 runs per game and hit only .252 as a team. The team leader only had 7 HRs and no player scored at least 30 runs.
What to expect: Much of the same. No offense, average pitching. In the second half, however, expect the staff to be lead by righty Matthew Swagerty, who in seven starts since moving up from low A has a meager 2.23 ERA.
Who did well: Second baseman Jarek Cunningham started off on fire, nearly leading the league in slugging at one point. He has since cooled down a bit, but is still one of Bradenton's big guns. And I also wrote about him for Minor League Baseball.com.
Who didn't do well: Right handed starter Quinton Miller struggled in the first half, going 5-6 with a 6.51 ERA. Opponents also hit .315 against him.
What to expect: I think Cunningham will cool off a bit more, starter Phillip Irwin will continue to do well, but unless the Marauders get consistent support from other supporting elements, they will continue to be a sub-.500 team.
Charlotte Stone Crabs
Who did well: Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee was one of the pleasant surprises of the first half. I don't think many people expected him to be among the leaders in batting, stolen bases, runs scored, and on-base percentage.
Who didn't do well: Despite striking out over 15 per nine innings, reliever Scott Shuman couldn't find the strike zone with a radar. He walked an incredible 34 in 37 innings with 7 wild pitches.
What to expect: The Stone Crabs lack the big bopper in the middle of the lineup, so to stay competitive they have to rely on pitching, defense, speed, and contact. Lee should remain a stud, but their potential will ride on the arms of Alexander Colome (who I wrote about here) and their other starters.
Who did well: Outfielder Kyle Jensen was head and shoulders above his teammates in every offensive category. He lead the team in home runs, batting average, and hits, and only Hanley Ramirez in a rehab stint had a higher slugging percentage and OPS.
Who didn't do well: Starter Chad James went the entire first half without a win. Despite some rather decent numbers, to include an ERA in the 3s, he went 0-10.
What to expect: Even with Jensen, the Hammerheads scored barely 3.5 runs per game. That was last in the Florida State League. They need to find offense somewhere else if they are going to be competitive, or get James that elusive first win.
Fort Myers Miracle
Who did well: Lefty reliever Andrew Albers was the highlight of a dismal pitching staff. Albers walked only 7 in 47 innings, allowed fewer hits than innings pitched, and had an ERA under 2.
Who didn't do well: The pitching staff was among the worst in the Florida State League, allowing over 5 runs a game. Kane Holbrooks was one of the biggest offenders, allowing 97 hits and hitting 8 batters in 70 innings. The offense also wasn't much better, hitting only 23 home runs and scoring less than 4 runs a game.
What to expect: Not much. When your leading RBI guy has a .219 (despite a .250 BABIP), you know scoring runs is going to be tough. Combine that with one of the worst staffs in the league, and you are going to need a Miracle to compete (zing!).
St. Lucie Mets
Who did well: Many of the Mets starting pitchers were excellent in the first half. Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, and Darin Gorski all did well with ERAs near or under 2. While Harvey won 8 and Gorski 6, the rest was average at best. Harvey and Familia eventually got the call to AA.
Who didn't do well: Nothing went right for reliever Ronny Morla. The righty's walks went up, his strikeouts went down, and opponents hit .443 against him as he ended the first half 0-2 with a 13.89 ERA. That is almost video game bad.
What to expect: The Mets played above their Pythagorean Theory results. Instead of 7 games over, they should have been 1 or 2. Without Harvey and Familia to pitch lights out, they will join the rest of the pack in a very weak division.