Stock Watch: February 24by Joshua Fisher
February 24, 2010
You'll notice that this article, nominally a Stock Watch, is devoid of the phrases "stock up" and "stock down." Well, that's because nothing's happened yet! Over the course of spring training, the regular season, and the postseason, we'll keep track of these players' 2010 campaigns. Look for updates in THT Live, and use of this weekly space in the case of extra-newsworthy developments.
The goal here isn't necessarily to follow the best or most important players; what I'm looking for are players with a story. So, without further ado, the 10 I'm tracking:
(all projections are CHONE)
1. Manny Ramirez
2009: .290/.418/.531 (104 games)
2010 projection: .280/.374/.511 (114 games)
In my opinion, Manny's a slam dunk to make this list. He's still extraordinarily talented, but so many questions surround his 2010 campaign. Notably, he missed about a third of 2009 while serving a drug suspension; can he play in 150 games in the National League? Manny, as you've surely seen, has also made waves this offseason, proclaiming that 2010 will be his last with the Dodgers. This shouldn't be too surprising; he really needs a DH spot to play at least occasionally, and the Dodgers probably won't have the cash to fork over for the Scott Boras client.
2. Nick Markakis
2009: .293/.347/.453 (161 games)
2010 projection: .301/.373/.484 (152 games)
Markakis was on the Matt Kemp train to superstardom after a 2008 in which his walk rate spiked to 14.3 percent before tailing off badly in 2009. So who is Markakis? Is he the excellent player he was in 2009? Or the soon-to-be-elite player he was in 2008? Progressing steadily, he's not. But, as Joe Posnanski would say, he's exhibited ownership of plate discipline. I'm very interested to see how his 2010 unfolds. For Baltimore's sake, in that division, I hope 2008 wasn't a fluke.
3. Billy Butler
2009: .301/.362/.492 (159 games)
2010 projection: .307/.372/.478 (147 games)
I worry that Billy Butler might get more credit than he's due because he's a Royal. Now, hear me out: Obviously, no one would really talk about very many non-Zack Greinke Royals. But the team is extraordinarily well-represented in the blogosphere, and the message is always the same about Butler: He's an incredible young hitter. And while he was very, very good last year, his 2.5 WAR was just the 10th-best among AL first basemen last year. Now, he's obviously miscast in the field; he probably shouldn't be out there at all. Still, his .369 wOBA would have put him between Hideki Matsui and Luke Scott among AL designated hitters. I'm not saying Butler can't be elite; he's just not there yet. I'm interested in his progress.
4. Brandon Wood
2009 (AAA): .293/.353/.557 (99 games)
2010 projection (AL): .246/.309/.453 (126 games)
I've been following Wood for a number of years. I have a special place in my heart for players with obvious major league tools who have to wait far too long to get a look (see Kila Ka'aihue). Well, Wood's going to get his shot this spring. I worry he's on the wrong team for his skillset; a third baseman who's not a complete butcher and will really run into a ball from time to time is a valuable commodity, but one Mike Scioscia might not appreciate. If Wood gets off to a nice start, he might have a 10-year career on his hands. If he doesn't, he's probably out of chances in Anaheim. Someone will give him a shot, but he'd be venturing awfully close to Dallas McPherson territory.
5. Roy Oswalt
2009: 3.76 FIP (181.1 innings)
2010 projection: 3.81 FIP (189 innings)
I'm a huge Oswalt fan. Love his style, love his demeanor, love his quirky motion. What I don't love is the possibility that he's slipping away from acedom. CHONE thinks he'll still be an excellent pitcher, and I hope it is right. Oswalt's 2009 stuff was nearly as good as it ever was; he struck out only half-a-batter less per nine innings than his career average, and his fastball velocity was actually higher last year than it's been since 2005. Still, he threw it less often last season than ever before, and it was the least effective (per 100 pitches) as it's been in his wonderful career. From my vantage point, he's either on the verge of decline or figuring out how to be effective with different tools. I hope it's the latter.
6. David Price
2009: 4.59 FIP (128.1 innings)
2010 projection: 4.69 FIP (124 innings)
It amazes me how quickly Price has fallen from sure superstardom; it was only two offseasons ago that the debate raged: Price or Clayton Kershaw? And, while no one has given up on Price, he's certainly out of vogue. A 1.97 K/BB in 142.1 career innings will do that. But I still believe; there just aren't that many 24-year-old lefties out there with his stuff. As is well-documented here, his vaunted slider let him down last season. There's no question he's got the talent to dominate hitters, even in the AL East. I'm excited to see whether he can overcome his early hittability and become the ace his stuff says he should be.
7. Derek Lowe
2009: 4.06 FIP (194.2 innings)
2010 projection: 3.95 FIP (176 innings)
A sinkerballer not overly reliant on his velocity, Lowe will remain more effective later into his career than pitchers with more traditional offerings. That was the idea, anyway, but it sure backfired for the Braves in 2009. Lowe had his worst season since at least 2005, his first with the Dodgers. So what went wrong? Well, a 1.76 K/BB just isn't going to get it done. And, for whatever reason, his sinker flattened out: His 2.18 GB/FB figure was easily the worst of his career. And the slider wasn't working either, below average by 1.19 runs per 100 pitches. In 2008, the same pitch was 2.97 runs above average. A general decline seems obvious, but he's such a rare specimen that I give him a better shot to bounce back than I would most 37-year-olds.
8. Erik Bedard
2009: 3.55 FIP (83 innings)
2010 projection: 3.58 FIP (105 innings)
Yeah, I know. If he gets to that innings projection, it'd be a minor miracle. But when he's healthy, he's been darn good; his 2007 campaign (3.19 FIP in 181 innings as a 28-year-old) was phenomenal. While the odds aren't great that he'll ever regain that form, there's always the chance that he could. And to take a flyer on him at a base salary of $1.5 million seems an excellent gamble. Regardless of whether he can reach his $7 million in bonuses, the guess here is that, however much he can take the hill this season, he'll provide value dwarfing his paycheck.
Before I finalize my 2010 Stock Watch list, I want input from the readers. Who are you particularly curious about this season? Who has a story? Who might break out? Who might fall off a cliff? I'll choose two players (likely a pitcher and a hitter, but that's not a hard rule) from your suggestions in the comments below. Check THT Live later this week for the write-in selections.
Josh is a lawyer in the Kansas City office of Bryan Cave LLP. He created the website DodgerDivorce.com.
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