Stock Watch: February 24

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.

9.

10.

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.

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Comments

  1. Ari Berkowitz said...

    Welcome to THT Joshua!  I really like this idea.  The other guys who could be interesting to follow are: Cliff Lee-because no one really believes he’s a real ace yet, Bud Norris, Yovani Gallardo-look if he can finally become that ace, David Ortiz-if he doesn’t perform he’s gone, David Wright-look for him to bounce back from a down year(homer and fielding wise) in a big way, Jose Reyes-if he gets injured again for a long period of time the Mets might not pick his option up or he might become a real superstar!

  2. Mitch Brannon said...

    As much as I don’t need more Red Sox coverage, how about John Lackey? I always thought he was an interesting combination of being underrated (likely due to playing out west) and at the same time very effective despite not having any obvious dominant pitches.

  3. ecp said...

    I’m curious to see how Jake Peavy does on the South Side.  League change, no more Petco Park, fly ball pitcher in US Cellular…could be interesting.

  4. John K said...

    To me, Carpenter is better than Bedard.  This is a guy who missed so much time and came right back to cy young form.  what’s next?

  5. D Leaberry said...

    In Washington, we’re expecting Jason Marquis to pitch like Catfish Hunter, John Lannan to pitch like Ron Guidry and Steven Strasburg to pitch like Bob Gibson.  Look out, Phillies.

  6. InnocentBystander said...

    I’ll vote for Johnny Damon because of the dragged out contract situation and by extension all of teams that could’ve had him.

    I would also vote for A-Rod for pretty much all of the same reasons you listed for Manny.

    Great idea for an article. I look forward to following all season.

  7. Jimbo said...

    @ Yummy, I’ll see your Jay Bruce and raise you a Chris Davis.

    He had good debut, horrendous start to 09, then a great return post-demotion. Has 40 HR upside, minor league roster spot for downside. I think he’s a 5th round pick in 2011.

    I’m very intrigued with two pitchers:
    Can Pineiro lead the league in BB% again, or will he turn back into a pumpkin?
    How good will Clay Buchholz be?

  8. My Grate Friend, Peason said...

    My vote is for Jon Lester. Was last year’s improved peripherals a fluke or a sign of things to come? If he keeps up his performance from the last 4 months of ‘09, he could win the Cy Young.

  9. Chris said...

    I’m most curious about Peavy and Rios.  Both moving to the same ballpark, one with injury history and another with a very abnormally bad year.  And no, I’m not a ChiSox fan wink

  10. Ryan said...

    Russel Martin might be an interesting choice.  The Dodgers are growing frustrated with his declining production.  It could be a make-or-break year for him.  I think some of the other young catchers would make interesting candidates (Saltalamacchia, Weiters, etc.) as well.

  11. PigBodine said...

    i’d love to see Bruce included- has the skills to be a stud, looked extremely unlucky last year & seemed to battle back nicely from a wrist injury which power hitter’s seldom do (wrist injuries can often linger for two seasons before we see a full recovery).

      for the second spot it’s a little tougher. kershaw would be nice from a pitcher’s stand point as he looks to be taking the next step to “ace-dom” if he can get the control issues in check. weiters is also a nice option as he’s a hyped prospect who’s touted to step into the elite backstop tier.
    thanks

  12. Tim said...

    Last year’s forgotten shortstop?  He batted .313 and finished as the #6 SS according to a few player raters.  Yeah, I’m talking about crusty ol’ Miguel Tejada.  He’s in a new situation this year, but I think the move to Baltimore is a good one.  He’ll add 3B eligibility this year and it looks like he’ll be in the cleanup spot in a talented lineup.  Brian Roberts, Markakis, Adam Jones, Wieters, Reimold, Scott, Garrett Adkins, Wigginton…there’s some talent there.  He’s an interesting story because he’s being valued so low.  ESPN has him as their #20 shortstop coming into the season and #240 overall, despite being #94 in their player rater last season.  He’s not a world beater, but he’s getting no respect.

  13. Lucas A. said...

    Brett Anderson!  I’m really interested in his development in 2010.  His stuff is ridiculous, and last year he really seemed to find his niche as the season went.

  14. Jeff said...

    Stephen Drew—he’s flashed just about every skill and tool, but never all at the same time.  Good walk rates but crappy batting averages in 2007 and 2009; vice versa in 2006 and 2008.  ISO also up and down.  Last year was not great for his bat, but he took a big step forward with his glove.  A lot of folks have given up on him, but if he could just put it all together …

  15. Alan said...

    Two guys who fascinate and frustrate me: Rickie Weeks and Chris Young (the centerfielder), both talented athletes, both former top prospects, both have pop and and can run and draw a walk. I was excitedly telling my friends last May that I was finally RIGHT about Weeks, darn it. Young showed signs of life at the other end of the season. I’m weirdly optimistic about both guys.

  16. David in Cal said...

    The comparison of Curtis Granderson vs. Johnny Damon in 2010 has provoked a lot of comment, since they sort-of replaced each other.

  17. Matt said...

    How about Edwin Jackson? Was the first half of 2009 a fluke? The Diamondbacks need him to be durable and consistent or else they made an absolute bonehead trade.

  18. Red Nichols said...

    I’m with the guy who mentioned Lester. I traded Greinke for him straight up at mid-season and continue to believe JL should turn out to be the AL’s dominant lefthander. Yet his win totals are low and many ‘experts’ rank Beckett above him.  .  .

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