MLB Stock Watch: Week of April 28, 2014
Post-hype sleeper in the Cardinals’ outfield? A pitcher on the verge of returning from Tommy John surgery? Five-tool prospect whose stock is down? In the baseball universe, tracking every player’s successes and failures would be a full time job with overtime. For MLB Stock Watch, we’ll do the heavy lifting and identify players with the talent to shine. More importantly, future opportunity will be assessed using MLB depth charts. For a player to be included in the series, talent must meet opportunity because fantasy baseball owners need first crack at the best of what’s next.
MLB Stock Up
*Written up before his call up on 4/27.
The Cardinals outfield currently sits at a -1.0 WAR (29th in the league) although they also have been unlucky thus far (29th in BABIP). Add bottom 5 rankings in ISO, wOBA, and UZR as well as top five GB% and IFFB% rates, and it’s clear the outfield has contributed to the Cardinals’ .500 start this year. With Peter Bourjos slashing .163/.241/.265, Allen Craig‘s awful .174/.222/.239 mark, and three home runs total from the outfield, the Cardinals brass can ill afford to let this crew drag them further behind the Brewers in the NL Central.
The fantasy baseball community touted two Cardinals outfield names last winter: Oscar Taveras and Steven Piscotty. However Randal Grichuk will be the first outfield prospect to make a splash at Busch Stadium.
BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA Grichuk 6.70% 18.90% 0.229 0.359 0.313 0.356 0.542 0.387 Taveras 6.10% 12.20% 0.171 0.317 0.303 0.354 0.474 0.361 Piscotty 4.70% 12.80% 0.136 0.353 0.321 0.360 0.457 0.364
Grichuk’s numbers are significantly better in the power department (eight doubles and one triple) which would be a boon to the current lack of thump. ROTOscouting’s Mike Newman is prepping a scouting report on Grichuk as this publishes and thinks he’s a valuable commodity. After sitting on Grichuk for two games in Nashville, he returned to Atlanta raving about the center fielder.
Why Grichuk over both Taveras and Piscotty? He’s the legit center fielder. Jon Jay has a -8.2 UZR in the early going, and Peter Bourjos is a great fielder with limited offense. Meanwhile ,Grichuk has a career .991 fielding percentage in Center field, has legitimate power potential and pedigree. Taveras has been dealing with ankle injuries for over a year and isn’t an up the middle player. Piscotty had a strong spring training, but he isn’t a center fielder either. One can’t force a square peg into a round hole when it comes to baseball. Grichuk earns his place in the MLB stock watch because he’s the forgotten asset at a premium position the Cardinals need.
Casey Kelly – SP, San Diego Padres
The Padres have a strong starting rotation, ranking in the top-eight MLB wide in HR/9, ERA and K/9. The ratios mask a staff with issues in the 4/5 slots. 34-year old Eric Stults pitched 200+ innings for the first time in 2013 (his previous high was 99). Stults owns a career 5.61 K/9 rate, and has been terrible in April. Meanwhile, Robbie Erlin has a 20:6 K/BB ratio and 2.68 FIP, but the results have been
unluckyugly. A 6.35 ERA is an eyesore, but Josh Johnson‘s second Tommy John surgery means Erlin is safe as the Padres fight in the wide open NL West.
Casey Kelly appears ready for a rehab assignment as he makes his way back from Tommy John. A former first-round pick in 2008, Mike Newman scouted him in 2009 and liked what he saw from the young rightt-hander, pegging him as a #2-3 starter with a wicked curve ball/changeup combination. In 2012 ROTOscouting’s Jeff Reese noted that he “has good command of three pitches that project as plus offerings. It is hard for me to see him being any less than a good number three starter.” Bottom line: Kelly has more upside potential than both Stults and Erlin. In Newman’s Prospect Hangover report in January, Kelly can be had on the cheap, last seeing MLB action in 2012. Buy now before he’s recalled and his MLB stock watch improves.
Cesar Puello – OF, Las Vegas 51s (New York Mets)
Here is how the current New York Mets’ outfield has performed in 2014:
BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Granderson 11.60% 28.40% 0.085 0.182 0.134 0.242 0.220 0.221 38 C. Young 0.00% 26.50% 0.121 0.217 0.182 0.206 0.303 0.227 42 E. Young 11.80% 25.50% 0.06 0.322 0.226 0.333 0.286 0.285 83 J. Lagares (DL) 5.50% 23.60% 0.157 0.395 0.314 0.345 0.471 0.355 131
With Lagares on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury, the Mets’ outfield is a mess. Eric Young is reaching base and swiping bags atop the lineup, but Chris Young and Granderson have been atrocious. In 2010 Newman saw an “impressive physical specimen” in Puello, who flashed double-digit home run power and 30+ SB skill in the outfield. After a stellar 2013 where he smacked 16 Home runs and swiped 24 bases in just 377 plate appearances (albeit with a .391 BABIP) in Binghamton (AA), Puello’s stock rebounded.
Triple-A hasn’t been nearly as kind. The outfielder is slashing an unimpressive .250/.280/.306 line with a .267 wOBA (.333 BABIP). The power and walk rates have regressed significantly. The slow start in Las Vegas is unfortunate as the path to playing time is wide open with the Mets above .500 and in early contention. The play here is to hold if already rostered and acquire him if you don’t. PED rumblings via Biogenesis, along with the slow start means Puello’s stock is down while fantasy baseball owners sleep on him.
MLB stock watch conclusions
The key to any good MLB stock watch is to buy before a player is promoted and, at the same time, acquire assets when the price has dropped. In this case nagging Grichuk before his debut in center field for the Cardinals, or stashing Kelly while rehabbing are smart plays. Digging deeper, trade for Puello (Deal Dominic Smith perhaps) as a lottery ticket whose further from playing time.
28 Apr 2014 / Joseph Pytleski / 3
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