Stock Watch: 7/20

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Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners

By now, everyone is well aware of Gutierrez’s Road Runner act in center field (the former Indian holds a +20.9 UZR/150 figure in 2009). But how many people realize that the 26 year-old has turned in a quality offensive season as well? Gutierrez owns a .352 wOBA, with 12 home runs and a .295/.355/.460 line in 335 PA. That translates to +8.2 Batting Runs, which ranks in the top 10 among center fielders. Combine the sweet range with an above-average bat, and you have a guy who quietly ranks 2nd in Wins Above Replacement in center field (3.5 WAR).

Brett Anderson, Athletics

Originally a 2nd-round pick by the D-Backs back in 2006, Anderson is most often noted for his polish and four-pitch mix. But he has as nearly as much upside as any young arm in the game as well. During his rookie year, the 21 year old lefty has punched out 6.61 batters per nine innings while issuing 2.36 BB/9, good for a 4.23 FIP. Equipped with a 92 MPH fastball, 83 MPH slider, 77 MPH curveball and an 83 MPH changeup, Anderson has placed 51.2% of his pitches within the strike zone (49.3 % MLB average).

If anything, those numbers underrate Anderson’s work. He posted a 2.0 K/BB ratio in April and 1.86 in May, but improved to 3.57 in June and 6.00 in July. Take a look at the velocity readings on Anderson’s two most utilized pitches (fastball and slider) over the course of the season, along with their Runs/100 pitches value:

April: 91 MPH fastball (-0.47 Runs/100 pitches), 82.7 MPH slider (+1.62)
May: 91.4 MPH fastball (-3.32), 82.4 MPH slider (-0.63)
June: 92.6 MPH fastball (-1.73), 83.8 MPH slider (+4.41)
July: 94.5 MPH fastball (+4.09), 85.6 MPH slider (+7.03)

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Also a 21 year-old southpaw, Kershaw has mauled hitters for 8.78 K/9 in 2009. With a searing 94 MPH fastball (+1.5 runs/100, fourth among starters) and a Looney Tunes curveball (+1.79), Kershaw has managed to thrive in the majors despite walking 5.06 hitters per nine innings, with a first pitch strike percentage (52.9%) that’s about 5 percentage points below the MLB average. While better control and a third offering to keep from losing the strike zone vs. righties stand between Kershaw and acedom, it’s frightening to think that he can already dominate despite being so far from fully developed.

Seth Smith, Rockies

Smith has found himself in the starting lineup often as of late, at the expense of Carlos Gonzalez. The 26 year-old lefty hitter holds a career .297/.392/.495 line in 329 major league PA, and ZiPS calls for a .298/.369/.470 triple-slash for the rest of the 2009 season. A disciplined hitter (17.6 outside swing%, compared to the 25% MLB average), Smith can be a nice asset to fantasy owners. He’s not well-known and likely needs to be seated against tougher lefty pitching (his career minor league line vs. LHP is a patient-but-punchless .276/.360/.385), but Smith holds value in NL-only leagues and deep mixed leagues. Just keep an eye on the scheduled starter for the opposition, as he’ll likely only be plugged in against righties.

Roy Oswalt, Astros

It’s hard to believe, but Oswalt is now in his 9th season in the majors. Sometimes, I get the feeling that Houston’s ace doesn’t quite get the level of attention he deserves. While he’s never been the best pitcher in baseball, he consistently ranks among the top 25. The 31 year-old righty is just a pitching metronome, steadily humming along. 2009 is no different: Oswalt holds a 3.77 FIP, with 7.01 K/9 and 2.24 BB/9. His overall contact rate is down a tick (from 82.2% to 81.1%), while his percentage of contact within the zone has fallen from 88.1% in 2008 to 84.4% this season (87.8% MLB average). He has been at his best in July, with 17 K’s and just 2 free passes in 23 frames.

Stock Down

Jeremy Hermida, Marlins

Hermida is a exasperating player to watch. In the minors, he looked like a Brian Giles, as a lefty stick with exceptional plate discipline (.398 OBP, 18.5 BB%). After a bumpy beginning in the majors (.310 wOBA in 2006), Hermida posted a .372 wOBA as a 23 year-old in 2007. But instead of building upon that, Jeremy managed just a .321 wOBA in 2008, as his once-pristine plate discipline eroded (27.8 outside-swing% in ’08, compared to the 25.4% big league Avg).

He hasn’t fished at quite as many outside offerings this year (24 outside-swing%, with a 3 percent increase in walk rate). But, Hermida continues to hit more like a middle infielder than a corner outfielder. His ISO was .205 in 2007, but fell to .157 in ’08 and checks in at just .140 in ’09. He’s “only” 25, but Hermida just does not look like an everyday player at this point. A plodding outfielder (career -9.8 UZR/150) with platoon issues (career. 236/.316/.378 vs. LHP) who only pops the occasional double? Is that really all there is here?

Adam LaRoche, Pirates

An impending free agent, the elder LaRoche is doing the Pirates no favors in the club’s quest to place him in another uniform. On the positive side, the 29 year-old lefty batter has drawn walks at a career-high clip (11.5 BB%), while decreasing his first-pitch strike% for the third straight season (from 60.9% in ’07, 58.1 in ’08 and 55% this year; the MLB average is 58%).

On the other hand, LaRoche’s ISO (.193) has dipped from his .230 mark in 2008, and he has a .327 wOBA that just doesn’t stand out at all at first base. LaRoche clearly isn’t a poor player, but he’s just another face in the crowd at baseball’s most powerful position. The former Brave is a career .269/.338/.486 hitter; the average first baseman is batting .276/.362/.484 in 2009. There just aren’t many clubs who can look at that production and say, “that constitutes an upgrade for us.”

Trevor Cahill, Athletics

While fellow rookie Anderson is quickly figuring out the majors, Cahill is scuffling. The 21 year-old remains a fantastic young arm, and his struggles shouldn’t be entirely unexpected considering his occasional control problems in the minors (3.7 BB/9). But it’s clear that Cahill has a ways to go. He has whiffed only 4.11 hitters per nine frames, while showing neither sharp control (3.93 BB/9) nor worm-burning tendencies (47.3 GB%).

While in the minors, Cahill was noted for possessing knockout breaking pitches. Baseball America called described a “79-81 MPH knuckle-curve, a swing-and-miss pitch with hard downward movement” as well as “a low-80’s slider with cutter-like action.” In the show, Cahill has lacked trust in his breaking stuff. Trevor has tossed his curve less than 4% of the time, while using the slider about 6 percent. Both have been crunched (-1.86 runs/100 for the curve, -2.19 for the slider) in a small sample. I wonder if he tossed a few breakers that got hammered early on, and then went into “survival mode” and basically scrapped those pitches.

A.J. Burnett, Yankees

On the surface, Burnett’s first year in the Bronx appears to be going swimmingly (8-4 record, 3.81 ERA). However, his FIP is a less-shiny 4.71. A.J. has handed out far too many BB’s, with 4.61 walks per nine innings in 2009. His K rate is also down, from the mid-nine’s in 2007 and 2008 to 8.1 per nine this year. A .283 BABIP and a strand rate (79.5%) that’s about 8 percent above his career average have helped him stave off a climb in ERA to this point, but he’s going to have to sharpen his control. Perhaps noting Burnett’s wildness, opposing batters have swung at fewer pitches outside of the zone (24.3% in ’08, 20.7% in ’09).

Mike Pelfrey, Mets

The 6-7 sinkerballer has generated grounders at a 53.7% clip this year (up from 49.6% in 2008), but it’s hard to say Pelfrey has made a whole lot of progress this season. His K rate has dropped from 4.93 per nine innings in ’08 to 4.72 in 2009, while his walk rate has increased from 2.87 per nine to 3.23. Pelfrey has located just 46.6% of his pitches within the strike zone. Ironically, the former Shocker has seen his fastball effectiveness drop (-0.25 runs/100 pitches in 2009, +0.82 in ’08) just as his much-maligned breaking stuff has perked up (+0.91 for the slider, +1.68 for the curve).





A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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Josh
Guest
Josh

I bought Oswalt at auction for a steal at $16. Picked up Franklin a few weeks ago and will ride him while he’s hot. I’ve had my eye on Seth Smith for two years now, and got him as soon as that post-game statement about him was posted.

Unfortunately, Clayton went way too expensive. But 3/4 and no guys on the stock down list is pretty good for one week.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Check, that makes that 4/5. Picked up Brett Anderson three weeks ago too. Let’s just say I’ve moved up quite a bit the last few weeks in the standings.