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The Ticker, Week 1: The stock market of baseball

Baseball players are subject to all sorts of vagaries in performance and value. How does it look less than a week in?

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I went to the NCAA title game Monday in Indianapolis, which was great, except for the fact that I'm a UK fan who got my tickets when everything was all-"40-0," all the time, and instead I had to watch freakin' Duke win the freakin' title right in my freakin' face.

After that, it was the Indianapolis bars, which had all raised their prices to ridiculous levels for championship weekend ("Two Maker's-and-Cokes? That'll be $26.") except for one little bar that went the other way, offering $3 bombs all night long. Cheapness won out over taste, and far too many Jägerbombs later, it was back to our hotel room for, like, three hours of sleep.

It was raining on a Forrest Gump level for Tuesday's drive back, leading into my nine-hour shift that ended around midnight. Wednesday, I drove my dad on approximately a zillion errands, because he doesn't drive, before another nine-hour, ends-at-midnight shift. That one was capped off by a need to be back at work early Thursday.

So Thursday late afternoon! I was coming home, nothing to do, and there was beautiful weather. Nothing better than to sit out on the porch, open a beer, and work on my Friday column.

(Jägerbombs, bourbon, cracking open a beer. I might have something to wonder about.)

Anyway, that was the perfect time to work on my column. Pull up Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, click around a while, make magic happen. Which meant it was also the perfect time for a multiple-square-mile outage of Windstream internet service.

It came back on several hours later, and clearly the column did get posted, so this isn't exactly the most momentous of stories. The point is that you're lucky this is even here right now, because this week has not been conducive to accomplishing much of anything. Except, of course, Duke jealousy.

So that's my intro for this week. Your logical next question is "intro to what?", and I am glad you asked that question, because this week marks the debut of the baseball Ticker, migrating over this season from the SB Nation fantasy site, where the Ticker served as my week-to-week stock-market look through players' performances.

That's what it is here, too — stocks trend in certain directions, and players do, too. The issue with doing it in baseball is that everything is small-sample. So, at least for the first few weeks this season, this might be a work in progress. I'll be tweaking it as I go, seeing what works and what doesn't.

For now, though, I'm running The Ticker more or less like football, and we'll see how it goes. There are six categories:

Stocks I'm buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I believe it

Stocks I'm not buying: low-owned players who did well the week before, and I don't believe it

Stocks I'm selling: high-owned players who struggled, and I'm bailing on them a bit

Stocks I'm not selling: high-owned players who struggled, but I still trust them

Hedges: handcuffs; low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them, but injuries or starter awfulness could change things

Futures market: low-owned guys without an obvious line to fantasy productivity yet, but there are things that could change in that department

(Ownership percentages are as of whenever the heck my internet came back up Thursday evening.)

It's all here. And now I'm going to sleep. Please don't wake me.

Stocks I'm buying

Mike Moustakas
Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCR (16 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)

You don't have to look very far from Moustakas to find a hot prospect third baseman who came up, couldn't hit a lick and got basically forgotten, only to re-establish himself in his mid-to-late 20s and becoming a big star. In fact, you only have to look 150 feet or so behind Moustakas most nights, as his career trajectory is alarmingly similar to that of Royals teammate Alex Gordon. From 2007 to 2010, Gordon hit .244/.328/.405, and was widely regarded as a huge bust. In 2011, Gordon was 27, and he suddenly went from an OPS+ of 84 to 140, and became an MVP candidate. From 2011 to 2014, Moustakas hit .236/.290/.379 (lower offense era, remember), and was widely regarded as a huge bust. In 2015, he's 26. I wouldn't remotely tell you to run Moustakas out there as a fantasy starter, but after an opposite-field home run on Opening Day and the always-possible late-20s bounce, he's at least worth keeping an eye on.

Edinson Volquez

Edinson Volquez, SP, KCR (16 percent)

Two Royals, and neither one is ERIC HOSMER. I'm growing, y'all. Anyway, I would not—check that, emphasis isn't strong enough, I WOULD NOT—invest in Volquez for the whole season. He's simply not a very good pitcher. But he went out there Thursday and threw eight innings of one-run ball with only one walk. That's ... well, that's not common for him. Coming out of that start, then, the next two starts for Volquez are scheduled for Wednesday, at the Twins, and the following Monday, hosting the Twins. Minnesota is bad, y'all. We're looking at a pitcher who could definitely be 3-0 with a great-looking stat line. Pick Volquez up. Ride him through the next couple starts. Then trade him as fast as you can.

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, SS, HOU (10 percent)

Lowrie is less owned that Jordy Mercer, Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford, Brad Miller, Jose Iglesias and Javier Baez, several of whom lack the ability to even really be major-league hitters. Meanwhile, he's a shortstop who is good for more than a handful of homers in Houston as long as he's healthy. And hey, he used one of his homers to break up a no-hitter Thursday. He's not your starting shortstop. But he's a more than competent middle infielder, and 10 percent is crazy low.

Stocks I'm not buying

Jeurys Familia

Jeurys Familia, RP, NYM (43 percent)

Sure, if you're hurting for saves, grab Familia, who is expected to have the closer role at least for now. But after an initial scare, it no longer looks like Jenrry Mejia is going to miss significant time with his injury, and Bobby Parnell, who the Mets have repeatedly said is the guy they want to save games, isn't that far off either. Heck, Vic Black will be around, and he could get saves. For the next week or two? Sure, Familia has the job. And that's about it.

C.J. Wilson

C.J. Wilson, SP, LAA (33 percent)

Since becoming an Angel, Wilson's rocked a 97 ERA+ and a 3.93 FIP entering this season. His xFIP is even worse. His control, which was never great in Texas, has only gotten worse, reaching a worse-as-a-starting-pitcher 4.35 BB/9 last year. All props to Wilson for his eight innings of shutout ball Tuesday, but even then it was only two strikeouts in those eight innings, and against a Seattle offense that, frankly, has looked overrated for a month now (save Seth Smith, who I SAID WHAT I SAID). Don't be fooled.

Alex Avila

Alex Avila, C, DET (9 percent)

In his first full season, 2011, Avila hit .295/.389/.506, made the All-Star team, finished 12th in MVP voting, notched a 142 OPS+. A 24-year-old catcher doing that in 141 games is the stuff Disney movies are made about. In the three years since, though, he's hit .229/.333/.375 in 1,270 plate appearances. Considering his premium position, you can live with that as a big-league team, but that's not a fantasy contributor. Avila's off to a crazy start for the season, with four hits in eight at bats, three walks on top of that, and five runs scored. Hats off to you, Alex. I'm unconvinced.

Stocks I'm selling


Look, there are some guys starting off struggling. Check out the worst batting averages and the worst earned-run averages through the first few days. Really read that list. It's meaningless. Anthony Rizzo doesn't have a hit yet. Steve Cishek's ERA is 108.00. Anyone who was investing in someone a week or two ago and now is ready to cut bait is terrible. This section doesn't mean a lot right now, and won't for a little bit. But hi. Thanks for reading.

Stocks I'm not selling


Whatever, see the paragraph up from this a bit. Stephen Strasburg gave up a bunch of runs Thursday. Cole Hamels did the same earlier than that. People were dogging Adrian Beltre and Xander Bogaerts for looking bad entering Thursday, before Beltre homered and Bogaerts tripled. If you liked a guy on April 1, like him April 11.


Yasmany Tomas

Yasmany Tomas, some position, ARI (50 percent)

Tomas is in the minors right now, working on his defense, working to get into shape apparently. You know what he isn't working on? His hitting. Dude can hit if he can find a way onto the field. He won't be in the minors too awfully long if he can hit like he's supposed to be able to hit. When he does come up, best guess is he'll mostly be an outfielder, but he might well see fill-in time at third and first. If you have the space, maybe with a not-active roster spot, Tomas should still be owned.

Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino, RP, COL (7 percent)

On the plus side, LaTroy Hawkins does have two strikeouts in two innings, which is like nine times his pace from a year ago. On the other hand, he's given up five hits in those two innings, and dude's 42. The Rockies aren't going anywhere any time soon. Ottavino isn't some young buck himself — he's 29 — but since joining the Rockies in 2012 he's put up a 3.37 FIP and struck out more than a batter per inning pitched. If the Rockies are organizing their pitchers by ability and strategy — and not by "guy who has saved games before" — Ottavino will have the job sooner rather than later.

Futures market

Rafael Soriano

Rafael Soriano, RP, FA (9 percent)

Kenley Jansen, Koji Uehara, Joe Nathan, Jenrry Mejia, Sean Doolittle and Jake McGee are hurt. LaTroy Hawkins isn't very good, and Addison Reed isn't great either. Brett Cecil already sorta lost his job. Meanwhile, Soriano, who has the always-beloved "closer experience," has reportedly been talking with "multiple teams" about a contract. In a super-deep league, pick him up and hope for the best.

Brandon Morrow

Brandon Morrow, SP, SD (4 percent)

Morrow gets his first start in the National League Friday against the Giants. While staying healthy has never really been hit thing — he's entering his ninth year in the bigs and has qualified for the ERA title once — Morrow has always struck people out, with 9.4 K/9 in his career. Now he gets to ply his trade (a) in the National League, and (b) for the Padres, which means home starts in San Diego and road starts in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Pick him up. Stream him. When he gets hurt (because, come on), feel free to move on. But for now, best bet is he'll be helpful.