I made this point something like 18 months ago in the football version of this column, but I'll repeat it here:
I am, outside of my general SB Nation home, a bartender, with enough money to my name at any given time to pay my rent, take a girl out to dinner, and maybe do one or two other things in a year. Something like that. For me, in general, the term "long-term investment" applies to a pair of work shoes I hope makes it a full year.
In other words, if you wanted to paint a picture of a person who probably shouldn't be writing a column based on stock-market metaphors, you'd end up with something that looked a bit like a young Paul Giamatti (as it turns out, I am always told I look like a young Paul Giamatti, and I don't say that as a thing I'm proud of).
To be fair, it's not like I'm writing the deepest of insights here. Two-thirds of what I write here is based on the terms "buy" and "sell," which, you know, doesn't take a lot of brainpower. But in the comments for last week's Ticker, it was brought up that perhaps my categories could use some fine-tuning, particularly as "selling" goes. In general, the players I choose for that category are widely owned players who have been struggling. In other words, selling those guys couldn't really make less sense, as it is selling at the lowest possible value.
It's a good point, one borne of me saying "hm, ‘selling' means things are going bad, so this'll work," which is a gross oversimplification. So going forward, I'm going to tweak my categories a bit, try to make them slightly more applicable and logical. The structure of The Ticker won't be changing, but the individual sections likely will.
This will all start ... next week. For one more week, it's Ticker Classic. I had planned to dive in on some tweaks this week, but you remember that bit up top, about taking a girl out to dinner? Yeah, been doing that all week ...
Anyway, here's The Ticker.
Stocks I'm buying
(low-owned players who are doing well, and I believe it)
Hector Santiago, SP/RP, LAA (46 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)
It's easy to be somewhat dismissive of Santiago despite his 2.47 ERA. His FIP and xFIP have been north of 4.00 every year of his career, save for a successful 5.1-inning stint in 2011, while he's regularly walked too many guys and struck out too few. Still, I'm intrigued by him. Part of it is that he's a starting pitcher who qualifies as a reliever — always a plus, even if not necessarily a huge one. But the longer Santiago outperforms his peripherals, the more you have to believe he can outperform them. For a long time, Matt Cain made a career out of bettering his peripherals. Some guys do it. Is Santiago one of those guys? I don't know. But that 2015 FIP is a career best, and he's striking out and walking guys at career-best rates as well. Signs are positive.
Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, WAS (9 percent)
Espinosa will never help your batting average. Were he to continue his current .256 all year, it would be a career best; he is at .230 overall through six seasons. But after Espinosa's promising career appeared to crater the last two years (combined .200/.255/.326 with [sob] 169 strikeouts against 22 walks), he's regained some of his sheen this year, with a .256/.357/.463 line to start the season. Even more heartening, he's struck out 33 times against 17 walks, which is an insane improvement. The imminent return of Anthony Rendon threatens Espinosa's playing time, but I think he'll still see the field often enough. Rendon will likely be given regular off days; Ian Desmond hasn't exactly been super; Yunel Escobar is playing over his head. Heck, with Jayson Werth out for a while, one of those guys might find his way to the outfield on occasion.
Mitch Moreland, 1B, TEX (7 percent)
It's got to be frustrating to be a first baseman on the level of a Moreland or an Adam Lind or, I don't know, a Justin Morneau. At most positions, the statlines those guys offer would be a godsend. At first base, though, those guys are just lost in the shuffle, looking up longingly at the top five or 10 or 15 first basemen. Still, in leagues that have a first baseman, a corner infielder and a utility man — which is a common mix — it makes so much sense to stack first basemen in as many of those slots as possible. Heck, maybe you have a Chris Davis or something you can put at third. I have leagues with four, five, six first basemen hanging around in various lineup slots. Meanwhile, Moreland is off to the best start of his career. He might not continue the rates (.304/.365/.529), but he's batting behind what could be a tremendous foursome of Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Adrian Betlre and Josh Hamilton. RBI opportunities should abound.
Stocks I'm not buying
(low-owned players who are doing well, but I am not a believer)
Ken Giles, RP, PHI (38 percent)
The fact that a 24-year-old reliever with one career save on a bad team who is blocked by a longtime veteran closer is still owned in 38 percent of leagues is kind of crazy in itself. But I guess I get the notion — Giles came up with some impressive pedigree last year, and everyone is just waiting for the Phillies to eventually find somewhere to send Jonathan Papelbon. The problem is that Giles' incredible strikeout and walk rates from last year (12.6 K/9; 2.2 BB/9; 5.82 K/BB) have fallen apart this year, with 8.9 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and only 2 K/BB. His ERA is still strong enough, at 2.21, but he's also allowed six unearned runs to go with his five earned. And he's allowed 29 baserunners in 20.1 innings. Find a different handcuff.
Brock Holt, 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, BOS (20 percent)
The position eligibility is pretty delicious, frankly. Having Holt on your roster means you can replace any non-catcher who is banged up or on an off day. And Holt is now on 600 plate appearances over the last two seasons of a 106 OPS+. He's been serviceable, helpful, far from spectacular. But this is more or less his absolute peak value. Holt has always had his hit tool, more or less, but he doesn't offer much in the way of power (five home runs in 744 career plate appearances). This .442 slugging? It's not going to last, and it's not exactly spectacular as is. Add in the fact that he's scrounging for plate appearances wherever he can get them, and I'm not excited.
Matt Duffy, 2B/3B/SS, SFG (7 percent)
Another guy who gets a lot of his value from his versatility, Duffy has become the Giants' regular third baseman since they realized Casey McGehee wasn't actually good at baseball. But "full-time opportunity" is the only thing about Duffy to elicit an emotional response. This is a guy who debuted last year largely because Dan Uggla was awful, and he couldn't even fend off Joe Panik. He's had a good start to this season, but the fact that he strikes out a lot and walks very little means this start won't last. Duffy isn't the answer for the Giants or anyone's fantasy team.
Stocks I'm selling
(high-owned players who have struggled, and I'm out on them)
Dee Gordon, 2B, MIA (98 percent)
So I was wrong in my preseason predictions when I said Gordon would be benched by the All-Star break. An early-season hot streak put a clear kibosh on that. But after peaking at a .439 average May 10, Gordon has hit only .268 in the 16 games since. If you've read me for more than a minute, you know that I normally give full slash lines on guys, not just batting averages. But the thing with Gordon is that, at the plate at least (and not in the basepaths), he is only as good as his batting average. Dude has no power to speak of, and only walks enough to say he knows how. If he's not hitting at a high batting average, he isn't helping you.
Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT (65 percent)
Man, remember how excited we all were when Polanco came up? We spent the weeks building up to it with countdown clocks and "do it now!" posts. And through his first month in the bigs, Polanco looked like how we wanted him to look, sitting at a .306/.392/.435 clip. We thought we were all right. Except now, he's 481 plate appearances into a career with a .237/.308/.342 line that is almost exactly where he has been in both seasons individually. He's still 23, and that's not even 500 plate appearances; if I'm in a keeper/dynasty league, I'm not doing anything crazy with Polanco. But for redraft leagues, this is a guy who is offering minimal power or run production and not much average. He's stealing some bases, which is nice, but overall, you can find better production elsewhere.
Stocks I'm not selling
(high-owned players who have struggled, but I still believe)
Hanley Ramirez, SS/OF, BOS (99 percent)
I promise I had Ramirez pegged for this slot before Thursday's game, when he went 2-4 with a double and a home run. He's coming out of his slump, one that lasted much of May and had him at a .210/.264/.247 line for the month entering Thursday. Still, this is a superstar hitter who qualifies at shortstop, who had a .659 slugging percentage in April, and who is hitting in what ought to be a great lineup in the long run. I wouldn't do anything with Ramirez except continue to run him out there.
Yasmani Grandal, C, LAD (50 percent)
This isn't a Devin Mesoraco situation, where we might not see the guy again all season, so why not cut bait. Grandal has already passed through all his concussion tests, meaning he just has a short rehab stint in Triple-A standing between him and the Dodgers. As a catcher, his track record is a little muted by virtue of three years in San Diego, but he's a very good hitter who is 26 and started this season strongly. I don't expect a short concussion-DL stint to affect that. He's a top-10 catcher who is available in half of leagues. That's silly.
(low-owned guys who have a starter in front of them or another reason to hold off, but there are things that could change)
Rougned Odor, 2B, TEX (17 percent)
Odor's demotion to Triple-A was certainly warranted, as he hit .144/.252/.233 in 29 games. This is a 21-year-old who wasn't supposed to have even sniffed the major leagues yet, until every Rangers died on the Oregon Trail last year, so some struggles are to be expected. In a handful of games since returning to the minors, though, Odor has hit like he wants to make Bryce Harper jealous: .292/.382/.708 in 56 plate appearances, with exactly as many walks as strikeouts, all while his BABIP is a relatively paltry .243. Meanwhile, his big-league replacements, Adam Rosales and Thomas Field, are hitting .203/.266/.356 and /195/.250/.366, respectively. Odor will be back before too long.
Darin Ruf, 1B/OF, PHI (0 percent)
This is for those super-deep leagues, where all you need is plate appearances. The obvious "Ryan Howard to St. Louis" rumors have started already, and whether there's any traction to those or not, you'd think Howard would have to eventually go somewhere. St. Louis is a nice alternative right now, and hey, maybe that will actually happen, but at some point, Howard's quasi-resurgence and some contender's need will coincide. I don't think he ends the year with Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Ruf is ... well, he's not great. But if he can get full-time play at first base, he'll stumble into some power, some run production.
(handcuffs; low-owned guys who have someone in front of them, but they are strong backups or replacements to stash)
Carson Smith, RP, SEA (15 percent)
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I don't really expect the Mariners to move away from Fernando Rodney unless his struggles get really bad. Honestly, I don't think we're there yet. But Rodney just isn't very good, and there is a point where even the most patient team has to move on. Smith, meanwhile, has pretty obviously made himself the heir apparent in the Mariners' bullpen, with 24 strikeouts against only five walks in 21 innings so far. We're still a little bit away from Rodney pitching himself out of the closer role, but it inches ever closer.
Peter Bourjos, OF, SLC (1 percent)
Say the Cardinals don't trade for Ryan Howard, or any of the first-base possibilities. Say they decide to make a go of it with who they have. That means Mark Reynolds plays a lot of first base. But it also means flexibility. Matt Carpenter could move around. Give Yadier Molina a break every now and then. Maybe Matt Holliday or Jason Heyward slides over to first base a few times. A lot of those machinations end with Bourjos playing a lot more. I wrote about him last year, and I stand by it — when healthy, he's got a lot of speed and a not-unreasonable amount of power. I no longer think he's ever going to be a play in a 10-team league, but in the deeper leagues, I can see him having some interesting value.