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Stock Watch: 3/23

Stock Up

Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals

Dan Budreika took a close look at Garcia back in December, and the 23 year-old lefty has done nothing to dispel the notion that he could be a handy starter at the back of St. Louis’ rotation. Garcia made his big league debut in 2008, but Tommy John surgery sidelined him for the majority of the ’09 season.

In the minors, the 2005 22nd-round pick has punched out 8.3 batters per nine innings, with 3 BB/9. Armed with a low-90’s sinking fastball, a big-breaking mid-70’s curve and an occasional cutter and changeup, Garcia is an extreme groundball pitcher. On the farm, he has a career 58.7 GB%. If Garcia can stay healthy and show modest control, he could be a sleeper in NL-only and deep mixed leagues.

Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays

The former Angels prospect is making a strong claim to be in Tampa’s lineup on a near-daily basis. Rodriguez’s minor league lines at the Triple-A level are eye-popping, though they should be tempered by the hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League.

Still, the soon-to-be 25 year-old has quality secondary skills for a middle infielder. CHONE projects Rodriguez to hit .241/.327/.447 in 2010, a performance that would be six percent above the MLB average once park and league factors are accounted for (106 wRC+). He’s going to whiff a lot, and his batting average won’t be pretty. But if you focus on Rodriguez’s walks and power, you could nab a serviceable starter in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.

C.J. Wilson, Texas Rangers

Wilson hasn’t started a big league game since 2005, but his lobbying to crack Texas’ rotation appears to have been successful. How will it go? Matt Klaassen tackled that topic last week, mentioning Wilson’s addition of a cut fastball to his repertoire and his improved showing against righty hitters in 2009.

There are some things to like here, but we probably shouldn’t get too giddy over one-year platoon splits for a reliever. Generally, a reliever moving into the starting rotation performs about one run worse per nine innings pitched. CHONE projects a 3.70 FIP for Wilson out of the ‘pen, so a rough estimate would have him in the 4.70 range as a starter. It’s hard to predict how he’ll react to the move in terms of retaining stuff, showing stamina and adapting (or not adapting) his pitch selection. But Wilson’s bat-missing ability and groundball tendencies (career 52.9 GB%) make him someone to watch.

Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins

The former Miami Hurricane seems likely to open 2010 as Florida’s starting first baseman, holding off top prospect Logan Morrison for the moment.

Sanchez is no spring chicken at 26, but he’s a career .302/.392/.485 hitter at the minor league level. He split his time between the infield corners in the minors, and he’d be a more interesting fantasy option if he attained multi-position eligibility. Sanchez isn’t a hot-shot prospect- his .270/.356/.430 CHONE projection would be run-of-the-mill for a first baseman- but his excellent eye and average power make him worth considering in NL-only leagues.

Stock Down

Kerry Wood, Cleveland Indians

Wood could miss up to two months with a strained latissimus muscle. In the meantime, Chris Perez will take over the closer’s spot, and it’s possible that he might not relinquish the job if he manages not to walk the yard.

The 32 year-old Wood was phenomenal in relief for the Cubs in 2008 (3.07 xFIP). In 2009, however, his walk rate spiked, and his outside swing percentage dipped from 31.3% to 20.2% (25% MLB average). His curve and new cutter were quality, but the run value on his fastball declined from +0.75 per 100 pitches in 2008 to -0.62 this past year.

Elijah Dukes, Nobody

The Nationals surprisingly cut ties with Dukes earlier this month, waving goodbye to a player who has tantalized and aggravated over the years. Granted, Dukes wasn’t particularly good in 2009 (88 wRC+), as his Isolated Power fell to .143 and he battled various injury problems. We know the off-the-field history, and he has struggled to stay healthy: hamstring, knee and calf ailments in 2008, and more hamstring and knee issues in ’09.

But even so, Dukes is 25 years old, owns a career .280/.369/.451 minor league line and has a career 104 wRC+ in the majors. He has a good eye at the dish (13.3 BB%, 22.2 Outside Swing%) and has pop in his linebacker-esque frame (.180 ISO). It’s hard to believe that he was cut loose for purely baseball reasons, given his talent and affordability.

Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins

Displaying 94 MPH heat and a pair of devastating breaking pitches, Nathan mows down hitters in the late frames like few others: over the past three seasons, Nathan ranks fourth in the majors in reliever WAR, with 6.2.

Unfortunately, Nathan is headed for Tommy John surgery, causing owners who already drafted him to bang their heads against their keyboards repeatedly. Check out Eno Sarris’ look at who might take the ninth for Minnesota in Nathan’s absence.

Gil Meche, Kansas City Royals

A much-derided free agent acquisition, Meche was surprisingly effective and healthy in ’07 and ’08: he compiled 4.4 WAR in 2007 and 5 WAR in 2008, while easily topping the 200-inning mark both years (by far career highs in innings pitched). However, his body paid the price last year. Meche’s 2009 campaign was curtailed by back spasms in July and shoulder inflammation that ended his season a month early. Now, Meche is experiencing shoulder stiffness. Proceed with extreme caution.