Stock Watch: May 18th

  • Stock Up
  • Johnny Cueto, Reds

    Cueto, 24, posted xFIP’s of 4.37 in 2008 and 4.57 in 2009. While by no means bad, those performances were mildly disappointing, given the way the right-hander shredded minor league hitters on his way to Cincy.

    Perhaps Cueto is ready to take a step forward in his development as a major league starter. After owning the Pirates and Brewers in his last two starts, Johnny has 7.35 K/9, 2.39 BB/9 and a 4.12 xFIP in 49 innings. He’s getting plenty of whiffs with his four-seam fastball (12 percent, double his MLB-average whiff rate on the pitch from 2009), and his slider is getting swings and misses 12.8 percent after eliciting whiffs 9.7 percent in ’09 (13.6 MLB average).

    He’s getting behind in the count often, with a 52.2 first pitch strike percentage that’s well south of the 58-59% big league average, but Cueto’s contact and swinging strike rates have improved after he posted mediocre numbers in ’09. ZiPS projects a 4.12 FIP for the rest of the season, with 7.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.

    Brett Gardner, Yankees

    Taken in the third round of the 2005 draft out of the College of Charleston, Gardner used his wheels to swipe bases at a high percentage clip (83.4 percent) and cover the gaps in the minors, while working the count for a 13.6 percent walk rate. Questions were raised about his bat, though, given Gardner’s lack of pop (.094 ISO) and 20 percent K rate.

    While the 5-10, 185 pound lefty batter is unlikely to keep the .390 wOBA that he currently holds, Gardner has eased concerns about his offense. He’s drawing walks at a 10.3 percent rate this year, swinging at 20.2 percent of pitches outside of the zone (27.4% MLB average), and he’s making scores of contact (93.5 percent, compared to the 80-81% MLB average).

    Gardner isn’t going to drive the ball with any frequency, but he controls the zone well and has proven to be one of the best stolen base thieves in the game: he’s 17-for-18 in 2010, and now has an 88.9 percent success rate in the big leagues. According to Baseball Prospectus’ base running numbers, Gardner has added nearly half a win with his legs (best in the majors), including about three runs on steal attempts. Add in his stellar outfield D, and Gardner might be the rarest of species: the unheralded Yankee.

    Derek Holland, Rangers

    After laying waste to Triple-A batters (38.2 IP, 37/7 K/BB, 8 runs allowed), Holland was recalled when Matt Harrison (biceps) was placed on the DL. While the 23-year-old lefty’s 2009 work with Texas looks grim at first glance (6.12 ERA in 138.1 IP), his underlying performance was much more promising: a 4.38 xFIP, with about seven whiffs per nine innings and 3.1 BB/9.

    Holland has made two big league starts so far, and he has posted a 10/3 K/BB while allowing three runs. He has the stuff (low-90’s fastball, low-80’s slider, mid-70’s curve, low-80’s change), track record (9.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in the minors) and prospect pedigree (Baseball America rated him #31 on its list of farm talents prior to 2009) to contribute in all fantasy formats.

  • Stock Down
  • John Lackey, Red Sox

    Signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract over the winter, Lackey has been lackluster this season. The long-time Angel dealt with right triceps and forearm injuries over the past couple of years and his contact rates had been rising, but his combination of solid K rates and quality control led to sub-four xFIPs from 2007-2009.

    In Boston, Lackey has a middling 4.85 xFIP in 50 innings pitched. He’s striking out a career-worst 5.58 batters per nine frames, while walking a career-high 3.78 per nine. The 31-year-old’s contact rate has continued to increase: opponents have connected 85.8 percent in 2010, compared to an 80.4% career average, and Lackey is getting swinging strikes a paltry 5.6 percent (8.9% career average, right around the MLB average). He’s not locating well, either, with 45.7 percent of his pitches catching the plate (50.4% career average, 48-51% MLB average). Lackey’s curve has been worth +0.92 runs per 100 pitches during his career, but it has been thumped for a -1.96 runs/100 mark in 2010.

    Owners are best off taking a wait-and-see approach with Lackey. His trade value is diminished right now, so it makes sense to hold on to him and hope that his stuff rebounds.

    Lastings Milledge, Pirates

    When Milledge managed just a .308 wOBA and a .094 ISO in 2009, some were willing to forgive the shoddy offensive showing due to a fractured right ring finger that might have affected his bat control. However, the former Met and National is hitting like someone broke both his thumbs.

    In 136 PA, Milledge has an anemic .286 wOBA, and he’s hitting for even less power than last season (.066 ISO). The 25-year-old continues to swing at plenty of junk pitches (30.3 outside swing percentage), and he’s chopping the ball into the dirt and popping up at an alarming rate. Milledge has a 57.4 GB% this year, and his infield/fly ball rate is 16 percent (twice the major league average). Couple the punch less hitting with…adventurous routes in left field, and it might not be long before the Pirates give Jose Tabata a shot.

    Mitch Talbot, Indians

    Freed from the Tampa pitching factory that had buried him on the organizational depth chart, Talbot was shipped to Cleveland for Kelly Shoppach last December. Talbot’s got a 3.23 ERA in 47.1 IP for the Indians, but his peripherals suggest that bumpier days are ahead.

    The 26-year-old right-hander showed strong ground ball tendencies on the farm (53.9 GB%), and he has continued to burn worms in the majors (49 GB%). Unfortunately, Talbot’s control has been ordinary (3.99 BB/9, with a 52.9 first pitch strike percentage) and he’s not fooling anyone. He has 3.61 K/9, his contact rate is near 90 percent and his swinging strike rate (4.1 percent) is less than half of the major league average. Talbot’s xFIP is 5.09. Unless he misses more bats or displays sharper control, expect that ERA to spike.

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    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 and, 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 and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

    13 Responses to “Stock Watch: May 18th”

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    1. Tom B says:

      What would be the appropriate number of steals to acquire from Gardner before trading him away? 25? 30?

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      • R M says:


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        • Tom B says:

          … i didn’t think that was a confusing question.

          I have gardner on a roto team, how many steals should I collect from him before i trade him to someone that needs steals? Obviously I don’t want the person I trade him to getting more steals than I did.

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        • R M says:

          Sorry. I guess it depends on how many steals you have. Is there any reason to not keep him the whole season? I feel like his trade value isn’t that high.

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      • Matt B. says:

        I want access to this crystal ball for when players will accumulate stolen bases?!

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      • Jimbo says:

        Not sure. How many baseball games do I have to watch before I can safely land the space shuttle?

        Point being, I don’t think # of steals has anything to do with when (or if) to trade him. There really isn’t an “appropriate” number to target imo.

        Is there a Yanker fan who’d overpay today?
        Are you well off elsewhere for speed without him?
        Could you swap him for a couple buy-low targets now where a month from now you might not be able to?

        If I were offered something like Liriano+Borbon for Gardner? I’d take it regardless of how many steals he has to date. Although that offer would concern me since all three are on my current roster. ;-)

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      • B N says:


        When he hits 30, people will probably feel like he’s already used up half of his stolen bases for the season. At 25, people will still be impressed, but not worried he’ll stop producing. Not that this makes any sense, but unless you’re playing against probability theorists- people just think this way.

        … Or whenever you can get the best deal. That works too.

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    2. Matt B. says:

      I like the John Danks comp that has been floating around for Derek Holland. I think he will take a nice step forward this season. Not sure he is ace material, but he could be a fairly impressive SP in the Danks mold going forward. Love the above average control he has shown in his pro career. Solid mix of pitches also.

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    3. Bartaksu says:

      @Tom B:

      That’s not exactly the best way to go about trading guys. If you’re that worried about it, trade him to a team really low on speed, or better yet don’t trade him until you have a stranglehold on the cat.

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    4. Seideberg says:

      Unless you were really hard up for RBIs and Home Runs, why would you trade a guy who could lead the league in Runs and Stolen Bases, while hitting between .280 and .300? With his speed and batting eye, Gardner should continue to get on base over 36% of the time, which means a lot of opportunities to steal and score runs in that lineup.

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      • B N says:

        Now you tell me. Had I known this, I would have kept Gardner instead of Borbon!

        Seriously though, while it’s possible- that’s still a rosy picture. I think that an avg of 265 is just as likely as 305 for him, over the rest of the season. While he may keep a solid OBP and get good runs, his OBP is still only good- not amazing. Gardner looks like a solid producer this year, but I would not be at all surprised to see Gardner regress going forward.

        The reason to trade him is exactly what you just said. If somebody believes that he will lead the league in Runs and Stolen Bases, and is willing to pay that kind of price- take the deal. If you’ve got a surplus in those categories, dump it while it’s at peak value for something you’re weak in. Because with 2 or 3 bad weeks of out Gardner, he’ll be back to netting you Ted Lilly rather than David Price.

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    5. Stu says:

      Talbot could have a rough one against the occassionally explosive Royals this week

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    6. Cidron says:

      On the Cueto entry, there should be a “I am managed by Dusty Baker” notation.. the same dusty baker who cant count to 120 (pitches) … who is most kind and all to young pitchers.. Note that Cueto’s other promising pitcher/teammate (Volquez) is out with Tommy John surgery and suspension. we wont even go into Prior and Wood.

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