Welcome to Market Movers, Protrade's report covering how sports fans from around the world are valuing Major League Baseball stocks in the world's only 24/7 virtual Sports Stock Market. We're a next-generation fantasy sports experience centered around a community of passionate fans who trade players and teams like stocks. Our virtual sports stock market helps capture the wisdom of these sports fans by enabling them to display their reactions and generate a market response to every event in sports news; every at-bat, every rumor, and every injury report can be factored into the value of an athlete or team. Equalized across all sports so that the best baseball players are worth roughly the same in Protrade Dollars (PT$) as the best football and basketball players, our prices are set by market analysts before the beginning of every season with a "season IPO," and then move based on a combination of on-field performance and buy/sell pressure.
And now, with MLB's All-Star break in mind, here are Protrade's biggest risers since Opening Day, 2007:
MLB Market Movers
|| April 1
So this is what statheads were talking about back in 2002. Pena has been among the most productive hitters in the league this season, largely thanks to an obscene HR/FB rate of 30.8%. His ISO sits at .322, second in the AL to Alex Rodriguez, and given the balance of his career, that isn't sustainable, but it's great to see all the same. Cast aside by four teams in half a decade, Pena is arguably this year's biggest surprise, and as a result, he's also this year's biggest market mover. Note to Hee Seop Choi--see, there's still hope!
Shields entered 2007 in no-mans land, between the D-Rays' barren major league rotation (featuring Scott Kazmir and a bunch of hacks) and the teeming farm system (full of promising arms like Jeff Niemann, Jacob McGee, Wade Davis, and Matt Walker). He emerged from anonymity to become the best pitcher on the major league squad. Cutting his walk rate in half has been a key to his success, but so too has his apparent ability to allow less solid contact. His .276 BABIP appears to be a red flag, except that he is allowing significantly fewer line drives, perhaps an indication that his prowess is for real.
What can we say about Heath Bell that you can't say about at least five relievers every year? Sold for pennies on the dollar by his former team, the Mets, Bell came to the Padres with low expectations but a resume filled with positive indicators, like an above-average strikeout rate, a penchant for keeping the ball on the ground, and a low walk rate. That he's found success shouldn't be that much of a surprise; he had, after all, endured some pretty brutal luck over the last few seasons, with hitters reaching base more than 37 percent of the time when making contact, so it seems like a regression was long overdue. Bell was absent from Tuesday's festivites in San Francisco, and
doesn't get half the recognition that teammate Trevor Hoffman receives, but fans in the know understand that he's among the best relievers in the game with a bullet.
With all due respect to Guadin, take a good, long look at that No. 8 next to his name on the season ERA list, because it won't be there for long. With walk and strikeout numbers closer to Aaron Cook's than Aaron Harang's, Gaudin is among the surest bets for a cliff-dive in the second half, as hitters begin to make harder contact across the board, and his luck begins to fall the other way for once. Of course, that doesn't mean Gaudin isn't without his strengths--after all, he's quietly morphed himself into one of the more severe groundball pitchers in the league, and that's important. But pitchers sporting 68-to-48 strikeout-to-walk ratios just aren't likely to finish September with smiles on their faces. If you don't believe me, just ask Barry Zito how things are going across the Bay.
Blanton will never again dominate hitters like he did in High-A, but with the improved control that he's shown in 2007, he won't need to. Despite entering this season with peripherals that were trending every which way but up, Blanton has seemingly learned to harness his offspeed stuff a little more, which is resulting in stellar results across the board. An innings-eater who's barely missed a start over the last two years, Blanton has gleaned much of his value from pitching deep into contests this season, as he ranks second in the AL in innings pitched and first in complete games. Like most of the Oakland staff, you can probably expect some regression from him in the second half.
While I want to like Upton and I believe he has a fine career ahead of him, there's just no denying that his statistical profile contains more red flags than a Summer Games procession. As Joe Sheehan noted so eloquently earlier in the year, the combination of striking out in more than 30% of your PAs while reaching base nearly 50% of the time you make contact just isn't sustainable; something has to give. Nevertheless, give credit to Upton where it's due: despite some cringe-inducing defensive manuevers, he's turned in a stellar first half, and despite all the talk of how much air would come out of his numbers after a hot April, he's pretty much maintained the same performance level since mid-May.
A popular sleeper before the season after his move from the outfield to second base, Johnson hasn't disappointed fantasy owners (or the Braves). While none of his statistics are overwhelming, his well-rounded skill set is apparent. He is in the top five second basemen in OBP, SLG, and OPS, and the top 10 in runs, RBI, home runs, and stolen bases, all while playing slightly above-average defense up the middle. His monthly splits indicate that he may be wearing down (.256/.356/.360 in June vs. .287/.386/.467 overall), but Johnson has already rewarded fantasy owners and traders who took a flier on him early in the season.
Entering the season with little fanfare as an injury replacement for Chone Figgins, Willits has proven that the on-base skills he displayed in the minors are for real. He may not produce the eye-popping steals numbers to excite fantasy owners the way Chone does, but between his above average speed and .400+ OBP, the Sooner may very well continue to help the Angels' offense more than the man he replaced atop the order. His playing time may suffer in the second half, but he'll continue to reach base at a good clip.
What a difference a year makes. Obviously, nobody here is condoning W/L record as a metric to evaluate pitchers, but going from 1-10 to 10-4 is a sure way to draw the attention of the masses, especially when the turnaround is accompanied by a point-and-a-half drop in ERA. Carmona has improved his underlying statistics only on the margins, with no really remarkable difference from his disastrous 2006. He's inducing a few more groundballs (2.83 vs. 2.20 GB/FB), getting a little luckier on balls in play (.304 vs. .341), and stranding a few more runners (75.0% vs. 70.5%). None of these changes would precipitate such marked improvements in the bottom line, but in concert they've allowed the young right-hander to become a poor man's Chien-Ming Wang, and an important part of the Indians' rotation.
In some ways, it's just surprising that we're talking about Sammy Sosa in the present tense, let alone as someone who's intermittently hovered around league average production this year. Of course, the flaws in his game are obvious--he doesn't walk much anymore, and with declining bat speed, he doesn't generate enough batting average offset the difference. But his rising stock price speaks to just how low expectations were coming into the year, so for that he deserves some credit. Sure, the lunge for 600 home runs made everyone but Craig Biggio wince with shame, but he's hardly killing his team like the newest member of the 3,000-hit club was-- Sosa, after all, has managed a mildly respectable .288/.327/.541 line away from Arlington this year.
Jeff Ma is a co-founder of Protrade.