MLB Stock Picks, on PredictionStrike
It’s Brenton Kemp back with my second weekly issue of PredictionStrike’s MLB stock watch as we take a look at the week that was in baseball, names to look out for this week, and a summary of how our breakout hitters mentioned a week ago are faring.
Last week, I took a look at five breakout hitters to invest in while the prices were reasonable. One particular suggestion has absolutely exploded while the remainder of the group gets their feet wet early in the season.
First, let’s take a look at the week that was as we maneuver this lengthy MLB schedule!
Rays Remain Perfect, Walker Making History, Blue Jays Opening With a Bang
Every offseason the Tampa Bay Rays fly under the radar and continue to be disrespected. Sure, not everyone writes them off before there is much more noise surrounding the high-rolling Yankees while the Blue Jays made plenty of noise themselves as they prepare for a deep postseason run of their own.
Don’t look now, but the Rays are a clean 11-0 on the season after Brandon Lowe clubbed an eighth-inning home run to edge the rival Boston Red Sox 1-0 on Tuesday. The Rays lead all of baseball by a country mile with a .401 wOBA at the plate and a 1.73 ERA on the mound. That’ll play. In typical Rays fashion, they also rank fifth with seven Defensive Runs Saved, as per FanGraphs.
While Tampa pummels their opponents on the junior circuit, St. Louis Cardinals rookie Jordan Walker continues to re-write history on the senior circuit. The 20-year-old phenom has recorded a hit in each of his first 11 games to begin his career, passing Ted Williams on Monday with his 10-game hitting streak while he now sits one game shy of the MLB record of 12 set by Eddie Murphy from precisely 111 years ago.
Walker is hitting .326 with two home runs, two doubles, a stolen base, and an .882 OPS across the first 46 plate appearances of his MLB career. The 2020 first-round pick ranks in the league’s 92nd percentile in hard-hit rate and xBA but isn’t barreling the ball up much with a 38th percentile ranking in barrel rate. Nonetheless, it’s been a wildly impressive start for the youngster.
It didn’t take the Toronto Blue Jays long to take advantage of the new, hitter-friendly dimensions at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The Blue Jays set a home-opener record with four home runs against the Detroit Tigers Tuesday, two of which landed in the 359-foot short porch in right-center field. Kevin Kiermaier and Bo Bichette deposited balls into the elevated visitor’s bullpen in right center while Matt Chapman and George Springer also played long ball.
The Blue Jays scored nine unanswered runs to clobber the Tigers 9-3 and will continue to take aim at what is now one of the best spots to hit a home run in all of baseball.
Of course, we can’t conclude this section without brief mentions of other items, such as Luis Arraez’s cycle on Tuesday, the first in Marlins history. Oddly enough, it was an eighth-inning single that finished the job off. Shohei Ohtani pitched his 10th straight start of two earned runs or fewer allowed after seven shutout frames over the Nationals Tueday, setting an Angels franchise record in the process. Ohtani owns a tidy 0.47 ERA in three starts on the young season.
Stocks to Watch
Lenyn Sosa, 2B/SS - White Sox
Tim Anderson hit the injured list and is expected to miss two-to-four weeks with a knee injury and 23-year-old Lenyn Sosa was promoted from Tripe-A to take his spot on the roster. He’s likely in store for notable playing time in Anderson’s absence and makes great sense for a short-term buy until Anderson returns to the lineup.
All Sosa has done so far at Triple-A this season is go 13-for-29 (.448) with two home runs and five doubles across nine games. His seven extra-base knocks outweigh his six singles as he carries a 1.384 OPS from Triple-A up with him to the big leagues.
Sosa got into just 11 games with the big club last season and struggled to a .114 average with one homer in 36 trips to the plate. Even still, he ranked at the Triple-A level with an .829 OPS along with nine home runs in 57 games following a promotion from Double-A at age 22.
Even if it’s a two-to-four week experiment, his stock should be much higher then than it is now.
Tyler O’Neil, OF - STL
He’s 27, he’s off to a slow start in 2023, and he’s in the manager’s dog house early in the season. All the more reason to buy low on a very talented big-league player.
Tyler O’Neil did not play on Monday and isn’t projected to start Wednesday as the Cardinals take on the Rockies at Coors Field. Whether that changes or not remains to be seen but it’s clear O’Neil and Cards skipper Oliver Marmol are not on the same page after the manager criticez O’Neil’s perceived lack of effort on a base-running play early in the year.
If we’re talking long-term -- and I’m talking several season, if not more -- than O’Neil is your guy. He’s already posted a 34-homer season from 2021 while also stealing 15 bases that season in just 138 games. He slugged another 14 homers with 14 more steals in an injury-shortened 96 games in 2022. So far, he has just one homer and a .640 OPS in 11 games in 2023 but that will change.
For his career, O’Neil is a .251 hitter but with a very strong .213 isolated power along with 70 homers, 35 steals, and a .784 OPS in 416 games. Yes, he doesn’t walk a ton and he strikes out too much, but he is young enough where changes can be implemented.
A change of scenery wouldn’t hurt, either. With the emergence of Walker in the outfield along with youngsters Dylan Carlson and Brendan Donovan capable of handling the outfield, there’s a decent change O’Neil could be squeezed out. He wouldn’t be the first player to mash following a change of scenery.
Checking in on Last Week
As noted, I noted five breakout suggestions last week. Let’s check in and see how we’re making out to this point.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B - Orioles
I had a great feeling about Mountcastle this season and man, oh man, has he made me look smart (for once).
In fact, Mountcastle clubbed two homers and drove in nine runs in a 12-8 win over the A’s on Tuesday, tying a single-game RBI franchise record in the process. The 26-year-old Mountcastle was unlike the others suggested last week as he has established a short track record with 55 home runs from 2021-22.
However, he’s tied for the MLB lead with five long balls on the season while his 18 RBI are a league best. Nine of his 13 hits for the season have gone for extra-bases and he is just entering his prime producing seasons.
Not a bad way to start the season.
Rather than individually checking on Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Triston Casas, and Corbin Carroll, it’s best to group them together as long-term holds who are off to slow starts for the most part.
Greene did get off to a hot start but has scuffled over his last few games while Torkelson has yet to deliver on his raw power with one homer and two doubles along with a .132 ISO in 40 trips to the plate.
Casas has two homers and two doubles on the season along with a very strong .258 ISO, but he’s also hitting just .161 with a wRC+ of 55 which means his bat has been 45% below league average overall.
As for Carroll, he’s likely the best bet to gain superstar status on day and while he has two homers and five stolen bases in just 12 games, he’s hitting .233 without a walk in 44 trips to the plate. His wRC+ of 66 tells us his bat has been 34% below the league average.
All of the above are long-term holds but four of them are youngsters that are continuing to get their feet wet at the big-league level.
Brenton Kemp & The PredictionStrike Team
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