|Reyes' positive outlook, even amid boos at Citi Field, hasn't helped his hitting. (Getty Images)|
Each Monday, after a week of play and of scouring the major leagues for the best information, Jon Heyman passes along tips on whose stock up and whose is on the decline.
1. Derek Jeter: A year ago, folks were suggesting Derek Jeter might need to be dropped in the Yankees' vaunted batting order all the way to the bottom of it, or even worse, that he might actually be nearing the end. But a year later, Jeter, 37, leads the American League with a .396 batting average. He's had 12 multi-hit games in April, and another one could push him above his best April hitting mark of .398 in 2006.
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I pestered Jeter in the pregame Sunday about whether he might stick around to shoot for 4,000 hits, and typical Jeter, he said, "I'm just trying to get through the day." He did get through it, with two more hits, and he now leads baseball with 36 hits. And his 1.033 OPS is exactly 200 points above his career average.
This is a far cry from last April when he batted .256 and some were hinting that maybe he was getting up in years. Not now. Jeter still won't admit to his age. He'll tell you he's 30 if you ask. But right now, his age is irrelevant, anyway.
2. Jose Altuve: One reference guide claims Jose Altuve is 5-foot-5, another 5-7. The Astros cleared it up by text, saying he is indeed 5-5, which makes him one of the shortest players in big-league history. Either way, he's a "compact guy with a compact swing," one scout says. When he went to an Astros' tryout in Venezuela in 2006, at age 16, they sent him home the first day because of his size. (He returned the next day, they let him play and they have no regrets.)
The Astros' 2011 representative at the Futures Game (he hit .389 in the minors last year when he had 200 hits combined between the majors and minors), Altuve is proof that they do indeed have something to look forward to. He is up to .373 this year after he hit .481 for the week (13 for 27) with a .500 on-base percentage and .778 slugging percentage. He is third in the N.L. in batting, second in hits and tied for first in multi-hit games.
One thing about Altuve, he knows how to use his strengths. He has three triples (one fewer than league leader Orlando Hudson), is 4-for-4 on steals and is second with a .526 batting average against left-handed pitchers. He is also a very good defender who turns the double play beautifully. The one weakness last year was said to be plate discipline, and so he worked on it all spring. So far he has seven walks in 91 plate appearances, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a major improvement over the five he had in 234 plate appearances in the majors in 2011.
He'll presumably keep the distinction of shortest player in the NL, but he did lose one other title this week. With the callup of 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper, Altuve is no longer the youngest player in the National League.
3. Jay Bruce: The multitalented Reds outfielder has homered in four straight games, and he's also raised his batting average from .239 to .296 and OPS from .707 to .954 in just those few days. Jay Bruce is 16 for 38 over his last 10 games, which followed a 0-for-19 drought.
This is nothing new for Bruce, a talented but streaky player. Last May he was the NL Player of the Month, thanks to 12 home runs in that span. So far he has seven homers, which is good for second best in the NL to Matt Kemp, who would have made Stock Watch a third time running if not for the unwritten rule against it.
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: When owner Arte Moreno shelled out $317.5 million in one day this winter, no way he could have envisioned his beloved team would be nine games out of first place before May 1, and in last place to boot. Albert Pujols, who cashed in for $240 million on a 10-year deal that was only supposed to be trouble only at the end, struggled from the start to hit one out, and lately he's struggled just to hit. Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register points out that only three players who also have zero home runs have more at-bats than Pujols' 88: Michael Bourn, Rafael Furcal and Daniel Murphy.
But it's not just Pujols. On their recent 1-5 trip, the Angels hit .165, sinking to a low at the end when they were three-hit by Indians veteran Derek Lowe. The big thing about adding Pujols was that there was no way the Angels would repeat their absurdly high total from 2011 of 50 games in which they were scoreless through five innings (yes, that's not a misprint; in nearly one-third their games the Angels were scoreless through five innings). So far, they are ahead of that sorry pace of futility, with seven such games. The callup of 20-year-old phenom Mike Trout should add some life to the surprisingly moribund team, but eventually Pujols and the veterans are going to have to start hitting.
No one could have imagined such a start for the stacked Angels, least of all Moreno. And no one could have foreseen a public dissent uttered so early involving untouchable manager Mike Scioscia. But respected veteran Torii Hunter seemed to suggest recently that Scioscia may have missed a bunting opportunity with Maicer Izturis. Hunter was absolutely correct in what he says. But unfortunately, the issues go a lot deeper than that.
2. Jose Reyes: He still was wearing his patented smile when he came back to Citi Field last week, despite a batting average barely above the Mendoza Line. His old fans in Queens gave him a mixed response, at best, but Jose Reyes acted like he only heard the cheers. He has that uncanny knack for seeing only the positive. But it's tough here, what with a .205 batting average, .276 on-base percentage and .596 OPS.
Only a couple days after saying he wasn't yet ready to drop Reyes from the leadoff spot, embattled Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen moved Reyes, who signed for $106 million with Miami this winter, down to the No. 2 spot. Guillen himself is having a rough start; the move did no immediate good.
3. Brendan Ryan: Seattle's offense is improving and Brendan Ryan isn't supposed to be a big hitter, but I don't like to disregard perfection, and Ryan went an entire week without a hit. Not easy to do.
Ryan has been in a special kind of funk, especially since his famous check swing was the last play of Phil Humber's perfect game. Since that swing (or no swing), he is 0-for-16, dropping his batting average to .143, last in baseball among qualifiers. Ryan declined comment about the alleged check swing. Seems like he couldn't have much to say about his start either.