At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.

But in "This Just In," we don't simply tell you what the analysts said. We'll also show you whether they know what they're talking about. To help, we've enlisted Motley Fool CAPS, our tool for rating stocks and analysts alike. With CAPS, we track the long-term performance of Wall Street's best and brightest -- and its worst and sorriest, too.

And speaking of the best ...
Independent stock shop Longbow Research opened up the trading week yesterday with what I consider to be a well-deserved downgrade for Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS). As you're probably aware, Hansen reported a "Monster" (sorry) quarter last week, beating estimates and beating soda rivals PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), and Red Bull with a stick.

Yet when Longbow looked over the results, all it saw was a grey lining 'round Hansen's silvery cloud. "Weak volume in the U.S. Light domestic revenue growth." European profits to be at least nine to 12 months away "at the earliest." Lastly, Longbow believes we will see weak results in both "the second half of 2009 and 2010."

All of which paints a pretty bleak picture for a stock that seemed to have everything going for it last week. So is Longbow being too hard on Hansen?

Let's go to the tape
Perhaps -- but if so, Longbow has earned that right. Over the three years that we've been tracking this analyst's performance, Longbow has proven adept at picking winners in the grocery aisles:


Longbow Says:

CAPS Says:

Longbow's Picks Beating (Lagging) S&P by:

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ:GMCR)



102 points

Jones Soda  (NASDAQ:JSDA)



26 points

Ralcorp Holdings (NYSE:RAH)



34 points (two picks)

General Mills (NYSE:GIS)



36 points

If you can drink it, eat it, or both, chances are good that Longbow knows whether it's healthy for your portfolio. So far, the analyst is batting .818 on these kinds of picks. And of course, it was right about Hansen as well, which has outperformed the market by more than six percentage points since Longbow picked it two years ago.

Simply put, when Longbow says this stock is no longer a bargain, it's probably right. My only problem with this week's recommendation is that Longbow didn't go far enough in downgrading this stock.

Buy the numbers? Nope. Sell 'em.
Oh, I know that Hansen remains an official Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Probably, I should trust my fellow Fools' judgment and let last week's winnings ride. But, for me, the numbers dictate otherwise.

On the plus side, what I see in Hansen is a successful upstart drinksmeister with a rock-solid balance sheet -- nearly $314 million in cash and short-term investments and no debt to speak of. That's the plus side. But it's the minus side that I find weighted against Hansen.

Namely, the fact that most analysts agree with Longbow that this stock's growth prospects are limited. On average, analysts who follow Hansen predict the company will grow at about 11% long-term. Decent, respectable growth -- but it's no rock star. And let's be honest, Fools -- trading for a P/E of 27, and an only slightly lower price-to-free cash flow ratio (about 22), Hansen needs to grow more than twice as fast as Wall Street expects, in order to justify the price of admission that Mr. Market's now charging.

Foolish takeaway
Longbow downgraded Hansen from buy to hold yesterday, and the stock fell 5% in response. That's the right direction on both counts, but I think this stock's overcaffeinated price deserves to fall further. All the way down to a "sell" rating? Probably.

Agree? Disagree? Please let me know in the comments box, below.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Hansen Natural are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are Income Investor selections and Coke is an Inside Value pick, as well. 

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 713 out of more than 135,000 members. The Fool's disclosure policy is always the big winner.