Roto Arcade

Closing Time: Nate McLouth, back from the dead

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Jump like a champion today (USP)

The 2012 Orioles are one of those wonderful sporting stories that doesn't make sense. A minus-39 run differential (which ranks 11th in the American League) shouldn't add up to a 71-57 record. Baltimore's been incredible in one-run games, a stunning 24-6. Here's one club where the sum is strangely greater than the collection of parts.

With that all in mind, Nate McLouth's rejuvenation almost makes sense. He's a surprise package on a team of overachievers.

McLouth was a handy roto producer at the end of the '00s, a player we used to feel good about. He collected 13 homers and 22 steals back in 2007, as a part-time Pirate, then exploded with a 2008 breakthrough (.276-113-26-94-23). McLouth was one of the championship-key players in roto that year, and he even won a much-disputed Gold Glove. Groovy times in Pittsburgh.

And almost overnight, the wave broke. McLouth was dealt to the Braves in the middle of 2009 and slumped with Atlanta. An eye problem (and subsequent confidence problems) wrecked his 2010. By 2011, we weren't ranking him any longer. A brief return to Pittsburgh this year didn't fix anything, and McLouth was waived in late May. Washed up at 31.

And that's where the magic of Baltimore kicks in.

The Orioles added McLouth to their Triple-A affiliate in June and he had an ordinary 47 games with Norfolk (.244/.325/.461, 10 homers, five steals). Not much of a slash, but you like the category juice. And in early August, with no fanfare or expectations, McLouth was summoned back to the majors.

McLouth's first 21 games in Baltimore have been a blast. He's rolling with a .274/.346/.452 slash, with two homers and six steals. He's scored 14 runs, knocked a couple of homers, driven in nine runs. He's a Top 24 fantasy outfielder over this span, though most gamers don't want to buy in yet. You can still add McLouth in 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Buck Sholwalter is using McLouth as the No. 3 batter most of the time (McLouth moves down to seventh against lefties). A good batting slot on an American League East offense, this could be fun. The Orioles are up against northpaws in four of the next five games, so it's a good time for some tire-kicking. McLouth has always been an outstanding baserunner, and he's scored runs in eight straight games.

You need more help with a McLouth decision? Fine, give me the mouse. Here are some heavily-owned players I'd drop for McLouth right now: Matt Joyce (43 percent, hitting .212 with three homers in second half, nicked up as well); Bryan LaHair (26 percent, wake up, gamers), Jeff Francoeur (28 percent, no explanation necessary), Brennan Boesch (25 percent, limited pop, no everyday job), Denard Span (16 percent, no pop, health concerns) and Michael Saunders (12 percent, hitting .198 over last month, big park). There are several others. Keep an open mind, amigos.

In shallow pools, okay, you can ignore McLouth. The three-outfielder leagues won't have to bother with him. But in a league that requires five outfielders or more (including flex slots), you better believe he's playable. I'm not chasing names, I'm after the numbers.

Sure, someone might laugh at your McLouth pickup. That's fine. They probably laughed at Ruggiano and Gomez and Colvin and Lohse, too. Not everyone understands how this plausible upside game works, and that's why you keep beating them. It's a beautiful day.

Thursday isn't the friendliest streamer slate. I see the overall case for Jeremy Guthrie (10 percent), but I don't want to try him against Detroit (even with Porcello on the other side of it). Jarrod Parker (nine percent) at Cleveland seems like a workable spot, given the way the Indians are tanking. You can talk yourselves into Blake Beavan or Zach Britton if you want, but I won't participate.

Friday's rentables don't offer much, either, though I see the case of an early pickup on Mike Leake (10 percent) because he faces the Astros. Ordinary pitcher, sure, but this is obviously a dreamy matchup. Brandon McCarthy (50 percent) also looks good, at home against the stripped-down Red Sox.

• Alfredo Aceves doesn't believe in getting even, he'd rather stay mad. The Boston reliever and malcontent returned to action Tuesday at Anaheim, promptly blowing his second save in as many appearances. That makes three meltdowns this month, and 13 runs allowed in August. Andrew Bailey was in line for a day off Tuesday — he worked in four of the previous five games - but if you want a share of the Boston bullpen going forward, Bailey is without question the way to go. And if you haven't kicked Aceves to the curb yet, what more do you need to see?

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