Back in the swing? (USAT)
Two separate times in 2013, Josh Rutledge has kicked fantasy owners in the gut. That established, I still want to give him one more shot before the season closes. Maybe the timing is finally right for the Colorado infielder.
You probably remember the Rutledge setup entering the year - he was a handy fantasy player for much of 2012 (.274-37-8-37-7 over 73 games), making the double jump and producing well. Thin air, always our friend. But there were some worrisome trends under the hood; a .209 run in September, and a paltry nine walks against 54 strikeouts. You saw Rutledge on plenty of love lists and plenty of hate lists during 2013's draft season. Polarizing player.
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The Rockies handed Rutledge a starting job but they were quick with the hook - Rutledge was demoted in late May after a .242/.298/.357 start. He wasn't a poor fantasy play through the opening quarter - note the five homers and five steals - but Colorado nonetheless swapped out infielders.
Rutledge was summoned in mid-June after a Troy Tulowitzki injury, but he was a total flop in his second go-round: a nightmarish 10-for-70 run over 18 starts. When the Rockies returned Rutledge to the minors on July 22, no one was surprised.
It would be easy to close the book at that point, but Rutledge has been a force during his Triple-A time this year (.371/.444/.587 over 38 games). That's a stat line that demands attention. And he's been hitting plenty of frozen ropes since rejoining the Rockies in September: 6-for-10, one triple, one homer. He's swiped a couple of bases, too.
Colorado might have an infielder opening; Nolan Arenado is dealing with a bad thumb. Perhaps this results in a wheel play where Rutledge slots at second and DJ LeMahieu takes over at third; although the club lists Arenado as day-to-day, why take a chance with a future building block? The Rockies also might be interested in seeing Rutledge develop even if it's at the expense of the less-intriguing LeMahieu.
For all the messes through Rutledge's 237 at-bats in the show this year, he does have seven homers and a perfect 10-for-10 line on steals. Category juice is at play, and the Rockies have 12 home games remaining. If you're thinking about kicking some tires, Rutledge is available in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues. You can slot him at second base or shortstop. Who's with me?
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