Owning Rich Harden is like dating a beautiful stripper. There's obvious perks to such an arrangement, but you know going in that you're going to have to set the expectation level pretty low if it's going to work. Same thing with owning Harden. He's about as seductive as any pitcher in the league when he's actually on the mound (stage?). But any past Harden owner knows that the frequency of those appearances is a crap-shoot. Shoulder, elbow, back and oblique injuries have contributed to limiting Harden to less than 250 innings combined from '05 to present.
On Sunday, Harden delivered his fifth consecutive quality start, striking out nine Angels in a six-inning, three-run, no-decision effort. In four of those past five starts, he's fanned at least eight. He's arguably one of the top five most talented pitchers in the league when healthy, and he's reminding us of that right now. But some of you have fallen into the trap of thinking Harden is marriage material. In recent trades, owners have been willing to give up the likes of Magglio Ordonez, Derek Jeter and Dan Uggla in one-for-one deals. Those are clear examples of not setting realistic expectations. If you drafted Harden, or picked him up on waivers, just enjoy the ride – or slap a healthy price tag on him and shop him around. But making an expensive deal for him, or dealing another one of your starting pitcher assets because you think Harden will be able to help hold down the fort, is reckless.
Let's move on and take a look at the most recent movers and shakers across the league:
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Jose Guillen, KC, OF
Guillen occupied this spot a few weeks back but, apparently, not that many heeded the recommendation – Guillen is still owned in less than 50 percent of Y! leagues (42 percent). His lack of fantasy love is remarkable considering that he's a proven bat – 23-plus home runs and .283-plus batting average in four of the past five seasons – who ranks No. 13 in the Y! game in fantasy production over the past month. His 47 RBIs overall rank seventh in the league, and his 10 home runs since April 19 is 21st-best in that span. He's hitting cleanup. He's hot. He's available. Why the hold up?
• Jonathan Sanchez, SF, P
The electric lefty, available in more than two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues, is in the midst of a five-game quality start streak in which he's 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 29 Ks in 33 IP. A high-number of walks is still a part of what Sanchez brings to the table, but he's been able to mitigate the damage with a low number of home runs allowed (1 HR allowed in past six starts) and low BAA (.236). Last season, Sanchez was a consensus top 50 prospect and the Giants' No. 2 prospect behind Tim Lincecum, according to Baseball America. Sanchez's diving low-90s fastball and quality changeup have always registered high strikeout numbers. He's a must add for those in need of Ks, but he's capable, as we've seen lately, of offering more than that. And, because of his bullpen work last season, he offers fantasy owners the flexibility of using his starts from any pitcher slot in the lineup.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Jeff Clement, Sea, C (ETA – late June)
How much longer can Seattle afford to let Clement punish Triple-A pitching? Wrapped around a short, unsuccessful 15-game call-up to Seattle, Clement has produced an eyebrow-raising 1.239 OPS in more than 40 games at Triple-A Tacoma. At the time Clement was scuffling for the M's in early May, the team still had illusions of turning the ship around and competing in the AL West. A month later, those hopes have been dashed as it sits with a 22-41 mark, the worst in the league. The same old argument – struggling regulars (Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima, Jose Vidro) at positions that Clement could handle (C, 1B, DH) – still holds true, and it only gets stronger with each team loss. Seattle hasn't reacted as harshly to another top prospect (Wladimir Balentien) who has struggled (.194 BA), and it's unfathomable to think that the team doesn't embrace what youth movement they can and recall Clement in the next couple weeks.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Alexei Ramirez, ChW, 2/O (5 percent owned) – In his past nine games, Chicago's Cuban import has smacked three home runs and 10 RBIs to go with a .486 BA – he also has four three-hit games in that span. Ramirez was getting an extended look with Juan Uribe on the DL. And, with his bat still glowing red, Ramirez will continue to get regular playing time even with Uribe back.
J.D. Drew, Bos, OF (75%) – Drew is second to only Johnny Damon in the league among June hitters in batting average (.519). And with three doubles, a triple and four home runs this month, he's also second to only Milton Bradley in total bases (31). He has a hit in all eight June games and has posted a quality 2:6 K-to-BB ratio along the way.
Joe Crede, ChW, 3B (75%) – Only Milton Bradley has more home runs this month than Crede's five bombs. He clubbed multiple home runs twice in this past weekend's three-game set with Minnesota, doing his damage from the No. 8 spot in the lineup.
Troy Glaus, StL, 3B (65%) – After starting his St. Louis career by going 25 games without a home run, the five-time 30-HR slugger has finally found his power bat in the NL. Glaus has four home runs in his past nine games, hitting .313 in the process.
Jorge Cantu, Fla, 1/3 (60%) – Cantu wreaked havoc on the Reds this past weekend, collecting eight hits in 14 at bats (.571) with three doubles and three home runs. A couple forgettable seasons removed from his '05 breakout campaign, Cantu is now very close to a 30/100/100 pace.
Jose Lopez, Sea, 2B (62%) – Lopez has pushed his batting average up over .300 (.303) in his past eight games, going 13-for-35 (.371) with three home runs in that span. Lopez, who drove in 79 runs in '06, is on pace for a career-high 83 RBIs.
Ryan Garko, Cle, 1B (44%) – A popular draft-day sleeper, Garko is tied with Drew and Ramirez with 14 hits in the month of June. Just one of those hits has gone for extra-bases (home run), but he has a healthy 10 RBIs since the calendar flipped.
Derek Lowe, LAD, SP (73%) – Lowe's past four starts have shown a night-and-day difference from his prior four outings. Since a four-game stretch in which he allowed 22 runs in 21.1 IP (9.28 ERA), Lowe has yielded just six runs in 29 innings (1.86 ERA) covering his past four outings, earning a win in each of the past two.
Gavin Floyd, ChW, SP (69%) – Floyd is 2-0 in June and has produced a quality start in four of his past five outings, going 4-1 in that span. In his past three starts, he has a combined K-to-BB ratio of 20:1 in 20 IP.
Jeremy Guthrie, Bal, SP (69%) – Like Floyd, Guthrie is another highly-touted prospect who didn't pan out until moving away from the team that drafted him. Claimed off waivers by the O's in '07, the former Cleveland first-round pick has run off six consecutive quality starts – 2.25 ERA, 27 K, 8 BB, 40 IP in that span. He's prone to the long ball, but he's put up respectable ratios, and a serviceable 6.17 K/9 mark, in the 265-plus innings he's logged for the O's since last season.
Brandon Phillips, Cin, 2B – Phillips left his hot bat in May. In June, he's just 5-for-32 (.156) with just one extra-base hit (double).
Freddy Sanchez, Pit, 2B – Sanchez is hitting just .200 in June and has collected just one extra-base hit and a mere four RBIs in his past 19 games.
Aaron Harang, Cin, SP – Things have not gone well for Harang since a dominating appearance out of the pen (4 IP, 0 ER, 9 Ks) for the Reds on May 25th. In his three starts since then, Harang is 0-3 with 30 hits allowed and 16 ER in 15.1 IP. Said Harang, "I don't know what's wrong, man. I just feel like I don't have a feel for anything right now. I'm leaving pitches over the plate. It's not normal for me."
Zack Greinke, KC, SP – Greinke's wheels are loosening, as he's allowed 21 ER in his past four starts (24 IP). The slide has raised his ERA from 2.18 to 3.77. In addition to a slip in his control lately, Greinke has been tormented by the long ball in his past two starts (6 HR in 11 IP).