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