Big news on Monday: Jimmy Rollins went 4-for-4 in an extended spring training game on Sunday. He says his ankle feels about 90 percent and the hope is that he can return to the Phillies lineup on Thursday or Friday. That's sweet news for a depth-starved shortstop position that recently lost the services of Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki for an extended period of time. In addition to a potential Rollins return soon, New York shortstops Derek Jeter and Jose Reyes started swinging hot bats in the past week. And a 50 percent-owned Felipe Lopez has provided quality waiver relief for those that had seemingly no place to turn after Tulo went down. The shortstop position is still as deep as a cookie sheet, but at least it's looking much better today than it was a few days ago. Speaking of looking much better, how about Oakland's end of that offseason Dan Haren deal …
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
• Greg Smith, Oak, SP
Smith, one of the key components acquired from Arizona in the Haren trade, was owned in just 20 percent of Y! leagues before his start on Sunday. After throwing six innings of one-run ball (striking out 10), Smith had been added in an additional 15,000-plus leagues by Monday afternoon. The crafty lefty has produced a quality start in five of six outings for the A's and opponents have hit below the Mendoza Line (.199) against him. He relies on changing speeds and location more than power (his fastball typically sits between 88-91). And his BABIP (.226) and FB% (43.33) suggest that he's been pretty lucky. But he possesses the guile and skills to continue to be a serviceable mixed league option.
• Moises Alou, NYM, OF
Alou isn't a sexy pick, like Carlos Quentin (last week's Bargain Bin). But Alou's production over his past 187 games (680 ABs, .319, 35 HR, 123 RBI, 103 R) has Eva Mendes-type allure. Of course, the 41-year-old struggles to stay healthy these days, but he's good to go right now. And he's sitting in the fifth spot in what should ultimately prove to be a potent Mets lineup. Simply put: when Alou is playing, he needs to be owned – he's currently owned in just six percent of Y! leagues. It doesn't have to be a long-term commitment. Just add him now, and cut him later (when he gets hurt again). It'll be a nice ride while it lasts.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Andrew McCutchen, Pit, OF (ETA – early July)
McCutcheon is giving Pittsburgh all kinds of reasons to explore a deal for outfielders Jason Bay and/or Xavier Nady. The team's '05 first rounder has an On-Base Percentage of .396 (18 walks, 16 Ks) and has six home runs and nine stolen bases in his first 30 games at Triple-A Indianapolis. Breakout star Nate McLouth stands in McCutchen's way from the stand point that McCutchen is a leadoff hitter and centerfielder, like McLouth. But McLouth is showing the power to hit lower in the order, and he also can play any of the outfield positions. Don't be surprised if the ultra-athletic McCutchen is with the Bucs before the All-Star break.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Jack Cust, Oak, OF (5 percent owned) – Cust is showing signs off going on another one of those home run binges that made him the talk of baseball in early '07 – eight home runs in his first 42 at bats of the season last May. He opened this May with eight hits in his first 14 at bats (.571), including three home runs. He's widely available for those in need of power. Just know that the bottom can fall out quickly, so don't get too comfortable owning him – stick and move …
Placido Polanco, Det, 2B (69%) – Only San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez (23) had more than Polanco's 22 total bases this past week. In fact, in his past nine games, Polanco has raised his batting average from .140 to .250. He's a career .304 hitter, so you had to figure a streak like this was coming.
Aaron Rowand, SF, OF (73%) – Rowand has five multi-hit efforts in his past six games, hitting .478 with two home runs in that span. After hitting .309 for Philadelphia in '07, Rowand is now sitting at .337 for his new club.
Matt Kemp, LAD, OF (95%) – There's really five percent of leagues out there where Kemp isn't owned? Hard to believe. Especially after his past nine games (.410 with a home run, 16 runs batted in, nine runs and six steals).
Geovany Soto, ChC, C (99%) – Coming off a week in which he slugged .870 (five doubles, two home runs), Soto is now ranked No. 49 in the Y! game. There is not another catcher ranked inside the top 80 overall.
Aaron Cook, Col, SP (66%) – Colorado's ground-ball specialist has reeled off six consecutive quality starts, including two this past week (14.2 IP, 2 ER, 2-0). Cook, who is 5-1 with a 2.40 ERA, has yielded the second-most ground balls this season (93) – only Roy Halladay has more (102).
Jon Lester, Bos, SP (59%) – Hosting Toronto and Tampa Bay this past week, Lester allowed just one run combined in 14 innings, picking up a win in the process (against the Rays on Sunday).
Santiago Casilla, Oak, RP (11%) – Casilla is tied with Baltimore Jim Johnson for the most innings pitched this season (16.1) without allowing an earned run. A potential future closer, Casilla has just two walks compared to 20 strikeouts, and he hasn't allowed a hit in four consecutive outings (4 IP).
Eric Byrnes, Ari, OF (99%) – The notorious second-half swooner is getting an early start in '08. Byrnes is just 2-for-28 (.071) in his past seven games with one run batted in, two runs and nary a steal. His K:BB rate during this span is 8:0.
White Sox sluggers – The South Side trio of Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Nick Swisher combined to go 8-for-65 (.123) with one home run, four runs batted in, and five runs this past week. In addition, the three were tied for the most strikeouts in that span (10).
Evan Longoria, TB, 3B (78%) – Longoria has been a human air conditioner of late, fanning 11 times in his past eight games. He batted just .174 this past week and failed to collect an extra-base hit.
Travis Hafner, Cle, 1B (97%) – Hafner is nearing rock bottom. He's homerless in his past 13 games, going 8-for-48 (.167) in that span. Manager Eric Wedge is doing what he can to try and jump-start "Pronk," giving him a day off and dropping him in the order recently.
Bronson Arroyo, Cin, SP (53%) – Arroyo allowed 10 runs this past week in 7.1 innings. For the year, opponents have hit .360 off the Reds hurler. For reasons I can't fathom, Arroyo remains owned in more than half of Y! leagues.