Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. It's not just the theme for wedding season, but it's a viable pitch for summer baseball as well. Settle in at the bar, Bobby O'Shea, and we'll figure this all out.
The new? We've seen a bunch of touted prospects come up of late, guys like Anthony Rizzo and Trevor Bauer (be on the lookout for our special Bauer chat on Thursday night). The borrowed? Trade season isn't far away. Tangled up in blue? Maybe that refers to the Los Angeles offense, where Matt Kemp and now Andre Ethier are hurt — and no one else can really hit.
And then there's something old. Welcome back, Chase Utley. How much game do you have left at age 33?
Utley's 2012 debut was a smashing success, even though the Phillies lost to the Pirates on Wednesday night. Utley homered in his first at-bat and added two singles later, settling into the familiar No. 3 slot in the order. He made contact in all five at-bats. Fantasy owners have to be thrilled at being able to add a name-brand stud to the lineup, a perfect time for some reinforcements up the middle.
But other than the name brand, what's really star quality about Utley at this stage in the game? He's only played 103 and 115 games the last two years. He posted an ordinary .259/.344/.425 slash in 2011, with 11 homers and 14 steals over 103 games. Solid counting numbers (lots of category juice), but this isn't the MVP contender we saw in the previous decade.
If I were doing a middle infield Shuffle Up right now, Utley would be somewhere in the $13-15 range, right below the Mike Aviles tier. I've seen too many injuries from Utley over the years, and second base is a high-attrition position, the home of collisions. The best time to cash in on Utey's street cred might be right now, before he has time for a second-base tumble or a pitch off the forearm (check the HBP column, it's one of his calling cards). Be mindful of the aging curve here, and don't be afraid to shop for a possible deal.
If you'd prefer a younger comeback story, perhaps Stephen Drew is more your speed. The Diamondbacks welcomed back their 29-year-old shortstop on Wednesday, slotting him into the No. 2 position in the lineup. Drew went 1-for-4 with a single and a strikeout.
I'm going to be tempered with my Drew expectations as well. He admits he doesn't feel 100-percent recovered from his ankle injury, and he wasn't knocking walls down during his rehab assignment (.244/.367/.463, though he did homer twice in 41 at-bats). Kirk Gibson has made it clear the Snakes don't want to force Drew into a full-time job right away; while Drew should be the regular shortstop, look for a few weekly rests on the bench. Is this the type of day-to-day maintenance you want to sign up for?
At the end of the day I'm putting Drew in a tier below Utley; I expect Charlie Manuel to give Utley full-time run immediately, but it's probably not going to be that way for Drew in Arizona. In very shallow mixed leagues, force Drew to play his way onto your roster. In the medium and deep pools, I suppose he should be rostered — but I'm not expecting anything special here. Let's not let Drew off the hook for his mediocre showing in 86 games last year (.252-44-5-45-4), or the fact that his development has gone backwards in the latter part of his 20s.
• The main reason I seldom hold prospects in my non-keeper leagues is because I don't assume miracles and best-case scenarios with those players very often. Sure, I've had plenty of Mike Trout remorse this year — someone I don't own anywhere. But I stand behind the long-term track record in this area. For every Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, I can show you several Matt Moores, guys who didn't come close to meeting what was expected of them in March.
In a slightly different tack, you can add Nolan Arenado to your drop list today. The Colorado third base prospect is still a work in progress, having a so-so year at Double-A (293/.349/.428). It's no sin to struggle with your game at age 21, but I know more than a few roto owners and pundits who were pegging Arenado for a second-half callup and splashy debut. And according to Arenado's front office, that callup isn't expected to happen for 2012.
Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd basically made it official Wednesday, offering some interesting if controversial comments about his corner prospect. "Nolan Arenado's maturity level has not yet reached his talent level," O'Dowd told the Denver Post. "He will probably finish the season at Double-A, unless there are injuries or other circumstances." It's surprising that O'Dowd would choose to go public with this stance, but we'll take him at his word. The Rockies aren't going anywhere in 2012, and neither, apparently, is Arenado.
Now, if we could just get Jim Tracy out of there. Okay, a rant for a different day.
• Sometime in early April, I added "Jeff Samardzija" to my custom dictionary. I suppose I can take it out now. The Chicago hurler has fallen on rough times of late, getting rocked for 26 hits and 24 runs over his last four turns (including a nine-run bath against the Mets on Wednesday). Sure, there's some bad luck at play here, there always is; a .361 hit rate is what you'd expect from someone carrying a 12.27 ERA around. But then you see 10 walks against 14 strikeouts and you accept that Samardzija is making a lot of his own bad luck. I can't endorse him in a mixer until I see a significant turnaround. If you want to start him at Atlanta next week, that's your business.
A healthy wind blowing out didn't hurt the New York hitters, of course: whenever you see Daniel Murphy club a couple of homers, you wonder what's up. Ike Davis (forgive and forget, he looks terrific of late) and Scott Hairston also went deep for the Mets. But if the weather conditions were so favorable, why did the Cubs manage only one run against Jon Niese & Company? Oh yeah, they're the Cubs. (Rizzo, for what it's worth, went 1-for-4, with a double and a strikeout. I don't know if that delays the statue schedule or not.)
• The Washington hitters are going to leave Coors Field kicking and screaming. Although the Nats didn't do much Monday, they've rolled up 23 runs and a couple of lopsided wins over the last 48 hours. Heck, even Ryan Zimmerman (5-for-9, two homers, two doubles) is getting in on the fun.
I'm going to stream Tyler Moore (two percent owned in Yahoo!) for the series finale Thursday, impressed with what he's shown this series (6-for-13, two homers). Given that he's gone deep two days in a row, I'm assuming Davey Johnson will keep the slugger in the lineup (it helps that a lefty is starting for Colorad0). Moore hasn't seen regular playing time since joining the Nats, but he's making a strong case for that to change. He has a .346/.414/.635 slash for his tiny sample of 52 at-bats, and his numbers were already solid before the Colorado series. (Why didn't I tell you this a day ago, you ask? Well, I did, on Twitter. Follow me there: it's basically the pregame shoot-around before this column gets posted, the raw notebook, the Director's Cut.)
• I didn't throw a parade over Roy Oswalt's first turn in Texas, wanting to see him shut down a real offense. Wednesday night we saw the other side of the equation: a good club, Detroit, taking its hacks at the veteran's offerings. Oswalt finished the night with a messy line (6 IP, 13 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 K), though some might not mind because he still got a win in the 13-9 game. I have loftier goals for my pitchers in a standard mixer, but you're free to do what you like. Oswalt goes to U.S. Cellular Field next week, taking a shot at the White Sox.
Doug Fister had a worse night than Oswalt, in part because Jim Leyland hung him out to dry a bit. Fister allowed seven runs through the first four innings, and yet Leyland asked him to return for the fifth. It wasn't a full Hurdling (think back to A.J. Burnett's 12-run mess at St. Louis), but no pitcher should be asked to absorb a nine-run shellacking unless unusual circumstances apply. I still like Fister next week against Minnesota.
Speed Round: Although Ryan Howard isn't sure if he'll be 100 percent this year, he has started a rehab assignment. He hopes to be back shortly after the All-Star break. … Alcides Escobar is making it go in Kansas City, pushing the average up to .315, playing excellent defense, and running freely (12 steals). He had three hits and a homer Wednesday. … Ricky Romero was batting practice at Fenway Park and has allowed 42 runs over his last 11 starts. Check, please. When in doubt with AL East starters, throw them out. … Maybe Alex Avila's knee is coming around, because he stayed in Wednesday's lineup and went 3-for-4. … Jose Altuve (hamstring) is hoping to return at some point on the weekend. … Oakland's young arms keep on keeping on — Jarrod Parker cruised through Seattle on Wednesday (7 IP, 1 R, 9 K) , with Ryan Cook closing up. Parker gets Boston next week, but I'd use him since it's a home turn. … Desmond Jennings finally gave us a rumble, with three hits and a stolen base. He's been slotted in the No. 7 position of late. … The worst has been confirmed with Daniel Hudson: he has a torn UCL. While a second opinion is to be expected, he'll probably need Tommy John surgery. … A broken left ankle is going to cost Andy Pettitte six weeks. … Tim Lincecum, we offer no diss — I chose you to end this list. The hapless Dodgers couldn't touch you over seven terrific innings (4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K) and trips to Washington and Pittsburgh are on call for next week. Good work if you can get it. I still expect you to have an ERA over 4.00 from this point forward, but get the job done next week and we'll talk.