It's a bit of a shame that Jim Thome landed in Philadelphia last winter. This sweet-swinging lefty could still be a solid full-time (or most-of-the-time) DH for an American League club — and he's emphatically proving it this week.
The Phillies are in the middle of an AL road trip and Thome has been front and center, enjoying the ride. He's on an 11-for-24 tear over the past six games, ripping three homers and driving in 13 runs. We can have some fun with this story through the weekend, when Thome and friends play at Toronto. Power lefty Ricky Romero could be a challenge in the Saturday matinee, but I like Thome's chances to connect against Drew Hutchinson on Friday or Henderson Alvarez on Sunday.
To be clear, this is a short-term move all the way. Thome doesn't have a clear spot with the Phillies — they're reluctant to use him at first base, though they do occasionally — and he only carries the utility tag in Yahoo! leagues. But I'll be surprised if he doesn't do something in the YYZ over the next 72 hours. He awaits your add in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
One final note before we close the book on Thome: it's possible the Phillies will look to move him at the trade deadline. Two months of Thome might make a major difference for an AL contender. Just thinking out loud, maybe the Indians could use him, or the Tigers, or the Blue Jays, or the Rays. He probably wouldn't cost that much, either — how much can Philly really ask in exchange for a veteran who turns 42 at the end of August? The point is, Thome could be a longer-term play for our fake teams in the final quarter of the year. But for now, we'll have to settle for one weekend in Toronto.
(And while you're in the city, don't forget to check out Radiohead on Saturday. I know, it's sold out — but you've got connections. I hear Mike Damone has about two dozen tickets in the first ten rows.)
• I didn't endorse Jarrod Parker for his Thursday start at Colorado and I'd make the same call if he returned next week. You can't mess with the thin air, the gravity. That said, we certainly should take note of the outstanding effort the rookie came through with, seven scoreless innings and a win (3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K). Parker looks like a strong play for the rest of the month, at home against the Dodgers and then at Seattle. And the kid remains widely-available, just 28-percent owned in Yahoo! groups.
Brandon Moss probably shed a tear at the Denver airport: he was a monster in the three-game series (6-for-13, four homers, two doubles). It might shift to an all-out bawl when he has to return to Oakland's roomy park, where fly balls go to die. The Athletics will give Moss plenty of time to make good at first base, but this is a high-strikeout journeyman who's been passed around the league for a while. When you're 28 years old and on your fourth organization, you no longer qualify for prospect status. I wouldn't bother adding Moss in standard mixers.
• If we're ever going to trust Ubaldo Jimenez, it's Saturday afternoon against Pittsburgh. Jimenez has looked sharp in his last two turns, piling up 13.2 quality innings against the Cardinals and Tigers (10 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 11 K). The return of his control is a gigantic positive sign, and he's also amped up the velocity of late. You know the story with the Pirates: this is the worst offense in the league by a mile, bad at just about everything (they don't take pitches, they don't get on base, they don't hit for power, and they certainly don't score).
If Jimenez handles this assignment without a hitch, we can then think about using him at Houston next week. But first thing's first, righty: show us you can dominate the cushiest matchup in the majors. The enigmatic Indian is free for pickup in about 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Brandon Belt, anyone? The San Francisco kid got in gear during the Houston series, homering three times and adding a couple of walks. And two of the round-trippers came off lefty pitching; it's encouraging to see Belt allowed to face the lefties. You never really know when Bruce Bochy might tick us all off again, and obviously AT&T Park is a difficult place for a hitter to set up camp. But Belt's prospect pedigree has to be respected; every talent scout worth his salt has endorsed this kid at some point. Belt's ready to grab in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• I can understand why consumer confidence is falling on John Axford at the moment. The Mllwaukee closer had two blown saves in the the Royals series (the most recent one Thursday), and he needed a bailout Sunday against San Diego (one out, three runs). When you're having trouble against mediocre clubs like this, rotoheads get scared. That said, Axford still has a pretty strikeout rate for the season (36 whiffs in 24.1 innings), and while he's been wild in 2012 and his ratio stats are ugly, I'm not too worried about him going forward.
Thursday's collapse had a fluke element to it, as the Royals scratched across a couple of runs with just one ball leaving the infield. Axford opened the ninth by striking out Mitch Maier on three pitches, but the final toss was a breaking pitch in the dirt — to be fair, a wild pitch — that Martin Maldonado couldn't handle. Maldonado, of course, is not the team's normal catcher. Maier scurried to first base safely.
Mike Moustakas followed with a sharp grounder to first. Cody Ransom had trouble fielding the ball and had to settle for the out on Moose, allowing Maier to advance. Not an error, of course, but certainly a misplay. Ransom, of course, is not Milwaukee's normal first baseman.
Axford rebounded to strike out Alcides Escobar, but the third out never came. He might have been squeezed a bit against Jarrod Dyson but it turned into a walk, an unforgivable one; you can't give a free base away in a tight game, especially when the opposing hitter has no pop. And then the game ended on Brayan Pena's soft single to right, which plated two runs courtesy of Milwaukee's sloppy infield and Dyson's non-stop hustle (it's all on the tape, see for yourself).
In the end, Axford took Thursday's loss despite throwing 13-of-22 pitches for strikes and keeping the Royals mostly off-balance. It's a game of inches, sometimes. And he certainly didn't get any help from his defense.
If you feel the need to hedge against Axford, Francisco Rodriguez is the obvious pick. He's been nothing special this year (4.30/1.50, 29 K, 11 BB), though his stats are better than Axford's. I'd be surprised if the Brewers overreacted to The Axman's recent slump, but it's their decision to make, not mine. Do what you need to do.
Speed Round: Roy Oswalt will try to go 100 pitches in his next minor-league turn, with the Rangers perhaps next after that. … There's a chance Brett Gardner (elbow) could be back in 3-4 weeks, but I'd be in take-what-you-can-get mode on this guy. He's been undergoing plasma therapy, and he had a cortisone shot Thursday. … Shin-Soo Choo clouted a couple of homers and has a tidy .305/.369/.492 line when used as Cleveland's leadoff man. … Another homer for the indescribable Trevor Plouffe. Someone must be living right. … Although the Phillies knocked Scott Diamond around (6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR), I'll still endorse him for next week's start against Pittsburgh. … Everth Cabrera took another collar from the No. 2 spot Thursday (with three strikeouts), though he did have a walk and his ninth consecutive stolen base. … David Robertson (oblique) is back with the Yankees, though it's clear that Rafael Soriano will keep the closing post. … Ben Revere is hitting .385 in June, along with six steals. He's only owned in 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues, for some reason. … Marco Scutaro continues to crush at in the thin air (.305/.361/.454, three homers, five steals, 27 runs), but his stats fall apart on the road (.589 OPS, one homer, one steal, 10 runs). Platoon where you can. The Rockies head out for a nine-game road trip, starting Friday in Detroit. … Haven't had enough fantasy goodness? Click through for some words of wisdom from my buddy and esteemed colleague, Brad Evans.