When it comes to Colorado baseball, you probably know my lean. In a fantasy world that loves to say OMG Rookies, I'm chasing the thin air, saying OMG Rockies. (Sometimes it hits, like Charlie Blackmon. Sometimes it misses, like Tyler Colvin. You guys love to remind me of Colvin.)
And yes, we've had the Josh Rutledge propaganda before. Seems like a good time to renew the contract. Maybe there's something here for us.
Rutledge was essentially a regular on the just-completed Coors homestand, going 9-for-17 over five games. He scored eight runs, knocked in a couple. He's been seeing time mostly at second base, with DJ LeMahieu sliding over to third, and he also carries the shortstop tag in Yahoo. The Rockies probably won't have Nolan Arenado back until July.
Rutledge hasn't posted much category juice in 2014 (just one homer), though he still boasts a .354/.436/.521 line for his modest 48 at-bat sample. And for his career, we've seen plenty of juice: Rutledge has 16 homers and 19 steals (on 20 attempts) over 610 MLB at-bats, essentially the duration of a full season. He's still just 25. Maybe we'll have a fantasy player of note someday. And maybe Rutledge (two-percent owned) is worth a current tire-kick for those in deeper pools.
It will be interesting to see how the Rockies view LeMahieu long-term. If you grade all the regular second baseman in baseball using Fangraphs WAR, LeMahieu ranks as the best defender this year and the second-worst offensive player. Is that a tradeoff the Rockies are comfortable making for the long haul, especially given their home environment? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't.
Rutledge has multiple paths to possible playing time. He could stick in the 2014 plans if anything happens to Arenado long-term, or Troy Tulowitzki encounters any kind of injury problem (obviously we've seen that many times before). The point with Rutledge is to recognize the plausible upside. He can knock the ball over the wall now and then, he has a great feel on the bases, and he plays in a baseball park that does everything possible to inflate offense. You better believe I'm open-minded to this story. Anyone who might be a regular in Coors Field at some point deserves to be tracked closely.
Keep one other thing in mind with Rutledge: we're not asking you to take his ability on spec. We've already seen a large sample of what he can do. You might remember he was recalled to Colorado in the middle of July, 2012, and spent the rest of the season in the majors. His .274-37-8-37-7 line over the final 12 weeks of the year made him the No. 8 fantasy shortstop over that span. (And yes, he crashed in 2013. That's the other side. Anyway, I'm trying to sell you on plausible upside.)
I know some of you will mock the story now (happens with almost any scarcely-owned player), and that's fine. Thin-league mixers don't need to act on Rutledge now, especially on the road. But make sure you're keeping an eye peeled on this offense (and this infield) at all times; thin air is that important to us. Sometimes the Rockies don't seem to know what to do with Rutledge, but maybe they won't have a choice as the season goes along.
There's your opening Friday item, filed at 25,000 feet. I'll have more basbeall nuggets for you when we hit the ground (in an East Coast city to be named later).
• I don't know anyone who isn't thrilled about the future of St. Louis outfielder Oscar Taveras. But for the present, it's back to the bush leagues. The Cardinals optioned Taveras on Friday, coinciding with the return of Matt Adams. Taveras didn't do much in his first go-round, other than that pretty home run on his opening night: just 7-for-37, two walks, seven strikeouts.
I still think Taveras could be a double-digit bat in the second half, if and when the team brings him back, but if you're light on bench space in a non-keeper league, I don't blame you if you cut him outright. It really comes down to your league specs and your immediate needs. In some other pools, you might want to liquidate him in trade, get today help. Someone always has a sweet tooth for rookies.
• Everyone sick of chasing saves with the 2014 Mets, raise your hand. What an annoying bullpen. Jenrry Mejia has been nothing special since getting the Flushing baton, but he left Thursday's game after his back tightened up, which opens up the speculation window. Jeurys Familia, anyone? (Why can't the Mets own Joe Smith and make it easy on us all?).