Discussion

Todd Helton showing signs of life again

Updated: April 27, 2011, 12:32 PM ET
By Eric Karabell

The wire story lead from the Colorado Rockies-Chicago Cubs game Tuesday says that Todd Helton hit a pair of home runs, and later we learn it was his first multi-homer game since 2007, which is wonderful. What I noticed was that Helton hit those round-trippers against Cubs left-hander James Russell, hardly a star, and very homer prone to boot, but it's still a terrific sign that Helton managed to send a baseball over an outfield wall twice in one game against a southpaw. He's back!

Of course, we've seen this from Helton before, and 37-year-olds often find it difficult to remain consistent and healthy. I truly don't believe Helton's bat was what deserted him the past few seasons, but rather his back problems affecting his numbers, though it's impossible to tell. The sweet swing remains, the plate discipline as well, so we might never know how compromised he was in 2008 and 2010 due to back problems. Helton is quietly off to a very nice start this season, hitting .317 with a .911 OPS, and while I wouldn't call Tuesday's show a harbinger of Jose Bautista-like power promise, this is a .324 career hitter who was very relevant for fantasy owners as recently as 2009. He is owned in a mere 12.7 percent of leagues, up 4 percent in the past week.

Helton batted third Tuesday, which again is a sign that Rockies manager Jim Tracy is a believer, and that we should at least take notice. Sure, awesome Carlos Gonzalez was given a day off and someone had to bat third, and for some reason managers don't like moving others around the lineup (like it's a stretch for Troy Tulowitzki to move up a spot), but still, it's a sign. Helton batted .325 two seasons ago. He took walks, making him not just ownable, but somewhat coveted in OPS/walks leagues. He's being handled carefully by Tracy, starting roughly two of every three games, and I rarely call that a bad thing. If Helton and, for another example, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese, can give us 120-130 good games with a .300 batting average and run production, I'm fine with them sitting occasionally. Miguel Tejada was sixth in baseball in at-bats last season; you'd rather have a guy play every day but not do much?

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