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MLB Today: Todd Helton Nearing the End of the Line

January 16, 2012 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Joel Zumaya has joined the Minnesota Twins.
Can Guitar Hero aficionado Joel Zumaya help the Twins return to glory?

Remember the days when Todd Helton was one of the NL’s most feared sluggers, a man that commanded a whopping nine-year, $141.5-million deal from the Rockies (in 2003, when that kind of deal was still whopping)? Well, heading into last year, Helton had fallen so far off the Fantasy radar – thanks to his wonky back – that he was an after thought at a position that’s as loaded as can be.

That’s why it was so gratifying to see Helton put up a big enough first half that he became a waiver wire darling, earning a spot on our mid-season Wire Troll All-Star Team.

With a .321 BA, 10 homers, 41 RBI and a .400 OBP, Helton turned back the clock in the first half of 2011.

Unfortunately, he struggled in the second half (hitting under .270 with just four homers in 150 at-bats), and the back once again became an issue, forcing Helton to shut it down early in September.

Helton remains a key component in a lineup he’s been a fixture in forever, and he’s proven he can still be an elite OBP man, but with so many tantalizing sluggers occupying first base, he can only be considered an option in NL-only leagues. We also probably won’t ever have to worry about him leaving Coors Field. After signing a two-year extension with Colorado in 2010, Helton is under contract until the end of 2013, at which point you’d have to assume he’d call it a day. Let’s hope so, anyways, because his OPS is 100 points lower on the road over the last three seasons, so the prospect of him playing elsewhere is not an appealing one.

In fact, let him get his 137 hits to reach 2,500 career and then pack it in. Frankly, I might have even preferred to see him hang ‘em up after last year’s nice bounce back. That might have been a perfect time to end things, because you’d hate to see an elite hitter like Helton – product of Coors Field or not – struggle at the end.

Quick Hits

  • Joel Zumaya signed a one-year deal with the Twins, who so desperately need bullpen help. Obviously, Mr. Guitar Hero poses a huge health risk, but the potential upside – with only Matt Capps ahead of him in the pecking order – is also huge. Sleeper alert. If Zumaya’s velocity is strong and he looks healthy this spring, he’d make an intriguing stash. Capps couldn’t hold the closer job last year and the only thing that’s changed from last season to this season is that Joe Nathan is no longer around to bail him out.
  • While the Tigers watched Zumaya walk out the door, they were busy tying up some loose ends, avoiding arbitration with a pair of hurlers by agreeing to terms with starter Rick Porcello and Phil Coke, who began the season in the Tigers’ rotation, but shifted to the pen. Porcello’s hit rates are headed in the wrong direction, but by improving his homer rate, he had better bottom line results. This dude was supposed to be an ace, but he’s only averaged 4.84 K/9 over his career even with slight gains in that department last year (5.14). There’s upside here, but it’s been slow to develop. Still, Porcello only turned 23 last month, so there’s still time for him to take it to the next level. Coke was surprisingly better as a starter (.276 BAA, 705 OPS against) than as a reliever (.287/779), but his command was much sharper when pitching out of the pen. The southpaw dominates lefties but gets tattooed by righties, which likely caps his value as a LOOGY.

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