Closing Time: Gerardo Parra, back in the game

Gerardo Parra is back in our fantasy lives (AP)

Gerardo Parra was one of my favorite value plays entering 2016. The dots were simple to connect; he was coming off a useful 2015 season, had a broad base of skills, and was headed to Coors Field. Easy ticket to punch.

On second thought, make that a stomach punch. Parra’s first go-round in Colorado was an unmitigated disaster. His bat was adequate at best at Coors, a joke on the road (.532 OPS). Ankle and hamstring injuries mucked things up, and kept Parra from running much. Entering 2017, Parra wasn’t even seen as a starter. Slap his bad contract on the bench, move forward.

And what a difference a year makes.

Parra hasn’t been much healthier this season — a quad problem kept him down for about a month — and he’s a washout on the bases now, but his bat is back into fantasy relevance. Parra posted a juicy 5-2-4-0 line in Wednesday’s thrashing of San Diego, upping his slash to .364/.387/.549. Parra’s spot in the lineup appears safe, with David Dahl stuck in limbo.

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Like so many Colorado players, we have to consider Parra’s splits, decide when we’re comfortable using him. He’s a .436/.458/.663 monster at home, just a .277/.304/.410 guy on the road. He’s hitting both righties and lefties. His ownership juice is tied directly to how pliable your transaction rules are.

This weekend should be a fun go for Parra, at home and against three Pittsburgh right-handers. It’s not hard to fit Parra in a fantasy lineup, as he qualifies at first base and the outfield. His contact rate and line-drive rate are both excellent, which especially gets you excited in the thin air. Parra’s still a highly-available fantasy commodity, owned in just 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.

• As bright as the future looks for the White Sox, they’re going to be a mess for the remainder of the year. The deck’s been cleared, the MLB roster gutted. Chris Sale and Adam Eaton left last winter, and Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle were jettisoned this month.

And Chicago already had the worst record in the American League.

Nonetheless, occasionally the Pale Hose are going to hold a ninth-inning lead, and it looks like Tyler Clippard is the man holding the closing baton. Clippard was a throw-in to the big Chicago-New York deal from Tuesday, which shows you how little the Yankees thought of him. He probably won’t be long for the South Side, set for free agency after the year.

Clippard’s stats don’t inspire much confidence — 4.95 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 19 walks in 36.1 innings. His ownership question comes down to how badly you need to chase the saves. Anthony Swarzak’s breakout season (2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) makes him another option if Cliuppard can’t get right, but the White Sox are thinking big picture here. What’s best for the immediate competitiveness of the team might not match what’s best for future contracts and roster shape.

Place your bets, save chasers.

• It will be interesting to see if the Brewers throw themselves into the July shopping sweepstakes. Milwaukee held a surprising 5.5-game lead in the NL Central at the All-Star break, but that advantage is slipping quickly. The Brew Crew is on a four-game bender, while the Cubs have won six in a row. Chicago is just 1.5 games back as Thursday’s play opens.

Can Milwaukee count on Ryan Braun? He’s dealing with a sore calf and wrist and will miss his second straight game Thursday. Cleveland castoff Jesus Aguilar has turned into a surprisingly-essential part of Milwaukee’s lineup; he’s carrying a .296/.357/.542 slash with nine homers in 179 at-bats. He batted third in Wednesday’s loss to Pittsburgh.

• Nick Williams is a tricky player to get a handle on. On one hand, the Phillies outfield prospect was highly-regarded before the year, and he did clout 15 homers in 78 Triple-A games. But he also had 90 strikeouts against just 16 walks, and an ordinary .328 OBP. A .280 average and .511 slugging are just fine, of course.

Injuries have forced Williams into immediate action with the parent club, and so far, so good (.316/.349/.614, three homers). He’s slotted third in the last two games, and had a 4-2-2-2 line in Wednesday’s laugher at Miami. If you’re frisky for a fresh body, Williams is owned in just five percent of Yahoo leagues.