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Well, it was bound to eventually happen.
After 13 weeks and 345 points (plus his weekend contributions) for my Baseball Challenge team, Chase Utley got his walking papers from my squad. He'll be missed, as will his bargain 5.7 price tag (1.8 beneath his current 7.5 market rate).
I know what you're thinking: Why on earth would I cut a guy on pace for 45 homers, 125 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 120 runs, especially if he's priced so low?
It's simple, really. There are two scoring periods left to go in BBC Segment 1, and I can't afford to futz around, especially not with a guy who came into Saturday batting .197 with one home run in his past 20 games. That's right, we're down to a mere two-week race, and then salaries reset, so it's not like Utley will stay cheap forever anyway. Given the choice, what's better, keeping Utley around for cheap while he's in a funk or sacrificing him to play the matchups the next two weeks?
I picked the latter, and nabbed Robinson Cano and his insanely low 4.6 price tag. He's hitting .366 in his past 11 games and .289 in his past 35, and then there's that second-half history of his; he's a lifetime .332 hitter with 35 of his 53 career homers (66.0 percent) from July 1 forward. It's a hunch, since anything could change between now and Week 16 (Week 1 of Segment 2), but I have a feeling Cano, not Utley, might be my starting second baseman coming out of the All-Star break.
That short-term approach can be seen in my entire Week 14 lineup. It's make-or-break time, so get your best players in there, not necessarily your best-priced players. I'll worry again about bargains in two weeks; for now, it's great matchups, first and foremost.
And what of those great matchups? I'm all over the Orioles' seven-game schedule at Camden Yards, all of it against right-handed starters, against the shabby Royals and Rangers staffs. OK, so Zack Greinke on Monday might pose a problem, and perhaps Vicente Padilla on Friday, but neither strike me as Cy Young candidates, either. Left-handed Orioles are especially intriguing; Aubrey Huff, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Luke Scott all boast an OPS better than .800 against right-handers, and as you'll see, two are in my lineup.
My other under-the-radar play -- relatively speaking -- is Khalil Greene, a player for whom I wait -- very patiently -- all year for the weeks the Padres are scheduled to travel to Colorado's Coors Field. He's a .331 hitter with a 1.079 OPS in 38 career games there, and if you break it down by BBC points, he has managed at least five points 18 times and 10 points five times. For his career, he has averaged 4.9 BBC points in games played at Coors. Bingo.
None of the Brewers players cracked my lineup, but take a look at their lineup, too, as they'll make a four-game stop at hitter-friendly Chase Field in Arizona before coming home to battle the Pirates, who likely will start three left-handers, on their home field. Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks all have OPS percentages better than .800 against left-handers, and they'll see five lefty starters total in Week 14. Even Bill Hall, who has a .358 average and 1.033 OPS against southpaws this season, warrants a look if you play the daily format.
Total points: 3,803 (through Friday).
Percentage: 100.0. Overall rank: 2nd.
Ranking in Fantasy Editorial Group: 1st.
|RF||J.D. Drew||Red Sox||282||4.8||5.7||0.9|
|P||Los Angeles Angels staff||1020||5.0||5.0||--|
|Pos.: Player position; Points: Year-to-date points earned in BBC (through June 27); Lock: Price locked in on my roster; Mkt.: Current market price; Diff.: Difference in price.|
I'm picking the Angels (5.0 price tag) as the standout pitching-staff choice for Week 14 despite the fact that they're 22-18 with a 4.44 ERA at home compared to 26-13 with an MLB-best 3.26 ERA on the road. Look at their opponents, though; neither the Athletics nor the Blue Jays (three games apiece) has a standout offense. Tuesday starter Ervin Santana is 8-1 with a 1.38 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 12 career games (11 starts) against Oakland, while Sunday's starter Jon Garland is 10-2 with a 4.23 ERA in 17 career games (15 starts) against Toronto. It's the perfect time for this team to pick things up at home.
Though they'll play three games against the Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays (4.7) remain a good choice. Some things to think about: In nine games between the Red Sox and Rays, the home team was the winner in all nine, and when the Red Sox came to Tampa Bay (April 25-27), they scored a grand total of five runs in their three contests. In addition, the Rays will be throwing their three best pitchers, James Shields, Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir, who are a combined 11-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 21 starts at home this season. As a team, the Rays are 30-13 with a 2.87 ERA at Tropicana Field, and their other three games come against the light-hitting Royals, so expect another standout week.
Among sleeper selections, take a look at the Cincinnati Reds (4.1). They get a seven-game week, all at home, with Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez both in line for two starts. Plus, their opponents are the Pirates, who dropped two of three in Cincinnati in their previous series there (May 27-29), and the Nationals, one of the weakest offenses in baseball. Harang might have struggled of late, and Volquez is coming off his first poor outing all year, but this schedule represents a perfect bounce-back opportunity for both.
• Garrett Atkins (3B, Rockies, 5.7 price tag) is a lifetime .462 hitter (12-for-26) with two home runs against the Padres' Greg Maddux (his Monday opponent). He's also a .345 hitter with a .927 OPS in 37 home games this season.
• Chris Young (CF, Diamondbacks, 5.9) is 3-for-6 with two home runs in his career against the Brewers' Dave Bush (his Monday opponent). He's also batting 66 points higher at home (.266) than on the road (.200) this season.
• Randy Winn (RF, Giants, 5.8) is 6-for-13 with two home runs in his career against the Cubs' Jason Marquis (his Tuesday opponent). He's also a .304 hitter (258-for-850) with an .819 OPS in 223 career games at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
• Brian Giles (RF, Padres, 5.6) is 4-for-10 in his career against the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez (his Wednesday opponent). He's also a .288 hitter (65-for-226) with 13 homers and 45 RBIs in 58 career games at Colorado's Coors Field.
• Carlos Guillen (1B, Tigers, 5.7) is a lifetime .531 hitter (17-for-32) with three homers and 13 RBIs against the Mariners' Carlos Silva (his Thursday opponent). He's also batting .322 with an .883 OPS in 23 games in the month of June.
• Jason Kubel (DH, Twins, 4.7) is a lifetime .444 hitter (8-for-18) with two home runs against the Indians' Paul Byrd (his Friday opponent), including 3-for-5 with a homer this year. He also has a .284 average and .847 OPS against right-handers this season.
• Xavier Nady (RF, Pirates, 5.2) is 9-for-17 with three home runs in his career against the Brewers' Ben Sheets (his Friday opponent). He's also a .283 hitter (17-for-60) with four homers and 12 RBIs in 17 career games at Milwaukee's Miller Park.
• Carlos Delgado (1B, Mets, 5.4) is one of those rare left-handers who owns fellow left-hander Jamie Moyer (his Saturday opponent). He's a lifetime .423 hitter (30-for-71) with eight home runs against the Phillies veteran, including 2-for-6 with a homer against him this year.
• J.J. Hardy (SS, Brewers, 4.1) is 8-for-13 with two home runs and six RBIs in his career against the Pirates' Zach Duke (probably his Saturday opponent, but possibly Sunday). He's also a lifetime .285 hitter with an .870 OPS against left-handers.
• Mike Lowell (3B, Red Sox, 5.5) is a lifetime .579 hitter (11-for-19) with three home runs against the Yankees' Mike Mussina (his Saturday opponent). He's also hitting .301 with an .828 OPS in 33 road games this season.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.