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Friday, May 6, 2011
Baseball Challenge: Week 6 preview

By Mike Sheets
Special to

We focus most of our time each week on selecting hitters for the upcoming period. That makes sense considering nine of the 10 roster spots are for hitters. However, we can't simply overlook our pitching staff, which accumulates far more points each week than an individual hitter does. For example, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera have tallied 141 and 140 points this season, respectively. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins pitching staff -- the lowest-scoring staff in the Baseball Challenge entering Thursday -- has registered 206 points. And the Atlanta Braves staff has racked up a whopping 607 points so far this season.

Entering Thursday, here were the top-10 pitching staffs in the Baseball Challenge:

Atlanta Braves -- 607 points
Philadelphia Phillies -- 579
Los Angeles Angels -- 561
Oakland Athletics -- 559
San Diego Padres -- 516
San Francisco Giants -- 510
Cleveland Indians -- 484
Tampa Bay Rays -- 471
St. Louis Cardinals -- 463
Florida Marlins -- 450

Not surprisingly, eight of the top 10 teams ranked in the top 10 in starting pitching ERA, and seven of them ranked in the top 10 in bullpen ERA. What is surprising is that three of the top six teams -- the Athletics, Padres and Giants -- were sub-.500 teams entering Thursday. It goes to show you that, in the BBC, run prevention is obviously very important, but you don't have to necessarily select pitching staffs from only the elite teams to have success. As long as you're using staffs that are pitching well and have promising matchups for the upcoming week, you should be fine. Something to keep in mind when teams like the Braves and Phillies are out of your price range.

With that, here's a look at our Week 6 lineup.

Week 6 Lineup for May 9 through May 15

C: Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles (SEA-3, @TB-3), 4.5 market price: Over the past 30 days, Wieters has racked up 63 points in the BBC, ranking him eighth at the catcher position. Considering the elite catcher options generally cost 5.0 or more, Wieters is a good value at 4.5.

1B: Ike Davis, New York Mets (@COL-3, @HOU-3), 5.4 market price: Davis hasn't yet established himself as a premier first baseman, but he's certainly been hitting like it lately. He's batting .310-6-22 on the season and has a great schedule this week that includes three games at Coors Field.

2B: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers (OAK-3, LAA-3), 5.7 market price: Kinsler has cooled off since his hot start, but he's still been a top-five second-sacker in the BBC over the past two weeks. It also helps that he gets six games at Rangers Ballpark, where he has four of his five home runs this season and is a career .311 hitter.

3B: David Wright, New York Mets (@COL-3, @HOU-3), 6.0 market price: The third-base list is beginning to look like an infirmary report. Evan Longoria has returned to action, but Pablo Sandoval, David Freese and Casey Blake have recently joined Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list, and Jose Bautista, Kevin Youkilis and Pedro Alvarez have been battling day-to-day ailments. That said, Wright has been the No. 2 third baseman in the BBC the past two weeks and is a career .385 hitter with eight dingers in 24 career games at Coors Field.

SS: Yuniesky Betancourt, Milwaukee Brewers (SD-3, PIT-3), 4.2 market price: Yuniesky Betancourt? Really? Well, it's probably obvious that I'm trying to save cap space here, but it's worth noting that Betancourt has been a top-10 shortstop in the Baseball Challenge over the past 15 days and is hitting .370 at home this season (.148 on the road).

LF: Luke Scott, Baltimore Orioles (SEA-3, @TB-3), 4.2 market price: Scott may be a streaky hitter, but he's currently riding a hot streak. He has four home runs in his past eight games, and, perhaps more importantly, his 4.2 price tag provides some salary-cap flexibility.

CF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles (SEA-3, @TB-3), 4.5 market price: There are certainly safer options than Jones, but I'm looking for value here. He's hitting .444 in May, and over the past two weeks he's been a top-12 center fielder.

RF: Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins (PHI-3, @WAS-3), 4.6 market price: Admittedly, this is a bit of a gamble. However, Stanton has homered in three of his past five games, so perhaps he's starting to get locked in. And if he is in fact getting locked in, his power potential means he can pile up points in a hurry.

DH: Jason Kubel, Minnesota Twins (@BOS-1, DET-2, TOR-3), 5.0 market price: The Twins may be struggling this season, but Kubel isn't. The fifth-most productive DH over the past 15 days is hitting .350 on the season and has hit safely in 15 of his past 16 games.

Pitching staff: Milwaukee Brewers (SD-3, PIT-3), 5.9 market price: The Padres and Pirates are both below .500 this season, and both teams rank in the bottom five in runs scored in the National League. Plus, presumptive staff ace Zack Greinke is back in the Brewers' rotation after missing the first month of the season with a rib injury and is looking at a two-start week.

Total salary: $50.0 million, $0.0 remaining

Watch list

These are players I'm keeping an eye on.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins, 4.2 market price: Given the vast number of high-quality options at first base, Morneau is owned by just 1.1 percent of BBC owners. However, his 4.2 market price will be awfully intriguing if/when he starts to heat up.

Jeff Francoeur RF, Kansas City Royals, 5.2 market price: It's hard to really trust Francoeur, but he just keeps on hitting. He's batting .305 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs this season.

Corey Hart, RF, Milwaukee Brewers, 4.4 market price: Hart has yet to start hitting since returning from the disabled list, but he's a potential bargain at his current price.

Scouting schedules

Note: A ballpark that ranked top-10 in terms of home runs last year is considered hitter-friendly, while the bottom-10 parks are pitcher-friendly. In order to be listed below, a team must have two series at hitter-friendly venues, or two at pitcher-friendly parks.

Hitter-friendly schedules: Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers.

Pitcher-friendly schedules: Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins.

Seven-day workweeks: Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates.