Challenge Week 17: Luis Gonzalez among solid options
Each week, Tristan H. Cockcroft offers his strategies for the Baseball Challenge game. Look for his best bargains, busts and daily specials every Sunday. All statistics are through the games of Thursday, July 19.
Los Angeles Dodgers (@HOU-3, @COL-4): Left fielder Luis Gonzalez (4.7 price tag) is a lifetime .389 hitter (35-for-90) with eight home runs, 20 RBIs, 22 runs scored and 1.156 OPS in 22 career games at Houston's Minute Maid Park, and a .322 hitter (102-for-317) with 16 homers, 71 RBIs and a .968 OPS in 79 games at Colorado's Coors Field. He's also a .275 hitter with an .810 OPS against right-handers this year, and his Dodgers see six righty starters in seven games. ... Milwaukee Brewers (@CIN-4, @STL-4): Left fielder Geoff Jenkins (2.8) is a .276/.846 hitter against right-handers this season, and the Brewers will face six such starters in eight games, perhaps seven depending on the Cardinals' spot starter for Saturday's doubleheader. In addition, Jenkins is a lifetime .333 hitter (42-for-126) with 10 homers, 30 RBIs and a 1.080 OPS in 33 games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. ... New York Yankees (@KC-4, @BAL-3): Catcher Jorge Posada (4.3) is a lifetime .357 hitter (40-for-112) with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 29 games at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. ... Philadelphia Phillies (WAS-3, PIT-3): Center fielder Aaron Rowand (4.2) is a .335/.994 hitter in his home games this season, and a .343/.955 hitter against left-handed pitchers. His Phillies will battle three lefty starters in their six contests. ... San Diego Padres (@COL-3, @HOU-4): Right fielder Brian Giles (3.4) was 5-for-12 (.417) with two RBIs in a three-game series at Colorado's Coors Field in April, and he's a lifetime .292 hitter (57-for-195) with 13 homers, 44 RBIs, 47 runs scored and a .982 OPS in 51 games there. He's also a .336/.868 hitter on the road this season. ... Texas Rangers (SEA-4, @KC-3): Right fielder Marlon Byrd (4.0) has batted .362 (55-for-152) with 25 RBIs in 41 games since June 1, and he's a .400/1.024 hitter at home this season. He was also 5-for-15 (.333) in a three-game series at Seattle's Safeco Field in early June.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (5.3 price tag): He continues to excel against right-handed pitching (.266/.876 rates this year), while being much more ordinary against left-handers (.244/.675). His Astros face six righty starters in their seven home games, and don't forget, Berkman is a .307/.978 career hitter at Minute Maid Park.
Brad Hawpe, RF, Rockies ( 5.0): He fits the description of matchups player exceptionally, tearing it up at Coors Field, where he has .331/1.076 rates, and torching right-handers, against whom he's a .338/1.069 hitter, this season. He's got his work cut out for him in Week 17, with tough right-handers like Greg Maddux and Chris Young (Padres) and Derek Lowe and Brad Penny (Dodgers) on the docket, but if there's any situation in which he'll succeed against them, it's in a full seven-game week at Coors.
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies ( 4.8): Always play Helton in weeks where he'll face mostly right-handers, and especially when he's scheduled for a full week at Coors Field. His Rockies get seven home games -- he's a .329/.983 hitter there this season -- and six of them against a righty starter -- he hits righties for .307/.944 rates this year.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs ( 4.5): Some might forget about Lee this week because he sat out five games in Week 16 serving a suspension, but come Tuesday, in the Cubs' first game of Week 17, he's expected right back in the lineup. It's perfect timing for him, too; he'll close out the week with three games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, where he's a lifetime .353 hitter (30-for-85) with nine homers, 21 RBIs, 20 runs scored and a 1.145 OPS. He was also 3-for-8 (.375) with two doubles and an RBI in two games at St. Louis' Busch Stadium, where he'll kick off the week, earlier in the year.
James Loney, 1B, Dodgers (4.1): He's a .380 hitter (35-for-92) with 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored in his last 24 games, and he'll get four games this week at Colorado's Coors Field, where he went 4-for-5 with two homers and nine RBIs in his only career start there (last Sept. 28). Throw in the fact that he's hitting right-handers for .316/.847 rates and it should be a fine week for him as his Dodgers see six righty starters in their seven games.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds ( 4.9): He's a .352/1.003 hitter against left-handers this year, and his Reds will see three such starters in seven home games. In addition, Phillips has been rather productive in his career against Brewers right-hander Dave Bush, with a .357 lifetime batting average (5-for-14), and he'll battle Bush on Thursday.
B.J. Upton, 2B, Devil Rays ( 4.3): He's batting a scorching .471 (8-for-17) with four RBIs, five runs scored and a 1.144 OPS in six games since returning from the DL, and has spent each of his last three contests as the team's No. 3 hitter. He's actually as productive against right-handers (.341/.953) as left-handers (.302/.988) this season, so don't worry about the Devil Rays facing five righty starters in their six games. Upton is also 3-for-6 (.500) with a homer lifetime against the Orioles' Daniel Cabrera, whom he'll battle on Tuesday.
Cleveland Indians (BOS-4, MIN-3): Shortstop Jhonny Peralta (4.7 price tag) is a .276 hitter (37-for-134) with two homers and 14 RBIs in his last 34 games. He's also a lifetime .091 hitter (2-for-22) with 17 strikeouts against the Twins' Johan Santana, his scheduled opponent on Sunday, and 0-for-3 against the Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka, his scheduled Tuesday opponent. ... Houston Astros (LAD-3, SD-4): As expected, second baseman Craig Biggio (3.5) has seen a decrease in his playing time of late, starting only two of the Astros' last seven games. Granted, the team was on the road during that stretch, and Biggio should pick up more at-bats now that the Astros are home all week. Still, he's only a .226/.615 hitter against right-handers this season, and since his Astros face six righty starters in seven games, Biggio will probably sit once or twice. ... Los Angeles Angels (OAK-3, DET-3): First baseman Casey Kotchman (3.9) is only a .225/.586 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Angels battle three lefty starters in six games. ... St. Louis Cardinals (CHC-3, MIL-4): Third baseman Scott Rolen (3.5) has been battling some shoulder soreness, so be prepared for him to sit out a couple games in Week 17. He's only a .250 hitter (17-for-68) without a homer in his last 19 contests. ... Tampa Bay Devil Rays (@BAL-3, BOS-3): Third baseman Akinori Iwamura (3.9) is in the midst of a dreadful slump, batting .240 (37-for-154) with two homers, six RBIs and 37 strikeouts in his last 36 games. ... Toronto Blue Jays (MIN-3, @CHW-3): Center fielder Vernon Wells (4.7) is a .233/.700 hitter against right-handers this season, and his Blue Jays will see four righty starters in their six games. He's also 3-for-21 (.143) with six strikeouts in his career against the Twins' Johan Santana, his scheduled Monday opponent and one of the two lefties he'll face.
Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets (4.6): He's only a .226/.712 hitter in his home games this season, so don't get your hopes up simply because he'll face those weak Pirates and Nationals pitching staffs. Delgado's Mets face four left-handed starters in their seven games in Week 17, and he's a .263/.661 hitter against southpaws this year.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox ( 4.9): Besides his dreadful numbers in the clutch, Ortiz's other weak aspect this year has been his performance against left-handers; he's a .257/.684 hitter against that side. Perhaps his knee problems are the cause, but whatever the case, those numbers make him a shakier start in shallow formats in weeks like these, when the Red Sox face four left-handed starters in their seven games.
Chad Tracy, 3B, Diamondbacks ( 3.5): He's so weak against left-handed pitching, he's a must-sit anytime his Diamondbacks face a good share of pitchers who throw from that side, like in Week 17, when they'll battle three lefty starters in seven games. Tracy is a .186/.442 hitter against southpaws this season, .223/.613 for his career, and he'll also have to face tough Braves right-handers Tim Hudson (Sunday) and John Smoltz (Saturday).
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers (3.7): He has been so cold of late, he doesn't belong anywhere near a fantasy lineup right now. Weeks is a .138 hitter (9-for-65) with no homers, three RBIs and 25 strikeouts in 20 games since his return from the DL, which could indicate his wrist problem is still troubling him. He's only a .211/.692 hitter against right-handers, and the Brewers face six righty starters -- perhaps seven depending on the Cardinals' second starter for Saturday's doubleheader -- in their eight contests.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals ( 4.8): He's a .223/.653 hitter against right-handers this season, and the Nationals will face five of them -- perhaps six depending on the Mets' second starter for Saturday's doubleheader -- in their seven games. In addition, Zimmerman is an ordinary .246 hitter with a .725 OPS in his home games this year.
MONDAY: Padres shortstop Khalil Greene (4.3 price tag) has long excelled at Coors Field, batting .385 (5-for-13) with one home run in three games there in April, .361 (44-for-122) with 12 homers and 32 RBIs in 31 career games there. He's also a .350 hitter (7-for-20) with three homers lifetime against Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis.
TUESDAY: Always exploit the doubleheader; it's twice the stats for one price! That's why Rangers shortstop Michael Young (4.5) is such an attractive option here. He's already 4-for-5 (.800) this season against Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn, one of his two scheduled opponents, and 17-for-51 (.333) with three homers lifetime against the southpaw. In addition, if Ryan Feierabend picks up the start in the other game, keep in mind Young is 2-for-6 (.333) against him in their careers.
WEDNESDAY: Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. (5.3) clearly has Brewers right-hander Jeff Suppan's number, he's a lifetime .579 hitter (11-for-19) with five homers, 11 RBIs and a 2.057 OPS against Suppan. He's also a .297 hitter (44-for-148) with 13 homers and 34 RBIs in 43 games at Great American Ball Park this season.
THURSDAY: White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye (3.3) has kicked off the season's second half on quite a hot streak, batting .333 (11-for-33) with four homers and a 1.147 OPS in his first eight games. He's also a lifetime .467 hitter (7-for-15) with three homers, five RBIs and a 1.596 OPS against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.
FRIDAY: Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent (4.1) is a lifetime .481 hitter (13-for-27) with five homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.668 OPS against Rockies right-hander Josh Fogg. Kent was 3-for-4 (.750) with two RBIs in his only game at Colorado's Coors Field this year (on April 19), and he's a .360 hitter with 20 homers and 64 RBIs in 67 career games there.
SATURDAY: It's another day in which to exploit a doubleheader, this time going for the stud, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (5.4). He's a lifetime .591 hitter (13-for-22) with three homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.758 OPS against Brewers left-hander Chris Capuano, and if right-hander Carlos Villanueva is the Brewers' spot starter in the other game, consider that Pujols is 3-for-9 (.333) with a homer in his career against him.
SUNDAY: Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe (5.0) is most appealing in this particular game of his rather favorable Week 17. That's because he'll be facing Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe, against whom he's a lifetime .500 hitter (10-for-20) with three homers, seven RBIs and a 1.633 OPS. Remember, the game is at Coors Field.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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