- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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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, Aug. 2.
Good team matchups
Arizona Diamondbacks (PIT-3, WAS-3): Center fielder Chris Young (4.1 price tag) is a .278 hitter (22-for-79) with six home runs and 17 runs scored in 20 games since the All-Star break. He was also 11-for-28 (.393) with three homers in seven games in the Diamondbacks' most recent homestand. ... Chicago Cubs (@HOU-3, @COL-4): First baseman Derrek Lee (4.6) is a .362 hitter with a .440 on-base percentage and .617 slugging percentage in 27 career games at Coors Field. He's also hitting for better power since the All-Star break, with five homers and 14 RBIs in 14 games. ... Detroit Tigers (TB-4, OAK-3): Center fielder Curtis Granderson (5.5) is a .377/.429/.649 hitter with 23 runs scored in 21 games since the All-Star break. He's also a .331/.386/.632 hitter against right-handers this season, and his Tigers will face five righty starters in their seven games. ... Milwaukee Brewers (@COL-3, @HOU-3): Third baseman Ryan Braun (5.0) simply continues to perform at an elite level, batting .329 (28-for-85) with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 21 games since the All-Star break. He's also familiar with the Rockies' Wednesday starter, Jeff Francis, against whom he was 2-for-3 with two homers on July 13, and the Astros' Sunday starter, Wandy Rodriguez, against whom he was 2-for-3 with a homer on June 26. ... San Diego Padres (@STL-4, @CIN-3): Left fielder Milton Bradley (3.1) is a .370/.465/.644 hitter with 17 runs scored in 20 games since his trade to the Padres. ... Texas Rangers (OAK-3, TB-3): Shortstop Michael Young (4.5) has batted .373 (28-for-75) in 18 games since the All-Star break. He's also a .317/.357/.438 hitter at Rangers Ballpark this season.
Bobby Abreu, RF, Yankees (4.7 price tag): Since July 1, Abreu has batted .358 (39-for-109) with six homers and 31 RBIs in 28 games, with 13 multihit efforts during that span. With his hot streak, he has his numbers against right-handers up to .305/.388/.479 on the season, and that's good considering the Yankees see all righty starters in their six games.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (4.5): He has batted .388 (45-for-116) with seven home runs, 26 RBIs and 25 runs scored in 30 games since July 1. He's also a lifetime .326/.348/.526 hitter against right-handers, and his Yankees are slated to face nothing but righty starters in their six games. In particular, Cano is already 3-for-4 (.750) with a homer against the Blue Jays' scheduled starter Tuesday, right-hander Josh Towers.
Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox (3.6): He's a respectable .250 hitter (26-for-104) with six homers and 18 RBIs in 29 games since July 1, and for the season he has hit seven of his eight home runs at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. He's also a .339/.391/.644 hitter against left-handers, and his White Sox go up against three southpaw starters in six games.
Ronny Paulino, C, Pirates (2.0): His recent hot streak has been earning him more playing time; he's a .308 hitter (16-for-52) with two homers and seven RBIs in his past 14 games. Paulino is especially productive against left-handed pitchers, managing .380/.430/.519 rates against them this season. His Pirates battle three southpaws in their six contests, games Paulino certainly will start, and with Ryan Doumit slumping, he could play all week.
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (4.1): He's a .292 hitter (21-for-72) with a surprising four home runs in 18 games since the All-Star break, and since May 10, he's batting .315 (92-for-292). Sanchez is hitting .352/.388/.528 against left-handers this season, which bodes well as the Pirates see three lefty starters in their six games.
Nick Swisher, RF, Athletics (4.2): Slumps aside -- he's only a .214 hitter (18-for-84) with four homers in 27 games since July 1 -- this is a good week for a player such as Swisher to bounce back. He has six homers and 21 RBIs -- the latter his best in any road ballpark -- in 23 career games at Texas' Rangers Ballpark. He's also a .306/.485/.480 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Athletics battle three southpaw starters in six games.
Willy Taveras, CF, Rockies (3.7): Coors Field has suited Taveras rather well in his first year with the Rockies; he's a .331/.373/.417 hitter in 40 games there this season. His Rockies square off against four left-handed starters in six home contests this week, which bodes well for Taveras; he has .366/.416/.463 rates against that side this season.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Braves (5.1): Leaving Rangers Ballpark hasn't seemed to bother Teixeira so far; he has homered in each of his first two games as a member of the Braves. He's especially productive against left-handed pitchers, whom he hits for .363/.464/.563 rates, and his Braves battle three lefty starters in their six games. Teixeira was also 4-for-12 (.333) with two homers and five RBIs at his only career three-game series at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park (June 7-9, 2005), where his team plays Friday-Sunday.
Poor team matchups
Boston Red Sox (@LAA-3, @BAL-3): Designated hitter David Ortiz (4.8) is a great slugger, but he's a bit more ordinary against left-handed pitchers and on the road this season, and his Red Sox will see three lefty starters in their six road contests this week. Ortiz has .267/.364/.367 rates against left-handers, and .288/.425/.553 on the road. Also steer clear of J.D. Drew (3.9), a .209/.278/.337 hitter against southpaws. ... Houston Astros (CHC-3, MIL-3): Second baseman Craig Biggio (3.1) is expected to play two of every three home games the remainder of the year, which puts him in line to appear in four games this week, but the matchups aren't great for him. He's a .218/.260/.339 hitter against right-handers this season, and the only lefty starters his Astros face all week are the Cubs' Rich Hill (Monday) and Sean Marshall (Tuesday). ... Kansas City Royals (MIN-3, TOR-3): Right fielder Mark Teahen (4.3) has gone homerless since May 29, a span of 214 at-bats, and since July 1, he's a .242 hitter (24-for-99) with three RBIs in 25 games. ... Los Angeles Angels (BOS-3, MIN-3): Shortstop Orlando Cabrera (4.4) is a .202 hitter (21-for-104) with two homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games since July 1. ... St. Louis Cardinals (SD-4, LAD-3): Shortstop David Eckstein (3.0) is a .220 hitter (13-for-59) with no homers, three RBIs and one stolen base in his past 16 games. He'll also have to battle tough right-handers such as the Padres' Jake Peavy (Tuesday), Greg Maddux (Wednesday) and Chris Young (Thursday), and the Dodgers' Derek Lowe (Friday) and Brad Penny (Saturday).
Mike Cameron, CF, Padres (4.7 price tag): He's a .222/.277/.387 hitter against right-handers this season, a concern as his Padres battle six righty starters in their seven games. Cameron is also in the midst of another slump, batting only .203 (15-for-74) with three homers and 23 strikeouts in 19 games since the All-Star break.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks (3.6): His .255 batting average (14-for-55) and four homers in his past 15 games might have his owners beginning to trust him again, but with his D-backs slated to see five left-handed starters in their six games, a cold spell could be in his future this week. Drew has only .229/.286/.333 rates against that side this year.
Brian McCann, C, Braves (3.5): Although the trade of Jarrod Saltalamacchia eliminates the chance of McCann losing many at-bats the remainder of the year, in a week when his Braves face a good share of left-handed starters -- as they do this week, facing three in six games -- that's actually a bad thing. He's only a .246/.267/.404 hitter against that side this year, meaning this is a week when he might drag down your batting average.
Jim Thome, DH, White Sox (4.9): One of the signs of an all-time great beginning to show signs of decline is when he slips against his lesser side; Thome, for instance, is only a .192/.308/.313 hitter against left-handers this season. He remains a useful fantasy option, for sure, but in a week like this, when his White Sox see three southpaw starters in their six games, it's better to temper your expectations for him. In fact, he's 0-for-11 with seven K's lifetime against the Indians' C.C. Sabathia, his scheduled Tuesday opponent.
MONDAY: Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins (4.7 price tag) is a .313 hitter (51-for-163) with 11 homers and 43 RBIs in his past 42 games, looking much closer to the "stud" model of 2006. He's a .310/.365/.524 hitter at Coors Field this year and a lifetime .375 hitter (6-for-16) with two homers against Brewers right-hander Claudio Vargas.
TUESDAY: Rangers shortstop Michael Young (4.5) is a .378 hitter (37-for-98) with 18 RBIs in his past 24 home games, 12 of which were multihit efforts. He's also 5-for-9 (.556) with two doubles against Athletics right-hander Chad Gaudin this season, and he also had a home run against Gaudin in his only plate appearance against him in 2004.
WEDNESDAY: Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla (5.8) is a .333 hitter (21-for-63) with five homers in his past 15 games. He's already 3-for-4 with a homer against Phillies right-hander Kyle Lohse this season, from their meeting July 20. Plus, Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park ranks second on the Park Factor page in home runs allowed (1.464).
THURSDAY: Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez (3.3) is quietly but steadily improving, batting .299 (23-for-77) with 13 RBIs in his past 23 games, and he's a .312/.395/.523 hitter in 118 career games at Camden Yards. He's also a lifetime .400 hitter (4-for-10) with two homers against Mariners left-hander Horacio Ramirez.
FRIDAY: His Rockies actually face four left-handed starters in seven games this week, which hurts his appeal, but this is one game in which right fielder Brad Hawpe (4.8) should be a standout. He's 6-for-12 (.500) with one homer lifetime against Cubs right-hander Jason Marquis, and he's a .323/.413/.629 hitter at Coors Field this season.
SATURDAY: As mentioned earlier, Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee (4.6) loves to hit at Colorado's Coors Field; he was 5-for-11 (.455) with two doubles, a homer and four walks in his last trip there, Aug. 19-21, 2005. He's also a lifetime .414 hitter (12-for-29) with two homers and seven RBIs against Rockies right-hander Josh Fogg.
SUNDAY: Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham (4.5) is a remarkable .333/.393/.569 hitter in 16 career games at New York's Shea Stadium, .298/.389/.529 lifetime in road contests. He's also a lifetime .400 hitter (4-for-10) with two homers against Mets left-hander Oliver Perez, although he does also have four K's against Perez.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.