Challenge Preview Week 21: Great weeks for Arizona and Boston
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. 17.
Arizona Diamondbacks (MIL-3, CHC-3): Right fielder Justin Upton (3.6 price tag) is a .286 hitter with a .400 on-base percentage and .762 slugging percentage at Arizona's Chase Field thus far, and his .308/.372/.615 numbers in his last 10 games have helped vault him into the No. 5 hole in the lineup. ... Atlanta Braves (@CIN-4, @STL-3): Catcher Brian McCann (3.8) is hitting .300 (33-for-110) with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 27 games since the All-Star break, hitting safely in all but three of those contests. He's also 12-for-24 (.500) with three homers and seven RBIs in six career games at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. ... Boston Red Sox (@TB-3, @CHW-4): Third baseman Mike Lowell (4.3) is a .344 hitter (43-for-125) with two homers and 16 RBIs in 32 games since the All-Star break, 11 of those games have had multihit efforts. He's also 10-for-22 (.455) with two homers and five RBIs in five career games at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field. ... Cleveland Indians (@DET-3, @KC-3): Shortstop Jhonny Peralta (4.3) might be a much weaker hitter on the road (.251/.316/.385) than at home (.281/.355/.468) for his career, but one road ballpark in which he has thrived is Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, where he has .293/.403/.525 numbers in 26 career games. He's also a combined 17-for-40 (.425) with six doubles lifetime against the Tigers' Justin Verlander (Tuesday's scheduled opponent) and Nate Robertson (Wednesday's opponent). ... Colorado Rockies (PIT-4, WAS-3): Right fielder Brad Hawpe (4.7) is a .328/.425/.667 hitter in home games this season, with 16 of his 21 home runs hit at Coors Field. He's also a .325/.427/.625 hitter against right-handed pitchers, and his Rockies will battle five righty starters in their seven games. ... Texas Rangers (@BAL-3, SEA-4): Second baseman Ian Kinsler (3.9) is a .323 hitter (21-for-65) with eight RBIs in 15 games since his return from the DL, eight of those contests included multi-hit efforts. He's also a .342/.429/.595 hitter against left-handed pitchers this season, and the Rangers are slated to face four lefty starters in their seven games.
Billy Butler, DH, Royals (2.8 price tag): He's a .327/.390/.500 hitter against left-handed pitchers this season, and his Royals will face three lefty starters in their six games. In particular, Butler was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs against Indians left-hander C.C. Sabathia -- his scheduled opponent on Friday -- on July 14.
Melky Cabrera, CF, Yankees (4.4): He's a .363 hitter (37-for-102) with four homers, 21 RBIs, three stolen bases and 22 runs scored in his last 25 games, and manager Joe Torre's endorsement of him as the everyday center fielder sure helps his fantasy stock. Cabrera is actually a better hitter in road games (.318/.350/.505 rates) than home (.276/.353/.382), and he hits right-handers rather well (.301/.347/.459). Both of those factors should lead to a productive week for Cabrera; the Yankees battle nothing but righty starters in their six road contests.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (5.1): Like Cabrera, Cano is a more productive hitter on the road than at home, though he's been doing it a little longer, with .336/.368/.514 road rates for his career. He also destroys right-handed pitching, at .326/.350/.529 lifetime numbers, so don't worry about those tough assignments at L.A. and Detroit.
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels (5.6): What makes him a more attractive option is not his hitting matchups; it's his matchups on the base paths. His Angels play seven home games, three against the Yankees and four against the Blue Jays, and those teams' primary catchers (Jorge Posada and Gregg Zaun) have combined to throw out only 18.5 percent (29 of 157) opposing baserunners. Plus, it helps that Figgins' Angels draw six right-handed starters in their seven games; he's a .302/.355/.410 career hitter against that side.
Curtis Granderson, CF, Tigers (5.5): Anytime the Tigers draw a full slate of right-handed starters, as they do in all six games this week, it's a perfect time to capitalize on Granderson's dominance against righties (.329/.390/.614). He's also batting .320 (40-for-125) with five steals and 30 runs scored in 34 games since the All-Star break.
Raul Ibanez, LF, Mariners (3.8): It's about time he started hitting; he's a .400 hitter (20-for-50) with six homers and 14 RBIs in 12 games in August, seven of them multi-hit efforts. He's hitting .274/.343/.483 against right-handers this season, and the Mariners expected to face six righty starters in seven contests. Ibanez also has respectable .283/.354/.468 rates in 49 career games at Texas' ballpark.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Angels (4.1): He's hitting .313 (31-for-99) with 17 RBIs in 29 games since the All-Star break. More importantly, though, Kotchman is a .298/.363/.488 hitter against right-handers and a .338/.401/.565 hitter at home this season, which bodes well considering the Angels face six righty starters in seven home games this week.
Chicago White Sox (KC-3, BOS-4): Third baseman Josh Fields (4.0 price tag) is a .200/.257/.329 hitter against right-handers, and his White Sox will battle six righty starters in their seven games. ... New York Mets (SD-3, LAD-3): Center fielder Carlos Beltran (4.8) is a .251/.340/.409 at Shea Stadium this season, .250/.353/.432 for his career. He's also a .253/.329/.477 hitter against right-handers, compared to .295/.365/.563 against left-handers, and his Mets will see nothing but righty starters in their six games. ... New York Yankees (@LAA-3, @DET-3): Don't be fooled by right fielder Bobby Abreu's (5.3) performance against right-handers this season (.304/.389/.491), despite his Yankees facing nothing but righty starters in their six games. More important is that he's a .231/.314/.382 hitter on the road, and assignments at L.A. and Detroit hardly classify as easy. ... Philadelphia Phillies (LAD-3, SD-3): Left fielder Pat Burrell (4.6) is actually slowing down after a brief hot streak in mid-July; he's batting .194 (7-for-36) with no homers and 11 strikeouts in his last 10 games. ... Tampa Bay Devil Rays (BOS-3, OAK-4): Center fielder Delmon Young (4.2) has gone 49 games without a home run, and he's a .282 hitter (24-for-85) with 12 RBIs in his last 22 contests. He'll have to face the Red Sox's Daisuke Matsuzaka (Tuesday) and Oakland's Dan Haren (Sunday), against whom he's a combined 3-for-17 (.176) with four strikeouts in his career.
David DeJesus, CF, Royals (4.6 price tag): He's a .204 hitter (10-for-49) with one home run, six RBIs and one stolen bases in 14 games in August. He's also a .261/.346/.362 hitter against left-handers, and his Royals face three southpaw starters in six contests this week. In particular, DeJesus is a combined 14-for-65 (.215) with one homer against the White Sox's Mark Buehrle (Monday's scheduled opponent) and Indians' lefty C.C. Sabathia (Friday's).
Chris Duncan, LF, Cardinals (3.9): The Cardinals will face a healthy share of left-handers this week; they draw three lefty starters in their seven games. Those are bad weeks to use Duncan, a .225/.309/.338 hitter against southpaws this season and .217/.286/.375 against them for his career. It doesn't help that he's a .162 hitter (6-for-37) with no homers and 15 strikeouts in 15 games in the month of August, either.
Nick Markakis, RF, Orioles (4.8): He's a much more ordinary hitter against left-handers, with .260/.315/.404 rates against that side this season and .272/.323/.392 for his career. The Orioles will face three lefty starters in their seven games, and one of them is the Twins' Johan Santana (Friday). Markakis is 0-for-2 lifetime against the Twins' lefty.
Joe Mauer, C, Twins (4.4): The Twins' offense has been in a bit of a slump lately and some of that can be attributed to Mauer's lackluster performance. He's a .284 hitter (65-for-229) with four homers and 38 RBIs in 59 games since his return from the DL on June 8, those are good but hardly exceptional numbers. He's also a .274/.354/.301 hitter against southpaws, and his Twins will battle three lefty starters in seven games this week.
Mark Teahen, RF, Royals (4.2): He finally snapped his homerless drought Aug. 13, but that still brings his total to one in his last 65 games -- he was a .285 hitter (75-for-263) with 25 RBIs in that span. Like DeJesus, Teahen should be hurt by facing a hefty dose of left-handed pitching this week; he's a .273/.354/.367 hitter against that side this year.
MONDAY: Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe (4.7 price tag) is a .295/.387/.513 career hitter against right-handers, and a .288/.377/.502 career hitter at Colorado's Coors Field. That bodes well for him against Pirates right-hander Matt Morris, who has allowed .371/.409/.648 rates to opposing hitters in five career starts at Coors.
TUESDAY: Rockies first baseman Todd Helton (4.4) is a lifetime .500 hitter (7-for-14) with two homers against Pirates right-hander Tony Armas Jr. He's also a .302/.429/.493 hitter against right-handers this season.
WEDNESDAY: Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen (4.5) is already 4-for-6 with two doubles and one triple in two games against Indians righty Paul Byrd this season -- he's a lifetime .407 hitter (11-for-27) with one homer against the righty. Guillen is also a .306/.348/.472 hitter in 35 career games at Cleveland's Jacobs Field.
THURSDAY: Indians third baseman Casey Blake (4.1) is already 2-for-3 (.667) with one homer and three walks in two games against the Tigers' Nate Robertson this season. He's also a .357 hitter (10-for-28) with five homers for his career against the lefty.
FRIDAY: Giants right fielder Randy Winn (3.9) is a lifetime .368 hitter (7-for-19) with three homers and five walks against Brewers right-hander Claudio Vargas. Winn is also a .307 hitter (42-for-137) with three homers, 15 RBIs, three steals and 20 runs scored in 34 games since the All-Star break.
SATURDAY: Mets left fielder Moises Alou (3.7) is a lifetime .467 hitter (7-for-15) with four homers against Dodgers right-hander Brett Tomko. He's also a .313 hitter (21-for-67) with six homers and 15 RBIs in 18 games since returning from the DL on July 27.
SUNDAY: Pirates left fielder Jason Bay (4.8) is a .287 hitter (25-for-87) with five homers and 18 RBIs in his last 21 games. He's also a .266 hitter (21-for-79) with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 21 career games at Houston's Minute Maid Park, and a lifetime .563 hitter (9-for-16) with two homers against Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Fantasy Football Week 16 quarterback rankings
- Harris: Week 16 free-agent finds
- Matthew Berry's fantasy football top 200 for Week 16
- Clay: 32 fantasy tips to win in Week 16