Challenge Week 7: Buy low on Atkins
Each week, Tristan H. Cockcroft offers his strategies for the Baseball Challenge game. Look for his best bargains, busts and daily specials every Sunday.
CATCHER: The Brewers' Johnny Estrada (4.2 price tag) has been hitting extremely well of late, with seven multi-hit games, a .353 batting average (18-for-51) and three home runs in 13 games from April 20-May 8. Four games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park suit him well; then he'll miss Johan Santana in the three-game weekend series against the Twins. Also consider: Victor Martinez (5.6), Miguel Olivo (4.4).
FIRST BASE: Anytime the Rockies' Todd Helton (6.2) plays all of his games at Coors Field, he's a fine fantasy starter. He's hitting .462 with a 1.204 OPS there this year, and has .372/1.143 career rates at Coors. Plus, the only truly tough lefty he faces all week is Arizona's Randy Johnson, who has looked shaky in his four starts this year. Also consider: Lyle Overbay (5.2), Carlos Pena (3.5).
SECOND BASE: The Blue Jays' Aaron Hill (5.4) might not be a noted power hitter, but his .500 slugging percentage (through Thursday) is an encouraging number. He'll kick off the week at home, where he's a .339/.921 hitter this year, with three games against the Orioles, then he'll travel to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, where he can rack up the RBIs. Also consider: Rickie Weeks (6.0), Orlando Hudson (5.9).
THIRD BASE: It's prime time to buy in on the Rockies' Garrett Atkins (5.4), as his price tag will never get cheaper. Though he's hitting only .252 with two homers and a .712 OPS in 33 games, keep in mind only 14 of those have come at Coors. He was at only .306/4/.852 numbers in his first 38 games last year, and with a full week at Coors ahead, he seems due to heat up. Also consider: B.J. Upton (5.8), Troy Glaus (5.4).
SHORTSTOP: Since his move to the No. 2 spot in the lineup, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki (4.5) has hit .317 (19-for-60) with two home runs and 14 runs scored in 14 games. Coors Field certainly plays in his favor, as he's a .280 hitter (14-for-50) with two homers, 10 RBIs and a .821 OPS in 12 games there, and he does get all six of his games at home this week. Also consider: J.J. Hardy (6.0), Stephen Drew (5.0).
LEFT FIELD: It's a favorable week for the Marlins' Josh Willingham (5.7) anytime he faces at least three left-handers; he has .279/.958 career numbers against them. In addition, he's a much better hitter away from Dolphin Stadium, with .309/.947 career rates. He'll begin the week facing all three of those lefties in Pittsburgh in a four-game series. Also consider: Geoff Jenkins (4.5), Adam Lind (4.1).
CENTER FIELD: Interleague play is when it all got going for the Devil Rays' Rocco Baldelli (5.4) last year, as he had .373/1.194 rates in 13 games, and for his career, he has .319/.900 numbers in 44 interleague contests. Plus, he'll kick off the week with three games against hittable Rangers right-handers: Brandon McCarthy, Vicente Padilla and Kameron Loe. Also consider: Vernon Wells (6.4), Bill Hall (5.4).
RIGHT FIELD: The Blue Jays' Alex Rios (5.8) has performed very well leadoff spot, batting .281 (25-for-89) with five homers, 15 RBIs and 13 runs scored in 21 games since his move there. This week, he faces Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Jamie Moyer. He's a combined 23-for-69 (.333) with two home runs against that trio in his career. Also consider: Delmon Young (5.4), Brad Hawpe (5.0).
DESIGNATED HITTER: The Astros' Luke Scott (4.3) has been performing better of late, batting .400 (12-for-30) with nine RBIs in 10 games in May. Now he gets six home games, he's a .291/.965 hitter in Houston. Five of Scott's games this week will be versus right-handers, against whom he has .287/.892 lifetime rates. Also consider: Frank Thomas (5.4).
PITCHING STAFF: Six home games at Safeco Field isn't a bad schedule at all for the Seattle Mariners (3.4), especially not when their opponents are the Angels and Padres for three apiece. The Angels' offense is among the game's worst on the road, and the Padres are an average offense at best. Plus, it's possible the Mariners could get Felix Hernandez back. Also consider: Oakland Athletics (6.0), Los Angeles Dodgers (5.3).
CATCHER: The Mariners' Kenji Johjima (4.1) has been a much better hitter on the road (.306/.837 rates) than at Safeco Field (.274/.726) for his career, and this week, he'll get three games apiece against the Angels' and Padres' solid staffs. Expect a more ordinary week for him. Also avoid: Jorge Posada (5.6), Ivan Rodriguez (4.8).
FIRST BASE: The Yankees' Jason Giambi (5.4) has been battling a bone spur in his foot, which could yet cost him another game or two. All six of the Yankees' games are on the road, and three of them come against left-handers, whom Giambi hits at .236/.851 rates since the start of 2006. Also avoid: Justin Morneau (6.3), Richie Sexson (4.7).
SECOND BASE: The Tigers play all seven games against right-handers, which doesn't bode well for Placido Polanco (5.2). Four come at Boston's Fenway Park, then the final three are against the Cardinals, who limited Polanco to a 0-for-17 performance in the 2006 World Series. Also avoid: Robinson Cano (4.9), Jose Lopez (4.6).
THIRD BASE: The Mariners' Adrian Beltre (4.9) suffers from playing six games at Safeco Field, where he has .257/.731 career rates. Five of those game will be against right-handers, whom he has hit at .231/.660 numbers this year. Remember, he's a historically poor first-half player. Also avoid: Alex Rodriguez (7.4), Brandon Inge (4.6).
SHORTSTOP: The Twins' Jason Bartlett (4.1) has been a real disappointment this season, after a strong finish to 2006. He'll kick off the week with three games at Cleveland's Jacobs Field, where he has .175/.414 career rates in 11 contests, before three at Milwaukee. Also avoid: Carlos Guillen (6.1), Yuniesky Betancourt (4.0).
LEFT FIELD: The Padres picked up Jose Cruz Jr. (5.0) for one purpose: to hit left-handed pitchers. Sure enough, he's noticeably better against them (.333/1.026) than right-handers (.283/.848) this year, and this week, the Padres face only one lefty. Also avoid: Craig Monroe (4.7) Cliff Floyd (3.6).
CENTER FIELD: Like Giambi, the Yankees' Johnny Damon (5.3) is battling his own health issues, in his case it is a balky back. He might need to be limited to DH duties or miss a game, and that's a concern when his team is slated to see three left-handers in six contests. Also avoid: Torii Hunter (6.2), Jim Edmonds (3.9).
RIGHT FIELD: Bobby Abreu's (5.9) season has been very frustrating. The latest development is the Yankees trying him out in different lineup spots -- second, seventh -- in an attempt to get him started. The Yankees play all six of their games on the road, and note that he's at .183/.542 rates on the road this year. Also avoid: Jacque Jones (4.5), Jose Guillen (4.3).
DESIGNATED HITTER: Though the Mariners' Jose Vidro (4.3) has been hitting for a high average, he has only one extra-base hit in his past 21 games, and three all year. He gets the pitching-rich Angels and Padres this week. Also avoid: Kevin Mench (4.0).
PITCHING STAFF: The New York Mets (5.7) get three games against the Cubs, a better than average offensive club, before finishing the week facing their cross-town rivals, the Yankees, by far the best offense in the league (5.82 R/G). This should be one of their tougher weeks. Also avoid: Chicago White Sox (4.4), New York Yankees (4.1).
MONDAY: The Brewers' Geoff Jenkins (4.5) is a lifetime .364 hitter (4-for-11) with one homer, five RBIs and a 1.235 OPS against the Phillies' Adam Eaton. He's also a .311 hitter (14-for-45) with a .910 OPS in 12 career games at Citizens Bank Park.
TUESDAY: The Tigers' Craig Monroe (4.7) is finally heating up, batting .393 (11-for-28) with three homers, nine RBIs and a 1.235 OPS in eight games in May. He's also a lifetime .375 hitter (6-for-16) with two homers against the Red Sox's Tim Wakefield.
WEDNESDAY: The Yankees' Robinson Cano (4.9) has been a much better hitter on the road (.347/.896) than at home (.270/.711) for his career, and he's also more effective against righties (.320/.847) than lefties (.288/.713). He faces Chicago's Jose Contreras.
THURSDAY: The Diamondbacks' Chad Tracy (5.2) is a lifetime .579 hitter (11-for-19) with four homers against the Rockies' Josh Fogg. He's also a .343 hitter (37-for-108) with five homers and 19 RBIs in 27 career games at Coors Field.
FRIDAY: The Indians' David Dellucci (3.4) is a lifetime .357 hitter (5-for-14) with two homers, seven RBIs and a 1.214 OPS against the Reds' Kyle Lohse. He's also a .300 hitter (15-for-50) with two homers and a .937 OPS in 18 career games at Jacobs Field.
SATURDAY: The Rangers' Ian Kinsler (5.8) is 3-for-3 in his career against the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez, with each of the three hits a double. He's also hitting .333 (11-for-33) with two homers, seven RBIs and a .965 OPS against left-handers this season.
SUNDAY: The Blue Jays' Frank Thomas (5.4) is a lifetime .356 hitter (16-for-45) with six homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.264 OPS against the Phillies' Jamie Moyer. He's also a .302 hitter (117-for-388) with 34 homers and 89 RBIs in 121 career interleague games.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.