After a few months of learning the game and making some mistakes, it feels great to finally hit on all cylinders in Week 17. More than anything, I hope I helped some of you come up with a great score this week. Through five days of the week, just about everything has gone well and I currently lead my entire league by 50 points with two nights remaining. Leading the charge this week has been the absolutely ridiculous 70 points put up so far by the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff. Then toss in 30 from Yoenis Cespedes (on a side note, how about my boys from Oaktown?!?!) and 24 from Miguel Montero and it turns into a huge week. The really nice aspect is the top guys we had this week were not the usual high % names that everyone plays week in and week out. The rest of the team has not gone crazy, but everyone is at least in double digits and still has two games left.
Of course, once a great week is over, we need to move on and keep up the good work, so let's move to Week 18. The only team with five games this week is the Tampa Bay Rays, so make sure to get all your Rays out for this week. Among the teams with seven games, the Red Sox jump off the page initially with all seven of their games at home and with four games against the Twins, they should score a ton of runs this week. The Reds also look like a strong option too with five of their seven games in the Great American Ballpark. Much like the Reds, the Rockies also have five games at home, although they do face a few tough pitchers in their games at Coors. Although, I suppose it all depends whether one thinks Tim Lincecum is a tough pitcher anymore. The Cardinals schedule looks especially good this week with five home games, plus two in Coors. This should be a nice week of offense for the Redbirds. Finally, make sure to note the schedule change as there is a doubleheader between the Nats and Marlins, so your schedule grid should have eight games for the Nats and seven for the Marlins.
Catcher: It really is amazing how the cream really does rise to the top. The top 5 Catchers in the month of July in points leagues? How about Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero and Brian McCann? Also known as five of the top seven catchers taken in every draft in March, we are just missing Mike Napoli and Matt Wieters to make the party complete. Joe Mauer his .333 in July with 20 runs and 15 walks and gets seven games this week. Further, he gets five of his seven games out of Target Field, which is always nice for Mauer. Posey also gets seven games and his week includes a weekend three games set in Coors Field. Los Santana has finally really turned it on the last two weeks with four homers which may not sound epic until you note that he had five all season before that. He gets seven games this week as is definitely a play. McCann also has seven games, including a weekend series vs. the hapless (and also now Happ-less) Astros. You can really take your pick of catchers this week, they all look like solid options. If you are intent on saving some cash at Catcher, Carlos Ruiz is still producing and has seven games and Ryan Doumit could also be a play with seven games and he has been very solid as of late. Finally, I have to mention Yadier Molina because of the Cardinals schedule, but his production has slipped a bit lately so I would go with one of the other guys mentioned above.
First Base: Mark Teixeira needs to find a way to trick himself into thinking it is July all year. Teix killed it in July with a huge 27 RBI. He only gets six games this week, but it is hard to argue against riding the hot hand. Albert Pujols (and his reduced H2H salary) has recovered well from his early start, but I still kind of feel like we are waiting for that one huge stretch of 3-4 insanely hot weeks where he carries the Angels. The Angels get seven games this week, including two in Texas and three in Chicago so their schedule looks very strong. Of course, this means Mark Trumbo has to jump into the discussion as well, but he has cooled a bit as of late, although he is so cheap here, he is still very much in play. (Ed Note: Watch for late news on Trumbo's rib injury.) We don't often discuss the Royals for good reason, but Billy Butler has had a very strong season and had a very strong month of July. He has seven games this week and is very much a consideration for our lineups. If you are looking a tad cheaper and want to fade Trumbo, Freddie Freeman has a seven game week and recovered nicely in July with an average over .300 and 4 HR and 18 RBI. Finally, one has to consider Adrian Gonzalez with that Red Sox schedule as he has finally found his power stroke a little bit, but how about this stat; would you believe Gonzalez has exactly ZERO walks in the month of July? That is just impossible.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia is back and seemingly healthy with two home runs last week. The schedule sure plays out well for Pedroia as his career OPS is 100 points higher at Fenway where he gets to hang out all week. Among other guys with seven games, Brandon Phillips looks like a nice option. He gets five home games and hit .337 in July. Another guy to look at is Danny Espinosa with eight games. Espy smokes lefties and can't hit righties, but the good news is that he is scheduled to face lefties in four of his eight games. Espy hit over .300 in July and with his speed and power combo, if he is hitting well, he can be a fantasy stud. On the cheap side also, Jason Kipnis has slowed down a bit, but he is still super cheap and has seven games this week.
Third Base: What a month for Ryan Zimmerman. With two days left in July, Zimm is hitting .367 with 10 homers, 26 runs and 24 RBI. That is a filthy month of games. With eight games this week, Zimmerman appears to be a pretty solid choice this week. Most of the top 3B this week have six games, which makes Zimmerman's eight even more of an edge this week. The other top-end guy to consider is Adrian Beltre. Beltre has not had a good July and five of his seven games are outside of Arlington, but he is always a strong option with seven games. Among the other guys with seven games, Chase Headley could be a play, but with a majority of his week at Petco, so I can't see taking him over Zimmerman. If you really wanted to go away from the masses, Todd Frazier is playing almost every day with Joey Votto out and gets a nice schedule. He is very cheap and has been very good in July in full-time duty.
Shortstop: This continues to be a tough position, but Jose Reyes has turned it on in July and has given SS at least one really good player this month. Reyes does get seven games this week, but he does face some tough pitching this week, but he is the most productive SS right now. Alcides Escobar gets seven games this week and is coming off a very solid July, hitting .283, but both his homers came in one game and he strikes out a lot. The problem then becomes who else is an option? Jimmy Rollins has seven games, but the Phillies are a mess, may trade some of their offense and he is hitting under .210 in July. Sticking with my thoughts last week about just going cheap at SS to be able to spend elsewhere, how about Josh Rutledge this week? He is dirt cheap, starting every day for the Rockies and gets a nice schedule of five Coors games among his seven games. He has done nothing but hit since he came up and while he is a WAY outside the box play this week, he could pay huge dividends while saving a ton of cap. I ended up going with Reyes, only because I found myself not needing the cap, but I love Rutledge as a play this week.
Outfield: Mike Trout with seven games? Check, next. Somehow, the hottest non-Trout OF is the Twins' Josh Willingham. The Hammer has 11 homers in July to go along with 26 RBI. The Twins get seven this week and it isn't hard to see Willingham smoking some balls both off and over the monster in Fenway this weekend. The outfield is where the Cardinals schedule really comes into play. Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran are all really good options this week. My only reservation is that Craig and Beltran have rested a few times with the return of Lance Berkman. I think Beltran's two day rest was just that, a rest, but Craig will certainly continue to lose some AB as the Cards try and find ways to get everyone involved. Of course, any time the Rockies are home for a majority of the week, Carlos Gonzalez is always a strong option.
Yoenis Cespedes is just absolutely red-hot right now. He was huge for us this week and the A's get seven games, although they are all at home, which is not good for offensive players. At nearly .350 in July though, he is a very nice option again this week. Some other seven-game options I think deserve a close look this week include Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Heyward and Michael Bourn. Also, don't overlook Mike Morse with his eight-game week. Morse rarely walks which I don't love, but he certainly has pop. If you needed to save some money this week in the OF besides Trout, I would also consider Ben Revere, Dexter Fowler and Lorenzo Cain.
Pitching Staff: It is going to very tough to top the Rays this week. 70 points with two games left is just ridiculous and has been a lot of fun. The Rays only have five games this week so we will have to swap them out. The most obvious choice this week is the Washington Nationals with eight games. We have used the Nats a lot this year and the extra game is always a nice bonus. My only issue with them is the two start weeks are from Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler. Those guys aren't awful, but they also aren't Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann. Looking at the seven game teams, the Braves look like a solid option. Their two start guys this week are both guys who have been red hot in Ben Sheets (seriously? Where did that come from) and Mike Minor. The Braves also face the Astros over the weekend who just got even weaker, if possible, on offense by dealing Chris Johnson. The Reds also look strong this week with two starts from Johnny Cueto as well as a couple of games against the weak-hitting Padres. The Giants and their strong pitching staff has seven games, but with three in Colorado and two in St Louis, I will pass on them this week. Finally, the Amazing A's look like a nice play with seven home games. Their team ERA is excellent at home and you get two starts from my boy Jarrod Parker. I wish their four-game weekend set was against an offense besides the Blue Jays, but the A's have shut down a lot of good teams at the Coliseum this year, including the Yankees just last weekend. I so wanted to take Oaktown this week, but I went with my head and took the extra game with the Nationals.
This was a much tougher week than last week, but here is where I decided to end up:
C: Buster Posey ($9.5)
1B: Albert Pujols ($10.5)
2B: Dustin Pedroia ($7.6)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman ($7.1)
SS: Jose Reyes ($7.9)
OF: Carlos Gonzalez ($11.5)
OF: Mike Trout ($7.0)
OF: Matt Holliday ($10.8)
Flex: Carlos Beltran ($7.6)
P: Washington Nationals ($19.2)