I absolutely love this time of year. Baseball pennant races are in full swing and we are just starting both college and pro football. This time also presents an excellent time to make up some ground in your baseball leagues since football is king in everyone's mind. I was in Las Vegas this weekend and even with a full slate of Sunday baseball day games, exactly zero of them made it onto any screen in the sportsbook I was in. Of course, I was so pleased with the Niners win in Lambeau that I was ok missing some baseball. But now that it is Monday, it is time to swing back into baseball.
Week 23 was very nice in Head2Head and hopefully some of you benefitted from last week's article. Albert Pujols and his 14 points are actually the lowest output I have from anyone in my lineup with two games still left. Even though no one has gone crazy, the solid outputs across the board have gotten me into the lead in my league. The Nationals pitching staff has once again racked up a lot of points and Corey Hart has had a fantastic week and my three other Brewers has all been good this week.
The schedule for Week 24 looks like a tough one. There are only five teams with seven games this week and there are also five teams with only five games this week, including the Brewers and the Nationals so I will need to make some changes this week. None of the teams with seven games have fantastic schedules, except for maybe the Rays who do get a trip to Yankee Stadium over the weekend. It looks like some six game guys will be in play this week. In particular with the five gamers, the Rangers get five of their six games at home and the Yankees get a trip to Fenway along with three home games. Of course, you have to find a Yankee who is not injured to play them.
Catcher: Joe Mauer has been the most productive catcher lately with 14 RBI in the last three weeks and also a slew of walks in that period. The Twins have six games this week, but five of them are in Target Field, which is a tough place for lefties like Mauer to hit. Carlos Santana also gets six games, but two of them are in Texas and Los has been hitting well, even if the huge power never really surfaced this year. Buster Posey is also a nice option with a weekend trip to Zona among his six games, along with one game in Coors at the start of the week. I was going to suggest Yasmani Grandal as a cheap play this week, but the Padres only have five, so if you want to save some cap, I would say that the Royals' Sal Perez is likely your best bet.
First Base: The only seven game option that looks playable is Ryan Howard. Howard has had a tough year after getting injured in the Phillies last playoff game in 2011. He is only hitting .215 the last three weeks, but he also leads all 1B in RBI over that span with 17 of them. If you wanted to save a little bit of cap, Anthony Rizzo has been great lately and gets five games in Wrigley and one in Houston. A lot of the expensive guys have not been producing in a huge way, although Pujols is hitting .375 the last three weeks, but with very little power. Prince Fielder has also been good batting average wise lately, but the points have not been there with only seven RBI and seven runs over the last three weeks. 1B is tougher this week than most so I am leaning to taking the extra game with Ryan Howard.
Second Base: The top three second baseman over the past three weeks have been Dustin Pedroia, Aaron Hill and my favorite guy to rip on, Rickie Weeks. The Diamondbacks and Brewers have only five games this week, which leaves us with Pedroia who actually gets seven this week. He looks like a very strong play this week. Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler are also solid plays this week with their respective six game schedules. Chase Utley has seven this week, but he has been struggling and there is no way I could use him over Pedroia. Other than Pedroia, the other solid play this week is Ben Zobrist who has seven games and gets to hit in New York over the weekend. Zobrist has been only ok as of late, but is very much in play this week.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre has remained red hot and is hitting .395 with 11 home runs in the last three weeks. That is just insane and he gets a majority of his six-game week at home. The other red-hot guy (aside from Chase Headley, but he has five games this week) who might be a play this week is Mark Reynolds. The Orioles have seven games and Reynolds has a ridiculous nine homers in his last 10 games. If you think he can stay hot, that is a great play with 7, but he does visit Seattle and Oaktown this week. The other six-game option I like is Edwin Encarnacion with five home games plus a game in Yankee Stadium. Ency has been struggling lately with his average, but the power has remained solid all year long. If you wanted to go way outside the box and cheap, the Mariners have seven games and Kyle Seager has had a remarkably solid season.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes continues to be a solid performer and has been running lately with seven recent SB and also leads SS in RBI the last three weeks. Derek Jeter has also been hot and gets a nice slate of games this week split between Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. Among the guys with seven games, Jimmy Rollins looks like the best bet as he has been pretty solid lately and gets a four game set in Houston against some very weak pitching. I don't see a lot of cheap options I like, but if you wanted to force some cap savings here, I would likely go with Alcides Escobar, but he has been really struggling lately.
Outfield: Just when I thought the Mike Trout run might slow down a bit, he goes yard to lead off games on both Saturday and Sunday. He has only hit .256 the last three weeks, but at his price and six games, I am going to leave him in for another week. Among the seven-gamers, Adam Jones has finally heated up a little bit after a long power drought this summer. Jones has five recent homers and is a nice play this week with so few solid seven game OF's. Jacoby Ellsbury also has seven games this week and has been running a bit with six SB in the last three weeks. The power has not been there like it was last year, but then again, what has worked for the Red Sox this year? The last two seven gamers I would strongly considers are B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings from the Rays. Jennings is a bit banged up right now, so if you play him, make sure he plays Tuesday night before slotting him in. Upton is hitting nearly .300 the last three weeks and is coming off a three home run game on Sunday. He has also added some SB along with the power with seven swipes in the last three weeks.
In considering the six gamers, the first guy that jumps out to me is Jay Bruce. Bruce has been on fire recently leading all OF with 20 RBI the last three weeks while hitting .343 over the same span. Giancarlo Stanton has also been very solid recently hitting for power and average. When healthy, he has as much power as anyone in the Majors and makes a very solid play this week. Also with six games, Josh Hamilton looks like a solid play with five of his six games at home and he only gets one lefty this week. If you are looking for some cap savings in the OF, I would first suggest Angel Pagan who while not showing any pop, has racked up the points due to his crazy 22 runs in the last three weeks. In addition, some other cheap options who have been strong lately are Coco Crisp, Tyler Colvin and John Mayberry. Mayberry looks especially strong since he has seven games and he has been extremely solid lately and is playing every day.
Pitching Staff: With only five teams with seven games, this could be a tough spot this week. The Orioles somehow keep winning games and do not look to be going away any time soon. Their staff does get trips to Oakland and Seattle, which are both great places to pitch. The two steps this week are from Wei-Yen Chen and Jason Hammel, which does not look especially exciting on paper. The Phillies are back in play for the first time in a while. They have been very strong as a team since the trade deadline when they dumped Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. They get a four game set in Houston, which is extremely conducive to wins. The two steps are from Cliff Lee and the second one is up in the air, but could be Tyler Cloyd who pitched very well in his first start. Toss in one start from Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay and the Phillies might be the best option this week.
The Mariners do get two starts from Felix Hernandez this week, but with a trip to Texas, I can't endorse playing them. The Rays have an exceptional staff, but they play two games at Baltimore this week and then three games in Yankee Stadium. If the two steps were from David Price and Matt Moore, I might be able to see past that, but it looks like Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson will be the guys going twice and Price missed his last start so we don't know for sure if he will get a start this week. The one six game team I would consider is the Cardinals who get four games in Los Angeles plus on at Petco and one home against the Astros. I think I will side with the seven gamers though as losing out on games with the pitchers can be very costly.
Tougher week than most this week, but here is where I am at, assuming Jennings is healthy:
C: Buster Posey ($9.5)
1B: Ryan Howard ($9.3)
2B: Dustin Pedroia ($7.6)
3B: Adrian Beltre ($9.0)
SS: Jimmy Rollins ($8.4)
OF: BJ Upton ($7.5)
OF: Desmond Jennings ($9.2)
OF: Mike Trout ($7.0)
Flex: Josh Hamilton ($10.9)
P: Philadelphia Phillies ($21.5)