Each week of the MLB sesaon we look at one of the more compelling matchups around the league and break it down in-depth for you, in terms of any real world interest but more importantly the fantasy baseball expectations. This week, the selection of the top-billed series was easy, with two American League division leaders kicking off a three game stint on Monday. In other instances, the selection is more subtle but at the mid-way point of the season, we’re looking at a potential playoff preview.
On tap this week: Oakland at Detroit
Fantasy Baseball Week 14 Preview: Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
Oakland enters a tough stretch in their schedule as the calendar turns to July with a matchup on tap with another division leader (Toronto, at home) following this three-gamer with Detroit. Of course, entering Sunday 8-2 in their last 10 (a record the Tigers have matched) and with the most runs scored and fewest runs allowed in the league they’re as well equipped as anyone to come away with a pair of series victories.
The two sides met at the end of May, and while Oakland rolled to a 10-0 victory in game one, it wound up as a 2-2 split. With three games this time around we will have a definitive winner.
Fantasy Baseball Week 14 Preview: Projected Starters
Four of the six starters participated din the earlier series, with the Kazmir/Sanchez matchup remaining the same. What we saw in that game was a pitchers duel befitting of the way both hurlers have been throwing the ball all season. Sanchez struck out nine, walked one and gave up just three hits in 8.1 innings, and yet he came away a loser thanks to Josh Donaldson‘s 9th inning homerun. On the other side, Kazmir gave up six hits but no free passes and K’d eight in the complete game. Since then, his ERA has risen .32 points to sit at 2.66 on the season, still the best on the A’s staff.
Kazmir is coming off a rough outing on Tuesday that saw him yield seven earned runs due to three homers, but on the whole has been very impressive this season. I won’t be the first to try to explain his strong campaign, so I’ll keep it high level but, his career low BABIP (.257) and career high GB% and LOB% (79.7) point to a pitcher who a) has made a turn in the right direction but b) is at risk of falling victim to the dreaded regression. After all, both the BABIP and strand rate are considerably better than league average marks. Sanchez meanwhile is just building on last year’s success (his first in Detroit) and sits comfortably with a mid two’s ERA after missing some time.this season. In any case, the number suggest we’ll see more of the same in round two of this pitcher’s duel, and it may be a good day to avoid stars from either club in daily leagues.
Tuesday’s Tigers starter has been putting together a strong season as well. Porcello’s strikeouts are down, and walks are consistent this season and yet with a .252 batting average against his approach has been working well. He comes into the game on a 15 inning, two start scoreless streak including a complete game shutout his last time on the hill. He’ll draw Brad Mills who is making his third start for Oakland, after not pitching in the MLB at all in 2013, and scarcely doing so over his five Major League seasons (17 appearances). Still, he picked up the win his first time out and while he’s not going deep in games (4 and 6.1 IP respectively) he has not allowed more than two earned runs in either outing. With a 1.56 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and a K/9 at 9.2 through 75 minor league innings he certainly earned his shot with Oakland and will look to stay effective this time out.
To close the series, Jesse Chavez looks to continue his career year against Justin Verlander who is trying to forget his. Chavez’s ERA has been on a steady rise since the start of May with 24 earned runs in 10 starts during the two months, but quality starts abound for him either way and the A’s have been in most of his games. For Verlander, things have been quite the contrary. We’ve discussed his struggles both preseason, and in recent weeks and the short answer revolves around reduced velocity over the last two seasons meaning fewer strikeouts, and increased walks along with a higher BABIP all yielding more baserunners. He’s still throwing effectively enough to turn it around, but Verlander will need to make some adjustments to his game in the second half. For fantasy purposes, I’m avoiding him until I see the changes take hold – he has given two quality starts in his last two outings, but that comes on the heels of 14 ER in his previous two so I’m still holding on Verlander.
Fantasy Baseball Week 14 Preview: Players to Watch
- If you haven’t been watching, you’re missing something. V-mart, Victor Martinez, leads the Tigers in home runs and average (20, .325). He comes in to the series with four multi-hit games in his last ten outings and is 11/23 in his career against Scott Kazmir.
- Over the last two weeks, the 57% owned J.D. Martinez has had a knack for timely hits for Detroit. In fact, he’s had a knack for hitting in general. With 22 hits, six of them home runs, he has been a great find for Detroit and could be for your fantasy roster if he is still available in your league. After three middling seasons in Houston, he has found a home with the Tigers where they’ll have to be creative to get him playing time with Torii Hunter back in the lineup, but, they should find a way given his recent production.
- On that note, Rajai Davis is still picking up some playing time for Detroit, but with just one steal in his last ten outings (21 on the year, mind you) his utility in the fake game is almost nil.
- In a lineup full of pop (Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss each have 18 home runs and Yoenis Cespedes is right behind them at 14), Coco Crisp doesn’t get much attention (particularly with his own power falling off to six home runs to date after hitting 22 last season) but he is 13/15 on stolen base attempts so far and his .287 average is well ahead of last year’s mark. He’s hit safely in nine of 10 coming in, and is batting .366 in his last 41 at bats with two of the six home runs coming during that span.
- The time for Scooter Gennett‘s ownership to rise came months ago, but he still sits at just 32% owned in Y! leagues. Rickie Weekes is still getting some of his at bats (just 40 for Scooter over the last 14 days) but he has produced multi-hit games in four of his last 10 outings with three home runs during that timeframe. Daily gamers need to know when Gennett (.311/.351/.485) is in the lineup and mixed leaguers can surely find a spot for him in their lineup. Genett and the Brewers start the week with a two game stint in Toronto on Tuesday.
- I spoke about this in last week’s piece, so the discussion will be brief, but Billy Hamilton‘s recent surge is reminder enough as to why we can’t judge a player’s season outlook on small sample sizes. In the first month of the season, Hamilton was awful. Over the last two weeks he has been the best player in fantasy baseball according to Yahoo! with 23 combined runs and RBI and nine steals. Martinez is right behind him as the second best hitter in the league during that span. The truth for Hamilton lies somewhere between awful and awesome, but I’m enjoying this look a lot more.