Welcome back to relevance, Jason Giambi!
You might be wondering, what type of fantasy baseball league must I be talking about if Giambi, a Colorado Rockies pinch-hitter and occasional first baseman, matters? Is it an NL West-only league? A league in which only coolly mustached options are allowed? No way, my friends, this fine Friday starts up the first weekend of interleague play, which I love, even if it means the Rockies stray from key divisional games to face the Kansas City Royals. It's still baseball, and it's still awesome.
The reason this weekend should be awesome for Giambi, among others who don't get to flex their collective batting muscles enough, is that he's going to play every day. The Rockies head to Kansas City, where the designated hitter is still in vogue, and Giambi is likely to get three full days of at-bats against right-handed pitching, two of those right-handers being very hittable. The Rockies have played 41 games this season, and Giambi has only 31 more at-bats than his retired brother Jeremy. That "pace" will rise this weekend, and fantasy owners in deeper formats -- primarily NL-only and deep-mixed -- should take advantage of it. The Royals send a trio of right-handers to the mound, with Brian Bannister scheduled Friday, Kyle Davies on the docket for Saturday, and Zack Greinke pitching the series finale Sunday. And for the record, Giambi has three home runs and seven RBIs in 16 at-bats against the defending AL Cy Young winner.
In fantasy leagues that allow daily moves, the ability to adjust to the real schedule and parlay advantages to your team is critical, and Giambi is one of those barely owned players I fully expect to enjoy his playing time this weekend. How many times in a weekly head-to-head league do you check the results Sunday night and see that you've lost by one RBI or one strikeout? I don't judge Giambi on his 31 at-bats, since he's hitless in nine at-bats as a pinch-hitter. When he has started for Todd Helton, Giambi has a .971 OPS!
David Ortiz quickly resurrected his season and silenced the doubters, as he has hit .358 in May with seven home runs and 17 RBIs. Those are serious numbers. You know what Ortiz will be doing this weekend in Philadelphia? Not much. Perhaps he and Mike Lowell can play some cards in the dugout, because they'll be riding the pine with the loss of the DH. As such, they'll supply their fantasy owners with about as much production as retired Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski. Maybe Ortiz will get to pinch-hit in a game or two, but that's all. Essentially, interleague play this weekend will switch the roles for players who rely on the designated hitter for playing time, and those who don't enjoy its regular benefits. I'd absolutely sit the smokin' Ortiz for the .194-hitting Giambi this weekend. It's simply smart fantasy baseball.
Here are a few other hitters I see being affected by interleague play this weekend:
Xavier Nady, OF, Chicago Cubs: My first thought when I saw the Cubs were heading to Arlington, Texas, to face the Rangers was that budding outfielder Tyler Colvin would be a big winner this weekend, but the Rangers are scheduled to throw lefties Derek Holland and C.J. Wilson, so the right-handed-hitting Nady is more likely to start. Nady isn't playing much as he works his way back from elbow surgery, but in his career, he has hit .302 with power against southpaws. He also has a .313 batting average at Rangers Ballpark. In deep leagues, like with Giambi, he should be started.
Juan Rivera, OF, Los Angeles Angels: The Angels will be facing the Cardinals in St. Louis, and right-handers Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse and Chris Carpenter are scheduled to start. The righty-hitting Rivera is hitting just .233 off portsiders (.298 against lefties). Hideki Matsui has been worse, but he's historically better against right-handed pitching, and the lefty hitter has already been informed he'll play the outfield in at least one of these games. One more outfield game will give Matsui five games, triggering eligibility for some fantasy owners. Plus, it's not like Rivera is Barry Bonds with the glove. Note that Matsui has hit .500 off Lohse with a home run and two doubles, assuming he starts Saturday's contest.
Juan Miranda, 1B, New York Yankees: He's slugging .700 in his 20 at-bats, and there's little competition for him against right-handed pitching in the DH spot, so I would say he does indeed matter in AL-only and deep formats. Just not this weekend, when the Yankees take taxi cabs to Citi Field to face the New York Mets. Of Miranda's five hits, two are home runs, and he has a double and triple. Maybe he resumes his Shane Spencer-like hitting next week at Minnesota, but Mark Teixeira isn't likely to sit any games this weekend. See if Miranda gets cut in your deep league and try to add him for next week.