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This Week In Streaming Strategy

Interleague play is in full swing and eight teams will spend their entire week playing under the other league's rules.  The White Sox, Red Sox and Yankees will be in NL ballparks for all six games this week, while the Padres, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Brewers play their six games in AL stadiums.  Let's focus this week's column on some players from these affected teams, plus a couple of two-start pitchers...

* Jim Thome.  This is only partially a sentimental pick for one of my favorite ballplayers.  Thome has been limited to just 32 plate appearances this season due to a month-long DL stint and the fact that he can't play the field anymore, thus limiting to just pinch-hit duties for a National League team.  This upcoming week, however, the Phillies play three games each in Minnesota and Toronto so Thome will be able to fill the DH slot and have an opportunity to produce, given that four of the six games are against right-handed starters.  We've already gotten a taste of Thome as a DH during the Phillies' series in Baltimore, as Thome went for 5-for-9 with a homer and two doubles on Friday and Saturday.  HIS NAME IS JI....Jim Thome.

* Norichika Aoki.  With Corey Hart taking over the first base spot in Milwaukee, Aoki has found regular playing time as Hart's replacement in right.  Between the Brewers getting to use a DH all week and Aoki's hot bat (a .297/.353/.477 line in 144 PAs), you can count on him as a full-time starter for this round of interleague action.  Though the left-handed hitting Aoki has performed equally well against both lefties and righties, it certainly helps that the Brewers will face right-handed starters in five of six games this week.

* Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra.  Arizona seems pretty set for interleague action, as Kubel will spend at least five games at DH while Parra, Chris Young and Justin Upton man the outfield.  Kubel has an .871 OPS this season yet is only owned in 41% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, while Parra has a .297/.371/.461 line against right-handed pitching and is owned in just 18% of Yahoo leagues.  Both are good plays this week with the Snakes facing right-handed starters in five of six games.

* Red Sox regulars.  After dealing with so many injuries that he had trouble finding warm bodies to fill a lineup, Bobby Valentine has had a nice problem over the last couple of weeks in having too many good hitters for too few spots in the batting order.  With David Ortiz locked in at DH, the Red Sox have juggled Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks at third, with Adrian Gonzalez also seeing increased time in right field to fit Youkilis in at first.  Without a DH next week and facing right-handed starters in four of six games, Boston's musical chairs will get even more interesting.  If you own Ortiz, expect him to be out of the starting lineup on Sunday when the Sox face southpaw Paul Maholm and possibly one other day, with Big Papi donning the first baseman's glove for the rest of the week.  (Ortiz should play on Tuesday against lefty Mark Buehrle since Ortiz is a career 20-for-58 with a .973 OPS against Buehrle).  If you own Youkilis or Middlebrooks, be prepared to make a daily check of your fantasy lineup to see who's starting, though Youkilis has seen the lion's share of playing time since his return from the DL.  If you own A-Gon, you're probably fine standing pat -- Gonzalez has played in all 59 of Boston's games this season, though Valentine could use the loss of the DH as an excuse to give Gonzalez a day off.

* Adam DunnDayan Viciedo's hamstring injury could simplify any lineup-juggling, as if Viciedo has to miss significant time or go on the DL, Chicago can just slot Dunn in left field for the week.  (Huh, that's weird, ominous organ music started playing when I typed 'Adam Dunn in left field.')  The White Sox face all right-handed starters this week except for Clayton Kershaw on Friday and Chris Capuano on Sunday, so expect Dunn to ride the pine for those two matchups with Viciedo or Brent Lillibridge in left.  Paul Konerko should be in his usual spot at first all week since the White Sox obviously want to keep in the lineup under any circumstances. 

* Yankee regulars.  I wouldn't expect any major changes to the Yankee lineup, except that Alex Rodriguez will probably get an off-day from third base in favor of Eric Chavez at some point during the week.  Four of New York's six games are against right-handed pitching, so expect the right-handed hitting Andruw Jones to play left field during those two games against southpaws (Tuesday and Friday).

* Max Scherzer.  The Academy of Fantasy Baseball Arts & Sciences annually awards the A.J. Burnett Trophy to the pitcher who generates the most frustration amongst fantasy owners by ranging from brilliant to terrible on a start-by-start basis.  Owners are afraid to drop this pitcher in fear that he'll eventually turn the corner, and thus they hurt their staffs all year long by keeping a guy whose stats don't merit a roster spot.  It's only June, but Scherzer is a big candidate for the AJBT.  He leads the majors with a 11.2 K/9 ratio, and he yet has a 5.88 ERA and opponents are hitting .299 against him.  It's fair to say that Scherzer's woes are due to bad luck and the Tigers' terrible defense (Scherzer's FIP and xFIP are 4.43 and 3.41) yet unfortunately, you aren't allowed to lower your fantasy ERA through advanced metrics.  Scherzer is slated to start against the Cubs and Rockies this week and I definitely would use caution for tabbing him as a good two-start option since he's pitching at homer-friendly Wrigley Field and Colorado has baseball's fourth-highest team OPS (.783) against right-handed pitching.  Of course, any true AJB Trophy contender would obviously excel after he's benched, so expect Scherzer to pull a Vander Meer this week if you actually do sit him.  So...wait...does this mean you should start him?  I've gotten myself confused by my own reverse psychology.  Maybe just trade Scherzer and let a rival manager worry about him.

* Kyle Kendrick.  The right-hander's mediocre stat line this season is somewhat misleading, as 17 of his 26 earned runs allowed have come in just two starts and a disastrous one-inning relief appearance.  If you remove those three outings from the equation, Kendrick has a much more impressive 1.88 ERA over his other 10 appearances, the highlight of which was a complete-game seven-hit shutout of the Cardinals on May 26.  I'm admittedly doing some cherry-picking with stats here, but Kendrick is a decent and widely-available two-start candidate for the week.  He starts on Tuesday in Minnesota against the punchless Twins and then should go on Sunday against the Blue Jays in Toronto.  I'd definitely start him against the Twins (heck, I'd start my grandma against the Twins) and then you have the option of quitting while you're ahead and benching Kendrick for Sunday, or starting him if you're feeling lucky.


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