Fantasy: Projected hot hitters for Week 3
The following seven hitters should flourish for Week 3 of the fantasy season (April 15-21), based on matchups, existing track records of success and basic guru's intuition.
1. OF B.J. Upton, Braves
Atlanta's new leadoff hitter only draws five games against the Royals (two) and Pirates (three) this week; but as part of that, he'll avoid James Shields and A.J. Burnett, the respective aces of the two opponents.
It also helps that Upton broke out of a mini-slump on Sunday with three hits against Gio Gonzalez and the Nationals, fueling the Braves' 9-0 rout and series sweep of Washington.
Lest we forget, Upton (28 homers, 31 steals) had a slow start to last season with the Rays ... and still finished a mere two bombs from a 30-30 campaign. Of the previous two seasons, Upton averaged 25 homers and 34 steals.
As an added bonus, Upton gets a crack at the only major league team to pass on him during the 2002 draft (the Pirates took pitcher Bryan Bullington at No. 1 overall). And athletes love carrying grudges to the ballpark — whether real or not.
2. 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds
Phillips (four homers, 14 RBI, .327 batting, .999 OPS) is a can't-miss pick this week for a few reasons:
**The Reds have seven games at Great American Ballpark, America's favorite bandbox.
**Of Cincy's encounters with Philly (three games) and Miami (four), the only difficult pitchers on the docket are Cliff Lee and Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez. In other words, no Cole Hamels or Roy Halladay.
**Since April 5, Phillips has notched three homers, three outings of multiple RBI, four games of multiple runs and six multiple-hit days.
3. SS Josh Rutledge, Rockies
Forget about the sub-.200 average and painfully low marks with on-base percentage (.224) and slugging (.283). With seven home dates against the Mets and Diamondbacks — none of which include any encounters with Mets maestro Matt Harvey — the kid is a stealth candidate for a breakout week.
In 211 career games in the minors (2010-12), the 23-year-old Rutledge had a .320 batting average and .496 slugging percentage — rock-solid numbers that were diluted by his prolonged slump from three years ago.
As a carrot to sticking with Rutledge through thick and thin, he should gain second-base eligibility in fantasy leagues sometime next week, adding to his (trade) value.
Of course, you can be the modern-day version of Jose Oquendo and play all nine positions in a single day; but none of it matters if you're bringing down a strong lineup with a .196 average.
4. 1B Chris Carter, Astros
From April 7-14, Carter busted out for Houston, going 11 for 25 with four homers, seven RBI and seven runs.
For this week, Carter can look forward to a homecoming reunion with the A's, while reconnecting with the many nuances of Oakland's cavernous ballpark. Of equal relevance, Carter avoids Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson during the three-game set.
There's also a weekend series with the Indians, which doesn't include a scheduled bout with Justin Masterson (3-0, 0.41 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 20 Ks), Cleveland's red-hot pitcher.
5. 3B/OF Martin Prado, Diamondbacks
Prado's middling start to the season (two homers, six RBI, .278 batting) will likely be forgotten six days from now, after the Diamondbacks spend some quality time inside two of baseball's most hitter-friendly ballparks — Yankee Stadium and Coors Field.
How about that for a road trip? The only real downer: Arizona won't make a similar trip east during the months of June, July or August, when the ball carries extremely well in heat and humidity.
At Coors, Prado has a .327 lifetime batting average. At Yankee Stadium, his lone homer came off Phil Hughes — Thursday's starting pitcher.
6. 3B Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
This time last year, Alvarez (3 for 38 in 2013) had only one homer and one RBI; and yet, he still ended up with 30 bombs. Granted, Alvarez will never help your team's batting average, but you can also set your seasonal watch to three or four spurts of six homers in 20-day stretches.
And who knows, maybe that unconscious power launches during the unlikeliest of periods — a seven-game home stand against the Cardinals and Braves.
That's just how the enigmatic Pedro rolls, once the weather turns warm.
7. 1B Billy Butler, Royals
It's hard to explain Butler's concurrent marks of .257 batting and .435 on-base percentage. How does a hitter of that caliber have such a discrepancy?
Musings aside, I love Butler's odds of bringing up the old batting average against the Braves and Red Sox this week. His plate discipline (10 walks, four strikeouts) is off the charts, he's only eight days removed from a seven-RBI outing (aginst the Phillies) and the Royals, as a unit, are hitting a robust .270.
Just don't expect any homers from Butler or his teammates. As of April 15, the Royals are one of three MLB teams with four or less home runs (Rays, Marlins). Ouch.
Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, on Twitter at @FOX_JayClemons.