Almost every year, the battle between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees in the AL East is one of the intriguing storylines of the season. The two are age-old rivals and when they’re both postseason contenders – as they are this season – they manage to push each other to go that much further to outdo their rival.
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This season, the Boston Red Sox stand head and shoulders above almost every single other MLB team with 41 wins from 60 games. But, very close in pursuit are the New York Yankees with their 38 wins from 56 games. Not even the hailed reigning champions, the Houston Astros can come close to the Red Sox at this stage of the season.
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As the war wages on between the Red Sox and the Yankees for divisional and league dominance, the stars of the teams are stepping up in a big way to provide for their fantasy baseball owners.
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Boston stars leading the hitting

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j.d. martinez
Source: Red Sox, via
Twitter
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Sitting high atop the hitting rankings having played 48 games is Mookie Betts. With a .359 average, he eclipses the .344 of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and the .342 Cincinnati Reds’ Scooter Gannett. While at this stage, Betts had played around ten games fewer than Kemp and Gannett, and his 17 home runs – only two behind the leaders – means that he’s hitting big at an incredible rate.
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But Boston’s arsenal doesn’t stop with Betts as J.D. Martinez also ranks in the top 20 for batting average at the 60-game mark. With 57 games under his belt, Martinez has tallied a .315 average and joint-leads the league with 19 home runs at this stage in the season.
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Elite-level batting is a huge reason behind Boston’s surge to the top of the standings this season, and it doesn’t look to go quiet anytime soon. In fact, the Red Sox are so confident in their set up that they even designated Hanley Ramirez for assignment during his dry spell.
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New York’s superb team to take the division

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judge
Source: Yahoo Sports MLB, via
Twitter
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Coming into the season, the New York Yankees were favoured to take the AL East and even challenge Houston for a place in the World Series. The Yankees boast a roster that is filled with high-quality players all over the park, which is why they’re favoured at -130 to Boston’s -105 in the MLB odds on bet365 to claim the division before the regular season is up.
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The Yankees have performed well in pretty much all areas of play, with a few surprise packages suddenly rising to prominence. One such example of this is fantasy baseball hero Luis Severino. The right-handed pitcher has clocked in nine wins to just one loss from 13 starts while rocking a 2.20 ERA by the 56-game point of the season.
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It’s come to the point where some are labelling this team as the best in the MLB right now – despite sitting behind the Red Sox and the praise that the Astros have received. They have a complete team that’s full of great players who are performing very well, to the joy of fantasy baseball owners, as well as a bullpen that some deem to be too good.
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There’s still a long way to go in this MLB season, with all eyes on who will come out on top in this war for the AL East. Will the Red Sox hold firm and keep ahead, or will the Yankees surge and usurp their bitter rivals?

Jeter and Rivera
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It’s always fun to generate and debate lists. Since I’m a Red Sox fan I am doing the dreaded New York Yankees second. Here’s the All-2000 to Present New York Yankees Lineup.
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C – Jorge Posada
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Robinson Cano
3B – Alex Rodriguez
SS – Derek Jeter
RF – Nick Swisher
LF – Brett Gardner
CF – Bernie Williams
DH – Hideki Matsui
SP – Andy Pettitte
SP – Mike Mussina
SP – C.C. Sabathia
SP – Roger Clemens
SP – Masahiro Tanaka
Closer – Mariano Rivera
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Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox

Austin Romine
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With Gary Sanchez on the shelf (biceps injury) for a month, fantasy owners will be scrambling for an option behind the dish. A natural option would be to look at his replacement. Austin Romine (pictured) is the logical replacement. He’ll also split duties with Kyle Higashioka. Romine figures to see the majority of the at bats. Is he worth an add?
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Romine hit .242 last year in 165 at bats with 17 runs, four home runs and 26 RBI. He did show a little power, as 15 of his 40 hits were for extra bases.
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Romine hit .274 with three of his HRs and 15 of his RBI against left-handed pitching. He’s worth a flier as a plug-in play or in daily fantasy leagues when he’s facing a southpaw.
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Some preferred options:
Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds: .257-34-7-51-1 last year, .250 with a run this year
Welington Castillo, Baltimore Orioles: .264-41-14-68-2 last year, .286 with an RBI this year
Francisco Cervelli, Pittsburgh Pirates: .264-42-133-6 last year, .211 with four runs, one HR, three RBI this year
Sandy Leon, Boston Red Sox: .310-367-35 last year, .368 with three runs, one HR, five RBI this year (top choice if available)
James McCann, Detroit Tigers: .221-31-12-48-0 last year, .214 with two runs, two HRs, three RBI this year
Cameron Rupp, Philadelphia Phillies: .252-36-16-54-1 last year, .167 with three runs, one HR, two RBI this year
Stephen Vogt, Oakland A’s: .251-54-14-56-0 last year, .261, two runs, one HR, two RBI this year


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By Jeff P.
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Ivan Nova had one of the most dominant starts of his career on Monday. He turned a huge hitters’ park into a pitchers’ park.
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Nova didn’t look like himself giving up one run over eight innings. He struck out seven to shut down the Reds. He didn’t even give up a walk—an obvious sign of improvement.
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Russell Martin told the AP, “It looked like he felt confident even though he had to battle in the first inning. After that, it looked like a piece of cake for him. Even after he got behind in the count, he wasn’t afraid to go after them.”
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After Nova’s eight innings, two relievers came in and they had some trouble keeping up Nova’s gem before Mariano Rivera came in and easily got his 18th save of the season.
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Before his gem, Nova was having trouble getting past the sixth inning. So what does this mean?
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It looks like to me that once Nova overcomes the first five or six innings, he gains confidence which leads him through a smooth performance.
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Since the beginning of June, he has been better than ever. He is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA for the month. Since the beginning of May he’s 6-1 with a 3.51 ERA.
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Is the poised Yankee rookie ready to go to the next level?
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You can follow Jeff @ http://twitter.com/#!/TheMLBNBAexpert.


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After a brilliant 2010 season that saw Swisher hit .288 with 29 home runs and 89 RBI Swisher was a hot commodity heading into the year.
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He began the year hitting .204 through May 25th, making his dreadful 2008 season (.219 average) look decent. At least he was hitting a home run every 20.7 at bats that season. He only had two in his first 152 at bats (76 AB/HR).
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Since then he Swisher has gone 22 for 72 (.306) with five home runs, which is good for a HR every 14.4 at bats. His hot streak brings his AB/HR rate up to 32.0 for the season. He’s not likely to continue his hot clip as he averaged 18.3 ABs/HR over the past two years, but it’s a good sign nonetheless.
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As is his competence at the plate. Hitting around the Mendoza Line made him too big of a risk. It’s one thing if he was putting up power numbers like Mark Reynolds or Carlos Pena, which could offset his brutal average, but the lack of power only compounded the problem.
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Part of his turnaround can be attributed to better luck. After posting BABIPs of .257 and .254 in March/April and May, Swisher is at .310 for June. It’s still a far cry from his .335 mark last year, but it’s still a solid number.
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Swisher is still struggling against righties hitting .187 vs. .348 against lefties. He’ll obviously face more righties so you’ll be limited if you only use him against lefties. If you have the bench depth to do so, it’s not a bad plan. Otherwise just sit him against the upper echelon righties.
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What are your thoughts on Nick Swisher?
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A.J. Burnett sits at 6-4 with a 4.37 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts in 80-1/3 innings. He got bombed by the Red Sox (5-2/3 innings, seven earned runs) the last time out. Was that a bump in the road or a sign that things are about to sour for the enigmatic pitcher?
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He got off to a great start last year going 3-0 with a 2.43 in April and 3-2 with a 4.03 ERA in May. He nosedived in June going 0-5 with a 11.35 ERA. So far this year A.J. was 4-1 in April with a 3.93 ERA, 1-2 in May with a 4.06 ERA, and 1-1 in June with a 6.39 ERA. While the trend is alarming, it’s not a certainty that history will repeat itself.
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Burnett’s BABIP is cause for concern though. He’s among the league leaders with a .242 mark. The past three years his BABIP was .319, .295, and .314. In his 12 seasons before this year he never  had a BABIP below .250 and eight times it was above .280. While it’s possible that he can keep his mark low, he has a pretty lengthy track record that suggests otherwise.
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His strikeout rate continues to decline. At 6.72 K/9 it’s the lowest it has been since 2001. At 34 and with 290 starts and 1850-1/3 innings under his belt that is not uncommon. Veteran pitchers have to find new ways of getting people out or find a new line of work.
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While the signs of regression are there, Burnett is a streaky pitcher. Ride him while he’s on. If you want to sit him when the match-up is not in his favor, that makes sense. He’s not the backbone of your fantasy staff, but he can get the job done on occasion. If he continues to struggle then you’ll obviously want to cut bait.
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Also check out:

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Big Papi is off to a great start. The guy that has struggled to start the past few seasons is hitting .292 with 18 runs, six home runs, 18 RBI, and a .865 OPS. It’s hard to sit someone that is producing like Ortiz is, but this may be a good time to.
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While he is hitting .333 (12-36) against lefties this year, he hit just .222 against them last year, .212 against them in 2009, .221 in 2008. You get the point. For his career he is hitting .259 against them with an OPS of .799, as compared to .290 and .968 against right-handed pitching.
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This isn’t just ordinary left-handed pitching either. We’re talking C.C. Sabathia. He is one of the most dominating pitchers in the game.
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Big Papi, like most lefties, has had his struggles with Sabathia. His lifetime average is .237 (9-38) with two HRs (.714 OPS). Papi was one for three against him earlier this year, but was one for nine against him last year.
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You carry guys on your bench for a reason. It’s not just for Mondays and Thursdays when the baseball schedule is light. If you are locked in a close battle for batting average (weekly leagues), you probably have someone with a better probability to succeed.
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I’m not saying Big Papi can’t get it done against C.C. After all, he is one of the few guys that has had regular success (8-24) against Mariano Rivera. I just think if you have a solid option on your bench, you might as well let Papi sit this one out.
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Mark Teixeira is a notorious slow starter. His lifetime batting average in March and April is .235. He’s a .294 hitter in the other months. He hits a home run every 27 at bats in March and April. He homers every 15.8 at bats in the other months. His early batting averages the past two years have been dreadful.
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2010:  .136, two HRs
2009:  .200, three HRs
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Not only have his averages been dreadful, his slugging percentages (.259 last year, .371 in 2009). He combined for 22 runs and 19 RBI in the two years, but that only averages out to about 5.5 runs and 4.75 RBI per week. Obviously he has great power potential averaging 34.4 home runs per season in his eight years, but is he worth the harm that he could do to your batting average early on?
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If you have a decent option on the bench, I say why not. At least until he proves you wrong. He faces Justin Verlander on Opening Day. Tex has just one hit in 17 at bats lifetime against him (.059 batting average). Next up is Brad Penny (.182 lifetime) and then Max Scherzer (0 for 4). He’s also 0 for 3 against Tiger closer Jose Valverde. It certainly doesn’t look good out of the gate for the switch-hitting slugger. All three Tiger starters and Valverde are right-handed. Tex hit .247 against righties last year.
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You may be tempted to use Teixeira because he’s hitting well this spring, but he hit .362 and .433 respectively in the past two spring trainings. I’m not saying to bench him for the entire month of April, but play it by ear with him. I certainly wouldn’t shy away from sitting him against the Tigers given all the signs.
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Unless his owner is a newbie I wouldn’t try to buy low on Teixeira. His slow starts are fairly common knowledge. It’s probably not worth your effort.
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Rotoworld
suggested that Brett Garnder, who has been leading off recently in spring training games for the New York Yankees, could start the season off in that slot. Gardner, who scored 97 runs in 569 plate appearances could challenge for the league lead in runs scored if he is hitting out of that slot. For starter, he sports a solid .383 on-base percentage. With his ability to get on base, along with his excellent base stealing ability, in the powerful Yankees lineup, 100+ runs seems like a certainty.
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Furthermore, Gardner hit .344 with nobody on and nobody out. He hit .295 with the bases empty and just .255 with runners on. Brett lead off in 25 games last year, batting .290 with a .412 OBP.  Jeter stuggled hitting second last year (.157 average), but has spent the bulk of his career hitting second. The similarity of his numbers leading off and hitting second is staggering. Leading off Jeter is hitting .313 with a .385  OBP, .454 slugging percentage, and a .839 OPS. Out of the two-hole he’s hitting .314 with a .384 OBP, a .456 slugging percentage, and a .840 OPS.
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Gardner spent the bulk of his ABs in the eighth and ninth slots. If he were to lead off he would see an increase in plate appearances, which would have a positive effect on his counting numbers. He would certainly be a great value with his current ADP of 180. Garnder is batting .270 this spring with four stolen bases.
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The  Toronto Blue Jays are considering using speedster Rajai Davis at the top of their lineup as well. Davis stole 50 bases in 561 plate appearances last year. Like Gardner, Davis excelled with the bases empty hitting .302. Davis hit .291 leading off and .277 in the other spots in the batting order. If he leads off for the Blue Jays, Davis will be an extreme fantasy value according to his 237 ADP.
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When you are getting ready for your fantasy baseball drafts keep in mind that we could be experiencing a stolen base renaissance with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Rajai Davis all looking to steal 60+ bases.


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Mariano Rivera had 33 saves last year. Solid number, but there were eleven closers with more saves than Mo last year. Of the 18 closers with 25 or more saves last year, only Ryan Franklin (42) had fewer than Mo’s 45 strikeouts. In fact, the other 16 closers had at least 52 strikeouts. Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, and Jonathan Papelbon rung up at least 76 batters.
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Of course Rivera’s ERA of 1.80 and WHIP of 0.83 are what you’re looking for when you take him as one of the first closers off the board. That’s the stuff he’s been doing his whole career, and part of the reason he’s considered the greatest closer of all-time. That, of course, and his postseason heroics.
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You, though, aren’t drafting him for what he does in October. You are drafting him to anchor your fantasy bullpen. Save totals can vary from year to year so I wouldn’t put too much weight into that total, especially for a rock like Mo. The strikeouts drop does concern me, but Mo had 55 in 2006 before posting three consecutive 70+ strikeout seasons.
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What does concern me though is Mariano’s decreasing innings pitched. His innings have decreased every year since 2004. With the addition of Rafael Soriano, that trend could continue. The Yankees will want a fresh Rivera for the postseason so they could be more conservative with Mo during the regular season. With fewer innings pitched, there is a real concern that the strikeouts and saves will be on the low side once again.
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Unfortunately to acquire his services, you’re going to have to take him early. His average draft position, according to Mock Draft Central, is 62 and before every other closer. That’s the sixth round in 12-team leagues. Heath Bell’s ADP is 92. My feeling is that if you’re drafting Mo, you’re paying a premium based on his name. Do yourself a favor and let somebody else pay that and get better value later.
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