The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Each week, we'll assess Fantasy-relevant hitters based on streaks, matchups, injuries and lineup changes and divide them into five categories: "no-brainers," "advisable starts," "shaky starts," "strictly AL/NL-only" and "don't bother."
These designations are designed to rate each player's Fantasy value for the current week only and have no bearing on his value for the season as a whole.
Any player dealing with injury will have the injury listed in parentheses after his name. His condition will most definitely influence his category designation for the week.
Any players not appearing on these lists are presumed to be below "don't bother" status and are obvious sits in Fantasy.
The information has been updated through Saturday, Sept. 1.
Erik Kratz, everyone's favorite 32-year-old rookie, hit a game-tying home run off the normally unhittable Craig Kimbrel Friday and now has eight home runs in 97 at-bats this season. Fantasy owners have been hesitent to buy into him both because of his age and his suspected short-term status as the Phillies' starter, but now that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has suggested the Phillies might not bother activating injured All-Star Carlos Ruiz (foot) before season's end, Kratz deserves a flier in more than just 8 percent of Fantasy leagues. Despite his lack of pedigree, his minor-league numbers suggest his power is no fluke.
Worth a second look: Yasmani Grandal, Padres
The Padres' matchups this week aren't particularly special, but they do include four left-handers, against whom Grandal is hitting .324 with a 1.098 OPS this season (compared to .253 and .759 against righties). And considering he has heated up since his return from a strained oblique Aug. 17, batting .300 (6 for 20) with a homer over his last six games, he should be able to take advantage of those splits. At catcher, chances are you won't be able to do better than him off the waiver wire regardless.
Approach with caution: John Jaso, Mariners
Another lefty-righty issue here. The Mariners are scheduled to face three left-handers in their six games this week, and Jaso's performance against southpaws this season isn't just bad; it's practically nonexistent. He has only 33 at-bats against them, and a quick review of the Mariners' lineups in recent days shows that they're not about to change that approach. Jaso has been a hot claim off the waiver wire in recent weeks, but if he's destined to start only three games this week, he's not going to contribute much in Fantasy.
No-brainers: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero, Yadier Molina
Advisable starts: A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Wieters, Yasmani Grandal, Ryan Doumit, Brian McCann, Salvador Perez
Shaky starts: Jesus Montero, Wilin Rosario, Jonathan Lucroy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Jaso, Alex Avila, A.J. Ellis, Josh Donaldson, Erik Kratz
Strictly AL/NL-only: Russell Martin, Geovany Soto, Chris Iannetta, Michael McKenry, John Buck, Derek Norris, Ryan Hanigan, Welington Castillo, Kurt Suzuki, Mike Napoli (quadriceps)
Don't bother: Kelly Shoppach, Martin Maldonado, Ryan Lavarnway, Jason Castro, Ramon Hernandez, Josh Thole, Jeff Mathis, Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Chris Snyder, Carlos Ruiz (foot), J.P Arencibia (hand), Devin Mesoraco
Joey Votto, who had originally hoped to return from the disabled list Saturday, is now iffy to return even Monday. He doesn't seem to be completely comfortable at the plate yet, and the Reds are leaving the decision up to him. The 28-year-old has been out since July 15 because of a torn meniscus that required not just one, but two arthroscopic procedures. He was arguably the favorite for NL MVP at the time of his injury, batting .342 with a 1.069 OPS, so he might be worth activating even at risk of him getting pushed back a few more days. Weigh your alternatives before committing one way or the other.
Unfortunately, Mark Teixeira's situation is even more unsettled. The normally must-start option strained his calf Monday and has yet to return. Teixeira seems to think he could miss as much as two weeks, and judging from some of the calf injuries we've seen in baseball over the last couple years, his assessment is probably accurate. Given his lack of progress over the weekend, you shouldn't start Teixeira in mixed leagues.
Worth a second look: Justin Morneau, Twins
After a torrid start to the second half, Morneau has cooled off a bit over his last 18 games, batting .265 (18 for 68) with a .677 OPS. But all but six of those games have come either at home, where he's batting .262 with a .736 OPS, or at other tough places to hit like Seattle and Oakland. He opens this week with three games at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, where he's batting .350 (7 for 20) with three home runs and a 1.331 OPS this season, and when he returns home to close out the week, he'll face low-end right-handers Ramon Hernandez, Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber. He's batting .303 with a .930 OPS against righties this season.
Approach with caution: Todd Frazier, Reds
The downside to Joey Votto's return is that Frazier will most likely lose at-bats. What's that? He's capable of playing third base? Of course he is, but that doesn't make a difference to manager Dusty Baker, who recently told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he prefers veteran Scott Rolen -- i.e., the walking dead. Perhaps logic will win out in the end -- after all, Frazier has hit .308 (52 for 169) with eight home runs and an .874 OPS in Votto's absence -- but until you see it happen, you should probably play it safe and sit the rookie.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, Billy Butler, Adrian Gonzalez, Buster Posey, Allen Craig
Advisable starts: Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Joe Mauer, Paul Konerko, Carlos Santana, Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis, Nick Swisher, Adam LaRoche
Shaky starts: Mark Trumbo, Ryan Howard, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, Ike Davis, Kendrys Morales, Carlos Lee, Todd Frazier, Michael Young, Garrett Jones, Tyler Colvin, Chris Carter, Adam Dunn (oblique), Joey Votto (knee), Dustin Ackley, Carlos Pena, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis
Strictly AL/NL-only: Mark Teixeira (calf), Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Adam Lind, Chris Johnson, Eric Chavez, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Belt, Yonder Alonso, Brett Wallace, Jordan Pacheco, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Keppinger, John Mayberry, James Loney, Lance Berkman, Mike Napoli (quadriceps)
Don't bother: Wilson Betemit, Mike Carp (hip), Mauro Gomez, Scott Moore, Justin Smoak, Bryan LaHair, Brandon Moss, Tyler Moore, Matt Carpenter, David Ortiz (Achilles), Michael Cuddyer (oblique), David Cooper (neck), Matt Adams
Dan Uggla and Jason Kipnis ... what to do, what to do? Both were must-starts at one time but have been so miserable for so long, with Uggla batting .152 over his last 243 at-bats and Kipnis batting .174 over his last 109, that they aren't anymore. But both have good matchups this week, with Uggla facing pitchers like Tyler Chatwood, Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Jhoulys Chacin, Jeremy Hefner and Chris Young and Kipnis facing pitchers like Rick Porcello, Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks and Scott Diamond.
I'm a little more open to starting Uggla than Kipnis. The Braves slugger at least has five home runs over his last 21 games. Still, neither is as much an advisable start this week as an OK fallback option at a weak position.
Worth a second look: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
Espinosa's recent hot streak, which had him hitting .303 (46 for 152) with seven homers and three steals over a 38-game stretch to begin the second half, has been interrupted in recent days, but it was to be expected given his matchups against the Braves', Phillies', Marlins' and Cardinals' pitching staffs. He should be able to pick up where he left off this week given his matchups against Chris Rusin, Chris Volstad, Justin Germano, Ricky Nolasco and Justin Turner, so you should look into activating him at either second base or shortstop.
Approach with caution: Kyle Seager, Mariners
Seager's splits pretty much tell the whole story here. He's batting .211 with a .587 OPS at home, where the Mariners play all six of their games this week, and .244 with a .676 OPS against lefties, who the Mariners face three times this week. And considering those lefties are Jon Lester, Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone, you shouldn't expect any miraculous turnarounds. Seager is a sit wherever possible.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, Martin Prado
Advisable starts: Chase Utley, Jose Altuve, Danny Espinosa
Shaky starts: Ian Kinsler (back), Dan Uggla, Marco Scutaro, Jason Kipnis, Rickie Weeks, Michael Young, Neil Walker (back), Kyle Seager, Daniel Murphy, Omar Infante, Dustin Ackley, Howard Kendrick, Mike Aviles
Strictly AL/NL-only: Mark Ellis, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Gordon Beckham, Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Darwin Barney, Jeff Keppinger, Pedro Ciriaco
Don't bother: Chris Nelson, Tyler Greene, Alexi Amarista, Scott Moore, Donovan Solano, Joaquin Arias, DJ LeMahieu, Cliff Pennington, Johnny Giavotella, Stephen Lombardozzi, Ryan Theriot, Omar Quintanilla, Alexi Casilla, Maicer Izturis, Jamey Carroll, Logan Forsythe, Skip Schumaker, Emilio Bonifacio (knee), Jemile Weeks
|5.||White Sox||MIN3, KC3|
At first, the Red Sox's decision to deal Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers seemed to open up at-bats for Mauro Gomez, who was hitting .310 with 24 homers and a .960 OPS at Triple-A Pawtucket. But lately, the Red Sox have opted to keep both Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway in the lineup, forcing Gomez to the bench. In all likelihood, the 27-year-old journeyman wouldn't have much staying power in a full-time role anyway, so even though he does have some offensive potential, Gomez isn't worth the trouble outside of deeper AL-only leagues.
Alex Rodriguez, who of course has plenty of staying power, is about to demonstrate it by returning from a broken hand. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Tampa Friday and is a possibility to return as soon as Monday. Though he's no longer a must-start Fantasy option at this stage of his career, he looks like a safe enough bet for at-bats this week that you could get away with starting him in mixed leagues if you have a need at the position.
Worth a second look: Chipper Jones, Braves
Yes, Jones takes occasional days off at age 40, but in between, he does plenty of damage, batting .304 with an .879 OPS on the year. He hasn't been at his best lately, batting .233 (10 for 43) over his last 12 games, but the Braves have had some tough matchups during that stretch. He should fare better against the worst the Rockies and Mets have to offer this week. And with seven games on tap, even if he sits one or two of them, he'll still get more than enough at-bats to make a relevant mixed-league contribution.
Approach with caution: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Alvarez is obviously on the right side of streaky right now, batting .407 (22 for 54) with six home runs over his last 15 games, and has favorable matchups this week against the Astros' and Cubs' rotations. Given his pure power, I'm sure you're just dying to get him active. But you can't -- or at least you shouldn't, if you can help it. As weak as those opposing pitchers are, four of them are left-handers, and Alvarez has been miserable against southpaws this season, batting .213 with a .684 OPS. Maybe the rest of the Pirates' lineup will force the lefties out early, allowing Alvarez to factor in mixed leagues, but banking on that possibility seems like an unnecessary risk.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado
Advisable starts: Evan Longoria, Chase Headley, Kevin Youkilis, David Freese, Chipper Jones
Shaky starts: Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Mike Moustakas, Michael Young, Alex Rodriguez (hand), Pedro Alvarez, Kyle Seager, Daniel Murphy, Omar Infante, Trevor Plouffe, Mike Aviles, Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis
Strictly AL/NL-only: Josh Donaldson, Luis Cruz, Manny Machado, Ryan Roberts, Chris Johnson, Eric Chavez, Jordan Pacheco, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger, Brett Wallace, Willie Bloomquist, Scott Rolen
Don't bother: Donovan Solano, Mauro Gomez, Joaquin Arias, Wilson Betemit, Scott Moore, Ryan Wheeler, Mike Olt, DJ LeMahieu, Stephen Lombardozzi, Josh Vitters, Maicer Izturis, Ryan Wheeler, Jamey Carroll, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan, Logan Forsythe, Emilio Bonifacio (knee), Brett Lawrie (oblique), Jed Lowrie (leg), Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist), Nolan Arenado, Eduardo Nunez
At one point in time, Troy Tulowitzki appeared destined to return from his groin injury before the end of August. Then again, at one point in time, he appeared destined to return from it in mid-June. Unfortunately, the injury that has sidelined him since May 30 is still weighing on him enough that he doesn't know when he'll return. He's hitting well enough on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Colorado Springs that it might be sooner than later, but for now, all you can do is continue to stash him.
Jurickson Profar, who is widely considered one of the top two or three prospects in all of baseball, was among the Rangers' September call-ups this weekend. The 19-year-old already exhibits a useful combination of power, speed and patience and only figures to get better as he matures. The Rangers don't have an everyday job available for him just yet, but they'll at least play him enough to assess how ready he is to contribute next year. In leagues that offer middle infield spots, his upside alone makes him worth a flier.
Worth a second look: Josh Rutledge, Rockies
Rutledge continues to thrive in Troy Tulowitzki's absence, batting .480 (12 for 25) with a homer and a steal over his last 10 games. Even more impressive, he was a pinch hitter for six of those games, having only recently returned from an injury (quadriceps) of his own. The Rockies don't have the greatest matchups this week, visiting Atlanta and Philadelphia over a seven-game span, but no matchups have been able to slow down Rutledge yet. He's even been great away from Coors Field, batting .377 (20 for 53) with a 1.057 OPS. At a weak position, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Approach with caution: Manny Machado, Orioles
Machado has gotten enough benefit of the doubt for now. The 20-year-old phenom got off to a quick start in the majors but is batting just .205 (9 for 44) with one extra-base hit over his last 13 games. He's plenty talented, but he's also plenty unproven. Let him prove you should start him. Right now, he's only bringing you down.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins
Advisable starts: Ian Desmond, Josh Rutledge, Danny Espinosa, Alcides Escobar
Shaky starts: Marco Scutaro, Erick Aybar, Asdrubal Cabrera (wrist), J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta, Zack Cozart, Trevor Plouffe, Mike Aviles, Luis Cruz, Manny Machado
Strictly AL/NL-only: Yunel Escobar, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Jurickson Profar, Alexi Amarista, Pedro Ciriaco, Troy Tulowitzki (groin)
Don't bother: Tyler Greene, Donovan Solano, Joaquin Arias, Ryan Theriot, Jean Segura, Cliff Pennington, Omar Quintanilla, Maicer Izturis, Alexi Casilla, Paul Janish, Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist, Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Jed Lowrie (leg), Dee Gordon (thumb), Andrelton Simmons (finger), Eduardo Nunez, Billy Hamilton
Alejandro De Aza, who had been out since Aug. 17 with a bruised ribcage, returned to the lineup Sunday. His lack of pop makes him less than a high-end Fantasy option, but he's still good enough to start in most leagues most of the time. If you have alternatives, you're better off giving him a week to find his footing, but you need to start him, feel free.
Curtis Granderson (hamstring), Josh Willingham (hamstring) and Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) all went down with day-to-day injuries. Of the three, Granderson has the clearest timetable of 1-2 days and remains a reasonable start in mixed leagues. Likewise, Ellsbury's absence seems more like a precautionary move than anything else. Willingham's is a bit more of a mystery. Though he seems more likely to return this week than not, the out-of-contention Twins could be extra cautious with them now that rosters have expanded. He's still far from an automatic sit in mixed leagues, but if you have a deep collection of outfielders, you might not want to roll the dice with him.
Worth a second look: Jayson Werth, Nationals and Norichika Aoki, Brewers
One storyline that has gotten lost in the Nationals' meteoric rise this year is the rejuvenation of Werth, who clearly didn't live up to expectations last year. Granted, the three months he lost to a broken wrist might explain the lack of attention, but since returning Aug. 2, he's batting .350 (35 for 100) with a .925 OPS. He has only one home run during that stretch, but if he keeps making consistent contact, more will come eventually. Favorable matchups against the Cubs and Marlins this week should only help his cause. He is dealing with a bit of a hamstring issue, but nothing that should prevent you from starting him in mixed leagues. The Aoki recommendation is a bit milder since the rookie obviously doesn't have the same track record as Werth, but his matchups against Ricky Nolasco, Justin Turner, Nate Eovaldi, Jake Westbrook and Joe Kelly are nearly as good. Considering he's batting .341 (14 for 41) with four steals over his last 11 games, he should at least contribute something positive this week.
Approach with caution: Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics and Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks
The Athletics' matchups this week against C.J. Wilson, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Jason Vargas are the toughest in baseball, so the "approach with caution" label could apply to any of their three outfielders. But I elected to go with Cespedes because he's the only one who isn't undervalued at the moment. You could do worse than him in Fantasy, of course, but he's not the most advisable start this week. Kubel, on the other hand, is a downright miserable start. Once again, the Diamondbacks are on the road, where Kubel is batting .239 with a .724 OPS compared to .285 with a .980 OPS at home, thereby reducing his chances of snapping out of his current 16-for-104 (.154) skid. And not only are they on the road, but they're visiting San Francisco and San Diego, arguably the two hardest places to hit in the National League.
No-brainers: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Giancarlo Stanton, Adrian Gonzalez, Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward, Alex Rios, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran, Jay Bruce, Allen Craig
Advisable starts: Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Shane Victorino, Nick Markakis, Alex Gordon, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Upton, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Andre Ethier, Nick Swisher, Austin Jackson, Angel Pagan, Ben Revere, B.J. Upton, Jayson Werth (hamstring), Coco Crisp
Shaky starts: Desmond Jennings, Alejandro De Aza, Ryan Ludwick, Yoenis Cespedes, Bryce Harper, Josh Reddick, Norichika Aoki, Curtis Granderson (hamstring), Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist), Josh Willingham (hamstring), Mark Trumbo, Jason Kubel, Hunter Pence, Todd Frazier, Garrett Jones, David Murphy, Matt Joyce, Colby Rasmus, Drew Stubbs, Tyler Colvin, Alfonso Soriano, Cody Ross, Adam Dunn (oblique), Michael Brantley, Ichiro Suzuki, Torii Hunter, Carlos Quentin, Ryan Doumit, Jon Jay, Carlos Lee, Rajai Davis, Andy Dirks, Justin Ruggiano, Carlos Gomez, Howard Kendrick, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Davis, Dexter Fowler
Strictly AL/NL-only: Lorenzo Cain, Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Dayan Viciedo, Yonder Alonso, Chris Young, Brett Jackson, Delmon Young, Michael Saunders (groin), Domonic Brown (knee), Travis Snider, Brandon Belt, Cameron Maybin, Raul Ibanez, David DeJesus, Will Venable, Juan Pierre, Scott Hairston, John Mayberry, Eric Thames, Scott Podsednik, Lance Berkman
Don't bother: Donovan Solano, Jonny Gomes, Andres Torres, Ezequiel Carrera, Gregor Blanco, Justin Maxwell, Mike Carp (hip), Gerardo Parra, Brennan Boesch, Jeff Francoeur, Seth Smith, Jose Tabata, Alexi Amarista, Franklin Gutierrez, Wilson Betemit, Luke Scott, Stephen Lombardozzi, Willie Bloomquist, Quintin Berry, Bryan LaHair, Brandon Moss, Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Denard Span (shoulder), Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Emilio Bonifacio (knee), Starling Marte (side), Eric Young (rib cage), Daniel Nava (wrist), Jordan Schafer (shoulder), Brett Gardner (elbow), Grady Sizemore (back), Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras, Anthony Gose
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