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 Wednesday, Sept. 5.
J.P. Arencibia, who missed more than a month with a fractured hand, is set to return to the lineup Friday. He doesn't offer much in the way of consistency (not to mention batting average), but he's capable of hitting a home run or three any given week. He's not exactly a high-end Fantasy option, but you could do worse off the waiver wire this time of year.
Mike Napoli, on the other hand, hasn't made much progress in his recovery from a quadriceps injury. He's taking batting practice and catching bullpen sessions, but if he's not able to run, he's not able to return. If he doesn't make significant progress in the next week or so, you might have to consider him a lost cause.
Worth a second look: Erik Kratz, Phillies
As accustomed as we are to ignoring 32-year-old rookies who've bounced from one minor-league organization to another, the time has come to take Kratz seriously in mixed leagues. He has nine homers in 108 at-bats, after all, and it's not like he was a slap hitter in the minors. Even if he's destined to cool off at some point, it may not happen over the next three weeks. If nothing else, you can trust him to stay mixed-league relevant this week, with the Astros and Marlins pitching staffs in his sights.
Approach with caution: Brian McCann, Braves
One big-name catcher who might be worth benching in favor of an Erik Kratz-type player is McCann, who has had to miss time off and on with a cyst and frayed labrum in his right shoulder. He had a second cortisone shot Saturday, and though it should help keep him in the lineup, it's a long shot to help him hit better. He's batting .163 (13 for 80) with no extra-base hits since Aug. 1 -- a slump so extreme that the injury has to be to blame. Chances are McCann won't be quite right until he gets an offseason of rest. Don't feel like you have to go down with the ship.
No-brainers: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero
Advisable starts: Yadier Molina, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Wieters, Ryan Doumit, Wilin Rosario, Erik Kratz, Yasmani Grandal, Jesus Montero
Shaky starts: Salvador Perez, Jonathan Lucroy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Jaso, Chris Iannetta, A.J. Ellis, Josh Donaldson, J.P Arencibia (hand), Brian McCann, Alex Avila, Russell Martin
Strictly AL/NL-only: Geovany Soto, Michael McKenry, Kurt Suzuki, Welington Castillo, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway, Ryan Hanigan, David Ross
Don't bother: Rob Brantly, Derek Norris, John Buck, Martin Maldonado, Jason Castro, Ramon Hernandez, Josh Thole, Jeff Mathis, Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Chris Snyder, Mike Napoli (quadriceps), Carlos Ruiz (foot)
Joey Votto, who was out nearly two months because of a torn meniscus, is back, and judging by his return Wednesday, which he said went better than he expected, he's probably safe to activate in Fantasy. You might want to keep a close eye on him this weekend just in case, but even if the Reds give him a day off here and there, he's too high-end to sit in Fantasy.
Mark Teixeira, who has been out since Aug. 27 with a strained calf, has some hope of returning over the weekend, but with the 15-day DL virtually eliminated by September roster expansion, the Yankees can string us along for as long as they want. Calf strains are notoriously slow to heal, so until you see Teixeira actually play in a game, you should avoid him in Fantasy.
Worth a second look: Adam LaRoche, Nationals
LaRoche is hot. Red hot. Dead hot. Five home runs in five games hot. Career .294 batting average and .886 OPS in the second half hot. Couldn't justify sitting him even with some less-than-stellar matchups against the Mets and Braves rotations hot. Not exactly better than Miguel Cabrera hot, but certainly better than Freddie Freeman or Paul Goldschmidt hot.
Approach with caution: Mark Trumbo, Angels
Whether it's because of the back spasms he suffered in late July or just a long overdue regression to the mean, Trumbo has been borderline inept over his last 33 games, batting .177 (23 for 130) with 55 strikeouts to eight walks. Even if you attribute it to the injury, it's not like he'll suddenly heal overnight. Four games against the Athletics' pitching staff to begin the week is even more incentive to sit him in mixed leagues.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, Billy Butler, Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Allen Craig
Advisable starts: Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Adam Dunn, Corey Hart, Garrett Jones, Carlos Santana, Ryan Howard, Justin Morneau, Nick Swisher, Paul Goldschmidt
Shaky starts: Mark Reynolds, Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkilis, Ike Davis, Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, John Mayberry, Carlos Lee, Michael Young, Tyler Colvin, Chris Carter, Dustin Ackley, Carlos Pena, Mark Teixeira (calf)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Adam Lind, Chris Johnson, Eric Chavez, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Belt, Yonder Alonso, Chris Parmelee, Brett Wallace, Jordan Pacheco, Brandon Moss, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Keppinger, James Loney, Lance Berkman
Don't bother: Mauro Gomez, Wilson Betemit, Mike Carp, Matt Carpenter, Scott Moore (groin), Justin Smoak, Bryan LaHair, Tyler Moore, David Ortiz (Achilles), Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Mike Napoli (quadriceps), Matt Adams
Unwilling to let another wild card slip away due to inaction and recognizing the need for urgency at this point in the season, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has opted to bench the struggling Dan Uggla. Well, sort of. Uggla will still start from time to time, but the Braves' primary second baseman is now Martin Prado, with a platoon of Jose Constanza and Reed Johnson taking over in left field. Prado was already eligible at second base, so his Fantasy value is unchanged. But Uggla is no longer mixed-league material unless he forces his way back into the lineup over the final three weeks.
Having already missed nine games with a back issue, Neil Walker is a possibility to return this weekend. He was red hot right around the All-Star break, but he'll have to regain the trust of Fantasy owners after such a long layoff. If he ends up needing more time, his replacement, Brock Holt, can hit for average but likely won't provide enough power or speed for mixed-league use.
Worth a second look: Jason Kipnis, Indians
Just when you were about ready to dump Kipnis because of a 28-for-142 (.197) slump to begin the second half, he goes and collects multiple hits in four of his last seven games, batting .345 (10 for 29) during that stretch. It doesn't mean much on its own, of course, but with pitchers like Samuel Deduno, Scott Feldman, Derek Holland and Rick Porcello on the schedule next week, he's getting hot at the right time. He'll also be making his first trip to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, which is arguably the best hitter's park in the AL, and he's in line to face only one left-handed pitcher. All signs point to continued production at a position where production is in short supply.
Approach with caution: Daniel Murphy, Mets
It's not that Murphy is a bad Fantasy option. It's just that a lack of strikeouts and surplus of doubles can only take a hitter so far. When he's not hitting .300, Murphy doesn't have enough to fall back on, and the last four weeks haven't even been close. He's batting .218 (19 for 87) with just one extra-base hit during that stretch. With pitchers like Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Fiers, Shaun Marcum and Marco Estrada on tap for the Mets this week, what's your incentive to start him?
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, Chase Utley
Advisable starts: Rickie Weeks, Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, Marco Scutaro
Shaky starts: Danny Espinosa, Kyle Seager, Neil Walker (back), Michael Young, Omar Infante, Dustin Ackley, Howard Kendrick, Dan Uggla
Strictly AL/NL-only: Mark Ellis, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Gordon Beckham, Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Darwin Barney, Jeff Keppinger, Logan Forsythe, Chris Nelson, Tyler Greene, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Aviles
Don't bother: Alexi Amarista, Scott Moore (groin), Donovan Solano, Joaquin Arias, DJ LeMahieu, Cliff Pennington, Johnny Giavotella, Stephen Lombardozzi, Ryan Theriot, Omar Quintanilla, Alexi Casilla, Maicer Izturis, Jamey Carroll, Skip Schumaker, Jemile Weeks
|2.||Twins||CLE1, KC3, CHW3|
|4.||Indians||@MIN1, @TEX3, DET3|
Aramis Ramirez was out of the lineup Thursday because of a strain in his oblique and lower back area. He doesn't think he'll miss too much time, but manager Ron Roenicke is less optimistic, pointing to Jeff Bianchi and Taylor Green as potential replacements. Ramirez is the third-ranked third baseman in Head-to-Head leagues since May 19, so losing him this time of year would be devastating. If he doesn't return over the weekend, though, you'll have to look into other options.
Brett Lawrie has been rehabbing his oblique injury in the minor leagues over the last few days, so a return can't be too far off. The specifics are still unclear, though, and considering he was less than a 20-point-per-week performer when he was healthy, you shouldn't be in a rush to activate him. He should be on your radar, though.
Worth a second look: Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Sandoval's starting rate has dipped to 69 percent, which isn't surprising given his lack of pop since returning from a hamstring injury Aug. 13. During that time, he has just three extra-base hits -- two doubles and a triple -- for a .601 OPS. But a week like this one could be exactly what he needs to get back on track. Not only are the Giants scheduled to face the Rockies' and Diamondbacks' pitching staffs, but they're scheduled to play three games at Coors Field, which has a way of helping hitters find their power strokes. Hey, it worked for a scuffling Ryan Zimmerman back in late June.
Approach with caution: Kevin Youkilis, White Sox
Youkilis' presence here has less to do with his recent 3-for-27 (.111) slide than the lack of left-handers on tap for the White Sox this week. As things stand now, they're scheduled to face seven righties in seven days, including high-end types like Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. So why's that a problem? Lefties have been the ones keeping Youkilis afloat this year. He's hit half of his home runs against them, compiling a .295 batting average and .949 OPS compared to .214 and .684 against righties. If you've been disappointed with his numbers lately, you can't expect much more this week.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Hanley Ramirez, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado
Advisable starts: Chase Headley, David Freese, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Reynolds
Shaky starts: Alex Rodriguez, Kyle Seager, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier, Mike Moustakas, Chipper Jones, Michael Young, Omar Infante, Trevor Plouffe, Manny Machado, Aramis Ramirez (oblique)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy, Josh Donaldson, Luis Cruz, Ryan Roberts, Chris Johnson, Eric Chavez, Jordan Pacheco, Logan Forsythe, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger, Brett Wallace, Kevin Frandsen, Mike Aviles, Brett Lawrie (oblique)
Don't bother: Scott Rolen, Donovan Solano, Joaquin Arias, Wilson Betemit, Mauro Gomez, Matt Dominguez (wrist), Scott Moore (groin), Willie Bloomquist (back), Ryan Wheeler, Mike Olt, DJ LeMahieu, Stephen Lombardozzi, Josh Vitters, Maicer Izturis, Ryan Wheeler, Jamey Carroll, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan, Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist), Jed Lowrie (leg), Nolan Arenado, Eduardo Nunez
Martin Prado played his fifth game at shortstop Tuesday, giving him eligibility at his fourth different position this season. He may have gotten just in the nick of time, too. Rookie Andrelton Simmons has been rehabbing his fractured pinkie at Double-A Mississippi and could return this weekend. Simmons showed enough offensive ability earlier in the year to inherit everyday at-bats when he returns, which would make him worth a look as a starter in NL-only leagues. As for Prado, if you weren't already starting him at second base, third base or the outfield -- which would be crazy, by the way -- you're certainly starting him at shortstop now.
Worth a second look: Erick Aybar, Angels
At the position of greatest need in Fantasy, you'd think a player who was hitting .345 (38 for 110) with three homers, seven steals and an .892 OPS over his last 28 games would be owned in more than 69 percent of leagues. But there on the waiver wire sits Aybar, ripe for the taking. He's the third highest-scoring shortstop in Fantasy during that stretch, which should be all the incentive you need to pick him up and use him if you're lacking at the position. But just in case you need more convincing, I'll note the three left-handers on the Angels' schedule this week and mention that Aybar is batting .322 with an .860 OPS against lefties compared to .263 and .672 against righties.
Approach with caution: Alcides Escobar, Royals
As Aybar has risen, Escobar has fallen. Once a popular addition off the waiver wire himself, the Royals shortstop is batting .074 (2 for 27) over his last six games. He's still plenty usable if you have a need for speed in a Rotisserie league, but in points leagues, he'll likely be short on the hits again this week, especially with C.J. Wilson, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren on tap.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins
Advisable starts: Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Ian Desmond, Asdrubal Cabrera, Marco Scutaro, Erick Aybar, Josh Rutledge
Shaky starts: Danny Espinosa, Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta, Trevor Plouffe, Manny Machado, Zack Cozart (back)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Luis Cruz, Yunel Escobar, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Tyler Greene, Mike Aviles, Pedro Ciriaco, Andrelton Simmons (finger), Troy Tulowitzki (groin)
Don't bother: Alexi Amarista, Donovan Solano, Jurickson Profar, Joaquin Arias, Ryan Theriot, Jean Segura, Cliff Pennington, Omar Quintanilla, Maicer Izturis, Alexi Casilla, Paul Janish, Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist (back), Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Jed Lowrie (leg), Dee Gordon (thumb), Billy Hamilton
In Arizona, recent call-up Adam Eaton has been filling in for Chris Young, who is expected to miss about a week with a quadriceps issue. Eaton isn't much of a home run threat, but he was an offensive force at Triple-A Reno nonetheless, hitting .381 with a .456 on-base percentage, 46 doubles, 38 steals and a .995 OPS in 488 at-bats. Considering Young was hitting .226 before the injury, it's not inconceivable to think Eaton could claim the job the rest of the way, though he'll have to make an impression over the next few days for it to happen. If you need help in batting average, steals or runs scored, he's a sneaky pickup right about now.
Matt Joyce has sat out nine straight games against left-handed pitchers, and with the Rays' acquisition of Ben Francisco Aug. 31, his hopes of playing every day are virtually over. Granted, he had already lost much of his mixed-league appeal given his 29-for-135 (.215) slump in the second half, but this latest development seals the deal.
Worth a second look: Garrett Jones, Pirates and Ben Revere, Twins
By some cosmic miracle, the Pirates have faced only four left-handed starting pitchers in their last 25 games, allowing them to keep the red-hot Jones in their lineup. Jones is batting .340 with 10 home runs and a 1.052 OPS in his last 144 at-bats, and is showing no signs of slowing down, batting .476 (10 for 22) with two home runs in his last six games. Granted, he's been so productive during that stretch that the Pirates might not even bother platooning him going forward, but you want him facing the righties. He's batting only .226 with a .636 OPS against lefties. Fortunately, the Pirates have five righties on tap in their six games this week, including homer-prone types like Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, and Chris Volstad. Sounds like good reason to keep the No. 3 outfielder over the last 28 days active. Revere has cooled off a bit after a midseason hot streak of his own, but this week is shaping up to be a 20-pointer for the speedster. Not only is he at home, where he's a .320 hitter, but he's facing the worst the Indians, Royals and White Sox have to offer. Don't count him out yet.
Approach with caution: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals and Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks
After contributing more than anyone could have expected of him up to this point, the 35-year-old Beltran is running on fumes. He needed a cortisone shot in his hand in late August and has recently missed time with a sore knee. Such bumps and bruises may prevent an aging veteran like him from getting everyday at-bats over the final three weeks, and they're likely to keep him from performing his best even when he does play. He's batting just .152 (12 for 79) over his last 21 games. You've had a good run with Beltran, but for the sake of your season, check to see what else is out there. Kubel, meanwhile, is listed here for the third straight week, which shows just how much value he's lost with his .161 (19 for 118) batting average over his last 34 games. This week, he's headed home, where the splits are in his favor, but his Fantasy production doesn't figure to get much better. The Diamondbacks are playing only five games, and they're facing the star-studded Dodgers and Giants rotations.
No-brainers: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday (back), Josh Hamilton, Giancarlo Stanton, Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward, Alex Rios, Jay Bruce, Allen Craig, Carlos Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Curtis Granderson, Adam Jones, Adrian Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Nelson Cruz, Adam Dunn, Shane Victorino, Nick Markakis, Alex Gordon, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Upton, Corey Hart, Andre Ethier, Yoenis Cespedes, Desmond Jennings, Garrett Jones, Bryce Harper, Josh Reddick, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nick Swisher, Austin Jackson, Angel Pagan, B.J. Upton, Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham (hamstring), Ben Revere, David Murphy, Torii Hunter, Hunter Pence
Shaky starts: Carlos Beltran, Michael Morse, Carlos Gomez, Jayson Werth, Ryan Ludwick, Alejandro De Aza, Norichika Aoki, Mark Trumbo, Jason Kubel, Todd Frazier, Colby Rasmus, Drew Stubbs, Tyler Colvin, Alfonso Soriano, Cody Ross, Michael Brantley, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Quentin, John Mayberry, Delmon Young, Ryan Doumit, Jon Jay, Carlos Lee, Rajai Davis, Justin Ruggiano, Howard Kendrick, Trevor Plouffe, Dexter Fowler, Andy Dirks
Strictly AL/NL-only: David DeJesus, Chris Davis, Matt Joyce, Lorenzo Cain, Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Dayan Viciedo, Yonder Alonso, Nate McLouth, Chris Young (quadriceps), Chris Parmelee, Brett Jackson, Michael Saunders (groin), Domonic Brown, Travis Snider (hamstring), Brandon Belt, Adam Eaton, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, Juan Pierre, Pedro Ciriaco, Scott Hairston, Eric Thames, Scott Podsednik, Lance Berkman
Don't bother: Donovan Solano, Raul Ibanez, Jose Constanza, Anthony Gose, Jonny Gomes, Andres Torres, Ezequiel Carrera, Gregor Blanco, Starling Marte (side), Justin Maxwell, Mike Carp, Gerardo Parra, Brennan Boesch, Jeff Francoeur, Jose Tabata (foot), Alexi Amarista, Franklin Gutierrez (hip), Jordan Schafer, Wilson Betemit, Luke Scott, Stephen Lombardozzi, Willie Bloomquist (back), Quintin Berry, Bryan LaHair, Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Denard Span (shoulder), Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Eric Young (rib cage), Daniel Nava (wrist), Brett Gardner (elbow), Grady Sizemore (back), Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras
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