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. 19.
Carlos Ruiz has started four of the last five games for the Phillies, so apparently he's faring better with his plantar fasciitis than the team thought he would. Is he the safest start you could make in Fantasy? Not at all. But catchers who provide a .328 batting average and .938 OPS are rare enough that he's well worth the gamble. Besides, chances are every catcher will miss two or three games during this extended scoring period.
Worth a second look: Wilin Rosario, Rockies
With so many high-end catchers nursing injuries this time of year and so many teams positioned to rest their starters over the final 13 days, Rosario is a rare example of a catcher you can implicitly trust. He's not banged up in any way. He doesn't need to rest up for the playoffs. And, just for good measure, he's pretty dang good. He should have two or three more homers in him this week, with the bottom-of-the-barrel Cubs rotation, the weakened Dodgers rotation and the struggling Diamondbacks rotation on tap.
Approach with caution: Jesus Montero, Mariners
Even though he's batting .222 (24 for 108) over his last 27 games, Montero will remain active in a good number of Fantasy leagues this week just because of who he is. But unfortunately, who he is -- apart from an up-and-coming 22-year-old slugger -- is a .229 hitter against righties. Not only are the Mariners scheduled to face six righties in their nine games this week, but they're facing the best the Angels' and Athletics' staffs have to offer. In one-catcher leagues, you can probably do better.
No-brainers: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Matt Wieters
Advisable starts: Wilin Rosario, Salvador Perez, Ryan Doumit, Mike Napoli, Carlos Ruiz
Shaky starts: Brian McCann, Yasmani Grandal, A.J. Pierzynski, Jonathan Lucroy, Russell Martin, Jesus Montero, Josh Donaldson, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Jaso, Chris Iannetta, J.P Arencibia, Kurt Suzuki, A.J. Ellis
Strictly AL/NL-only: Alex Avila (concussion), Rob Brantly, Welington Castillo, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway, George Kottaras, Geovany Soto
Don't bother: Erik Kratz, Michael McKenry, Ryan Hanigan, David Ross, Derek Norris, John Buck, Martin Maldonado, Jason Castro, Josh Thole, Jeff Mathis, Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Chris Snyder
Corey Hart was able to play Thursday after missing eight straight with plantar fasciitis, but considering he's still not able to run normally, you have to be skeptical of him lasting the next 13 days. He's been a reliable source of power all season, but considering the lineup you set for this scoring period has to last the next week and a half, you probably shouldn't chance it with him.
The Mets have begun experimenting with Lucas Duda at first base, particularly against left-handers, which isn't such a big deal for his Fantasy value. But it is for Ike Davis'. He's suddenly looking like just a platoon player. He might sit out half of this final scoring period. Granted, he's hitting just .171 with a .534 OPS against left-handers this season, so you'd be inclined to sit him whenever the Mets were facing a bunch of lefties anyway. Still, this arrangement makes it an easy call.
Worth a second look: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Not only is Rizzo batting .329 (25 for 76) with five home runs over his last 19 games, but he's scheduled to face the Rockies' staff for three games at Coors Field, the Diamondbacks' staff for three games at Chase Field and the Astros' staff for three games at Wrigley Field. That's a lot of bad pitchers in a lot of hitter-friendly ballparks. Safe to say the rookie has a good chance of ending the season on a high note. Safe to say he deserves to be starting pretty much across the board.
Approach with caution: Ryan Howard, Phillies
You know that unsightly .225 batting average Howard was sporting heading in to play Thursday? Don't expect it to get any better this week. The Phillies are scheduled to face the Nationals in six of their nine games to close out the season, which means they'll not only be going up against good pitchers, but they'll also be going up against four or five left-handers. As disappointing as Howard has been overall this season, he has been borderline inept against lefties, batting .173 with a .564 OPS.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, Billy Butler, Buster Posey, Allen Craig
Advisable starts: Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, Adam LaRoche, Carlos Santana, Paul Konerko
Shaky starts: Michael Morse, Justin Morneau, Corey Hart, Adam Dunn, Kevin Youkilis, Eric Hosmer, Nick Swisher, Ryan Howard, Kendrys Morales, Garrett Jones, Mark Reynolds, Mike Napoli, Ike Davis, Mark Trumbo, John Mayberry, Carlos Lee, Michael Young, Chris Davis, Tyler Colvin, Daniel Murphy, Dustin Ackley, Jordan Pacheco
Strictly AL/NL-only: Brandon Belt, Todd Frazier, Chris Carter, Carlos Pena, Lucas Duda, Adam Lind, Chris Johnson, Mitch Moreland, Yonder Alonso, Brett Wallace, Brandon Moss, Jeff Keppinger, Mark Teixeira (calf)
Don't bother: James Loney, Casey Kotchman, Chris Parmelee, George Kottaras, Eric Chavez, Mauro Gomez, Mike Carp, Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Michael Cuddyer (oblique)
Neil Walker is back contributing for the Pirates after missing three weeks with a back injury, which is great news, right? I mean, he's back just in time to make an impact in Fantasy, right? You'll want to get him active again, right? Right!? Not so fast. He's playing again, yeah, but the Pirates say they're going to take it day by day with him, which means he's not 100 percent, which means they could just decide to shut him down one day. If you're willing to take that chance this time of year for what figures to be modest production at best, I'm not so sure you don't deserve to lose.
If the issue is a lack of alternatives, might I suggest Mark Ellis? He's owned in only 14 percent of leagues. Though the matchups could certainly change in the days ahead, the Dodgers are currently scheduled to face five left-handers in their nine games this week. Ellis is batting .336 with a .904 OPS against lefties this season. He's been pretty steady from week to week, too. Take a look; it might surprise you.
Of course, just because Ellis is widely available doesn't necessarily mean he's the best free-agent pickup at second base this week. That distinction -- at least in the majority of mixed leagues -- goes to ...
Worth a second look: Chris Nelson, Rockies
Seriously, have you seen what he's been doing lately? Over his last 11 games, he's batting .488 (21 for 43) with two home runs and a 1.232 OPS, making him the top second base-eligible player in Fantasy during that stretch. And it's not just an isolated hot streak. Over the last few weeks, his production has improved to the point that he now has an .813 OPS, which ranks behind only Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill and Ben Zobrist among second baseman. Maybe with tougher matchups, I'd worry about it ending this week, but of the 10 games on tap for the Rockies, three are at home against the Cubs' rotation and three are at Arizona against the lesser end of the Diamondbacks' rotation.
Approach with caution: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
OK, so Espinosa's shoulder injury turned out to be a bruise, and he was able to return to the lineup Wednesday. Great. But considering he was in so much pain just a couple days ago that the Nationals thought he had suffered a season-ending injury, isn't it safe to assume he's at less than 100 percent now? That's not a great way to take on the best the Phillies and Cardinals have to offer, as he's scheduled to do this week. And with only one left-hander currently on the schedule, Espinosa's .238 batting average and .702 OPS against righties this year is going to be that much more debilitating.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, Chase Utley, Rickie Weeks
Advisable starts: Marco Scutaro, Chris Nelson
Shaky starts: Dan Uggla, Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, Michael Young, Logan Forsythe, Kyle Seager, Danny Espinosa, Daniel Murphy, Mark Ellis, Dustin Ackley, Howard Kendrick, Gordon Beckham, Everth Cabrera, Neil Walker
Strictly AL/NL-only: Omar Infante, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Ruben Tejada, Darwin Barney, Jeff Keppinger, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Aviles
Don't bother: Tyler Greene (knee), Brock Holt, Jemile Weeks, Alexi Amarista, Donovan Solano, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, DJ LeMahieu, Cliff Pennington, Johnny Giavotella, Stephen Lombardozzi, Alexi Casilla, Maicer Izturis, Jamey Carroll, Skip Schumaker
|1.||Diamondbacks||@COL1, @SF3, CHC3, COL3|
|2.||Rockies||ARI1, CHC3, @LAD3, @ARI3|
|3.||Tigers||KC4, @MIN3, @KC3|
|4.||Blue Jays||@BAL3, NYY4, MIN3|
|5.||Yankees||@MIN3, @TOR4, BOS3|
Though he's been one of the hottest players in baseball over the last month or so, batting .379 with 14 homers and a 1.348 OPS since Aug. 22, Adrian Beltre is at less than 100 percent to close out the season. He missed Wednesday's game with intestinal issues that required additional testing. He's also had some inflammation in his left shoulder. He was able to DH Thursday, but if the Rangers clinch the division a few days early, you have to think he'll get some time off. Still, as hot as he's been, you'd need to have a crazy-good alternative to consider benching him.
Worth a second look: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Fantasy owners have been slow to come around to Rodriguez since his return from a fractured hand in early September -- and for good reason. But he's been playing every day and has been fairly productive over his last 11 games, hitting three home runs, driving in 10 runs and stealing two bases. Unlike in past seasons, the Yankees are playing for their playoff lives right now, so you know he'll be in the lineup to take advantage of this week's favorable matchups against the Twins', Blue Jays' and Red Sox's rotations. How could you sit him for that?
Approach with caution: Mark Trumbo, Angels
On the other hand, how could you start Trumbo this week? If you're still in it -- and why would you be reading this column if you weren't? -- you have to know he's been killing you lately, batting .171 (27 for 158) with 66 strikeouts over his last 41 games. It's gotten so bad that the Angels have actually been playing Vernon Wells over him more days than not. And yet he remains active in 74 percent of Fantasy leagues. So you're going to bank on him turning it around this week, with two games against Felix Hernandez and three against the best the Rangers have to offer? Good luck with that.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Beltre, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Chase Headley, Ryan Zimmerman, Aramis Ramirez, Martin Prado
Advisable starts: Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, David Freese, Marco Scutaro
Shaky starts: Chris Nelson, Kevin Youkilis, Pablo Sandoval, Brett Lawrie, Pedro Alvarez, Logan Forsythe, Kyle Seager, Mark Reynolds, Chipper Jones, Michael Young, Mike Moustakas, Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy, Trevor Plouffe, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Jordan Pacheco
Strictly AL/NL-only: Omar Infante, Todd Frazier, Jed Lowrie, Luis Cruz, Ryan Roberts, Chris Johnson, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger, Brett Wallace, Kevin Frandsen, Mike Aviles, Matt Dominguez
Don't bother: Eduardo Nunez, Eric Chavez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Scott Rolen, Donovan Solano, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, Mauro Gomez, Willie Bloomquist (back), Ryan Wheeler, DJ LeMahieu, Stephen Lombardozzi, Josh Vitters, Maicer Izturis, Jamey Carroll, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan
Playing in just his fourth game after missing the previous six with the injury, Asdrubal Cabrera re-aggravated his sore right wrist Wednesday. If six days wasn't enough to correct it the first time, then you have to wonder how much we'll be seeing of Cabrera in Fantasy Week 26 (Sept. 24-Oct. 3). You'd be taking too much of a risk by starting him if you have a halfway decent alternative.
Unfortunately, Cabrera isn't the only mixed league-relevant shortstop whose status is up in the air this week. Troy Tulowitzki (groin), Andrelton Simmons (ankle) and Zack Cozart (oblique) have all missed several games with their injuries but have yet to be ruled out for the season. Because Simmons and Cozart both play for teams still fighting for playoff positioning, they're probably more likely to return than Tulowitzki, but of course, Tulowitzki offers the biggest potential rewards of the three. Hard to imagine you'd be taking a chance on any of these questionable outside of NL-only leagues.
Worth a second look: Erick Aybar, Angels
I'll just put it out there: If you're still competing right now and you don't have one of the no-brainers at the shortstop position -- like Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins -- Aybar should be starting for your Fantasy team. Since returning from a DL stint for a broken foot Aug. 6, he has played out of his mind, batting .376 (59 for 157) with three home runs, 10 steals and a .927 OPS in 40 games. So what if his matchups aren't the greatest this week? You're not going to find much better than him at the shortstop position. Consider him a blessing this time of year.
Approach with caution: Trevor Plouffe, Twins
Because he has two home runs in his last six games (check that -- he hit another one Thursay), you might be tempted to conclude that Plouffe is on the verge of another power surge. Hey, it wouldn't be the craziest assumption in the world. The problem is his matchups this week are liable to end it before it starts. The Twins are facing the Yankees' and Tigers' rotations in their first six games, and they fetch Brandon Morrow in the Blue Jays series to close out the season. If you need a Hail Mary this time of year, you could do worse than Plouffe, but you could also do better.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, Jimmy Rollins, Starlin Castro, Derek Jeter, Hanley Ramirez
Advisable starts: Elvis Andrus, Ian Desmond, Erick Aybar, Marco Scutaro, Alcides Escobar
Shaky starts: Josh Rutledge, J.J. Hardy, Danny Espinosa, Alexei Ramirez, Everth Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Trevor Plouffe, Manny Machado, Asdrubal Cabrera (wrist)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Luis Cruz, Yunel Escobar, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada, Jean Segura, Jed Lowrie, Mike Aviles, Pedro Ciriaco, Andrelton Simmons (ankle), Troy Tulowitzki (groin), Zack Cozart (oblique)
Don't bother: Tyler Greene (knee), Brock Holt, Dee Gordon, Alexi Amarista, Donovan Solano, Jurickson Profar, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, Ryan Theriot, Cliff Pennington, Maicer Izturis, Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist (back), Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan
|1.||Marlins||@ATL3, PHI3, NYM3|
|2.||Mariners||@LAA3, @OAK3, LAA3|
|3.||Twins||NYY3, DET3, @TOR3|
|4.||Padres||LAD3, SF3, @MIL3|
|5.||Red Sox||TB2, @BAL3, @NYY3|
Jason Kubel has sat out three of the last six games and six of the last 21 as the Diamondbacks struggle to find playing time for Gerardo Parra. Lefty-righty matchups don't seem to make a difference, so you can never predict when exactly he's going to sit. You just know it's going to happen at some point. Considering he's been a huge letdown since the beginning of August, batting .153 with a .583 OPS (which includes a 0-for-21 stint over his last five games), the reduced playing time is just another excuse to sit him for the final week, good matchups and all.
Dewayne Wise's good work as a fill-in starter in August has allowed him to steal some at-bats from both Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo in September. Unfortunately, three players sharing two spots is generally a bad arrangement for Fantasy purposes, and that's certainly true here. Though Wise's surprising pop and above average base-stealing ability have made him at least a fringe outfielder in Rotisserie leagues, he's pulled De Aza and Viciedo down to about the same level -- not that either was performing all that well in the first place.
Worth a second look: Norichika Aoki, Brewers and Adam Eaton, Diamondbacks
Considering he's the No. 1 hitter in Head-to-Head leagues since Aug. 27 -- not just outfielder, but hitter -- Aoki is no doubt responsible for getting a few Fantasy teams to the championship game. And if yours is one of them, why would you back down from him now? He's only batting .366 (30 for 82) with three home runs, eight stolen bases and a 1.065 OPS over his last 21 games. Sure, it's an unsustainable pace, but with only one week to go, you have to ride the hot hand. It's not like Aoki's ability to get on base and run when he gets there is a fluke. Speaking of getting on base and running when he gets there, Eaton has done a pretty good job of that as the Diamondbacks' leadoff hitter -- a role he's expected to retain with Chris Young reinjuring his quadriceps earlier in the week. With four games against the Rockies' staff and three games against the Cubs' staff this week, Eaton is relevant even to mixed-leaguers to close out the season.
Approach with caution: Carlos Beltran, Cardinals and Garrett Jones, Pirates
If you're playing for the title in your league, Beltran is surely a big reason why. But as studly as he was for the first 3 1/2 months, he's been just as disappointing for the last six weeks, batting .200 (23 for 115) in 32 games. Plus, he's not even playing every day, sitting every two or three games with a sore hand or a tight knee or a stiff back. It took longer than anyone expected, but the injury-prone 35-year-old is finally breaking down. And against the top of the Nationals and Reds rotations to close out the season, he's a long shot to make a significant Fantasy impact. So is Jones, whose starting rate of 63 percent suggests his early-second-half power surge made a lasting impression on Fantasy owners. But it's over now. He's batting .163 (7 for 43) over his last 11 games and isn't likely to turn it back on against the Mets', Reds' and Braves' pitching staffs to close out the season. Move on already.
No-brainers: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Alex Rios, Jay Bruce, Adam Jones, Curtis Granderson, Allen Craig, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Heyward
Advisable starts: Josh Hamilton (head), Giancarlo Stanton (side), Justin Upton, Michael Bourn, Adrian Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Alex Gordon, Andre Ethier, Ben Zobrist, Shane Victorino, Shin-Soo Choo, Desmond Jennings, Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, Austin Jackson, Angel Pagan, B.J. Upton, Josh Willingham, Norichika Aoki, Yoenis Cespedes, Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, Hunter Pence, Coco Crisp (eye)
Shaky starts: Corey Hart (foot), Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Adam Dunn, Nelson Cruz, Josh Reddick, Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel, Nick Swisher, David Murphy, Garrett Jones, Carlos Gomez, Ben Revere, Carlos Beltran, Mark Trumbo, Colby Rasmus, Tyler Colvin, Cody Ross, Michael Brantley, Ichiro Suzuki, John Mayberry, Ryan Doumit, Jon Jay, Carlos Lee, Nate McLouth, Trevor Plouffe, Ryan Ludwick (groin), Chris Davis, Justin Ruggiano, Howard Kendrick, Dewayne Wise
Strictly AL/NL-only: Dexter Fowler, Alejandro De Aza, David DeJesus, Brandon Belt, Delmon Young, Todd Frazier, Rajai Davis, Andy Dirks, Matt Joyce, Drew Stubbs, Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Dayan Viciedo, Yonder Alonso, Denard Span, Brett Jackson, Michael Saunders, Domonic Brown, Travis Snider, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, Vernon Wells, Juan Pierre, Pedro Ciriaco, Anthony Gose, Justin Maxwell, Carlos Quentin (knee), Scott Podsednik (knee)
Don't bother: Chris Young (quadriceps), Scott Hairston, Eric Thames, Donovan Solano, Chris Parmelee, Raul Ibanez, Jose Constanza, Jonny Gomes, Andres Torres, Ezequiel Carrera, Gregor Blanco, Starling Marte, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Gerardo Parra, Brennan Boesch, Jeff Francoeur, Jose Tabata, Alexi Amarista, Franklin Gutierrez, Luke Scott, Stephen Lombardozzi, Willie Bloomquist (back), Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Eric Young (rib cage), Brett Gardner (elbow), Grady Sizemore (back), Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras
Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at email@example.com .