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Week 16 Fantasy Hitting Planner

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The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner is the essential guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming week. Every week, we provide you with news and notes for each team, tracking hot and cold players, injuries and lineup changes.

All statistics are up to date as of Friday, July 16.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Schedule: NYM3, SF4
Heating Up: Kelly Johnson seems to have gotten back to performing the way he did when he won NL Player of the Month in April, batting .406 (13 for 32) over his last nine games. With the Diamondbacks heading back home this week, he should be starting in virtually all Fantasy formats.
Cooling Off: Justin Upton, who had finally gotten his batting average up to a respectable .269 at the end of June, has gone in the tank in July, batting .184 (7 for 38) over his last 10 games. His potential makes him a must-start. Miguel Montero is losing playing time to Chris Snyder and looking nothing like the hit machine that came back from knee surgery in mid-June, batting .167 (3 for 18) over his last five games. Not only that, but he's striking out a high rate -- nine times in his last 22 at-bats -- which is exactly what he wasn't doing during his hot streak. He's less than a must-start.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Diamondbacks face four left-handed pitchers this week, making it a bad time to start Gerardo Parra in NL-only leagues. He typically sits for Cole Gillespie against lefties.
Lineup Changes: None.

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Atlanta Braves
Schedule: SD3, @FLA3
Heating Up: Brian McCann, who has battled blurred vision for parts of this season, is seeing the ball just fine now, batting .364 (12 for 33) over his last nine games. And that's not including his clutch hit in the All-Star game. Alex Gonzalez doubled in his first game with his new team and is batting .333 (7 for 21) with two homers over his last six games. He's a useful mixed-league option, at least for now.
Cooling Off: Eric Hinske is just a platoon player, but he'll become even less of one if he doesn't start hitting better. He's batting .129 (4 for 31) over his last 12 games and isn't worth using outside of NL-only leagues.
Injury Concerns: Nate McLouth, who hasn't played since June 9 because of a concussion, is on a Triple-A rehab assignment and could return in the coming days. He was batting a miserable .176 at the time of his injury, but he's a better player than that and has been working with hitting coach Terry Pendleton to shorten his swing. His potential makes him worth picking up and stashing in deeper leagues.
Platoon Possibilities: The Braves face two left-handers this week, and Matt Diaz and Omar Infante are likely to start those games. Who exactly they'll replace is kind of up in the air at this point. Hinske and Melky Cabrera are the two most likely candidates to start in center and left, but Gregor Blanco is also in the mix. And when McLouth returns, all bets are off.
Lineup Changes: Jason Heyward, who missed nearly three weeks with a thumb injury, returned to the starting lineup Thursday, bumping Infante back to the bench. He was struggling before going on the DL, but the injury probably had something to do with it. If over the weekend he returns to slugging the way he did in April and May, you'll want to get him active in Fantasy. Infante still figures to play some against lefties and could eventually factor at shortstop if the Braves' new acquisition doesn't work out there. The Braves swapped shortstops with the Blue Jays over the break, acquiring Gonzalez for Yunel Escobar. Gonzalez will continue to play every day, but his numbers only figure to decline at Turner Field. The law of averages says they would have anyway -- he's on pace for a career high in homers at age 33.

Baltimore Orioles
Schedule: TB3, MIN4
Heating Up: Adam Jones is looking more and more like a useful mixed-league option. He's batting .353 (30 for 85) with six homers over his last 21 games and hasn't slowed down over his last six games, batting .375 (9 for 24) with one homer. Nick Markakis never really lost must-start status in Fantasy, but he's actually performing like a must-start option now, batting .340 (16 for 47) with three homers in 11 July contests.
Cooling Off: Ty Wigginton is hitting a respectable .300 (9 for 30) over his last seven games, but he's batting .172 (10 for 58) with only two extra-base hits over his last 15. You wouldn't want to start him in mixed leagues.
Injury Concerns: Luke Scott (hamstring) is set to begin a rehab assignment over the weekend and could return soon afterward, but he's less than a full-time player and is too streaky to activate fresh off the DL.
Platoon Possibilities: The Orioles don't face a single left-handed pitcher this week, which doesn't really impact their lineup since they change it all the time anyway.
Lineup Changes: Jake Fox has been getting starts at first base recently, which explains his recent power surge, but his playing time when Scott returns is up in the air. Corey Patterson has been a decent source of stolen bases but has Felix Pie breathing down his neck, making him hard to trust. With Matt Wieters going on the DL, Craig Tatum will likely get most of the starts behind the plate, but he's just a last resort in AL-only leagues.

Scott's top sleepers for Week 16
Player Start %
1. Angel Pagan, OF, Mets 56
2. Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals 66
3. Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers 56
4. Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees 65
5. Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs 64
6. Gordon Beckham, 2B, White Sox 44
7. Delmon Young, OF, Twins 65
8. Andres Torres, OF, Giants 20
9. Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays 51
10. Garrett Jones, 1B, Pirates 55
* Sleepers are players started in less than 70 percent of CBSSports.com leagues

Boston Red Sox
Schedule: @OAK3, @SEA4
Heating Up: Mike Cameron seems to have a new injury every other day, but when in the lineup, he has played well, batting .538 (7 for 13) with two homers over his last four games. Still, he's too unreliable for mixed-league use.
Cooling Off: Kevin Youkilis' batting average has been on the decline since the middle of June. He's batting .213 (20 for 94) over his last 26 games and .186 (8 for 43) over his last 12. He continues to homer at a decent rate, though, and as the Greek God of Walks, he finds ways to contribute even when he's struggling. Keep him active.
Injury Concerns: Adrian Beltre managed to participate in the All-Star game despite a strained left hamstring, but he was out of the starting lineup to begin the second half Thursday. If he returns over the weekend, you should obviously activate him, but the Red Sox are proceeding cautiously.
Platoon Possibilities: The Red Sox face four left-handers this week, meaning Daniel Nava could have a light week, sitting much of the time for Darnell McDonald. David Ortiz probably won't put up big numbers. He's batting .192 with a .578 OPS against lefties.
Lineup Changes: None.

Chicago Cubs
Schedule: HOU3, STL3
Heating Up: It took the better part of four months, but Aramis Ramirez has finally figured out how to hit with his sore thumb, batting .448 (13 for 29) with four homers and 13 RBI over his last seven games. The staggering turnaround has him already closing in on must-start status after looking like waiver fodder just a couple weeks ago. Derrek Lee is hoping to join in his renaissance, batting .370 (10 for 27) with a homer over his last six games. He hasn't quite regained must-start status, but he's looking like a decent sleeper. Geovany Soto is proving to be exponentially better than Koyie Hill, bouncing back from a slow May and June to hit .400 (10 for 25) with two homers over his last seven games. He deserves to start for somebody in your league.
Cooling Off: Nobody is significantly underachieving right now.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Cubs face one lefty this week. Xavier Nady will likely start that game, but his platoon partner is unclear. You're better off avoiding Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukudome in mixed leagues.
Lineup Changes: Other than the constant shuffling of right fielders, none.

Chicago White Sox
Schedule: @SEA3, @OAK3
Heating Up: Carlos Quentin was arguably the hottest player in baseball heading into the All-Star break, batting .353 (18 for 51) with 11 homers over his last 17 games. He said he made an adjustment at the plate that allowed him to return to the MVP form he displayed in 2008, but he didn't go into specifics. Fantasy owners should just say "whatever" and continue starting him. After months of struggling to bat .200, Gordon Beckham is back to performing the way he did as a rookie, batting .538 (7 for 13) with two homers over his last four games. If you've had a hard time filling your second base position, make sure he's not unowned in your league. Juan Pierre has been at his best in July, batting .357 (15 for 42) over his last 11 games. He's still a little off pace statistically, so he could have a big second half ahead.
Cooling Off: Alexei Ramirez is the only White Sox player who comes close to "cooling off," batting .182 (4 for 22) over his last six games, but even he was hot right before then. Still, his lack of consistency makes him just a low-end mixed-league option.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The White Sox don't face a single left-handed pitcher this week, meaning Mark Kotsay will get more playing time than Andruw Jones. The White Sox have begun working Jones back into the mix against right-handers, though, complicating the situation. Both are just AL-only options right now.
Lineup Changes: None.

Cincinnati Reds
Schedule: WAS4, @HOU3
Heating Up: Joey Votto is batting .377 (20 for 53) with seven homers and a 1.322 OPS over his last 15 games, but that's only slightly out of the ordinary for an MVP candidate like him.
Cooling Off: Jay Bruce has been able to maintain a respectable batting average despite a high strikeout rate for much of the season, but not in July. He's batting .135 (5 for 37) over his last 10 games, striking out 12 times during that stretch, and isn't homering enough to make it worthwhile.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Reds face one left-handed pitcher this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: None.

Cleveland Indians
Schedule: @MIN3, TB3
Heating Up: Matt LaPorta seems to be getting comfortable at the major-league level, batting .357 (15 for 42) with four home runs in 12 games since the Russell Branyan trade opened the door for him to play first base every day. He has also shown no ill effects from his July 5 concussion, batting .417 (5 for 12) with two doubles since his return. The former top prospect is worth a look in mixed leagues. Jayson Nix, who has been starting regularly at second base, is showing why with his recent power surge, hitting six homers over his last nine games. Of course, he's batting only .211 (8 for 38) during that stretch.
Cooling Off: Michael Brantley hasn't fared as well as LaPorta since coming back from the minors, batting .083 (3 for 36) in eight games. He's strictly an AL-only option.
Injury Concerns: Asdrubal Cabrera, who hasn't played since May 17 because of a fractured left forearm, has begun a rehab assignment but will need 30 at-bats before he returns. He could reach that point by the end of the week, but the off chance of him playing a partial week isn't justification enough to start him.
Platoon Possibilities: The Indians face two left-handed pitchers this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: Other than the change at second base, none.

Colorado Rockies
Schedule: @FLA4, @PHI3
Heating Up: Carlos Gonzalez has pretty much been on a season-long hot streak, but he has taken it to another level over his last 14 games, batting .383 (23 for 60) with seven home runs. Clearly, you wouldn't want to sit him. Jonathan Herrera lacks the upside to make an impact in mixed leagues, but he looks like a viable NL-only option while filling in for Troy Tulowitzki (fractured wrist), batting .395 (17 for 43) during an 11-game hitting streak and .319 (36 for 113) overall.
Cooling Off: Brad Hawpe is back from the rib injury that sidelined him for a few games, but he still isn't performing up to his standards, batting .235 (4 for 17) over his last 10 games and .217 (13 for 60) over his last 22.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Rockies face two lefties this week, which means Seth Smith will sit twice for Ryan Spilborghs and Jason Giambi will sit twice for Brad Eldred. The only one with any mixed-league appeal is Smith, who doesn't look like a particularly good start this week.
Lineup Changes: The Giambi-Eldred platoon began because Todd Helton had to go on the DL with a back injury. He had already lost most of his mixed-league appeal, though.

Detroit Tigers
Schedule: TEX3, TOR4
Heating Up: Johnny Damon, who looked like a washed-up 36-year-old over the first three months, has come around in July, batting .323 (10 for 31) with three homers in seven games. He's worth a look again in mixed leagues. Brennan Boesch's out-of-nowhere rookie season is only getting better and better. The 25-year-old slugger is batting .406 (13 for 32) in nine July games and is becoming virtually impossible to sit in Fantasy. Miguel Cabrera is batting .400 (28 for 70) during a 19-game hitting streak, but that's hardly a surprise. He's competing for a Triple Crown, after all.
Cooling Off: Austin Jackson has shown some signs of turning it around recently, batting .296 (16 for 54) over his last 14 games, but that alone won't make up for his lack of power, not to mention the fact he's batting .212 (21 for 99) over his last 27 games. Avoid him in mixed leagues.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Tigers face one left-hander this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: None.

Top 10 Hitters Added
Player % Change
1. Chris Davis, 1B, Rangers 13
2. Angel Pagan, OF, Mets 10
3. Omar Infante, SS, Braves 9
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs 7
5. Geovany Soto, C, Cubs 6
6. Erick Aybar, SS, Angels 6
7. Jason Kendall, C, Royals 6
8. Corey Patterson, OF, Orioles 6
9. Jayson Nix, 2B, Indians 6
10. Buster Posey, C, Giants 5

Florida Marlins
Schedule: COL4, ATL3
Heating Up: Dan Uggla, who in the past has offered little more than power, has managed to avoid a lengthy cold spell this season and was hot heading into the break, batting .435 (20 for 46) with two homers over his last 12 games. He's a must-start and could approach elite territory if this performance continues much longer. Michael Stanton still strikes out too much, but he is showing his first real signs of potential, batting .318 (7 for 22) with three homers over his last six games.
Cooling Off: Chris Coghlan, whose batting average had been steadily rising since a sub-.200 April, has finally taken a wrong turn, batting .120 (3 for 25) over his last six games. Given his lack of power, you wouldn't want to use him in mixed leagues. Ronny Paulino, who was just beginning to win over some mixed-league owners now that he's an everyday catcher, has gone frigid in July, batting .083 (2 for 24) over his last seven games.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Marlins face two lefties this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: None.

Houston Astros
Schedule: @CHC3, CIN3
Heating Up: Lance Berkman suddenly looks like a must-start again, batting .435 (10 for 23) with five homers over his last seven games. He's healthy and poised for a second-half run, so get him active in Fantasy. If you didn't know any better, you'd think Jeff Keppinger was a legitimate starter instead of just a utility infielder posing as one. He's batting .357 (15 for 42) with two homers in 10 July contests.
Cooling Off: Michael Bourn is hardly looking like an All-Star right now, batting .152 (5 for 33) over his last eight games. Start him only if you're short on steals in a Rotisserie league.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Astros face two left-handed pitchers this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: With Chris Johnson struggling, going 0 for 17 over his last six games, Pedro Feliz is back stealing a share of the at-bats at third base. Clearly, you shouldn't start either player outside of NL-only leagues. Angel Sanchez has been getting most of the at-bats at shortstop with Geoff Blum sidelined by an elbow surgery, but he lacks the offensive upside to make an impact in Fantasy.

Kansas City Royals
Schedule: TOR3, @NYY4
Heating Up: Scott Podsednik is suddenly looking like the model leadoff man again, batting .351 (20 for 57) with five stolen bases over his last 13 games. His lack of pop prevents him from making a huge Fantasy impact, but if you play in a league that heavily rewards steals, he's worth starting.
Cooling Off: Alberto Callaspo recently ended a 38-game stretch without a homer, but he's still batting just .194 (7 for 36) over his last 10 games. Mike Aviles is batting .154 (4 for 26) over his last seven games, which isn't helping his chances of holding off Chris Getz. Better leave him alone.
Injury Concerns: Rick Ankiel (quadriceps) has been rehabbing for a while at Triple-A, but he isn't hitting well down there. The Royals seem in no hurry to get him back in their lineup, so you should be in no hurry to get him back in yours.
Platoon Possibilities: The Royals face four left-handers this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: None.

L.A. Angels
Schedule: @NYY2, @TEX4
Heating Up: Erick Aybar is finally becoming the contact hitter he was last year, making him worth a flier if you need middle infield help in a mixed league. He has multiple hits in nine of his last 15 games, batting .369 (24 for 65) during that stretch.
Cooling Off: Mike Napoli is 0 for 14 over his last 15 games, which is apparently enough for the Angels to lose all confidence in him. He's no longer playing every day, which makes him less than a must-start in mixed leagues. Hideki Matsui is slipping further into the nothing, batting .143 (3 for 21) over his last seven games. Keep him reserved, assuming you own him at all.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Angels face two left-handers this week, which means Napoli will start at least twice, replacing Paul McAnulty at first base. He might make a couple starts behind the plate as well.
Lineup Changes: Yes, the Angels have lost confidence in Napoli during his cold streak, replacing him -- at least against right-handers -- with McAnulty, a minor-league journeyman. Of course, with McAnulty batting only .136 (3 for 22), who knows how long that'll last?

L.A. Dodgers
Schedule: SF3, NYM4
Heating Up: Though he returned from the DL in late May, Andre Ethier has only recently regained his form, batting .400 (18 for 45) with three homers over his last 11 games. He's a plus contributor in every category but homers and a must-start in Fantasy. Rafael Furcal is looking healthy for the first time in years and has regained must-start status as a result, batting .418 (28 for 67) with four homers and four steals over his last 16 games.
Cooling Off: Matt Kemp was beginning to show some signs of life at the start of July but has cooled off recently, batting .105 (2 for 19) over his last five games. Still, his five-category potential makes him a must-start. Casey Blake has always been streaky, but his cold streaks seem to be getting longer in his old age. He's batting .147 (5 for 34) over his last 11 games and is hardly worth using in mixed leagues.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Dodgers face four left-handers this week, which means Blake DeWitt will spend most of his week on the bench, sitting for either Jamey Carroll or Ronnie Belliard. He's just an NL-only option even when he faces a bunch of righties.
Lineup Changes: Manny Ramirez, who missed some time with a hamstring injury, is back in the lineup for the first time in July. He's still a good enough hitter to start in mixed leagues when healthy, but he never stays healthy for long.

Milwaukee Brewers
Schedule: @PIT4, WAS3
Heating Up: Corey Hart came out of the break swinging just like he did before it, homering in his very first at-bat. He has hit safely in 26 of his last 27 games, batting .348 (40 for 115) with five homers during that stretch and is clearly too productive to sit in Fantasy.
Cooling Off: Alcides Escobar isn't looking any more prepared to handle major-league pitching, batting just .176 (9 for 51) over his last 16 games. Even at a weak position like shortstop, he isn't offering nearly enough pop to make an impact in mixed leagues (and he hasn't been much of a base-stealer either).
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Brewers face one left-handed pitcher this week, which would have been good news for Jim Edmonds just a couple weeks ago, but with Carlos Gomez stealing more and more of his at-bats, the handedness of the opposing pitcher doesn't seem to matter anymore. Gomez is the only one you'd consider starting in mixed leagues, and only if it's a Rotisserie league and you're desperate for steals.
Lineup Changes: Other than the increased playing time for Gomez, none.

Minnesota Twins
Schedule: CLE3, @BAL4
Heating Up: Delmon Young, who put himself back on the map in Fantasy with a big June, has been even better in July, batting .390 (16 for 41) with two homers over his last 11 games. You'd like to see him hit more homers still, but he's worth a look in mixed leagues.
Cooling Off: Denard Span is batting .209 (9 for 43) over his last 11 games, but a return to Target Field may help. He's batting .358 there compared to .198 on the road.
Injury Concerns: Justin Morneau, who missed the final four games of the first half with a concussion, ended up going on the DL. Maybe the Twins are simply being cautious, but concussions have led to some lengthy absences in recent years. Expect to sit Morneau for at least the next week or two.
Platoon Possibilities: The Twins face two left-handers this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: Cuddyer will continue to start at first base with Morneau sidelined, allowing Nick Punto and rookie Danny Valencia to split time at third base. Neither would matter in mixed leagues as a full-time player, much less a part-timer.

Monday
By the Numbers: Al Melchior examines BABIP trends that forecast potential long-term trends
Tuesday
Fantasy Update: Audio | Video
Sliders: Scott White highlights his risers and fallers
Wednesday
Fantasy Update: Audio | Video
LIVE writer chat: Our writers answer your questions about prospects, rotations, lineups and much more every Wednesday
Dear Mr. Fantasy: Scott White touches on some of the hot topic issues facing owners
By the Numbers: Al Melchior breaks down compelling Fantasy data to assist owners in predicting future production
Thursday
Fantasy Update: Audio | Video
Friday
Prospects Report: Eric Mack spotlights top prospects on the brink of making an impact in Fantasy
Hitting Planner: Scott White analyzes the state of all 30 lineups and shares his top sleepers for the week
Saturday
Splitsville: Jeff Lippman highlights some statistical splits that owners should take advantage of
Sunday
Fantasy Update: Audio | Video
Pitching Planner: Eric Mack addresses all 30 rotations and highlights two-start pitchers
LIVE writer chat: Scott White spends 90 minutes fielding your questions every Sunday at 5 p.m. ET
Follow us via Twitter!

N.Y. Mets
Schedule: @ARI3, @LAD4
Heating Up: Angel Pagan, who the Mets have said will remain in the starting lineup over Jeff Francoeur with Carlos Beltran back from knee surgery, is batting .429 (15 for 35) with two homers and four steals over his last eight games. Now that we have some assurance he'll keep his job, can we get him active already?
Cooling Off: Jason Bay has been a disappointment all season but has taken it to a new level recently, batting .211 (15 for 71) over his last 22 games. He clearly isn't going to be the slugger he was in Pittsburgh and Boston, making him less than a must-start in Fantasy.
Injury Concerns: Jose Reyes, who sat out the final game of the first half with a strained oblique -- an injury left over from earlier in the month -- remained out of the lineup Thursday. He still feels pain swinging the bat and hasn't swung since July 11. He's no guarantee to return over the weekend, so you'll want to keep a close eye on his player updates leading up to the lineup deadline.
Platoon Possibilities: The Mets face one left-hander this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: Beltran, who has spent the entire season recovering from knee surgery, returned to the lineup Thursday, batting fourth and bumping Francoeur to the bench. The Mets say he'll play as often as his knees will allow, so as long as nothing goes wrong over the weekend, you should get him active. Josh Thole, who the team called back up to the majors at the end of June, has been stealing starts from Rod Barajas ever since, rendering him just a No. 2 option in mixed leagues. Thole is a good enough contact hitter to have some low-end appeal in NL-only leagues.

N.Y. Yankees
Schedule: LAA2, KC4
Heating Up: Nick Swisher, who has somehow managed to avoid the streakiness that has plagued him in the past, is hitting as well as ever right now, batting .394 (13 for 33) with two homers over his last eight games. Keep him active. Mark Teixeira is slowly but surely bringing his numbers back to elite territory, batting .419 (18 for 43) with four homers so far in July.
Cooling Off: Derek Jeter, who hasn't hit below .300 in five years and has never hit below .290, is batting only .274 thanks to an 8-for-43 (.186) stretch. If you own him, he's obviously the best option you have at shortstop, but he's showing some signs of declining at age 36.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Yankees face one lefty this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: None.

Oakland Athletics
Schedule: BOS3, CHW3
Heating Up: So far, Jack Cust has avoided the usual pitfalls that have gobbled him up throughout his major-league career and has performed particularly well lately, batting .323 (10 for 31) with two homers and a 1.093 OPS over his last nine games. But because his playing time is still a bit up in the air, he remains more of an AL-only option.
Cooling Off: Kurt Suzuki hasn't gotten off to the best start in July, batting .175 (7 for 40) over his last 10 games, but at the weak catcher position, you kind of just have to keep him active and hope for the best. Daric Barton is batting just .077 (2 for 26) over his last seven games, but his lack of home-run power at a position that demands it limits his appeal to AL-only leagues.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Athletics face one left-hander this week, but they don't have any clear lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: The Athletics can't seem to make up their mind on Rajai Davis. He seems to be an everyday player again, relegating Gabe Gross to the bench, which means he's worth using in Rotisserie leagues because of his ability to steal bases. But who knows how short of a leash he has?

Best Five Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Brewers @PIT4, WAS3
2. Twins CLE3, @BAL4
3. Nationals @CIN4, @MIL3
4. Red Sox @OAK3, @SEA4
5. Pirates MIL4, SD3

Philadelphia Phillies
Schedule: @STL4, COL3
Heating Up: It's happening for Ryan Howard. The slugger appears destined for another second-half tear, homering twice in the first game of the second half Thursday to make him 8 for 24 (.333) with four homers over his last six games. Now is when he makes his annual push for the NL MVP award, so you obviously want him active in Fantasy.
Cooling Off: Jayson Werth has mostly been on the decline since his red-hot April, but his production has only gotten worse in July. He's batting .195 (8 for 41) in 11 games this month. Still, given his potential in the middle of that Phillies lineup, you pretty much have to start him.
Injury Concerns: Placido Polanco, who will attempt to play with bone spurs in his elbow, has begun a minor-league rehab assignment and could return in time to play the majority of the week. Three different specialists advised him to give in and have the surgery, though, so you'll want to see him play a little before you activate him in mixed leagues.
Platoon Possibilities: The Phillies face two left-handers this week. Cody Ransom might replace Greg Dobbs at third base for those games, but that platoon could end entirely when Polanco returns from the DL. Then again, it could continue if the Phillies opt to move Polanco to second base with Chase Utley sidelined.
Lineup Changes: None.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Schedule: MIL4, SD3
Heating Up: After whiffing every other trip to the plate when he first came up to the majors in mid-June, Pedro Alvarez is finally showing why he was a top prospect, batting .300 (9 for 30) with three homers over his last eight games. He'll need to sustain that performance for a bit longer to matter in mixed leagues.
Cooling Off: Andrew McCutchen's performance so far in July makes him seem like not much of an All-Star snub. He's batting .171 (6 for 35) over his last 10 games. Still, his five-category potential makes him a must-start in Fantasy.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Pirates face four left-handers this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons. The lefty-loaded schedule will benefit McCutchen (.976 OPS) and Lastings Milledge (.949 OPS), however. Not so much Ryan Doumit (.564 OPS).
Lineup Changes: None.

San Diego Padres
Schedule: @ATL3, @PIT3
Heating Up: Aaron Cunningham has started seven straight games and hit safely in 10 straight, batting .412 (14 for 34) during that stretch. He was once a decent prospect, so he's worth monitoring in NL-only leagues. Adrian Gonzalez is batting .435 (10 for 23) with two homers over his last six games, but he does that kind of stuff all the time.
Cooling Off: Everth Cabrera has been a disaster since coming back from a hamstring injury, batting .167 (7 for 42) in 14 games. Avoid him.
Injury Concerns: Will Venable, who is on the DL with lower back stiffness, has begun a rehab assignment and could return Tuesday, but given his inconsistency at the plate, you should only start him if you're desperate for steals. David Eckstein, who hasn't played since July 6 because of a small tear in his calf, should return sometime over the weekend, but his lack of upside makes him just an NL-only option anyway.
Platoon Possibilities: The Padres face one left-hander this week, but with Venable sidelined, their outfield platoons are no longer as clear. Cunningham, Scott Hairston and Tony Gwynn should start most of the time, with Chris Denorfia occasionally entering the picture. Clearly, these are all just NL-only options.
Lineup Changes: None.

Worst Five Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Angels @NYY2, @TEX4
2. Indians @MIN3, TB3
3. Phillies @STL4, COL3
4. Royals TOR3, @NYY4
5. Rockies @FLA4, @PHI3

San Francisco Giants
Schedule: @LAD3, @ARI4
Heating Up: Buster Posey gave Carlos Quentin a run for the title of hottest player at the end of the first half, batting .500 (22 for 44) with six homers over his last 12 games. He looks like he's already living up to his potential as an elite Fantasy catcher.
Cooling Off: Pablo Sandoval, who has dropped all the way to seventh in the lineup, continues to slip into the abyss, batting .190 (8 for 42) over his last 11 games. He still has potential, but with a .706 OPS on the season, he isn't beyond cutting in shallower mixed leagues. Juan Uribe is getting the majority of the starts at shortstop over Edgar Renteria, but he isn't doing anything to deserve them, batting .067 (2 for 30) over his last nine games.
Injury Concerns: Andres Torres, who missed the final two games of the first half with a tight left groin, was out of the starting lineup Thursday. The Giants haven't been talking about a DL stint, so he should return over the weekend. If he's at risk of missing any time in Fantasy Week 16 (July 19-25), though, you shouldn't start a borderline option like him.
Platoon Possibilities: The Giants face one left-hander this week. Travis Ishikawa figures to sit out that game for backup catcher Eli Whiteside, allowing starting catcher Buster Posey to move over to first base. If you own Ishikawa in an NL-only league, you should consider using him this week.
Lineup Changes: Ishikawa has been swinging a hot enough bat to return to the starting lineup after spending much of the season coming off the bench. His upside is still in question, but he's worth watching in deeper leagues. Pat Burrell seems to be the odd man out, falling into the same kind of slump that doomed him in Tampa Bay.

Seattle Mariners
Schedule: CHW3, BOS4
Heating Up: Ichiro Suzuki has a 14-game hitting streak, but he's batting only .283 (17 for 60) during that stretch, which is hardly impressive by his standards. Oh well. Keep him active.
Cooling Off: Franklin Gutierrez has always been streaky, but you can't justify starting him during this latest slump. He's batting just .140 (6 for 43) over his last 13 games. Jose Lopez has yet to make any sort of impact in mixed leagues this season, offering minimal power and batting just .167 (4 for 24) over his last six games. Keep him reserved. Justin Smoak gets a fresh start in Seattle after coming over from the Rangers. Will that be enough to make him a worthwhile Fantasy option at this early stage of his career? Probably not. He's batting .102 (5 for 49) over his last 14 games.
Injury Concerns: Russell Branyan injured his toe knocking over a table in his hotel room Thursday. He'll miss a few games, so monitor his status over the weekend before deciding whether or not to start him.
Platoon Possibilities: The Mariners face three lefties this week, which is bad news for Branyan, who is having to share the spotlight with Smoak, Michael Saunders and Milton Bradley right now. The Mariners can play only three at a time, and Branyan is the most logical choice to sit against the left-handers.
Lineup Changes: The Mariners have started Smoak every day since acquiring him from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal. Too bad he has nothing to offer right now.

St. Louis Cardinals
Schedule: PHI4, @CHC3
Heating Up: Matt Holliday's power has finally come around. He's batting .321 (9 for 28) with five homers over his last seven games. He was a must-start even when he wasn't hitting homers. Colby Rasmus has taken advantage of the surplus of right-handed pitchers in recent days, batting .385 (10 for 26) over his last seven games. His potential is obvious, but his streakiness and ineffectiveness against lefties make him less than an every-week option in Fantasy.
Cooling Off: Yadier Molina continues to lose all relevance in mixed leagues, batting .120 (9 for 75) over his last 24 games and .179 (31 for 173) over his last 53.
Injury Concerns: Ryan Ludwick, who hasn't played since June 25 because of a calf injury, has been hitting, throwing and running and could potentially return over the weekend, but general manager John Mozeliak thinks he'll need longer than that. He's the kind of player you start only when hot, so you don't necessarily want him active as soon as he returns.
Platoon Possibilities: The Cardinals face three left-handers this week, which is bad news for Rasmus, whose OPS is nearly 200 points lower against lefties. The Cardinals don't have any lefty-righty platoons, though.
Lineup Changes: None.

Tampa Bay Rays
Schedule: @BAL3, @CLE3
Heating Up: Carl Crawford has experienced a dramatic boost in power so far in July, batting .388 (19 for 49) with four homers in 11 games. The truth is he doesn't need the power. His batting average and stolen bases make him a must-start.
Cooling Off: Ben Zobrist is batting .176 (9 for 51) over his last 17 games, but the good news is he has 23 walks during that stretch, giving him a .440 on-base percentage. He also has 10 stolen bases. Clearly, he's doing enough things right for you to keep him active.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Rays don't face a single left-handed pitcher this week, which means Matt Joyce should get a full week of at-bats. He typically sits for Gabe Kapler against lefties.
Lineup Changes:

Texas Rangers
Schedule: @DET3, LAA4
Heating Up: After battling ankle soreness for much of the season, Ian Kinsler finally seems to be healthy, batting .390 (30 for 77) with three homers and four stolen bases over his last 20 games. He's back to being an elite option, not just a must-start. Josh Hamilton regained elite status himself with his monster June and hasn't slowed down in July, batting .400 (18 for 45) with four homers for the month.
Cooling Off: Julio Borbon looks more useless with each passing week. He's batting .179 (7 for 39) over his last 12 games. Of course, he'd still be useful in Rotisserie leagues if he was stealing bases like he should, but he hasn't stolen a base in his last 32 games. Elvis Andrus is off to a miserable start in July, batting .146 (6 for 41) over his last 11 games, but his run-scoring potential at the top of the lineup is too high for you to consider sitting him in Fantasy.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Rangers face two left-handers this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: The Rangers brought back Chris Davis to man first base after trading Justin Smoak to the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal. Davis was putting up huge numbers in the minors, as always, but is still a risk for a low batting average because of his strikeouts. Until he proves he's a changed player, you should avoid him in mixed leagues.

Toronto Blue Jays
Schedule: @KC3, @DET4
Heating Up: Adam Lind has been nothing but a disappointment this season, but he's showing his first signs of life since April, batting .333 (8 for 24) with three homers over his last six games. You might not be willing to trust him just yet, but he does have renewed sleeper appeal. Jose Bautista seems to be back on track, batting .310 (9 for 29) with four homers over his last eight games. If you benched him during his cold stretch, you want him active now. After a mostly quiet season, Lyle Overbay is showing he might have something to contribute in Fantasy after all, batting .368 (14 for 38) with three homers over his last 10 games. You'd have to play in a pretty deep league to take a stab at him, though.
Cooling Off: Vernon Wells has been a disaster since June 8, batting .179 (19 for 106) in 30 games, and has only gotten worse over his last 10, batting .083 (3 for 36). Looking back at his .968 OPS on June 6, he was probably due for a bit of a downturn, but this is getting ridiculous. You wouldn't be wrong to sit him, but you can't expect him to stay down for much longer.
Injury Concerns: Travis Snider, who has been out since May 14 with a sore wrist, is set to return, but it probably won't happen the weekend after the All-Star break. Given his limited experience, he'd have to prove both healthy and effective for you to activate him in Fantasy.
Platoon Possibilities: The Blue Jays face one lefty this week, but they don't have any lefty-righty platoons.
Lineup Changes: The Blue Jays acquired Yunel Escobar from the Braves on Wednesday, giving up Alex Gonzalez and two minor-leaguers. Escobar will likely assume Gonzalez's spot in the two hole, where he'll have better lineup protection than he did in Atlanta. He's due to bounce back in a big way in the second half, so put in a claim for him in AL-only leagues.

Washington Nationals
Schedule: @CIN4, @MIL3
Heating Up: The two hottest Nationals right now are the two you'd never sit. Adam Dunn is batting .438 (14 for 32) with five homers over his last eight games, and Ryan Zimmerman is batting .429 (12 for 28) with three homers over his last seven.
Cooling Off: After getting off to a hot start this season, Ivan Rodriguez is batting .203 (14 for 69) over his last 19 games and has pretty much lost all of his mixed-league appeal. It had to happen. He's 38.
Injury Concerns: None.
Platoon Possibilities: The Nationals face three left-handers this week, which means Roger Bernadina will sit three times for Mike Morse. Now isn't the time to use him in NL-only leagues.
Lineup Changes: None.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Hitting Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Mike Olt hits fourth homer Tuesday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:19 am ET) Cubs third baseman Mike Olt continued his all-or-nothing season Tuesday, clubbing his fourth home run of the season in a 9-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

Olt went 1 for 4 in the game and struck out twice, giving him eight strikeouts in the last four games. Still, he clubbed a three-run shot in the fifth inning to provide what would ultimately be the winning margin in the game.

Olt is hitting just .195, but is providing the kind of power that became his calling card in the minors. Of his eight hits in 16 games, four are home runs and five are for extra bases. He has a .195/.250/.512 line in 41 at-bats. 


Chase Headley hits second home run in big spot
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:12 am ET) Padres third baseman Chase Headley is showing some signs of life, as he ended a power drought and brought his batting average to the Mendoza line in a 2-1 win over the Brewers Tuesday.

Headley slugged his first home run in nine games Tuesday, and it couldn't have come at a more perfect time. He went deep in the 12th inning to provide the winning run in the game, and finished 2 for 4 overall with a  walk and strikeout added.

Headley is hitting just .200 through 18 games with two home runs and seven RBI, but has hit safely in four of five games to raise his average 40 points. 


Ben Revere racks up four hits in win
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:09 am ET) Phillies outfielder Ben Revere did his job Tuesday, reaching base four times in a 3-2 win over the win over the Dodgers.

Revere doesn't walk much in general, so each of his times on base came via a single, as he went 4 for 5 at the top of the order. He scored just once, while adding his sixth stolen base of the season.

Revere has raised his batting average in recent days, and is now hitting exactly .300 through 18 games. He has a .319 on-base percentage and .329 slugging percentage in 70 at-bats as well, with 10 runs scored. 


Dee Gordon passes concussion test
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:06 am ET) Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon took and passed a concussion test after leaving Tuesday's game, as he told the O.C. Register. He suffered a head injury while sliding into third base in the seventh inning, but appears to have avoided the worst-case scenario. His status is likely day to day moving forward. 

Jonathan Papelbon nearly flawless in return from illness
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:03 am ET) Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon was able to take the mound for a save opportunity Tuesday against the Dodgers, despite missing the team's previous game with an illness. He had little trouble taking care of the Dodgers in the outing, retiring them on seven pitches despite allowing a two-out single. He induced a trio of flyballs to retire the side, earning his sixth save in seven chances.

Papelbon has allowed a run in just one of his nine appearances this season, as he has pitched better than his 3.24 ERA might indicate. He has seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, while allowing three walks and seven hits total. 


Hyun-Jin Ryu settles for no-decision in extra-innings loss
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:59 am ET) Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu continued his strong pitching Tuesday against the Phillies, though he did allow runs for just the second time in the 3-2 loss.

Ryu settled for a no-decision despite tossing his fourth quality start in six trips to the mound. He allowed just two runs despite scattering nine hits and a pair of walks. Ryu didn't have his best stuff, striking out just three batters for the second straight start, while throwing 68 of 106 pitches for strikes.

Ryu has been mostly stellar this season, and has a 3-1 record and 2.12 ERA in 34 innings of work. His next start is set for Sunday against the Rockies. 


A.J. Burnett remains solid, winless
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:53 am ET) Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett had a good day at the mound and the plate Tuesday, but ended up having to settle for a no-decision in a 3-2, extra-innings win.

Burnett limited the Dodgers to just two runs in 6 2/3 innings of work, his third quality start in five trips to the mound. He scattered six hits and a walk in his six-plus innings while striking out five, but remains winless on the season, as the Phillies offense gave him little support in the no-decision.

Burnett is off to a solid start to the season, despite an 0-1 record. He has a 2.73 ERA in five starts, and will look for his first win in his next start, Sunday in Arizona. 


Dee Gordon forced out with head injury
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:49 am ET) Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon was forced to leave Tuesday's game against the Phillies late, due to an apparent head injury. He suffered the injury sliding into third base on a steal in the seventh inning, and left after scoring later in the inning.

The extent of Gordon's injury is not yet known, though he will likely go through the league's concussion protocol Tuesday night. He went 2 for 3 before suffering the injury to raise his season average to .369. 


Pedro Figueroa exits game Tuesday with elbow injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) Rangers pitcher Pedro Figueroa was removed from Tuesday's game against the A's after suffering an elbow injury, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Figueroa threw just one pitch in the game, hitting a batter. He immediately began shaking his arm and was removed after a visit from the trainer. The team will likely have him undergo an MRI. Figueroa owns a 4.00 ERA and 3:3 K:BB ratio in nine innings.


LaTroy Hawkins pitches around trouble for save
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins didn't have to pitch the full inning for the save Tuesday, but still almost blew his first save before finding his way in a 2-1 win.

Hawkins entered the game with one out already recorded in the ninth, thanks to lefty-specialist Rex Brothers' work against Brandon Belt. Hawkins played with fre by allowing the first two batters faced to reach base via a walk and single, before ending the threat and recording his sixth save in as many tries.

Hawkins has six saves, a 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in eight appearances this season, though he also only has three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. 


 
 
 
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