The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Every week, we'll give you the latest on injuries, lineup changes, streaks and matchups, highlighting the players at each position who might surprise or disappoint as a result. NOTE: The Planner will be updated with the latest information every Sunday prior to lineup deadlines.
Any players not listed here fall into the "status quo" category, meaning you should take your usual approach with them.
All statistics are up to date through Saturday, April 16.
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Jonathan Lucroy finally returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing the beginning of the season with a fractured pinkie. Manager Ron Roenicke liked what he saw from him and plans to get him back playing consistently, leaving Wil Nieves and George Kottaras to compete for reserve at-bats. Clearly, their already minimal Fantasy value is shot. Lucroy is still just a low-end option in mixed leagues. Rookie Wilson Ramos is hitting well for the Nationals, but he's still alternating starts with Ivan Rodriguez. Until he overtakes the future Hall of Famer for full-time at-bats, he's just an NL-only option.
Miguel Montero: .415 (17 for 41), 2 HRs, 1.207 OPS in 12 games
Wilson Ramos: .480 (12 for 25), 6 runs, 1.127 OPS in nine games
Carlos Ruiz: .429 (12 for 28), 2 HRs, 7 RBI, 1.163 OPS during eight-game hit streak
Yadier Molina: .438 (7 for 16), 1.000 OPS in four games
Worth a second look
Matt Wieters (77 percent started): Wieters is no stranger to Fantasy owners, but he's quickly falling out of favor after another slow start. He did connect for his first home run Wednesday, though, and has recently adopted a more upright stance, saying he had gotten too spread out since reaching the majors. That adjustment combined with the good matchups against the worst parts of the Twins and Yankees rotations (and a struggling Francisco Liriano) combined with Wieters' ridiculous upside makes the 24-year-old worth the benefit of the doubt this week.
Carlos Ruiz (51 percent): No sense straying from the hot hand here, not with the Phillies playing seven games this week. Ruiz is still one of the more underrated catchers in Fantasy. What he lacks in home-run power he makes up for in on-base ability.
Approach with caution
Nick Hundley (54 percent started): One good week from Hundley isn't surprising. Two is at least feasible. Three would be pushing it. His upside is only so high, particularly in terms of batting average, so he's due for a downfall. With four games against the killer Phillies rotation this week, he's likely to have exactly that.
Chris Iannetta (45 percent): Iannetta has shown some signs of coming around lately, but he still has just three hits in his last 23 at-bats and especially tough matchups against Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and Josh Johnson this week. With half a week away from Coors Field, not much to like here.
Joe Mauer went on the DL late Thursday with what the team described as "bilateral leg weakness," a condition that causes soreness in the hips, shoulder and elbow. But then when he was hospitalized Thursday with flu-like symptoms, the source of his struggles became a little more obvious. He's supposed to begin rehabilitation immediately, so he likely won't miss much more than the minimum 15 days. You obviously have to stash the consensus No. 1 Fantasy catcher. Drew Butera figures to start in Mauer's absence, but he doesn't have enough offensive potential for mixed-league use.
Not much happening at first base, which is understandable since it's the easiest position for teams to fill. Kila Ka'aihue's slow start has cost him playing time against left-handers recently, with Billy Butler moving to first base and the Royals mixing and matching at DH, but the team has hardly suggested it's a permanent arrangement. Still, it's just another reason why you can't trust Ka'aihue in mixed leagues.
Miguel Cabrera: .326 (15 for 46), 5 HRs, 1.174 OPS in 13 games
Joey Votto: .488 (20 for 41), 1 HR, 3 SBs, 1.279 OPS in 11 games
Albert Pujols: .435 (10 for 23), 3 HRs, 1.328 OPS in five games
Worth a second look
Gaby Sanchez (74 percent started): Sanchez has become the ultimate platoon option for Fantasy owners. He had an .868 OPS at home and a .709 OPS on the road last year. He played six games on the road last week, so you sat him. He plays six games at home this week, so you start him, especially since he's facing the miserable Pirates pitching staff for three of those games.
James Loney (29 percent): Loney is off to a miserable start and has long frustrated Fantasy owners with his lack of homers. But one thing he has always done well is hit right-handers, producing an OPS 210 points higher against them than against lefties last season. The Dodgers have faced left-handers in six of their first 15 games, which might partially explain Loney's struggles, but they face nothing but right-handers in seven games this week. If you're in the rare predicament of needing help at first base, he's worth a flier.
Approach with caution
Carlos Pena (44 percent started): Just because Pena hit under .200 last season doesn't mean he's condemned to do the same this season, but he'll have a hard time digging out of this hole if he's playing through a thumb injury. He's even playing with a cast under his glove on defense. You don't want to cut him, of course, but reserving him wouldn't be such a bad idea.
Freddie Freeman (24 percent): Slowly but surely, Freeman seems to be breaking out of his rookie slump, hitting safely in eight straight games, but the odds are against him with four left-handers on the schedule this week. At a deep position like first base, he's an iffy start in mixed leagues to begin with.
Justin Morneau missed Sunday's game after coming down with the flu. Typically, such an illness wouldn't keep a player out for more than a day or two, but if it's at all related to Joe Mauer's illness, which put the catcher in the hospital on Thursday, Morneau could potentially miss half the week. He's not off to the greatest start anyway, so you wouldn't be crazy to sit the slugger in Fantasy. But you'd have to have a pretty good backup to even consider it.
|1.||Willie Bloomquist, 3B, D-Backs||38|
|2.||Sam Fuld, OF, Rays||32|
|3.||Alex Avila, C, Tigers||28|
|4.||Travis Hafner, DH, Indians||27|
|5.||Maicer Izturis, 2B, Angels||25|
|6.||Angel Sanchez, SS, Astros||25|
|7.||Ben Francisco, OF, Phillies||22|
|8.||Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds||21|
|9.||Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians||20|
|10.||Nick Hundley, C, Padres||20|
Jonathan Herrera, who began the season as just a utility infielder, has started eight of the last nine games at second base, seemingly claiming a job as the No. 2 hitter in the Rockies lineup. Considering the way he's gotten on base, the Rockies don't have much reason to remove him. His upside is still in question, but he can at least steal bases, giving him value in Rotisserie leagues. Daniel Murphy also seems to be gaining ground in a position battle that wasn't quite settled in spring training, starting four of the last six games over the struggling Brad Emaus. Murphy doesn't have big-time power potential, but he has enough that you'll want to monitor this situation in deeper leagues.
Orlando Hudson: .351 (13 for 37), 5 SBs, .442 OBP in 10 games
Jonathan Herrera: .433 (13 for 30), 1 HR, 4 SBs, 1.208 OPS, 10 BBs, 2 Ks in eight games
Dustin Pedroia: .429 (12 for 28), 2 HRs, 1.315 OPS, 6 BBs, 4 Ks in seven games
Worth a second look
Omar Infante (27 percent started): Infante is batting just .222 (12 for 54) so far, but given his track record as a contact hitter, having hit .309 during his three years in Atlanta, he has to come around sooner or later. Against pitchers like Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Jason Hammel and Esmil Rogers, this week is a good time. Second base is deep enough that you probably don't need to resort to a sleeper, but if you do, here he is.
Chris Getz (13 percent): Digging deep here, but Getz has been swinging the bat well enough for Royals manager Ned Yost to make him the team's leadoff hitter. You'd like to see him steal a few more bases before you turn to him in mixed leagues, but if you're desperate, he's worth a roll of the dice with four games against the Indians rotation this week.
Approach with caution
Kelly Johnson (65 percent started): The streaky Johnson continues to frustrate Fantasy owners with his season-opening slump. When he goes cold, it typically lasts a while, and he plays six games on the road this week, where his OPS was 222 points lower than at home last season.
Freddy Sanchez (29 percent): Sanchez got some early looks because of a season-opening hot streak, but he's had some shoulder soreness since then. He'll play through it, but it's still a concern for a player coming off shoulder surgery. Sanchez's ceiling is already below-average for an everyday player, and he's facing the top half of the Rockies rotation and a deep Braves rotation this week. Not much incentive to use him right now.
Brandon Phillips injured his groin chasing down a pickoff throw Wednesday and sat out through the weekend. The annual 20-20 threat is hitting well over .300 so far and is a must-start when healthy. He apparently wants to come back, but the Reds are being cautious with him, making him no guarantee to play all seven of the team's games this week. Still, you'd need an awfully good backup to sit a player like him ... Skip Schumaker has a hyperextended elbow. Daniel Descalso started in his place Sunday. Schumaker doesn't figure to miss a significant period of time, but he's just an NL-only option regardless.
Ian Stewart, who is always a hot commodity in Fantasy as a former top prospect with sky-high power potential, is clearly not an everday player in Colorado. The Rockies have been starting Jonathan Herrera at second base, moving Jose Lopez over to third, and with Ty Wigginton also on the roster, Stewart's starts have been few and far between. Manager Jim Tracy said he'll more or less ride the hot hand, but Stewart hardly seems worth the trouble right now. Speaking of not worth the trouble, Edwin Encarnacion apparently isn't Toronto's regular third baseman after all. Jayson Nix has started seven of the team's last nine games there, with Encarnacion spending some time at DH and first base. Nix has some power potential of his own but is too unreliable for mixed-league use. With Donnie Murphy struggling with a knee injury, the Marlins have turned to a platoon of Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms at the position. Both are long-time part-timers who lack upside. You can leave them for NL-only leagues.
Michael Young: .391 (18 for 46), 6 2Bs, 2 SBs in 12 games
David Freese: .538 (14 for 26), 2 HRs in seven games
Wilson Betemit: .440 (11 for 25), 2 SBs, 1.251 OPS in seven games
Chipper Jones: .400 (6 for 15), 2 HRs, 4 BBs, 3 Ks in five games
Worth a second look
Scott Rolen (52 percent started): Rolen already has 10 RBI on the season and is facing Kevin Correia and Armando Galarraga to kick off a seven-game week. Fantasy owners tend to overlook him because of his age, but he still has decent pop and a prime spot in a deep lineup.
David Freese (42 percent): Freese figures to keep swinging a hot bat against the Nationals rotation to begin the week, especially since the splits are in his favor. He's a career .340 hitter at home and .333 hitter against lefties. The Cardinals play all six of their games at home, including three against lefties. If you have room on your roster for a borderline player like Freese, you wouldn't be wrong to start him now.
Approach with caution
Casey McGehee (81 percent started): McGehee was one of the few reliable third basemen entering the season, so the patient Fantasy owner would just stick with him. But he's off to a slow start and is facing the Phillies rotation three times in a six-game week. If you can find a stopgap off the waiver wire, you might want to reserve McGehee for now.
Chase Headley (45 percent): Headley also gets a healthy dose of the Phillies rotation, facing Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay to end the week. He's also at home for four games, which isn't his favorite place to play. Given his lack of home-run pop, he's only worth starting in mixed leagues in the most favorable of circumstances. Clearly, these aren't those.
Alex Rodriguez left Saturday's game with oblique stiffness, which is apparently different from an oblique strain -- an injury that would surely put him on the DL. The Yankees are even considering putting Rodriguez in the lineup for Sunday night's game, but if that doesn't happen, you have to wonder just how much more time he could possibly miss. Still, considering Rodriguez's hot start (.385, 4 HRs, 1.321 OPS) and the lack of available alternatives at third base, you'll probably want to give the 35-year-old the benefit of the doubt ... Evan Longoria, who has been on the DL almost all season with a strained oblique, is eligible to return Monday, but the Rays have yet to plan a rehab assignment. Longoria's most optimistic timetable was three weeks, and he'd have to beat that in order to make a Fantasy contribution this week. Despite his potential, you're better off keeping him reserved.
The Diamondbacks found a way to keep early-season sensation Willie Bloomquist in their lineup even with the return of Stephen Drew from an abdominal injury, slotting him in left field over Gerardo Parra. It's not an everyday thing, but it's frequent enough that Bloomquist is still a serviceable Fantasy option, provided you start him at shortstop. Jamey Carroll seems to be the first choice to replace Rafael Furcal, who is on the DL with a broken thumb, but he's a light hitter with little speed who shouldn't factor outside of deeper NL-only leagues.
Jose Reyes: .333 (20 for 60), 1 HR, 2 3Bs, 5 2Bs, 5 SBs in 13 games
Alexei Ramirez: .342 (13 for 38), 3 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.050 OPS in 10 games
Ryan Theriot: .400 (16 for 40), 1 SB, .904 OPS during eight-game hit streak
Troy Tulowitzki: .538 (14 for 26), 4 HRs, 1.779 OPS in seven games
Starlin Castro: .500 (12 for 24), 1 HR, 2 SBs in five games
Worth a second look
Asdrubal Cabrera (84 percent started): Even if Cabrera wasn't one of the leading power hitters at the position so far, his matchups would make him well worth starting. He opens the week with four games at Kansas City, facing every Royals pitcher but Jeff Francis, and closes the week against a struggling Twins rotation. Unless you have one of the few must-start shortstops, the 25-year-old breakout candidate is as good as you'll find at the position.
Yunel Escobar (73 percent): Escobar has continued to swing a hot bat even after returning from his concussion, hitting .385 (5 for 13) with a double and five walks. He has disappointed in the past, but because he plays shortstop, he's worth the benefit of the doubt when going well.
Approach with caution
Miguel Tejada (59 percent started): Tejada has a .682 OPS so far and isn't likely to wake up in a week he faces Ubaldo Jimenez, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson. At this stage of his career, he's a borderline mixed-league option even when going well, so you shouldn't feel obligated to start him because of his name value.
Marco Scutaro (33 percent): Scutaro's slow start is reason enough to sit him, but when you consider Jed Lowrie's hot start and the Red Sox desperate need for offense, you have to wonder if Scutaro is on the verge of losing at-bats. Red Sox manager Terry Francona has already said he'll keep looking for ways to get Lowrie's bat in the lineup, and Scutaro is the most likely odd man out.
Erick Aybar, who hasn't played since April 2 because of a strained oblique, could potentially return Wednesday, but with Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis doing an adimrable job holding down the left side of the infield, the Angels might have trouble fitting Aybar into their lineup. He's a light hitter anyway, so you can leave him for AL-only leagues.
Grady Sizemore returned from the DL with a big performance Sunday, but we have yet to see the long-term impact microfracture surgery will have on his game -- specifically, how it'll effect his speed. Still, knowing his upside, you can get away with starting him right away if you're slim on outfielders. Luke Scott started opening day against David Price but has sat out the team's last two games against left-handed pitchers. He doesn't have a clear platoon partner, but he's platooning nonetheless, which severely limits his value in mixed leagues. The same goes for David DeJesus, who has been sitting for Conor Jackson against lefties, but chances are he was unowned in your league already given his lack of power. Josh Hamilton's shoulder fracture opens the door for David Murphy to get regular at-bats again. He has typically been productive when given the opportunity to play every day, offering modest power and speed, so he wouldn't be the worst fill-in option for Hamilton owners even in mixed leagues. Corey Patterson has been starting for Rajai Davis, who is on the DL with a right ankle injury, and has gotten off to a good start. But we've seen enough from him to know he's never productive for long. If you're desperate for speed, you can give him a look, but otherwise, leave him be.
Must-Start Options: Carlos Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Jose Bautista, Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz, Matt Kemp, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Quentin
Matt Kemp: .453 (24 for 53), 2 HRs, 8 SBs, 9 BBs, 8 Ks in 15 games
Alex Gordon: .435 (20 for 46), 1 HR, 7 2Bs, 1.122 OPS in 10 games
Sam Fuld: .366 (15 for 41), 1 HR, 5 2Bs, 7 SBs, 1.010 OPS in 10 games
Colby Rasmus: .419 (18 for 43), 2 HRs, 1 SB, 1.189 OPS in nine games
Johnny Damon: .306 (11 for 36), 3 HRs, 12 RBI, 2 SBs in eight games
Jonny Gomes: .346 (9 for 26), 4 HRs, 1 SB, .452 OBP, 1.336 OPS in seven games
Jeff Francoeur: .417 (10 for 24), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 runs scored, .667 SLG in six games
Lance Berkman: .476 (10 for 21), 6 HRs, 12 RBI in five games
Drew Stubbs: .421 (8 for 19), 2 HRs, 2 SBs, .789 SLG in four games
Carl Crawford: .137 (7 for 51), one extra-base hit, 2 SBs, .342 OPS in 12 games
Vernon Wells: .132 (7 for 53), one extra-base hit, 14 Ks in 12 games
Brett Gardner: .118 (4 for 34), two extra-base hits, 2 SBs, 11 Ks in 11 games
Nick Markakis: .139 (5 for 36), 2 HRs, .558 OPS in nine games
Andrew McCutchen: .097 (3 for 31), no extra-base hits, 1 SB in eight games
Mike Stanton: .160 (4 for 25), 0 HRs, 1 BB, 9 Ks in eight games
B.J. Upton: .125 (3 for 24), one extra-base hit, 1 SB in seven games
Torii Hunter: .048 (1 for 21), 1 HR in five games
Bobby Abreu: .071 (1 for 14), no extra-base hits in four games
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Worth a second look
Logan Morrison (76 percent started): Morrison, already an on-base machine, slugged his third and fourth homers last week, continuing his inevitable transformation into an OPS monster. With half a week against the Pirates rotation, he's looking like no less than a must-start in Fantasy.
Lance Berkman (75 percent): Granted, Berkman's spot on this list is completely dependent on a hot five-game stretch, but he's looked better in those five games than he did at any point during his disappointing 2010 season. Despite his patient approach, Berkman has always been a streaky player, so you'll want to take advantage of this latest streak while it lasts. Clearly, he still has some OPS potential at age 35.
Jason Kubel (38 percent): Kubel, who was mostly having to split time at DH with Jim Thome, has a new avenue for at-bats in right field with Michael Cuddyer moving in to play second base on occasion. Kubel is showing signs of regaining his 2009 form with a batting average over .300, and the Twins have some easy matchups against the Orioles and Indians this week. Better yet, they face only one left-hander. Kubel's career OPS is almost 200 points higher against righties.
Chris Coghlan (31 percent): When Coghlan gets on a roll, he's hard to stop, as we saw when he hit .372 after the All-Star break in 2009. With three straight multi-hit games over the weekend, he may have just flipped the switch. Facing Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton and James McDonald to begin the week is one way to keep it flipped. Limited potential here, but you wouldn't be crazy to take a shot on Coghlan this week.
Ryan Raburn (26 percent): He may be platooning with Brennan Boesch, but Raburn hasn't lost all his sleeper appeal yet. He has a chance to steal at-bats against righties with Magglio Ordonez's ankle giving him problems, and he's in line for a heavier workload this week anyway with four lefties on the schedule. He had a .929 OPS against lefties last year compared to a .753 OPS against righties.
Approach with caution
Aubrey Huff (70 percent started): Hard to justify sitting a top-10 outfielder from last year, but Huff has yet to homer this year, has an on-base percentage in the .300 range, and is facing a bunch of tough pitchers this week, including Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Brandon Beachy. If you have a deep outfield, you shouldn't feel obligated to stick with him.
Brett Gardner (55 percent): Not only is Gardner cold to begin the season, but his team is playing only five games this week. So even if he heats up mid-week, he won't have enough time to bring up his numbers. Of course, you could put Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher on this list for the same reasons. Dangerous trio to start right now.
Vernon Wells (55 percent): Sometimes you just have to roll with the streaks. At age 32, Wells is far from finished, but he doesn't have the most consistent track record in the world. He was a middle-round outfielder coming into the season -- not a surefire stud -- so you can afford to sit him until he gets that batting average on the right side of .200.
Jonny Gomes (50 percent): Gomes is sure to get some looks off the waiver wire because of his hot start, particularly in leagues that reward on-base percentage. (He already has 15 walks!) But he has always been a lefty killer in his career, and the Reds don't face a single one of those this week. Gomes' OPS was 147 points lower against righties last year and is 134 points lower against them for his career.
Coco Crisp (40 percent): Crisp has been sitting off and on with back tightness recently, which is one of those injuries that never seems to go away. Even if he does stay in the lineup for the full six games, he has only one multi-hit game all season and is facing John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda this week. Not all of those pitchers have been lights-out this season, but they all have that kind of potential.
Jason Bay, who has been out since spring training with a strained rib cage, has begun a rehab assignment and should be able to return Tuesday. He has an abundance of question marks not related to his health, though, so he's the kind of player you can wait to activate in Fantasy unless you're completely devoid of alternatives ... Corey Hart, who originally looked like he could return from a strained oblique before the end of this week, is now targeting April 27 for his return. You'll have to keep him reserved for now in Fantasy, but his power potential makes him a must-stash in all leagues, obviously ... Andres Torres had to go on the disabled list Friday with a strained left Achilles'. Aaron Rowand has been starting in his absence, but Cody Ross could take over before the end of the week. He's ready for a rehab assignment as he works his way back from a strained right calf. If he's playing every day, he has enough pop to matter in mixed leagues, but you'll want to wait for him to heat up before activating him ... Franklin Gutierrez appeared all set to begin a rehab assignment, but the Mariners had to scrap those plans because of his persistent stomach problems. All of the examinations so far have led nowhere, so his timetable is at a standstill right now. He's just a borderline mixed-league option even when healthy, so you shouldn't bother stashing him outside of deeper leagues.
|vs. Davies||vs. Chen||vs. Hochevar||vs. O'Sullivan||vs. Duensing||vs. Liriano||vs. Pavano|
|Only one adequate pitcher in K.C. (Francis), and Indians miss him. Liriano has been anything but dominant far.|
|vs. Tillman||vs. Arrieta||vs. Britton||vs. Guthrie||vs. Carmona||vs. Carrasco||vs. Gomez|
|Not much to fear here unless you buy into hot starts for relative no-names. Even Britton is due for a letdown.|
|vs. Carrasco||vs. Gomez||vs. Masterson||vs. Tomlin||vs. Holland||vs. Ogando||vs. Wilson|
|Again, a bunch of hot starters here, but no reliable arms. Enough soft spots for Royals to take advantage.|
|--||vs. Maholm||vs. Morton||vs. McDonald||vs. Chacin||vs. Hammel||vs. Rogers|
|Chacin is the lone mixed-league caliber pitcher on schedule. Shame the Rockies series isn't at Coors Field.|
|vs. Liriano||vs. Pavano||vs. Blackburn||vs. Baker||vs. Nova||vs. Garcia||vs. Sabathia|
|Liriano's struggles make Sabathia only tough matchup. Some potential from this bunch but have yet to see it.|
|vs. Blanton||vs. Halladay||vs. Lee||--||vs. Figueroa||vs. Myers||vs. Rodriguez|
|Phillies again a death sentence, and Myers and Rodriguez have had their moments. Thank goodness for Figueroa.|
|vs. Lincecum||vs. Sanchez||vs. Cain||--||vs. Sanchez||vs. Vazquez||vs. Johnson|
|When Sanchez duo is weak part of schedule, it can only be bad news for hitters. Lincecum, Johnson, Cain all scary.|
|vs. Rogers||vs. Jimenez||vs. De La Rosa||--||vs. Hanson||vs. Hudson||vs. Beachy|
|Three games in Coors help, but Jimenez and De La Rosa not who Giants want to see. Braves staff has no weak links.|
|vs. Zambrano||vs. Russell||vs. Garza||vs. Oswalt||vs. Hamels||vs. Blanton||vs. Halladay|
|Seven-game week normally a good thing, but not when four are against Phillies. At least Blanton is starting one.|
|--||vs. Lackey||vs. Buchholz||vs. Hernandez||vs. Pineda||vs. Vargas||vs. Fister|
|Hernandez obviously tough, and Lackey and Buchholz overdue. If Pineda and Vargas stay strong, could be long week.|
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