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Week 8 Fantasy Hitting Planner

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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 updated through Saturday, May 21.

Catcher

Jorge Posada and the Yankees appear to have reached a mutual understanding ... at least for now. The Yankees have begun sitting him against left-handed pitchers, and Posada has more or less kept his mouth shut. No one can say for sure how long this arrangement will last, but it does deliver a huge blow to Posada's Fantasy value. His move to the DH spot was supposed to increase his at-bats, and now he figures to play even less than he did as a catcher. He still has power potential, but he's looking like strictly a matchups type going forward.

Must-Start Options: Victor Martinez, Buster Posey, Brian McCann, Carlos Santana, Russell Martin

Heating up
Buster Posey: .417 (15 for 36), three extra-base hits during 10-game hit streak
Matt Wieters: .400 (18 for 45), two extra-base hits during 10-game hit streak
Yadier Molina: .429 (15 for 35), 1 HR, 1.102 OPS in nine games
Jarrod Saltalamacchia: .429 (6 for 14), 2 HRs, 1.429 OPS in four games

Cooling off
Mike Napoli: .122 (5 for 41), one extra-base hit, 12 Ks in 14 games
John Buck: .143 (5 for 35), 1 HR, .514 OPS in 11 games
Victor Martinez: .200 (4 for 20), one extra-base hit, .488 OPS in six games

Worth a second look
Yadier Molina (73 percent started): True, this is simply a case of riding the hot hand, but it's also an appeal to Fantasy owners not to dismiss Molina because of his lack of power. With so many of the high-end catchers underperforming this season, Molina is currently the seventh-ranked option in standard Head-to-Head leagues, and it mostly has to do with his high contact rate. When he's hitting over .300, as he is now, he's a legitimate asset. Treat him as sort of a Placido Polanco of the catcher position.
Chris Iannetta (49 percent): Not only do the Rockies have great matchups this week, facing the Diamondbacks rotation for four games, but the splits are in Iannetta's favor. The Rockies are home all seven games, where he has a 1.072 OPS compared to .584 on the road. Did you notice he slowed down this week during the team's road trip to Philadelphia and Milwaukee? Yeah, the inconsistency with him is looking as simple as that.

Approach with caution
John Buck (55 percent started): The catcher position is weak enough that a couple homers from Buck would make him a worthy starter in Fantasy, but if he doesn't hit those homers this week, he won't have much to fall back on. Not only is he slumping, but he's facing Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw in four of the team's six games.
Jorge Posada (34 percent): The Fantasy world gets its first chance to react to Posada's platoon situation this week, and the choice to start or sit him is rather obvious. Three matchups against left-handed pitchers means he figures to sit half the time -- and for good reason. He's 0 for 25 against lefties so far this season. If you're still hoping to use him in Fantasy, you can wait for a week when the Yankees face mostly righties.

Injury concerns
Geovany Soto, who has been out since May 10 with a strained groin, isn't expected to miss more than the minimum 15 days, meaning he could return midway through the week. Because the Cubs haven't provided an update on his progress, though, he still comes with plenty of risk. You should probably stick with an alternative ... Rod Barajas was spiked on the wrist Sunday and had to leave the game. Chances are he won't miss significant time with the injury, but the prospect of even a game or two is reason enough to sit a player who has done so little offensively this season.

First base

Adam Lind was probably the hottest player in baseball before landing on the DL with a sore back, so you can understand why his Fantasy owners would be anxiously awaiting his return. But on Thursday, manager John Farrell said Lind was still likely at least 10 days away, so you can put to rest any ideas of activating him this week. Eric Thames has been getting at-bats at DH in his absence, with Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Rivera splitting time at first base, but none of the three look like viable mixed-league options. Thames has yet to prove anything at the major-league level, and Encarnacion and Rivera both continue to disappoint.

Must-Start Options: Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Howard, Paul Konerko

Heating up
Todd Helton: .351 (20 for 57), 3 HRs, 1.000 OPS in 16 games
Justin Morneau: .350 (14 for 40), 1 HR, 5 2Bs, .959 OPS in 10 games
Eric Hosmer: .429 (9 for 21), 1 HR, 1.121 OPS in five games

Cooling off
Ryan Howard: .074 (2 for 27), 1 HR, 9 Ks in eight games
Adam LaRoche: .034 (1 for 29), 7 Ks in eight games
Gaby Sanchez: .154 (4 for 26), one extra-base hit, 7 Ks in seven games
Adam Dunn: .077 (2 for 26), 2 BBs, 12 Ks in seven games

Worth a second look
Carlos Pena (51 percent started): How many weeks in a row will Pena land on this list? Hey, if he keeps hitting homers, adding two more in his last six games to give him five in his last 16, I have to keep pointing it out to Fantasy owners in the hope they'll finally catch on to this hot streak. The irony is, by the time that happens, he'll probably be ready to cool off again.
Todd Helton (34 percent): Helton appears to have discovered the fountain of youth at age 37, rebounding from a disappointing 2010 to put up numbers similar to the ones he had in his early 30s. He does have a nagging back problem that could force him to sit one or two of the Rockies' seven games this week, but you have to like him playing at home and with good matchups against pitchers like Josh Collmenter, Joe Saunders, Micah Owings and Jake Westbrook. If you need help in batting average or just have a glaring need at first base, Helton is worth a look.

Approach with caution
Gaby Sanchez (91 percent started): Sanchez is on the verge of must-start status in Fantasy, but to get there, he'll have to pass one last test this week. The Marlins play all six games on the road, where he hit .234 compared to .312 at home last year. Granted, his splits aren't nearly as dramatic this season, but it's obviously a smaller sample size. If he continues to hit the way he has most of the season -- and against the loaded Giants and Dodgers pitching staffs -- you'll never consider sitting him again (and honestly, you probably shouldn't this week either).
Brett Wallace (34 percent): Wallace continues to slump in May, batting .176 (9 for 51) over his last 17 games. He showed with his string of multi-hit games in late April that he can be plenty useful in Fantasy, but this week probably isn't the time. The Astros are facing four left-handers, and his OPS is more than 300 points lower against them than righties.

Injury concerns
Adam LaRoche is usually a slow starter, but his recent performance has been so miserable even by his standards that he thinks the partially torn labrum in his left shoulder could be at fault. Surgery is a possibility, so you absolutely should not start LaRoche until he determines his next course of action. Michael Morse would start in his absence and has enough power to factor in Fantasy ... Derrek Lee had to go on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained oblique, so you can expect him to miss a few weeks. The Orioles will likely use several options in his place, including backup catcher Jake Fox and former first-round pick Brandon Snyder. Plus, Luke Scott could end up spending some time at first to give Felix Pie more at-bats in left field. Because nobody figures to inherit full-time at-bats with Lee out, nobody's value changes outside of AL-only leagues.

Second base

The time has finally come. After all the fear and worry on Draft Day and the speculation and uncertainty that followed, Chase Utley is finally on the verge of making his 2011 debut. He rejoined the Phillies over the weekend and has a good chance of returning to the lineup Monday. He could be rusty, making him far from an automatic start in Fantasy, but it's not the craziest gamble you could take. Adam Kennedy has started the Mariners' last eight games against righties and appears to be their preferred option at second base. And considering the alternative is Jack Wilson, can you blame them? Kennedy is just an AL-only option himself, but he does have modest steals potential. In Houston, Angel Sanchez has been stealing playing time from struggling Bill Hall, which means Hall isn't worth using no matter how many homers he's capable of hitting. Sanchez doesn't have enough upside for mixed-league use even if he does claim the job full-time. Ruben Tejada is back up in the majors and expected to play every day with Justin Turner moving over to third base to replace David Wright, who is sidelined by a stress fracture in his back. Tejada is pretty much a glove-first player at age 21, so you can leave him for NL-only leagues.

Must-Start Options: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Dan Uggla, Ben Zobrist, Rickie Weeks, Brandon Phillips, Michael Young, Martin Prado

Heating up
Brandon Phillips: .370 (17 for 46), 1 HR, 9 RBI in 12 games
Justin Turner: .405 (17 for 42), 1 HR, 1 SB, 14 RBI, 1.076 OPS in 12 games
Danny Espinosa: .353 (6 for 17), 2 HRs, 1.330 OPS, 0 Ks in five games

Cooling off
Mike Aviles: .135 (5 for 37), .289 OPS in 11 games
Dan Uggla: .108 (4 for 37), 1 HR, 6 BBs, 8 Ks in 10 games
Scott Sizemore: .130 (3 for 23), 0 BBs, .361 OPS in six games

Worth a second look
Darwin Barney (65 percent started): As little sense as it makes, Barney continues to pile up multi-hit games, completely forsaking his minor-league track record. With the Cubs facing the Mets and Pirates rotations at home this week, you have little reason to think he'll slow down now. As long as you don't need power, he'll be a worthy starter for you.
Chase Utley (20 percent): Playing a hunch here. Not only do I expect Utley to return Monday, but I also expect him to make a statement right out of the gate, fiery competitor that he is. He certainly has the matchups for it with the Phillies facing shaky pitchers like Travis Wood, Chris Capuano, Mike Pelfrey and Jonathon Niese. If you've been mixing and matching second basemen in Utley's absence, why not give him a look?

Approach with caution
Mike Aviles (48 percent started): Aviles may be the definition of unreliable. Not only has he run hot and cold all season (and is only started in so many leagues now because of his hot streak in early May), but he doesn't even play every day. Manager Ned Yost typically starts Chris Getz over him at second base and Wilson Betemit over him at third. Because Aviles is clearly on the wrong side of streaky now, you couldn't make a compelling argument to start him -- not in standard mixed leagues, anyway.
Kelly Johnson (45 percent): Johnson has shown small signs of coming around recently, including a grand slam Saturday, but he's about to lose all his momentum as the Diamondbacks hit the road for all seven of their games this week. Last year, he had a .976 OPS at home compared to .754 on the road. Can we just make that a rule going forward? If the Diamondbacks are on the road, you sit Johnson -- at least until he puts together a legitimate hot streak.

Injury concerns
Brian Roberts went on the seven-day disabled list Thursday with concussion-like symptoms that he attributes to a headfirst dive into first base on Monday. The symptoms remain, so he isn't expected to return when eligible Tuesday. He wasn't an especially good start in mixed leagues anyway, given his recent struggles. His replacement, Robert Andino, certainly isn't worth owning outside of AL-only leagues. Not much upside there.

Third base

The Mets placed David Wright on the disabled list Wednesday with a stress fracture in his lower back -- an injury that could sideline him for a month or longer. Justin Turner will move over from second base to start in his place and has actually been fairly productive lately, but he's a low-upside player who should probably remain unowned in mixed leagues. In Colorado, Jose Lopez has started the last six games at third base over Ty Wigginton. This looks like one of those situations that will go back and forth based on the hot hand and never really reach a resolution. Lopez and Wigginton both have 20-homer potential, but as part-time players, they're strictly NL-only options.

Must-Start Options: Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Martin Prado

Heating up
Kevin Youkilis: .419 (13 for 31), 3 HRs, 10 RBI, 1.325 OPS in eight games
Chris Johnson: .423 (11 for 26), 1 HR, 1 SB, 1.099 OPS in eight games
Jose Lopez: .370 (10 for 27), 3 2Bs, 1 SB in seven games
Alex Rodriguez: .409 (9 for 22), 3 HRs, 1.298 OPS in five games

Cooling off
Jack Hannahan: .152 (7 for 46), no extra-base hits, .387 OPS in 14 games
Evan Longoria: .100 (3 for 30), .315 OPS in eight games
Chone Figgins: .147 (5 for 34), 0 SBs in eight games

Worth a second look
Ryan Roberts (68 percent started): Roberts still isn't assured every day at-bats, but the Diamondbacks have been finding him enough opportunities for him to remain a productive option at a weak position in Fantasy. With Melvin Mora currently on the bereavement list, Roberts could get even more opportunities this week, and even if he doesn't, he should be especially productive in the opportunities he gets. The Diamondbacks are playing in two hitter-friendly environments in Colorado and Houston and are one of the few teams playing a full seven games.
Mark Reynolds (56 percent): Reynolds continues to disappoint Fantasy owners, but as long as he remains in the lineup, sooner or later he'll go on a home run binge. His two homers in his last seven games could be the start of it, especially with the Orioles facing four left-handers this week. His OPS last year was .913 against lefties compared to .694 against righties.

Approach with caution
Chipper Jones (50 percent started): Jones' meniscus tear in his right knee makes him kind of a ticking time bomb. You never know when he'll have to give in to arthroscopic surgery. His one hit in his last 13 at-bats isn't particularly encouraging. That doesn't necessarily mean you should sit him -- he still has more potential than most of what you'll find at the third base position -- but with the Braves playing only five games this week, now might not be the best time to roll the dice on him.
Scott Rolen (39 percent): Swinging a hot bat fresh off the DL, Rolen seems like a worthwhile sleeper at a position of need -- and perhaps he is. But he's more likely to slow down than not against the pitchers the Reds are facing this week. Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens are enough to slow anyone down. Weigh your options carefully.

Injury concerns
Pedro Alvarez, who had been in and out of the lineup lately with a tight right quadriceps, finally went on the disabled list Saturday, but his performance was reason enough to sit him in Fantasy. He still has big power potential and plenty of upside, but you shouldn't feel obligated to stash him unless you have a free DL spot. Brandon Wood will likely start in his absence, but we all know what to expect from him by now ... Kevin Kouzmanoff left Saturday's game with a strained groin, which is the kind of injury that will more likely than not put him on the DL. The Athletics have a clear replacement in Andy LaRoche, who had already been stealing at-bats from the struggling Kouzmanoff. Neither of these players is worth owning outside of AL-only leagues ... Casey Blake, who has been out since April 24 with an infection in his elbow, has begun a rehab assignment and should return in the middle of the week. He's little more than a last resort in mixed leagues even when he plays a full week, though, so you shouldn't pay a second thought to activating him in Fantasy. His replacement, Juan Uribe, just want on the DL with a strained left hip flexor, so at least the transition will be a smooth one.

Shortstop

After rehabbing at Triple-A Albuquerque for about a week and convincing the Dodgers his broken left thumb was healthy, Rafael Furcal returned to the lineup Sunday. Jamey Carroll will go back to the bench with Furcal's return, but his lack of speed and power made him just an NL-only option anyway. Elliot Johnson has been stealing starts from Reid Brignac in Tampa Bay recently and is clearly outperforming Brignac offensively, batting .283 with two homers and three steals in 53 at-bats. Of course, the Rays value Brignac's defense enough that Johnson likely won't capture the job full-time. You can leave both for AL-only leagues.

Must-Start Options: Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera

Heating up
Asdrubal Cabrera: .333 (16 for 48), 2 HRs, 3 SBs, .968 OPS in 12 games
Ronny Cedeno: .414 (12 for 29), 1 HR, 1 SB, 1.121 OPS in nine games
Ryan Theriot: .393 (11 for 28), .884 OPS during seven-game hit streak

Cooling off
Clint Barmes: .167 (7 for 42), 1 HR, 8 BBs, 10 Ks in 12 games
Erick Aybar: .095 (2 for 21), 2 SBs in six games
Jimmy Rollins: .188 (3 for 16), no extra-base hits, 1 SB in five games

Most Added Hitters
* as of May 23
Player % increase
1. Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals 32
2. Justin Turner, 2B, Mets 30
3. Michael Brantley, OF, Indians 26
4. Matt Joyce, OF, Rays 13
5. Darwin Barney, SS, Cubs 12
6. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals 10
7. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers 9
8. Carlos Pena, 1B, Cubs 8
9. Alberto Callaspo, 3B, Angels 8
10. Brett Lawrie, 2B, Blue Jays 8

Worth a second look
Yunel Escobar (70 percent started): Escobar has had an up-and-down season but seems to be back on the rise again, batting .356 (16 for 45) with two homers over his last 12 games. That's reason enough to get him active at a weak position like shortstop. His seven-game week against the back end of the Yankees rotation and the sputtering White Sox rotation makes it a no-brainer.
Rafael Furcal (14 percent): Furcal comes with some risk this week, but he was the third-best shortstop in Fantasy on a per-game basis last year. With so few viable options available at that position, he's clearly the kind of player you'll want to activate right away. Hopefully, he'll shake off most of the rust Sunday.

Approach with caution
Orlando Cabrera (43 percent started): Cabrera's starting percentage remains fairly high thanks to a not-too-distant hot streak, but because he doesn't offer much power or speed at this stage of his career, he has to be red hot to start in Fantasy. Against pitchers like Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson this week, he'll be the opposite of that.
J.J. Hardy (25 percent): Hardy returned from his oblique injury with a bang last week, connecting for four hits and a homer in his first game back. But he has done little since then, batting .045 (1 for 22) in his last five games. Considering he has been cold more often than not over the last two years, he doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt in standard mixed leagues. More than likely, he's not the sleeper you're looking for.

Injury concerns
None.

Outfield

Josh Hamilton, who has been out since April 12 with a fracture in his shoulder, and Nelson Cruz, who has been out since May 4 with a strained right quadriceps, both homered on their rehab assignments Saturday and are expected to return to the lineup Monday. Hamilton is an obvious choice to reactivate in Fantasy as the reigning AL MVP and a borderline first-round pick entering the season, but Cruz was an early-round pick himself. You wouldn't want to risk missing out on a big week from either, so get them active. Craig Gentry will surely go back to the bench for the Rangers. David Murphy could stick around in center field if the Rangers opt to move Mitch Moreland back to first base and send Chris Davis to the minors. The situation is cloudy enough that you wouldn't want to start a marginal option like Murphy in mixed leagues this week. Shane Victorino had to go on the DL because of a hamstring injury over the weekend, prompting the return of top prospect Domonic Brown to the big leagues. Brown is a five-category threat with as much upside as any rookie, but he looked overmatched in his brief trial last year and likely won't start against left-handers at this stage of his career. He's worth owning in Fantasy, but you might want to see how he performs before you activate him. After a long battle with a stomach issue eventually determined to be irritable bowel syndrome, Franklin Gutierrez is back for the Mariners, which means Michael Saunders is out of a starting job. Gutierrez has some low-end power-speed potential, but he's too much of a free-swinger for mixed-league use -- at least right now. Fred Lewis and Jonny Gomes are splitting time in Cincinnati almost 50-50, with Chris Heisey getting in on the action from time to time. So much for Gomes being any sort of Fantasy breakout. Jorge Posada's benching against lefties could open the door for Brett Gardner to play more against them, but so far, manager Joe Girardi has used it as an opportunity to give his infielders some time at DH. Gardner owners should stand pat for now.

Must-Start Options: Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Shin-Soo Choo, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, Ichiro Suzuki, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ben Zobrist, Curtis Granderson, Drew Stubbs, Jayson Werth, Martin Prado

Heating up
Jacoby Ellsbury: .353 (41 for 116), 12 2Bs, 12 SBs, .847 OPS in 26 games
Matt Joyce: .419 (31 for 74), 7 HRs, 19 RBI, 22 runs scored, 1.294 OPS in 22 games
Jose Bautista: .375 (18 for 48), 9 HRs, 1.443 OPS, 8 BBs, 5 Ks in 12 games
Andrew McCutchen: .357 (15 for 42), 3 HRs, 1 SB, 1.151 OPS in 10 games
Ryan Ludwick: .436 (17 for 39), 4 HRs, 14 RBI, 1.172 OPS in 10 games
Mike Stanton: .379 (11 for 29), 5 HRs, 1.394 OPS, 2 Ks in eight games
Jayson Werth: .385 (10 for 26), 2 HRs, 1 SB, 1.141 OPS in seven games
Nick Markakis: .433 (13 for 30), 1 HR, 2 SBs, .528 OBP during seven-game hit streak
Jay Bruce: .455 (10 for 22), 2 HRs, 1.364 OPS in six games

Cooling off
Sam Fuld: .116 (10 for 86), 1 HR, 2 SBs, .332 OPS, 16 Ks in 21 games
Alex Gordon: .159 (7 for 44), two extra-base hits, 12 Ks in 12 games
Peter Bourjos: .054 (2 for 37), 1 SB, 15 Ks in 11 games
Jeff Francoeur: .182 (6 for 33), 3 BBs, 8 Ks in nine games
Torii Hunter: .125 (4 for 32), .388 OPS in nine games
Andre Ethier: .036 (1 for 28) in eight games
Ichiro Suzuki: .167 (4 for 24), no extra-base hits, 0 SBs in seven games
Luke Scott: .083 (2 for 24) in seven games
Nick Swisher: .158 (3 for 19), 8 Ks in six games

Worth a second look
Carlos Lee (74 percent started): Not only has Lee been on a roll in May, batting .333 (20 for 60) with two homers for the month, but he has been killing left-handed pitchers this season, putting together a .856 OPS against them compared to .598 against righties. With four lefties on the schedule this week, he's a pretty good bet to stay hot enough for mixed-league use.
Corey Hart (68 percent): Slowly but surely, Hart's swing is coming around after he missed all of spring training and the first four weeks of the regular season with a strained oblique. He's batting .289 (11 for 38) with five extra-base hits over his last 10 games. When he gets rolling, it's a beautiful thing, as we saw last year when he hit 14 homers over a 26-game stretch in May. He's apparently no longer in danger of losing at-bats to Mark Kotsay either, having started 11 of the last 12 games, so Fantasy owners don't have much reason to avoid him.
Coco Crisp (53 percent): Crisp's walk rate is still a little off from last year, but you can't complain about his production so far, particularly in terms of stolen bases. And now that he's batting .345 (10 for 29) with a homer and three steals over his last six games, you'd need a pretty good reason to sit him. As long as he's healthy, he's a productive Fantasy option.
Rajai Davis (45 percent): Injuries have kept Davis' batting average in the low .200s so far, but he's beginning to get back on track with a .366 (15 for 41) batting average and five stolen bases over his last 11 games. The Blue Jays play seven games this week against mostly middle-of-the-rotation pitchers, making the speedster a sleeper for all Fantasy formats.
Ryan Ludwick (41 percent): Ludwick is one of those all-or-nothing players who tend to do half their damage over the span of six weeks. He's clearly on the right side of streaky now, and if you're worried about it coming to an abrupt halt, keep in mind he has a three-game series on the road against the Nationals pitching staff to close out the week. Part of the reason he has struggled so much in San Diego is because of his performance at home. He's a career .214 hitter with a .668 OPS at PETCO Park.

Approach with caution
Jeff Francoeur (78 percent started): After another hot start -- his hottest yet, actually -- Francoeur once again appears to have hit a wall. Considering his track record, you have to wonder just how far he has to fall. His power potential makes him anything but a lost cause in Fantasy, but when he's showing signs of his old habits, you should probably bench him in mixed leagues.
Michael Bourn (73 percent): Bourn has actually hit the ball pretty well lately, but mostly because the Astros have faced a high percentage of righties. He's not so great against lefties, batting .229 against them this year and .232 against them for his career. The Astros face four lefties this week, making Bourn not the best choice in Fantasy unless you rely on him for stolen bases in a categorical league.
Michael Brantley (55 percent): Brantley might seem like a nice sleeper based on his recent performance, but the Indians face one ace after another in their matchups against the Red Sox and Rays this week. Besides, his recent power surge isn't anything you should expect to last. If you're starting him, it should only be because you're short on stolen bases.
Chris Coghlan (47 percent): Ever since his latest bout with shoulder soreness in late April, Coghlan hasn't been able to do much at the plate, batting just .185 (15 for 81) in 19 games. He's unlikely to reverse the trend this week with tough matchups against the Giants and Dodgers rotations. Since he's just a borderline option in mixed leagues even when he's playing well, he clearly shouldn't be starting in as many leagues as he is.
Delmon Young (31 percent): Young is healthy again after missing a month with an oblique injury, but he continues to struggle, batting .200 (6 for 30) since returning. Prospect Ben Revere recently started a couple games instead of Young, and the two could continue to split at-bats in the days ahead, especially if Young continues to struggle. Clearly, Young is a player to avoid in mixed leagues.

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Injury concerns
Andre Ethier left Sunday's with back and toe injuries after colliding with an outfield fence. The severity of the injuries are not yet known, but Ethier was visibly shaken up on the play, making him likely to miss at least a couple games. Considering his poor performance at the plate recently, you wouldn't be crazy to look into other options, though he is normally a must-start when healthy ... Jason Heyward continues to experience soreness in his right shoulder, sitting out both Saturday and Sunday. He previously missed a week because of the injury, so if it hasn't healed by now, the Braves may have no choice but to put him on the DL. Clearly, he's too risky to use this week. Eric Hinske and Joe Mather would likely platoon in his absence, but because neither would get full-time at-bats, you can leave them for NL-only leagues ... Howard Kendrick has been out since Thursday with a tight hamstring, and though the Angels suspect he'll avoid the DL, he needed extra treatment Saturday and was unavailable to pinch hit in a crucial situation. Kendrick, who has been playing left field but has more Fantasy value at second base, has no clear timetable for returning, so you should probably look into alternatives ... Lance Berkman returned to the lineup Sunday after spraining his right wrist on a diving catch Wednesday, but he was reporting pain swinging the bat as recently as Friday. A setback is possible, particularly for a player his age, so while he's an advisable start this week, he's not the slam dunk he usually is ... Carlos Quentin is dealing with a bruised left knee and was out of the lineup again Sunday after missing Saturday's game. Manager Ozzie Guillen doesn't expect him to miss much time but didn't say for sure whether he'd be available for the White Sox's three games at Texas to begin the week. Quentin hasn't been particularly impressive recently, so you have a valid excuse to sit him if you have a deep bench. Most likely, he'll be fine, though ... Michael Cuddyer was out of the lineup Sunday because of a stiff neck, which sometimes ends up being more serious than it sounds. He isn't exactly a must-start player when healthy, so you can afford to be ultra cautious with him ... Marlon Byrd got hit by a pitch below the left eye Saturday and ended up spending the night in the hospital. His eye is swollen shut because of multiple facial fractures, making a trip to the DL a foregone conclusion. Reed Johnson will likely get more playing time in his absence, but he lacks pop and isn't worth adding outside of NL-only leagues ... Angel Pagan, who has been out since April 22 with a strained oblique, looked like he was on the verge of returning, but manager Terry Collins wants to give him one more week. Pagan was struggling before the injury, but his combination of speed and extra-base pop could make him a big-time contributor in Fantasy when he returns. Keep him stashed ... Grady Sizemore's jammed knee forced him to the disabled list Monday. Travis Buck and Austin Kearns are platooning in his absence. Sizemore's upside makes him worth stashing in Fantasy, but considering his injury history, the Indians probably won't rush him back.

Best 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 8
Team 5/23 5/24 5/25 5/26 5/27 5/28 5/29
Rockies -- ARI (x2) ARI ARI STL STL STL
-- vs. Saunders, Collmenter vs. Kennedy vs. Owings vs. Westbrook vs. Garcia vs. Lohse
Not only are Rocks home for seven games, but they get D-Backs rotation for four. Garcia the only real test.
Phillies CIN CIN CIN CIN @NYM @NYM @NYM
vs. Arroyo vs. Cueto vs. Wood vs. Bailey vs. Capuano vs. Pelfrey vs. Niese
Legitimate pitchers here, but none pushing to make All-Star team. Wood, Pelfrey, Capuano prone to blowouts.
Blue Jays @NYY @NYY @NYY CHW CHW CHW CHW
vs. Colon vs. Sabathia vs. Garcia vs. Humber vs. Buehrle vs. Jackson vs. Danks
Colon and Sabathia could be tough early. The rest not so much, especially with Jackson and Danks struggling.
Cubs -- NYM NYM NYM PIT PIT PIT
-- vs. Niese vs. Gee vs. Dickey vs. Karstens vs. Correia vs. Maholm
Only six games for Cubs, but the matchups couldn't be any more favorable. Home games usually a good thing too.
Rangers CHW CHW CHW -- KC KC KC
vs. Danks vs. Peavy vs. Floyd -- vs. Adcock vs. O'Sullivan vs. Duffy
Rangers finally get full week at home. White Sox present some challenges, but Royals more than make up for it.
Worst 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 8
Team 5/23 5/24 5/25 5/26 5/27 5/28 5/29
Indians BOS BOS BOS -- @TB @TB @TB
vs. Buchholz vs. Beckett vs. Lester -- vs. Price vs. Shields vs. Hellickson
Buchholz resurgence means five aces or near-aces on schedule, and Hellickson isn't too shabby himself.
Pirates -- ATL ATL -- @CHC @CHC @CHC
-- vs. Jurrjens vs. Minor -- vs. Zambrano vs. Garza vs. Dempster
Of two teams with five games, Pirates have far tougher matchups, especially if Cubs pitchers are up to snuff.
Marlins -- @SF @SF @SF @LAD @LAD @LAD
-- vs. Cain vs. Bumgarner vs. Vogelsong vs. Garland vs. Kuroda vs. Kershaw
Cain, Bumgarner, Kuroda and Kershaw a scary enough foursome to overshadow Vogelsong and Garland matchups.
Reds @PHI @PHI @PHI @PHI @ATL @ATL @ATL
vs. Hamels vs. Worley vs. Halladay vs. Lee vs. Hanson vs. Lowe vs. Jurrjens
Extra game helps Reds' cause a bit, but matchups too intimidating to ignore. Thank goodness for Worley.
Giants -- FLA FLA FLA @MIL @MIL @MIL
-- vs. Nolasco vs. Volstad vs. Sanchez vs. Marcum vs. Wolf vs. Gallardo
Perhaps no surefire aces here, but Nolasco, Sanchez, Marcum and Gallardo have all looked that way at times.

You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball hitting questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Hitting Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.

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Player News
Report: Rockies evaluating players from three teams
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:47 pm ET) While it seems unlikely the Rockies will trade shortstop Troy Tulowitzki by Thursday's non-waiver deadline, MLB.com reports the team spent much of Monday evaluating major-league players and prospects from the Mets' organization. New York has been a team linked to Tulowitzki rumors in the last week.

MLB.com also reports the Rockies spent time evaluating players within the Cardinals and Angels organizations. They are considered two teams with money and major-league-ready players that would intrigue the Rockies' front office, if they were to inquire about a trade.


Report: 5-6 teams showing interest in LaTroy Hawkins
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:40 pm ET) After reporting Monday the Pirates were showing interest in Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, MLB.com reported Tuesday that sources acknowledged 5-6 teams are interested in trading for the 41-year-old reliever.

However, there are two issues complicating a trade for Hawkins. The Rockies are interested in keeping the veteran around because he's been a positive influence on the team's younger players. Also, the Rockies haven't been floored by a deal for a player that is under team control next season.


Mark Teixeira anticipates starting Tuesday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) After delivering a pinch-hit single Monday at Texas, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (lat) said he expects to return to the starting lineup Tuesday. He last made a start July 20.

"Absolutely," he said of returning to the lineup Tuesday, per The Journal News. "… Very anxious (to play). It’s been a week. You never want to miss a week. I’m looking forward to (Tuesday)."

Teixeira was encouraged by his at-bat in Monday's 4-2 loss.

"I took one swing and it felt good," he said. "Very reassuring. I wasn’t expecting anything negative, but at the same time you want to get out there and get it done."


John Lackey could be on trading block
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:01 pm ET) Red Sox veteran right-hander John Lackey could be dealt at the deadline despite his status as one of their few reliable starters, WEEI.com is reporting. Lackey is also under team control through next season, which makes trade rumors that much more surprising.

Lackey has received attention from contenders due to his steady and solid contributions over the last two years. He has won two of his last three starts, giving up just five runs in 19 innings during that stretch, to raise his record to 11-7 and lower his ERA to 3.60. He is on pace to throw 210 innings this season, his highest total since joining the Red Sox in 2010.


'The Thing' could push Pedro Alvarez to the bench
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:46 am ET) "The Thing" has a hold on Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez - and it could cost him his starting job.

"The Thing" in baseball parlance is an inexplicable inability to throw accurately to the point it becomes a mental block. Alvarez has 23 errors this season, more than any player in any position in the major leagues, and 21 have come on throws. He has hidden when the media has come around to ask him about it, according to the Beaver County Times.

Alvarez has apparently allowed the problem to affect his hitting. He has not had a multi-hit game since July 10 and has just five hits in his last 25 at-bats. He has not scored or driven in a run in the last six games as his stat line has been weakened to .238/.326/.407. Despite cutting down a bit on his strikeouts this season, his production has suffered, though he has still managed 15 home runs and 47 RBI.


Erick Aybar nothing but a singles hitter in July
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) An inability to hit anything but singles has limited the production of Angels second baseman Erick Aybar recently.

Aybar has hit safely in 17 of his last 21 games, but 19 of his 22 hits during that stretch have been singles. He has no triples or home runs in that period. He has just five runs scored and six RBI since July 6. Aybar owns a decent .281/.317/.403 stat line on the season. His slugging percentage has fallen 30 points in July, but he has been productive overall in 2014 with 50 runs scored and 51 RBI.


Kurt Suzuki backed by teammates
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:07 am ET) Twins surprisingly productive catcher Kurt Suzuki has received interest from several teams in need of players at that position, but closer Glen Perkins is hoping he stays put and is offered a contract extension.

"That would be ideal," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I think everyone else would agree. Not even just pitchers. He's fit in the clubhouse great, too, with everybody."

General manager Terry Ryan expressed satisfaction with Suzuki despite admitting he rates poorly in regard to pitch-framing.

Toronto, San Francisco and Baltimore are believed to be most interested. All three had scouts at Twins games over the weekend.


Jordy Mercer emerging as option to bat second vs. LHPs
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:06 am ET) Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer was slotted second in the batting order Monday against the Giants for the third time this season and second time in three games.

Mercer has become an option to hit second when a left-handed starter is on the hill, as was the case Monday with Giants hurler Madison Bumgarner.

"I think he gives us, against left-handed pitching, probably the best dynamic in that spot right now," manager Clint Hurdle said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "From last season into this season, he’s been one of our better hitters against left-handed pitching. He’s a guy we’ve used to play some small ball with, a guy who’s shown an ability to barrel the ball. He’s leading the team in RBIs against left-handed pitching in probably less at-bats than the other guys had."

Mercer is batting .319 with a .351 on-base percentage, .458 slugging percentage and .809 OPS in 40 games against lefties this season.


'Still a good chance' Joaquin Benoit gets dealt
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:00 am ET) A major-league source told MLBDailyDish.com that there is "still a good chance" the Padres trade reliever Joaquin Benoit, who has taken over the closer's role since San Diego traded Huston Street to the Angels. The Pirates and Indians could be two teams still interested in acquiring the veteran reliever.

Adam Eaton on a roll for White Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:50 am ET) White Sox leadoff hitter Adam Eaton has remained steady and productive since a mini-slump in late June and early July.

Eaton has hit safely in 13 of his last 14 games with 22 hits in 58 at-bats during that stretch. He has scored six runs in the last eight games and has sweetened his stat line to .285/.355/.383. The lone mild disappointment has been his 10 stolen bases in 16 attempts.


 
 
 
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