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Week 16 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, July 16..

Catcher

Ramon Hernandez has been playing out of his mind recently, batting .356 (16 for 45) with a .975 OPS over his last 12 games to bring his season batting average up to .315 and his season OPS up to .897. The problem is you still can't use him in mixed leagues because the Reds don't feel comfortable starting him more than two games in a row. With prospect Devin Mesoraco pushing for a promotion at Triple-A Louisville, Hernandez could be on the move in the weeks ahead -- hopefully to a team committed to using him more -- so even though you probably wouldn't want to use him right now in Fantasy, you'll want to keep your eye on him.

Must-Start Options: Brian McCann, Victor Martinez, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero, Alex Avila

Heating up
Carlos Ruiz: .375 (12 for 32), 1 HR, 1.050 OPS, 4 BBs, 4 Ks in 10 games
Wilson Ramos: .400 (12 for 30), 3 HRs, 11 RBI, 1.288 OPS in nine games
Mike Napoli: .391 (9 for 23), 3 HRs, 9 RBI, 1.330 OPS in seven games

Cooling off
Jonathan Lucroy: .220 (9 for 41), no extra-base hits, .475 OPS in 13 games
Alex Avila: .161 (5 for 31), 3 2Bs, 9 BBs, 11 Ks in 11 games
Jorge Posada: .148 (4 for 27), one extra-base hit, .411 OPS in 11 games
Yadier Molina: .136 (3 for 22), 2 2Bs, .436 OPS, 2 BBs, 0 Ks in eight games

Worth a second look
John Buck (31 percent started): Buck has been in a funk most of the season but began showing signs of life just before the All-Star break and is batting .296 (8 for 27) with two homers over his last eight games. His resurgence comes just in time for a seven-game week against the Mets' and Padres' less-than-stellar starting pitchers, with six of those games at home. SunLife Stadium is known as a tough place to hit, but Buck has actually liked it there, hitting .258 compared to .175 on the road. You've probably gotten used to ignoring the 2010 All-Star by now, but if you need help at catcher this week, he should provide it.
Wilson Ramos (22 percent): Ramos has been getting more playing time recently with Ivan Rodriguez sidelined by a strained oblique -- an injury that might keep him on the DL even beyond this week after a setback Saturday. Ramos has taken advantage of the increased at-bats so far, showing impressive home run power for a catcher. The 23-year-old has the upside to become a viable mixed-league option, so now wouldn't be a bad time to take a sneak peak.

Approach with caution
Jonathan Lucroy (48 percent started): Lucroy hasn't gotten off to a blazing start in July and remained cold even during a four-game series at Coors Field. The Brewers are on the road for all seven of their games this week, facing pitchers like Ian Kennedy, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. Lucroy is batting only .225 on the road compared to .333 at home, showing why he's less than an every-week option in Fantasy.
Kurt Suzuki (44 percent): Suzuki has picked it up a little at the plate recently, batting .400 (10 for 25) with a homer over his last eight games, but he won't have many opportunities to contribute this week with only five games on the schedule. And he probably won't do much in those five games considering all are on the road and four are against right-handed pitchers. For the season, Suzuki is batting .203 away from Oakland Coliseum and .216 against righties.

Injury concerns
John Jaso was forced to go on the DL with a strained right oblique Thursday, opening the door for Kelly Shoppach to get regular at-bats in Tampa Bay. Shoppach is batting only .176 on the year, but he has been a worthwhile Fantasy option in the past, hitting 21 homers in 2008. He's worth a flier in deeper leagues just in case the consistent playing time leads to more-consistent production.

First base

The Diamondbacks finally reached a breaking point with their platoon of Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady on Thursday, but they didn't promote 23-year-old Paul Goldschmidt to the majors as had long been rumored. Instead, they turned to a familiar face who was also putting up killer numbers in the minors, calling up Brandon Allen and sending down Miranda. Allen has exhibited both power and patience in the minors, putting together a 1.006 OPS at Triple-A Reno this year, but because he didn't prove much in his first two stints in the majors, you can leave him for NL-only leagues for now.

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

Heating up
Joey Votto: .400 (18 for 45), 2 HRs, 1.029 OPS in 11 games
Freddie Freeman: .316 (12 for 38), 4 HRs, 12 RBI, 1.080 OPS in 10 games
Mark Trumbo: .306 (11 for 36), 5 HRs, 1 SB, 1.081 OPS in 10 games

Cooling off
Adam Dunn: .083 (6 for 72), 2 HRs, .345 OPS, 7 BBs, 37 Ks in 20 games
Justin Smoak: .081 (5 for 62), two extra-base hits, .270 OPS, 5 BBs, 17 Ks in 18 games
Aubrey Huff: .162 (6 for 37), 1 HR, .448 OPS in nine games
Mark Teixeira: .160 (4 for 25), no extra-base hits, .436 OPS in seven games

Worth a second look
Freddie Freeman (70 percent started): The deeper we get into the season, the better and better Freeman gets. Not only has he been hot recently, but he's batting .308 with nine homers and a .897 OPS since May 19, which is more than half of his season so far. With four games at Coors Field to open the week, he has a good chance of keeping it going. No reason to shy away from him now in mixed leagues.
Casey Kotchman (19 percent): Yes, Kotchman has a few big marks against him, such as a complete lack of home-run power at a position that demands it. But this late into the season, his .340 batting average is getting pretty hard to ignore. If you need help in that category in a Rotisserie league or just happen to find yourself with a stunning lack of options at the deepest position in Fantasy, Kotchman might be a sneaky play during a seven-game week in which he faces the Royals pitching staff three times.

Approach with caution
Aubrey Huff (46 percent started): Even disregarding Huff's poor hitting over the last week, how can you expect a season-long underachiever to suddenly turn it around in a week he's facing Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo -- especially when all six of his games are at home, where he's only a .216 hitter? It's just not reasonable. Neither is starting him in a mixed league this week.
James Loney (22 percent): After a miserable start prolonged by a misguided attempt to hit more homers, Loney has generally gotten his season back on track, but he still hasn't learned to hit left-handed pitchers, batting only .184 (14 for 76) against them. Against three left-handers in a six-game week, Loney isn't the kind of gamble you should take if you need help at first base.

Injury concerns
None.

Second base

Carlos Guillen, who had been out all year because of microfracture sugery on his knee, returned to the lineup as the starting second baseman on Saturday and figures to have the job on a near full-time basis, bumping Ryan Raburn to the bench. Guillen has obviously been a productive Fantasy option in the past, but as an injury-prone 35-year-old who has gotten less than 600 at-bats over the last three years combined, you shouldn't expect him to be the savior of your Fantasy team. If you're searching for a middle infielder in a deeper mixed league, you could take a flier on him, but he's a bit of a long shot to make a worthwhile contribution. Heading into the All-Star break, Miguel Tejada had started four of the Giants' last six games at second base and had hit the ball pretty well during that stretch. But since then, the Giants have turned to Mike Fontenot as their starting second baseman, at least against right-handed pitchers. Truth is they haven't been able to settle on any one player at the position since Freddy Sanchez went down with a dislocated left shoulder in early June, making all of the candidates useless in mixed leagues. Of course, none probably have the upside to make a big impact in Fantasy -- not even the 37-year-old Tejada.

Must-Start Options: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Michael Young

Heating up
Dustin Pedroia: .379 (22 for 58), 7 HRs, 1 SB, 1.256 OPS, 7 BBs, 5 Ks during 14-game hit streak
Ian Kinsler: .353 (18 for 51), 4 HRs, 4 SBs, 1.127 OPS, 6 BBs, 7 Ks during 12-game hit streak
Michael Young: .421 (16 for 38), 1 HR, 1.094 OPS, 1 BB, 2 Ks in 10 games
Neil Walker: .452 (19 for 42), 1 HR, 1 3B, 3 2Bs, 1 SB, 1.108 OPS, 1 BB, 13 Ks during 10-game hit streak
Ben Zobrist: .440 (11 for 25), 2 HRs, 3 SBs, 1.376 OPS in seven games

Cooling off
Aaron Hill: .118 (4 for 34), no extra-base hits, 3 SBs, .328 OPS in nine games
Orlando Cabrera: .135 (5 for 37), one extra-base hit, 1 SB, .362 OPS in nine games

Most Added Hitters
* as of July 15
Player % increase
1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3B, Marlins 36
2. Eduardo Nunez, SS, Yankees 33
3. Nate Schierholtz, OF, Giants 25
4. Danny Valencia, 3B, Twins 15
5. Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays 15
6. Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies 11
7. Mike Napoli, C, Rangers 9
8. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels 9
9. Brandon Allen, 1B, D-Backs 8
10. Mike Trout, OF, Angels 7

Worth a second look
Kelly Johnson (73 percent started): The roller-coaster ride that is Kelly Johnson's season is back on the incline after the 29-year-old hit four homers with a 1.085 OPS in 12 games to end the first half. And though his streaks seem to be independent of what's happening around him, he has a better chance of staying hot when he's in the favorable hitting environment of Chase Field for seven games. With at least four decent matchups this week against Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson, Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel, Johnson is worth keeping active.
Gordon Beckham (35 percent): After months of disappointment, Beckham is finally showing signs of life, batting .423 (11 for 26) over his last seven games. He has teased us before, like when he hit .444 (8 for 18) during a six-game stretch in late May, but against low-end pitchers like Kyle Davies, Danny Duffy, Bruce Chen, Jeanmar Gomez and Fausto Carmona, he might be worth a roll of the dice this week, especially if you've been holding on to him all year.

Approach with caution
Aaron Hill (51 percent started): For a guy who's batting .214 since the start of the 2010 season, Hill sure gets a lot of credit from Fantasy owners. He's not even hitting for power this season, which means he'd need to have some darn good matchups for me to think about keeping him active in a mixed league. With pitchers like Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando on the schedule, clearly he doesn't.
Jemile Weeks (36 percent): Weeks seems to have pulled out of his slump since the start of the second half, batting .538 (7 for 13) in three games, which might lead you to believe you should get him active again. Sorry, but this week isn't the time. With the Athletics set to play only five games, he'd need to put up serious points in a short period of time to make a relevant contribution in Fantasy. Clearly, the odds are against him.

Injury concerns
Omar Infante left Saturday's game with a sore knee and remained out of the lineup Sunday, but he expects to return Monday. That's not necessarily good news for his Fantasy owners, though. With a .256 batting average on the season and no power or speed worth mentioning, Infante wouldn't be worth starting in mixed leagues even without the injury risk. Frankly, replacement Greg Dobbs would be more exciting.

Third base

Jose Bautista sprained his ankle in the first game of the second half Thursday and hasn't played since. He has spent some time in a walking boot but has already begun doing baseball activities and hopes to return Tuesday. He's arguably the best player in Fantasy, so if he says he plans to return Tuesday, you're pretty much obligated to start him in spite of the risks. Brett Lawrie's major-league debut could be much closer than originally thought. He began a rehab assignment at Class A Dunedin over the weekend and will then move up to play 10 games at Triple-A Las Vegas before being reevaluated. Lawrie, who fractured his right hand on May 31, will need to prove both healthy and productive in the minors before the Blue Jays promote him, but that promotion looks like it could come within the next couple weeks. And it's no surprise given Lawrie's numbers at Las Vegas. If third base is a position of need for you, he's worth stashing again.

Must-Start Options: Albert Pujols, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez

Heating up
Aramis Ramirez: .367 (29 for 79), 11 HRs, 1.230 OPS, 2 BBs, 13 Ks in 21 games
Jose Bautista: .373 (25 for 67), 10 HRs, 1.365 OPS, 13 BBs, 11 Ks in 19 games
Pablo Sandoval: .338 (26 for 77), 3 HRs, 16 RBI, 1.017 OPS in 18 games
Kevin Youkilis: .464 (13 for 28), 2 HRs, 8 RBI, 1.373 OPS in seven games

Cooling off
Scott Rolen: .161 (9 for 56), 1 HR, .475 OPS, 1 BB, 12 Ks in 14 games
Ty Wigginton: .156 (5 for 32), no extra-base hits, 1 SB, .427 OPS in 10 games
Mark Reynolds: .129 (4 for 31), 2 2Bs, 1 BB, 17 Ks in nine games
Mike Moustakas: .057 (2 for 35), 0 BBs, 6 Ks in nine games

Worth a second look
Martin Prado (60 percent started): After missing more than a month with a staph infection, Prado returned with a bang, homering in his first game back Friday. And even though he didn't do much else over the rest of the weekend, you shouldn't hesitate to get him active in Fantasy. He's a natural hitter who seems to find a way to hit .300 even in the most adverse circumstances, so he shouldn't need much time to shake off the rust. With four games coming up at Coors Field this week, he could do some serious damage once that rust is shaken.
Daniel Murphy (59 percent): Murphy is beginning to make a name for himself in Fantasy, with 15-plus Head-to-Head points in four of the last seven weeks. Not only does he have good matchups this week against the back end of the Marlins and Cardinals pitching staffs, but all seven of the pitchers he's facing are right-handers. Murphy is batting .319 with an .826 OPS against righties, making 20-plus points a more reasonable expectation for him this week.

Approach with caution
Ty Wigginton (51 percent started): With Ian Stewart back in the majors, Wigginton no longer has a clear starting job at third base, and though he's capable of playing left field, the Rockies don't seem comfortable using him there consistently. Plus, he's gone cold lately, and as a player who hits .311 with a 1.023 OPS against lefties compared to .234 and .698 against righties, he'll have a hard time getting on track with seven righties on tap. You could do worse at third base this week, but you could also probably do better.
Chase Headley (41 percent): This week may seem like the perfect time to start Headley considering the Padres are away from PETCO Park, where he's hitting .250 with a .693 OPS compared to .339 and .869 on the road, but the matchups could prevent him from taking advantage. Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are enough to negate whatever favorable splits you throw at them during a six-game week. He's also dealing with a slight ankle injury that might cause him to miss a game or two at the beginning of the week. Weigh your options carefully.

Injury concerns
David Wright, who has been out since May 15 with a stress fracture in his lower back, began a rehab assignment over the weekend and could potentially return July 22. You probably wouldn't want to start him for less than half a week, especially since that return date isn't set in stone, but his return could obviously have a big impact in Fantasy Week 17 (July 25-31). Wright wasn't performing up to his usual standards before the injury, but his five-category potential is still plenty valuable at a weak position ... Placido Polanco was unable to play through a bulging disc in his back over the weekend and had to go on the 15-day DL. He hasn't shown much progress in batting practice this week, making him a long shot to return when eligible Wednesday. As much as he was struggling before going on the DL, you wouldn't want him active in Fantasy anyway. Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez figure to split time in Polanco's absence. Both are strictly NL-only options.

Shortstop

In a mercifully quick turnaround for his Fantasy owners, the hamstring injury that sidelined Jose Reyes for the final eight games before the All-Star break and ultimately forced him to the DL has already healed enough for him to go on a one-game rehab assignment Monday and, assuming all goes well there, return to the big-league lineup on Tuesday. Reyes isn't completely without risk this week, but considering he's easily the best player at arguably the weakest position in Fantasy, you probably couldn't make a reasonable argument to sit him. Just enjoy the quick return and don't overthink the decision. In deeper leagues, Zack Cozart is already making a splash with the Reds. The rookie arrived just before the All-Star break, and though he hasn't shown any power yet, he has enough power potential to become a relevant Fantasy option if the Reds remain patient with him. He's not necessarily a sleeper for this week, but he's a player to watch going forward.

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

Heating up
Hanley Ramirez: .372 (29 for 78), 4 HRs, 23 RBI, 3 SBs, 1.052 OPS in 21 games
Erick Aybar: .361 (13 for 36), 2 HRs, 3 SBs, .989 OPS during nine-game hit streak
Elvis Andrus: .500 (15 for 30), 3 2Bs, 2 SBs, 1.129 OPS in eight games

Cooling off
Stephen Drew: .155 (9 for 58), 1 HR, .490 OPS in 15 games
J.J. Hardy: .167 (9 for 54), 2 HRs, .522 OPS, 2 BBs, 13 Ks in 13 games
Yuniesky Betancourt: .161 (5 for 31), 1 SB, .414 OPS, 0 BBs, 1 Ks in 10 games
Rafael Furcal: .088 (3 for 34), no extra-base hits, 1 SB, .250 OPS in nine games

Worth a second look
Emilio Bonifacio (61 percent started): Inspired by his new manager to run more, Bonifacio is a leadoff hitter reborn, batting .397 (23 for 58) with 12 steals during a 15-game hitting streak. And though he likely won't maintain the hot hitting forever, he has a good chance of continuing it this week against pitchers like Chris Capuano, Dustin Moseley, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee. Besides, base-stealing of that magnitude can make up for more than a few 0-fers. At either third base or shortstop, Bonifacio is a legitimate Fantasy sleeper.
Alexi Casilla (25 percent): This week couldn't be any more perfect for Casilla. Not only are the Twins playing eight games thanks to a doubleheader on Monday, but they're facing a bunch of low-end pitchers like David Huff, Fausto Carmona, Brad Penny and Rick Porcello. Plus, they're at home, where Casilla is hitting about 100 points higher than on the road. The 26-year-old has more than once shown how effective he can be when he gets hot. How doesn't he get hot this week?

Approach with caution
Stephen Drew (71 percent started): Drew has fallen on hard times lately. Not only is he slumping, but he's also losing playing time to Willie Bloomquist against left-handed pitchers -- the culmination of a season-long slump against them. And with wacky reverse splits that have him hitting .226 at home compared to .289 on the road, the seven games at Chase Field don't help him one bit. He's still worth stashing in mixed leagues, but you wouldn't want to start him until he gets back on track.
Maicer Izturis (38 percent): Izturis has started just one of the Angels' last four games, which was the fear for him once everyone got healthy. This might not be just a one-week thing. This might be a long-term recommendation to avoid him in mixed leagues. Until another Angels infielder goes down with an injury, he just won't get enough at-bats to make a relevant contribution.

Injury concerns
None.

Outfield

After a month-long absence that was prolonged by the All-Star break, the consensus No. 1 outfielder entering the season is on the verge of returning. Carl Crawford (hamstring) completed his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday and will return to the lineup on Monday. As a general rule, sitting a player fresh off the DL isn't such a bad move, but you wouldn't want to miss out on a big week from the one you drafted in the first round. Get Crawford active. Carlos Gonzalez is also back after missing some time with a bone bruise in his wrist. He still doesn't think the wrist is 100 percent, but if it's good enough for him to play, you'd need an awfully good backup to consider sitting him. Meanwhile, Ryan Braun's status for Fantasy Week 16 (July 18-24) isn't quite as certain. The Brewers left fielder returned to the lineup Thursday after missing the final eight games of the first half with a strained calf but had to leave Saturday with continued soreness in the area. The Brewers still don't think Braun will need a DL stint, but with him admitting Saturday that he can't run full speed yet, it might be unavoidable. You'd hate to sit a clear-cut stud only to see him come back and play close to a full week, but Braun is looking like a risky option in mixed leagues. Mark Kotsay and Josh Wilson would likely split time in his absence, not that either has any mixed-league appeal. As the Colby Rasmus rumors continue to fly, it's worth noting he has sat out each of the Cardinals' last two games against left-handed pitchers in favor of Jon Jay, another left-handed hitter. Considering Rasmus actually has a higher batting average against lefties (.263) than righties (.237) this year, you shouldn't expect that arrangement to continue. Peter Bourjos' hamstring injury ended up requiring a DL stint after all, which means top prospect Mike Trout will get to stick around for a while longer. Considering he's only 3 for 20 so far in his major-league career, though, you shouldn't be any more optimitic about picking him up in mixed leagues. The odds are against any 19-year-old finding immediate success in the majors, no matter how talented he is.

Must-Start Options: Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lance Berkman, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, Jay Bruce, Chris Young, Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz, Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, Ben Zobrist

Heating up
Nick Markakis: .401 (55 for 137), 4 HRs, 4 SBs, .989 OPS, 7 BBs, 9 Ks in 31 games
Carlos Beltran: .344 (22 for 64), 4 HRs, 19 runs scored, 1.104 OPS in 16 games
Jacoby Ellsbury: .451 (23 for 51), 4 HRs, 12 RBI, 3 SBs, 1.343 OPS, 5 BBs, 7 Ks in 12 games
Melky Cabrera: .420 (21 for 50), 2 HRs, 4 SBs, 1.095 OPS in 12 games
B.J. Upton: .386 (17 for 44), 4 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.131 OPS, 12 Ks in 12 games
Alex Presley: .342 (13 for 38), 2 3Bs, 1 2B, 2 SBs in nine games
Matt Holliday: .355 (11 for 31), 4 HRs, 9 RBI, 1.251 OPS in eight games
Juan Pierre: .441 (15 for 34), one extra-base hit, 4 SBs, 2 BBs, 2 Ks in eight games
Raul Ibanez: .394 (13 for 33), 4 HRs, 14 RBI, 1.200 OPS, 1 BB, 2 Ks in seven games

Cooling off
Jayson Werth: .141 (9 for 64), one extra-base hit, 1 SB, .403 OPS, 23 Ks in 18 games
Seth Smith: .207 (12 for 58), 4 2Bs, .549 OPS in 17 games
Alex Rios: .107 (6 for 56), one extra-base hit, 1 SB, .263 OPS in 15 games
Ryan Ludwick: .128 (6 for 47), 1 HR, .393 OPS, 3 BBs, 16 Ks in 12 games
Jason Heyward: .167 (6 for 36), 1 HR, 1 SB, .583 OPS, 4 BBs, 5 Ks in 10 games
Colby Rasmus: .118 (4 for 34), no extra-base hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks in 10 games
Bobby Abreu: .152 (5 for 33), one extra-base hit, .464 OPS in 10 games
Andre Ethier: .107 (3 for 28), 2 HRs, .564 OPS, 8 Ks in eight games
Brennan Boesch: .160 (4 for 25), no extra-base hits, .320 OPS in six games

Worth a second look
Michael Brantley (65 percent started): Brantley has come around recently after a poor month of June, batting .421 (16 for 38) with two steals over his last eight games. When he struggles, left-handed pitchers are the main source of his misery. He's batting only .232 with a .568 OPS against them. With five right-handers on schedule this week, he's likely to continue the hot hitting. Besides, between the Twins and White Sox pitching staffs, it's not like he'll be facing any true aces.
Matt Joyce (46 percent): Yes, Joyce has had his struggles lately against both lefties and righties, but his overall numbers against righties -- a .319 batting average and a .927 OPS -- are still awfully impressive. The five righties on tap for the Rays this week aren't the most fearsome bunch: A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Luke Hochevar and Felipe Paulino, meaning Joyce's two recent homers could be just the beginning of a full-fledged rebound.
Juan Pierre (44 percent): Pierre's decline this year has been a double whammy, with both his batting average and base-stealing ability fading. But with the former on the rise lately, he's getting more opportunities to steal bases and still seems to be making it a priority. Pierre still might not be the player he was last year or during the prime of his career, but he's good enough right now to do some damage against the Royals and Indians pitching staffs this week.
Domonic Brown (29 percent): Getting to play every day after being stuck in a platoon role when he first came up from the minors, Brown is batting .341 (15 for 44) with a home run and a stolen base over his last 12 games. He'll likely stay hot this week with no aces on the schedule and six games in hitter's parks, including three at home. He's still far from being a must-start in mixed leagues, but now is a decent time to use him.
Ben Revere (14 percent): Revere, though steady, has yet to make a big dent in Fantasy during his time replacing Denard Span (concussion) in center field. But he'll have a hard time not putting up points this week with eight games against the middling Indians and Tigers rotations, including seven against right-handed pitchers. Revere, a left-handed hitter, is batting about 100 points higher against righties than lefties. He's largely unowned in Fantasy, but he's worth a look right now even in mixed leagues.

Approach with caution
Carlos Lee (77 percent started): Based on his ownership and starting percentages, Lee is far more automatic in Fantasy than he should be. He's a flawed player in a steep regression who's only still viable in Fantasy because of his .349 batting average and .960 OPS against lefties. With six righties on schedule for the Astros this week, time to put Lee in his place.
Johnny Damon (54 percent): Damon sat out two of the final three games of the first half after getting hit by a pitch on the left hand. He'll play through the injury but recently admitted his hand doesn't feel the way it should. He's not a high-end option anyway, so you might want to bench him until he proves he can be productive with the injury.
Travis Snider (38 percent): If nothing else, Snider has shown he can hit for average since his return to the big leagues, batting .381 (16 for 42) in 10 games. But he'll have a hard time maintaining that momentum with tough matchups against the Mariners and Rangers pitching staffs, especially since two of the six pitchers he's facing are lefties. He has only four hits in 30 at-bats against lefties this season, making him just an AL-only option this week.
Ryan Ludwick (36 percent): Ludwick has had a few scattered hot streaks this season, but he clearly isn't at his best right now and will have a hard time getting back on track against pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay. Even the six games away from PETCO Park aren't enough to save him this week, so steer clear of him in mixed leagues.
Nate Schierholtz (22 percent): Schierholtz has been a pretty nice find off the waiver wire over the last couple weeks, taking advantage of everyday at-bats by showing some of the offensive potential he demonstrated in the minors. But whether or not he's hot, you just can't justify starting a player with so little track record against pitchers like Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo.

Injury concerns
Shane Victorino, who hasn't played since July 4 because of a sprained thumb, began a rehab assignment for Double-A Reading on Saturday. He's eligible to return from the disabled list Tuesday, meaning he'll play at most five games this week. Because even that's no guarantee, you should probably give him a week to prove his health before activating him in standard mixed leagues ... Grady Sizemore is again having trouble with his knee, but not the one that required microfracture surgery last year. He suffered what the Indians called a knee contusion as he rounded first base Sunday. It might have just been a precautionary move for an injury-prone player, but then again, that injury-prone label is exactly why you'll probably want to avoid him in Fantasy this week ... Carlos Beltran was out of the lineup for a second straight game because of flu-like symptoms Sunday. It doesn't sound like anything that'll keep him out for more than a day or two more, and as hot as he's been lately, you'll want to give him the benefit of the doubt ... Austin Jackson has now missed six straight games with a wrist issue and will likely wind up on the DL. Even if he has a miraculous recovery, you likely wouldn't miss having his inconsistent bat in your Fantasy lineup, so keep him reseved ... The Twins activated Delmon Young (ankle) from the 15-day DL on Thursday, which is obviously good news for his Fantasy owners, especially since he has four doubles in three games since returning. He has typically been a good source of batting average over his career, so he might be on the verge of taking off. You can wait to see more from him before activating him in mixed leagues, though ... Jose Tabata was expected to return over the weekend after missing three weeks with a strained quadriceps, but he suffered what looked a setback on Thursday. The Pirates have since decided it wasn't as bad as initially feared, but Tabata's timetable is still up in the air right now. He's probably not a player you'd want to activate right away considering his uneven performance all season, but his return is worth monitoring simply for the impact it could have on Alex Presley, who has been a revelation out of the leadoff spot in Tabata's absence. If the Pirates find a way to keep Presley in the lineup, he'll retain his sleeper appeal in mixed leagues, so keep an eye on this situation ... Luke Scott, who has been attempting to play through a torn labrum in his shoulder, had a cortisone injection Friday and could return Tuesday. His numbers indicate the injury is holding him back, though, so you shouldn't have high hopes for him in Fantasy this week. Nolan Reimold's playing time would suffer with Scott's return.

Best 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 16
Team 7/18 7/19 7/20 7/21 7/22 7/23 7/24
Twins CLE (x2) CLE CLE DET DET DET DET
vs. Huff, Carmona vs. Masterson vs. Tomlin vs. Verlander vs. Scherzer vs. Penny vs. Porcello
Eight-game week makes this one an easy call, especially with Verlander the lone ace on schedule.
Marlins @NYM SD SD SD NYM NYM NYM
vs. Capuano vs. Stauffer vs. Harang vs. Moseley vs. Pelfrey vs. Capuano vs. Gee
None of these pitchers are incompetent, but none are frontliners either. Marlins should capitalize.
Mets FLA STL STL STL @FLA @FLA @FLA
vs. Hensley vs. Lohse vs. McClellan vs. Westbrook vs. Volstad vs. Hensley vs. Sanchez
Mets get two chances to welcome Hensley back to starting rotation, with nothing but fluff in between.
Braves @COL @COL @COL @COL @CIN @CIN @CIN
vs. Hammel vs. Jimenez vs. Nicasio vs. Chacin vs. Arroyo vs. Bailey vs. Willis
Braves draw front end of Rockies staff, but Coors effect negates it. Reds rotation a mess right now.
Rays NYY NYY NYY NYY @KC @KC @KC
vs. Burnett vs. Colon vs. Garcia vs. Sabathia vs. Hochevar vs. Francis vs. Paulino
If Rays survive Yankees rotation, which isn't so tough after Sabathia, weak Royals rotation awaits.
Worst 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 16
Team 7/18 7/19 7/20 7/21 7/22 7/23 7/24
Padres -- @FLA @FLA @FLA @PHI @PHI @PHI
-- vs. Sanchez vs. Nolasco vs. Vazquez vs. Hamels vs. Kendrick vs. Halladay
Phillies hard enough without getting top of Marlins rotation involved. Even Vazquez not so bad lately.
Athletics -- @DET @DET -- @NYY @NYY @NYY
-- vs. Porcello vs. Below -- vs. Hughes vs. Burnett vs. Colon
A's play only five games. Even with no true aces on schedule, that makes for one miserable week.
Giants LAD LAD LAD -- MIL MIL MIL
vs. Billingsley vs. De La Rosa vs. Kershaw -- vs. Marcum vs. Wolf vs. Gallardo
Kershaw is an ace. Billingsley, Marcum, Gallardo close enough to give Giants crummy homestand.
Blue Jays -- SEA SEA SEA @TEX @TEX @TEX
-- vs. Pineda vs. Vargas vs. Fister vs. Lewis vs. Harrison vs. Ogando
Final three games are at Texas, which helps. Still, Blue Jays better pray the bad Ogando shows up.
Pirates CIN CIN CIN -- STL STL STL
vs. Willis vs. Leake vs. Cueto -- vs. Carpenter vs. Garcia vs. Lohse
With Carpenter back in form, he, Cueto and Garcia should make up for other pitchers' shortcomings.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Scott on Twitter ( @cbsscottwhite ) and can e-mail us your questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Hitting Planner in the subject field.

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Player News
Royals designate Johnny Giavotella for assignment Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) Royals infielder Johnny Giavotella was designated for assignment Thursday. Giavotella appeared in just 12 games for Kansas City in 2014 and has a .238/.277/.334/.612 slash line over four MLB seasons (125 games).

Veteran outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Orioles radar
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:07 pm ET) The Orioles are showing some interest in signing 41-year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The Orioles are looking for an outfielder after losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis in free agency. Ichiro is 156 hits shy of 3,000 career hits and looking to extend his MLB career.


Germano, Lowe, Rivero sign minor-league deals with Mariners
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:41 pm ET) The Mariners announced Monday they signed pitcher Justin Germano, pitcher Mark Lowe and infielder Carlos Rivero to minor-league deals, which included invites to spring training.

Dodgers acquire Matt Long from Angels, then deal him to Brewers
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:38 pm ET) The Dodgers announced Thursday they acquired minor-league infielder/outfielder Matt Long from the Angels to complete the Dec. 9 trade for catcher Drew Butera.

However, Long wasn't with Los Angeles for long, as they traded him and pitcher Jarret Martin to the Brewers for minor-league catcher Shawn Zarraga.


Rockies sign trio of players to minor-league contracts Thursday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:37 pm ET) The Rockies have signed left-handed pitcher John Lannan, right-handed pitcher Justin Miller and catcher Audry Perez to minor-league contracts. Each of the players also received an invitation to the team's spring training. 

Lannan made five appearances in 2014 with the Mets, going 1-0 with a 15.75 ERA. He was also a member of the Nationals from 2007-2012, where in 2009 he threw 206 1/3 innings, going 9-13.

Miller made eight appearances for the Tigers in 2014, posting a 5.11 ERA with five strikeouts while Perez appeared in just one game last year with the Cardinals.


Agent: Outfielder Delmon Young hoping to remain in Baltimore
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:27 pm ET) Outfielder Delmon Young is reportedly not close to making a decision on where to play in 2015, but his agent said the Orioles "absolutely" remain in play, according to MASN.com.

The 29-year-old veteran is hoping to get a multi-year extension with the club, but is still keeping his options open, his agent said.

"Everything has been very positive," said Joel Wolfe of Wasserman Media Group, who met with the Orioles during the Winter Meetings in San Diego. "They value Delmon and realize what he brings to the table, and hopefully it's just a matter of getting it right."

Young hit .302 in 83 games, with 11 doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBI.


Jason Grilli's reps still talking to the Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:27 pm ET) Free agent reliever Jason Grilli and the Yankees are still open to discussions about the veteran reliever being part of the team's bullpen, one of Grilli's agents told NJ.com on Thursday.

"We last spoke during the (Winter Meetings) and the door is still open to discussions," said Xavier D. James, who co-represents Grilli with retired outfielder Gary Sheffield. "We will be patient."

The 12-year vet Grilli spent the 2014 season with the Pirates and Angels, going 1-5 with a 4.00 ERA and 12 saves in 62 appearances. He was an All-Star closer for the Pirates in 2013.


Kris Medlen lands two-year deal with Royals
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:15 pm ET) The Royals announced Thursday they signed pitcher Kris Medlen to a two-year contract, which includes a mutual option for 2017.

Medlen missed all of the 2014 season with the Braves due to Tommy John surgery. He became a free agent after he was non-tendered in early December. 

Medlen is 30-13 with a 2.96 ERA in 61 career starts and 4-7 with a 2.92 ERA in 91 relief appearances. Since the start of 2010, Medlen's .674 winning percentage (31-15) ranks third in MLB among pitchers with 40-plus decisions.


Report: Dodgers trade for Phillies shortstop Rollins remains in place
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:01 pm ET) The Dodgers acquisition of Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins has yet to be finalized because of another Dodgers trade with the Padres is being reportedly held up due to an issue with Matt Kemp's physical. One of the players in the Kemp deal the Dodgers are acquiring -- Zach Eflin -- is expected to be part of the trade for Rollins.

However, whether or not Eflin eventually is part of the trade with Philadelphia, the Rollins deal remains in place, sources told CSNPhilly.com. The Phillies and Dodgers have discussed other players as part of the deal in case the Kemp trade to the Padres doesn't go through.

Although, despite the issues with Kemp's physical, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reported Thursday the trade with the Padres likely won't be derailed.


George Kottaras nets minor-league deal from White Sox
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:48 pm ET) The White Sox have agreed to a minor-league deal with catcher George Kottaras, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training.

 
 
 
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