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Week 17 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 23.

Catcher

Not much happening at the catcher position right now. Ryan Doumit, who has been out since May 29 with a fractured ankle, is on a rehab assignment and could return sometime this week, but chances are Michael McKenry will continue to see a large percentage of the starts behind the plate even when Doumit returns. Don't get too excited yet, mixed-league owners. In Tampa Bay, Robinson Chirinos has been starting over Kelly Shoppach with John Jaso sidelined by a strained oblique. Chirinos is a notable name after coming over in the Matt Garza deal this offseason, but his numbers weren't that great at Triple-A Durham. He's also arriving kind of late at age 27. You can leave him for AL-only leagues.

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

Heating up
Joe Mauer: .400 (22 for 55), 2 2Bs, .921 OPS, 8 BBs, 7 Ks in 15 games
Mike Napoli: .469 (15 for 32), 3 HRs, 10 RBI, 1.416 OPS, 5 BBs, 5 Ks in 10 games
Humberto Quintero: .471 (8 for 17), 1 HR, 1.176 OPS in six games
Miguel Montero: .467 (7 for 15), 2 HRs, 7 RBI, 1.567 OPS in five games

Cooling off
Alex Avila: .160 (8 for 50), .564 OPS, 13 BBs, 14 Ks in 17 games
Carlos Santana: .138 (4 for 29), 1 HR, .529 OPS, 3 BBs, 6 Ks in eight games
Kurt Suzuki: .067 (1 for 15), 1 2B, .258 OPS in four games

Worth a second look
Mike Napoli (70 percent started): The only thing stopping Napoli right now is his manager, who for some reason has started him just four times since the All-Star break despite his good work at the plate. But the Rangers face two left-handed pitchers this week, which means Napoli will get to start at least two games at first base. He'll likely start at least two more behind the plate. As hot as he is and with good matchups against the Twins and Blue Jays, four games is enough to make him an advisable starter at catcher.
Jorge Posada (32 percent): Posada has been pretty miserable lately, batting .149 (7 for 47) in July, but he has a chance to turn it around with good matchups this week against pitchers like Jeremy Guthrie, Jim Johnson and Jake Arrieta. In all, the Yankees face five righties, and Posada has handled them pretty well all year, putting together a .765 OPS compared to .348 against lefties (which explains his current platoon situation). If you need a sleeper at catcher, he could be in line for a bounce-back week.

Approach with caution
A.J. Pierzynski (52 percent started): Not only has Pierzynski gone cold after a hot June, but the splits aren't in his favor this week with three lefties on the schedule. He's hitting only .217 against lefties compared to .298 against righties. Add the fact the White Sox are playing only six games, and Pierzynski is a player to avoid in mixed leagues.
Chris Iannetta (46 percent): Iannetta, whose batting average has been on the wrong side of .250 pretty much all season, has been especially bad lately, batting .194 (13 for 67) over his last 22 games. And the worst part is he has only one home run during that stretch. Homers and walks are about all he has to offer, so with only one half of that equation, he's sunk. He likely would be anyway this week with the Rockies on the road, where he's batting .150 with a .562 OPS. Plus, three of those games are at PETCO Park.

Injury concerns
Ivan Rodriguez, who has been out since July 6 with a strained oblique, had a setback over the weekend, leaving him without a clear timetable. The good news is Wilson Ramos, who's the better Fantasy option of the two, will continue to play regularly for the Nationals. The bad news is Ramos has slowed down recently, batting .059 (1 for 17) over his last four games. He's more like No. 2 option in mixed leagues than a No. 1.

First base

Looking to replace an injured Aubrey Huff for the short term, the Giants recalled Brandon Belt to the majors on Tuesday and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup. Belt responded with a homer, which could be an indication his latest stint in the big leagues will go better than his first two. He still has arguably as much upside as any rookie hitter in Fantasy, so even though he's not an automatic pickup in mixed leagues, he's not a bad gamble either. Unfortunately, Huff only missed two games with the back issue, so Belt will have to continue to take advantage of the opportunities he's given to wrestle the job away from the veteran. Anthony Rizzo, meanwhile, just endured a Brandon Belt period of his own and was sent back to the minors. The Padres recalled Kyle Blanks to take his spot. Blanks bounced back from Tommy John surgery to put up big numbers at Triple-A Tucson and has shown the ability to hit for power even at PETCO Park, making him an intriguing deeper sleeper.

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

Heating up
Freddie Freeman: .333 (22 for 66), 6 HRs, 17 RBI, 1.072 OPS in 17 games
Michael Morse: .392 (20 for 51), 2 HRs, 1.076 OPS in 13 games
Gaby Sanchez: .450 (9 for 20), 3 HRs, 1.476 OPS, 1 BB, 2 Ks in five games

Cooling off
Justin Smoak: .106 (9 for 85), two extra-base hits, .308 OPS, 7 BBs, 23 Ks in 24 games
James Loney: .111 (4 for 36), one extra-base hit, .314 OPS in 13 games
Ryan Howard: .111 (3 for 27), 1 HR, 3 BBs, 9 Ks in eight games
Prince Fielder: .074 (2 for 27), .241 OPS, 3 BBs, 8 Ks in seven games

Worth a second look
Mark Trumbo (56 percent started): Trumbo has slowed down since his hot streak just before the All-Star break, but he still has five homers in his last 13 games. He also has an .819 OPS against righties compared to .686 against lefties, so he should be able to take advantage of the five righties on the schedule for the Angels this week, which include low-end pitchers like Fausto Carmona, Josh Tomlin, Brad Penny and Rick Porcello. Trumbo will never be a high-end option at a deep position, but he's worth using this week.
Casey Kotchman (23 percent): The deeper we get into the season, the more believable Kotchman's breakthrough performance becomes. Lefties are the one thing holding him back -- he's batting .268 with a .588 OPS against them compared to .349 and .929 against righties -- and the Rays face only one of them in their seven games this week. Kotchman's lack of power keeps him from being more than low-end option in mixed leagues, but if consistency is what you seek, have at him.

Approach with caution
Carlos Pena (63 percent started): The ever-streaky Pena doesn't give much reason for optimism this week. Not only is he in a slump, batting .214 (6 for 28) since the All-Star break, but he's on one of the teams playing only six games, facing near-aces Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in two of them. You should probably shy away from the all-or-nothing slugger in mixed leagues.
Justin Smoak (27 percent): If you're one of the Fantasy owners still holding out hope for Smoak despite his debilitating slump ... well, you may still have the last laugh. He has upside, after all. But even you have to admit he's unlikely to break out of it in a six-game week against the Yankees and Rays pitching staffs. Surely you can do better at a deep position like first base.

Injury concerns
None.

Second base

Most Added Hitters
* as of July 22
Player % increase
1. Emilio Bonifacio, 3B, Marlins 14
2. Josh Reddick, OF, Red Sox 14
3. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays 12
4. Alex Presley, OF, Pirates 12
5. Daniel Murphy, 1B, Mets 11
6. Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays 11
7. Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres 7
8. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians 7
9. Mike Napoli, C, Rangers 6
10. Nate Schierholtz, OF, Giants 6

The Indians finally made the move Fantasy owners were waiting for, promoting prospect Jason Kipnis to the majors on Wednesday. He's supposed to get the majority of the starts at second base going forward, though Orlando Cabrera will spell him from time to time. Kipnis' offensive ability was never in question during his time in the minors. He consistently hit .300 with a .380 on-base percentage and decent home-run pop. Of all the second baseman called up from the minors this season, his potential is second only to Dustin Ackley's, making him worth a flier even in mixed leagues if you need a middle infielder. The Astros called up a prospect of their own this week, promoting Jose Altuve from Double-A Corpus Christi after trading Jeff Keppinger to the Giants on Tuesday. Altuve put up ridiculous numbers between two stops in the minors, but the diminutive 21-year-old may have been rushed to the majors. He's hardly a must-add in mixed leagues, but he's certainly worth watching. Keppinger's value doesn't change much with the move. He'll be an everyday player in San Francisco, just like he was in Houston.

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

Heating up
Dustin Pedroia: .395 (34 for 86), 7 HRs, 5 SBs, 1.179 OPS, 10 BBs, 7 Ks during 20-game hit streak
Dan Uggla: .347 (17 for 49), 6 HRs, 14 runs scored, 1.235 OPS during 14-game hit streak
Carlos Guillen: .360 (9 for 25), 1 HR, .850 OPS, 1 BB, 3 Ks during seven-game hit streak
Chase Utley: .571 (8 for 14), 2 HRs, 1 SB, 1.911 OPS in four games

Cooling off
Aaron Hill: .119 (5 for 42), one extra-base hit, 2 SBs, .367 OPS in 11 games
Brandon Phillips: .162 (6 for 37), 1 HR, 1 SB, .502 OPS in nine games
Danny Espinosa: .091 (2 for 22), .221 OPS, 1 BB, 9 Ks in five games

Worth a second look
Daniel Murphy (70 percent started): Murphy isn't a threat for 20 homers or 20 steals, which immediately limits his ceiling in mixed leagues, but as his batting average rises, so does his Fantasy value. He's batting .351 (39 for 111) over his last 27 games and should be able to continue the hot hitting with favorable matchups against the Reds and Nationals pitching staffs. With eligibility at first base, second base and third base, chances are he deserves to start for somebody in your league. Perhaps it's you.
Dustin Ackley (48 percent): Granted, the Mariners don't have the best matchups this week, but so far in Ackley's young career, it hasn't made a difference. He hasn't stopped producing since arriving June 17, and after hitting his third homer on Wednesday, he's now batting .305 (18 for 59) with an .824 OPS over his last 15 games. Maybe those numbers don't make him a bona-fide stud, but they certainly make him a worthy starter in mixed leagues, which is more than his starting percentage would suggest.

Approach with caution
Jemile Weeks (42 percent started): Weeks has actually been hot lately after an early-July slump, batting .452 (14 for 31) over his last seven games, but once again, the Athletics are on the bad side of the matchups this week. With pitchers like Jeremy Hellickson, David Price, James Shields and Francisco Liriano on the schedule, Weeks should probably remain on your bench.
Gordon Beckham (36 percent): For as miserable as Beckham has been all season, he actually hasn't been so bad against right-handed pitchers (.280) or on the road (.276). Unfortunately, he's facing three left-handers (.153) in his six games at home (.220) this week. Neither of those splits makes much sense considering he's a right-handed hitter in a good hitter's park, but this late into the season, they're certainly valid. Despite showing signs of coming around recently, Beckham belongs on your bench.

Injury concerns
Kelly Johnson is the latest player to deal with a calf injury, which, as we've seen with Derek Jeter and Ryan Braun, doesn't necessarily go away within a day or two. The team referred to the injury more as "soreness" than a "strain," though, so he might end up just fine. If you have a viable alternative, you should probably play it safe and sit him. The infinitely streaky player wasn't off to the best start in the second half anyway ... Orlando Hudson banged his head on a sliding catch Thursday and had to be carted off the field, but the injury isn't considered serious enough for him to go on the DL. The 33-year-old was actually available for Sunday's game, though he still hasn't started since Thursday's incident. His production has slipped enough at this stage of his career that he's just an NL-only option when healthy.

Third base

The long wait for David Wright is over. Out since May 15 with a stress fracture in his back, he returned to the lineup Friday and had a homer and six RBI over the weekend. Rust was the biggest concern for him after such a long layoff, but since that doesn't seem to be an issue, you should probably get him active right away. After long contending Brandon Inge's glove was worth the suspect hitting, the Tigers finally decided enough was enough Wednesday, acquiring Wilson Betemit from the Royals and designating Inge for assignment. Betemit was an intriguing Fantasy option down the stretch last year, when he finished the season with a .297 batting average and .889 OPS, but the power was lacking this year when he got an opportunity to play on a semi-regular basis before Mike Moustakas' arrival. Now that he's a surefire starter, Betemit could surprise in Fantasy. At worst, he's a poor man's Alberto Callaspo. At best, he's a worthwhile starter in mixed leagues. If you're hurting at third base, give him a look. If nothing else, you can at least be confident the Betemit experiment in Detroit will go better than the Kyle Seager experiment went in Seattle. The Mariners optioned the 23-year-old to the minors on Thursday after he mustered only three hits in 26 at-bats. Adam Kennedy and Chone Figgins will likely go back to splitting time at third base.

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

Heating up
Aramis Ramirez: .363 (37 for 102), 13 HRs, 1.214 OPS, 2 BBs, 18 Ks in 27 games
Alberto Callaspo: .405 (15 for 37), 4 2Bs, 1 SB, .990 OPS in 10 games
Michael Young: .500 (10 for 20), 3 2Bs, 1.215 OPS in five games
Evan Longoria: .462 (6 for 13), 2 HRs, 1.611 OPS in four games

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Cooling off
Mike Moustakas: .091 (5 for 55), 0 BBs, 7 Ks in 14 games
Kevin Youkilis: .200 (5 for 25), two extra-base hits, .590 OPS in six games
Ryan Roberts: 0 for 16 in five games

Worth a second look
Danny Valencia (50 percent started): Valencia has been a popular addition off the waiver wire recently even though he's batting only .234 on the season. His week-by-week scoring breakdown actually doesn't look so bad, in part because he tears left-handers to shreds, batting .330 with a .936 OPS against them. With four left-handers on the schedule this weekend, including three at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, he could be in line for a big week at a weak position.
Edwin Encarnacion (31 percent): Encarnacion is on the deeper end of the sleeper spectrum, but if you were ever going to look into starting him in a mixed league, now would be the time. The notoriously streaky player is batting .362 (17 for 47) over his last 12 games, which means he could be due for a power spike in the coming days. The three games against Jake Arrieta, Alfredo Simon and Brad Bergesen to begin the week present him with a good opportunity for it.

Approach with caution
Ryan Roberts (59 percent started): After their brief infatuation with Sean Burroughs, the Diamondbacks have gone back to playing Roberts more or less every day, which of course gives him renewed Fantasy appeal. But the fact of the matter is the Diamondbacks are playing only six games this week, including three at PETCO Park. Roberts has hit .121 (4 for 33) with a .316 OPS at the Padres' home stadium over his career. In shallower leagues, you can probably do better this week.
David Freese (34 percent): Freese got off to a good start when he first returned from a broken hand in late June, but he has fallen on hard times lately, batting .190 (11 for 58) over his last 16 games. Considering he has yet to demonstrate much power in his brief and injury-plagued career, he has to be hitting for average for you to bother with him in mixed leagues. Clearly, he's not doing that now.

Injury concerns
The Rangers placed Adrian Beltreon the DL with hamstring injury and called up Chris Davis to take his spot on the roster. Fantasy owners are plenty familiar with Davis, who has been labeled a Quadruple-A player for the disparity between his major- and minor-league numbers. A player with his ability is always worth monitoring in Fantasy, though, even if you wouldn't pick him up outside of AL-only leagues just yet ... Scott Rolen had to go on the DL this weekend with the usual shoulder troubles, and the Reds called up semi-prospect Todd Frazier to take his spot. Frazier has some pop, but probably not enough to make an immediate impact in mixed leagues. His stock in the minors has fallen over the last couple seasons ... Chipper Jones played five innings at Class A Rome on Sunday and is apparently ready to return after undergoing knee surgery just a few days before the All-Star break. The Braves plan to have him in their lineup on Monday, so in a deep enough league, you'll want to get him active. In standard mixed leagues, though, you should probably give him a week to prove his health. No matter how he says he's feels, he's a 39-year-old making a sooner-than-expected return from surgery and might end up needing more time off than anticipated ... Placido Polanco, who was diagnosed with a bulging disc just before the All-Star break, has responded well to the injection in his back and could begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Wednesday. He's a long shot to return this week, though, and isn't a must-start player even when healthy. Keep him reserved.

Shortstop

All the debate over whether or not Stephen Drew should be starting against left-handed pitchers or starting at all in Fantasy is pretty much moot now. The 28-year-old broke his right ankle Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season. Willie Bloomquist figures to see the majority of the at-bats in Drew's absence, but 35-year-old journeyman Cody Ransom was just promoted from Triple-A Reno, where he was putting up monster numbers. Bloomquist brings some steals potential to a weak position, but he hasn't fared particularly well in his past opportunities to play every day. You can leave him for deeper Rotisserie and NL-only leagues.

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

Heating up
Emilio Bonifacio: .386 (32 for 83), 3 2Bs, 16 SBs, .901 OPS, 15 BBs, 17 Ks during 22-game hit streak
Jimmy Rollins: .397 (23 for 58), 4 HRs, 3 SBs, 1.100 OPS in 13 games
Troy Tulowitzki: .366 (15 for 41), 2 HRs, 10 RBI, 1.081 OPS in 10 games
Jhonny Peralta: .520 (13 for 25), 2 HRs, 8 RBI, 1.400 OPS in seven games

Cooling off
Alex Gonzalez: .145 (17 for 117), 1 HR, .392 OPS, 6 BBs, 31 Ks in 30 games
Elvis Andrus: .125 (3 for 24), one extra-base hit, 2 SBs, .359 OPS in six games
Hanley Ramirez: .059 (1 for 17), 1 HR, .393 OPS in five games

Worth a second look
Erick Aybar (73 percent started): Slowly but surely, Aybar is creeping up the rankings. He has now scored more Head-to-Head points than Alexei Ramirez this season even though he missed some time in April with an oblique injury. The 27-year-old is batting .333 (22 for 66) with four steals over his last 17 games and clearly deserves to start in just about every Fantasy league, especially with favorable matchups this week against the Indians and Tigers pitching staffs.
Eduardo Nunez (30 percent): Nunez hasn't been consistent at the plate during his time replacing Alex Rodriguez (knee), but he's at least stealing bases. When he gets his swing going, he'll be a viable option even in mixed leagues, and he has a pretty good chance of getting going with favorable matchups this week against pitchers like Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Zach Britton, Jim Johnson and Jake Arrieta.

Approach with caution
Ryan Theriot (34 percent started): Theriot has never been a Fantasy gem, but what he lacked in upside he made up for in reliability. Now, though, he has company at shortstop. With David Freese back playing every day, the Cardinals have had to find other ways to get Daniel Descalso at-bats (for whatever reason) and have been starting him over Theriot every three or four days or so. Inconsistent at-bats would make Theriot's marginal numbers useless in mixed leagues, so you should probably look into other options.
Alexi Casilla (27 percent): Casilla is looking like another one of those players you'll have to constantly move in and out of the lineup based on matchups. This week, the story for the Twins is the four left-handed pitchers on tap. Casilla is batting .240 with a .587 OPS against lefties. The Twins are also away for all seven games, where Casilla is batting .213 with a .593 OPS. You can do better in most mixed leagues.

Injury concerns
Rookie Zack Cozart, who was off to an impressive start in his first two weeks in the majors, hyperextended his left elbow Saturday and was forced to go on the 15-day DL. Edgar Renteria and Paul Janish will likely split time in his absence, but neither hits well enough for mixed-league use.

Outfield

In a move that was delayed because of a fractured finger in early July, prospect Desmond Jennings finally got the call to the big leagues on Saturday, filling the Rays' season-long void in left field. The Rays say he's here to stay, and after he doubled, tripled and stole a base in his debut, you can understand why. Batting leadoff for a playoff contender, a player with his combination of speed, power and on-base ability should make an immediate impact in Fantasy. Of course, it means the Sam Fuld-Justin Ruggiano era is over, if you have any reason to care. Just when everything finally seemed to be going right for Grady Sizemore -- the string of good health, the recent hot hitting -- the injury-prone 28-year-old completely fell apart -- first with a bone bruise in his right knee on Sunday and then with abdominal surgery on Thursday. He'll miss 4-6 weeks with the injuries, putting him out until September, most likely, and who knows how productive he'll be when he returns? He had already been anything but a sure thing this season, and now he has a long layoff ahead. Ezequiel Carrera figures to start in his absence, and he could provide some cheap steals for owners in Rotisserie leagues. Carl Crawford returned to the lineup Monday, seemingly leaving hot-hitting Josh Reddick without a place to play. But the 24-year-old apparently showed enough during his time in the lineup that veteran J.D. Drew is the one at risk of losing playing time. Drew has been useless in Fantasy this year, so Fantasy owners would welcome the switch. Because Reddick likely wouldn't start against left-handed pitchers, though, he would remain more of an AL-only option.

Must-Start Options: Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Lance Berkman, Andrew McCutchen, Shane Victorino, Justin Upton, Carl Crawford, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Michael Bourn, Chris Young, Jay Bruce

Heating up
Michael Cuddyer: .360 (27 for 75), 4 HRs, 18 RBI, 1.009 OPS, 12 BBs, 13 Ks in 21 games
Jacoby Ellsbury: .413 (33 for 80), 7 HRs, 3 SBs, 1.230 OPS in 18 games
Juan Pierre: .357 (20 for 56), 1 3B, 1 2B, 4 SBs in 13 games
Brett Gardner: .415 (17 for 41), 3 2Bs, 8 SBs, .966 OPS, 5 BBs, 7 Ks in 11 games
Cameron Maybin: .405 (17 for 42), 1 HR, 9 SBs, .919 OPS during nine-game hit streak
Michael Bourn: .395 (15 for 38), 2 2Bs, 2 SBs, .858 OPS, 1 BB, 8 Ks during eight-game hit streak
Adam Jones: .310 (9 for 29), 4 HRs, 1.126 OPS, 2 BBs, 3 Ks in eight games
Hideki Matsui: .421 (8 for 19), 2 HRs, 9 RBI, 1.237 OPS in five games
Dexter Fowler: .563 (9 for 16), 3 3Bs, 2 2Bs, 2 SBs, 1.674 OPS in four games

Cooling off
Andre Ethier: .163 (8 for 49), 2 HRs, .561 OPS in 14 games
Bobby Abreu: .125 (6 for 48), one extra-base hit, 1 SB, .409 OPS in 14 games
Hunter Pence: .136 (6 for 44), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 SBs, .474 OPS in 12 games
Alfonso Soriano: .097 (3 for 31), 1 HR, 1 RBI, .323 OPS in 10 games
Torii Hunter: .065 (2 for 31), 1 HR, 1 SB, .410 OPS, 13 Ks in nine games
Cody Ross: .133 (4 for 30), 1 HR, .510 OPS, 9 Ks in nine games
Andrew McCutchen: .154 (4 for 26), one extra-base hit, .434 OPS in seven games
B.J. Upton: .067 (2 for 30), no extra-base hits, 1 SB, .192 OPS in seven games
Ben Revere: .071 (2 for 28), 1 SB, 1 BB, 2 Ks in seven games

Worth a second look
Nick Swisher (78 percent started): Swisher hasn't gotten much attention from Fantasy owners since the All-Star break even though he hasn't really cooled off from his hot streak before it, batting .351 (13 for 37) with two homers in 10 games. He's a notoriously streaky player, so you'll want to start him when he's going well. Plus, he'll get to take advantage of some good matchups, facing the Orioles pitching staff four times in a seven-game week.
Brett Gardner (77 percent): Gardner is on the verge of doing a complete 360, entering the season as a popular breakout candidate only to lose the confidence of the Yankees and Fantasy owners with his poor April only to regain it by hitting .313 in 74 games since. The Yankees are talking about moving him back to the leadoff spot and have even been starting him against left-handed pitchers lately. Just for good measure, they face five righties this week, three of them Orioles. Start him. All leagues.
Angel Pagan (52 percent): Pagan has been anything but consistent since returning from a strained oblique in late May, but he has shown enough promise that you can at least trust him to take advantage of favorable matchups. He has those favorable matchups this week, facing pitchers like Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Chien-Ming Wang and Jason Marquis, so if you're on the fence about him, you should probably lean toward starting him. His battle with dehydration on Sunday shouldn't be an issue going forward.
Matt Joyce (37 percent): Maybe it's a lost cause. Maybe I'm just stubborn. But the fact of the matter is Joyce is batting .314 with a .918 OPS against righties this season, which means the one lefty on the schedule this week won't have much say in whether or not his struggles continue. Joyce has been a non-factor in Fantasy for several weeks now, but he does have two homers since the All-Star break, which could indicate another hot streak is coming. A week like this one is exactly the kind of week he could take off again.
Nyjer Morgan (17 percent): Carlos Gomez's broken collarbone might seem like a non-issue to Fantasy owners, but it could boost the value of Morgan, a player who already wasn't getting as many looks as he deserved. With his platoon partner down, Morgan could get a chance to play every day, which might hurt his batting average but would help his value overall. Either way, the Brewers face five righties this week -- and some iffy ones in Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Jordan Lyles and Brett Myers. Morgan should be able to put his .339 batting average against righties to good use.

Approach with caution
Vernon Wells (69 percent started): Wells has seen a spike of power with six home runs in July, but considering he's batting .246 for the month, it's an all-or-nothing game for him. He'll likely wind up on the wrong side of that equation this week considering five of the seven pitchers the Angels face are right-handers. He's batting .197 with a .600 OPS against righties compared to .286 and .858 against lefties.
Colby Rasmus (45 percent): Boy, the Cardinals have soured on Rasmus. They're not even treating him like an everyday player anymore, sitting him in favor of Jon Jay in six of their last nine games. Granted, he's batting .181 since May 14, so he might be a player you'd choose to sit anyway. As his situation currently stands, though, he's borderline useless in mixed leagues. He might need a trade to pull him out of this rut.
Seth Smith (41 percent): Smith's numbers away from Coors Field aren't so bad -- he's batting .276 with a .792 OPS on the road compared to .309 and .885 at home -- which might lead you to believe he's worth starting during week in which the Rockies are facing five right-handed pitchers in six games. But three of those games are at PETCO Park, which is murder to left-handed power hitters. That .792 OPS, which is barely serviceable in the first place, is likely to shrink to something much lower.
Cameron Maybin (38 percent): Sure, Maybin is hot right now, especially after picking up his power numbers over the weekend. But his poor track record alone makes him a long shot to keep it going. Factor in his splits and matchups this week, not to mention his recent hip injury, and you'll probably want to keep him reserved in mixed leagues. The Padres are at home for six of their seven games, where he's batting only .237, and facing pitchers like Cliff Lee, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jason Kubel (21 percent): Kubel returned to the lineup Friday after missing about two months with a foot injury. In addition to the typical rust that goes along with such a long layoff, Kubel will have to overcome the four left-handed pitchers on the schedule this week. Kubel has struggled against lefties throughout his career, and this season is no exception. He has a .645 OPS against them compared to .906 against righties. He didn't get off to a particularly good start over the weekend, so he's a player to avoid in mixed leagues.

Injury concerns
Carlos Gonzalez, who had started six straight games after missing eight of the previous nine with a bone bruise in his right wrist, reinjured the wrist on a swing Thursday and had to go on the DL. It's obviously bad news for his Fantasy owners, but the silver lining is Ty Wigginton figures to get close to regular playing time again with the injury. Because he's eligible at third base, he's viable even in mixed leagues when getting consistent at-bats. Ryan Spilborghs also figures to get more playing time with Gonzalez sidelined, but he's more of an NL-only option ... Jose Tabata suffered another setback while rehabbing a strained quadriceps Wednesday, which means Alex Presley's job is secure for at least another week. Of course, now Presley has an injury of his own, sitting out both Saturday and Sunday with a jammed thumb. Because he hasn't been hitting as well recently anyway, you might not want to use him outside of deeper mixed leagues ... Jordan Schafer slid awkwardly on a stolen base Wednesday and ended up with a finger injury the next day. Granted, Schafer is just an NL-only player anyway, but since he sat out both Friday and Saturday with the injury, you'll want to avoid him even in those deeper leagues ... Gerardo Parra was hit by a pitch on the wrist Saturday and was given a day off Sunday. X-rays on the wrist came back negative, so he isn't expected to miss much time. Because he's batting .625 (5 for 8) over his last three games, you might want to consider starting him in NL-only leagues ... Luke Scott finally decided he couldn't keep fighting his way through a torn labrum and his shoulder and will undergo season-ending surgery. The Orioles called up Josh Bell to take his place at DH. Bell, who is eligible at third base, has some power, but with a .745 OPS at Triple-A this year and a miserable showing in the majors last year, he's strictly an AL-only option.

Best 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 17
Team 7/25 7/26 7/27 7/28 7/29 7/30 7/31
Red Sox KC KC KC KC @CHW @CHW @CHW
vs. Davies vs. Duffy vs. Chen vs. Hochevar vs. Floyd vs. Jackson vs. Humber
Four games against Royals enough to make anybody's week, especially when aceless White Sox follow.
Rangers MIN MIN MIN MIN @TOR @TOR @TOR
vs. Blackburn vs. Pavano vs. Duensing vs. Baker vs. Villanueva vs. Cecil vs. Morrow
Other than Baker and Morrow, a bunch of hittable pitchers here, making four games at home even better.
Mets @CIN @CIN @CIN @CIN @WAS @WAS @WAS
vs. Leake vs. Cueto vs. Arroyo vs. Bailey vs. Wang vs. Marquis vs. Zimmermann
Some good arms here, but Arroyo, Wang, Marquis are low-end enough for Mets to make most of seven games.
Angels @CLE @CLE @CLE @DET @DET @DET @DET
vs. Carmona vs. Tomlin vs. Huff vs. Penny vs. Porcello vs. Below vs. Verlander
With Verlander looming, Angels have to make most of first six. Fortunately, matchups should allow that.
Yankees SEA SEA SEA -- BAL BAL (x2) BAL
vs. Vargas vs. Fister vs. Hernandez -- vs. Guthrie vs. Britton, Johnson vs. Arrieta
Mariners staff could present challenges early, but four games vs. Orioles should more than make up for it.
Worst 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 17
Team 7/25 7/26 7/27 7/28 7/29 7/30 7/31
Pirates @ATL @ATL @ATL @ATL @PHI @PHI @PHI
vs. Hudson vs. Hanson vs. Jurrjens vs. Lowe vs. Halladay vs. Lee vs. Worley
Rarely is seven-game team No. 1, but matchups just aren't fair. Five aces, with Worley also pitching like one.
Marlins -- @WAS @WAS @WAS @ATL @ATL @ATL
-- vs. Zimmermann vs. Hernandez vs. Lannan vs. Beachy vs. Hudson vs. Hanson
When four of your six games are against Zimmermann, Beachy, Hudson and Hanson, you're in for a bad week.
Padres @PHI ARI ARI ARI COL COL COL
vs. Lee vs. Saunders vs. Kennedy vs. Hudson vs. Hammel vs. Jimenez vs. Nicasio
Six games at home reason enough to bench most Padres. Matchups, unfavorable as they are, only secondary.
Mariners @NYY @NYY @NYY -- TB TB TB
vs. Garcia vs. Sabathia vs. Hughes -- vs. Niemann vs. Cobb vs. Hellickson
Six-game week hurts Mariners' chances. Pitchers after Sabathia and Hellickson are at least serviceable.
Athletics TB TB TB TB MIN MIN MIN
vs. Hellickson vs. Price vs. Shields vs. Davis vs. Liriano vs. Blackburn vs. Pavano
If Athletics are able overcome top three, they might end up having a decent week. But that's a big if.

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
Giants announce World Series rotation
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Giants manager Bruce Bochy will maintain his current rotation for the World Series, which means Madison Bumgarner and Jake Peavy will start Games 1 and 2 in Kansas City, the San Francisco Chronicle reports Saturday. Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong will pitch Games 3 and 4 at home.

Bochy is also expected to keep veteran Tim Lincecum on the roster. Lincecum has yet to make an appearance this postseason for San Francisco.


Royals tab Shields, Ventura for World Series Games 1, 2
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) The Royals will start pitchers James Shields in Game 1 and Yordano Ventura in Game 2 of the World Series, Yahoo! Sports reports. The Royals are making their first World Series appearance in 29 years.

Cord Phelps elects free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Orioles infielder Cord Phelps has elected free agency. Phelps hit .259/.361/.388 with seven home runs, 51 RBI and two stolen bases in 343 at-bats with Triple-A Norfolk.

Kelvin De La Cruz elects free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Orioles pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz has elected free agency. He delivered a 5.98 ERA and 49:31 K:BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings with Triple-A Norfolk.

Julio DePaula elects free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/18/2014) Orioles pitcher Julio DePaula has elected free agency. DePaula, whose only work as a major-league game in 2007 with the Twins, posted a 4.97 ERA and 43:13 K:BB ratio in 38 innings with Double-A Bowie.

Reds pitcher Trevor Bell elects free agency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) Reds pitcher Trevor Bell has elected to become a free-agent.

Bell pitched just two-thirds of an inning in the majors last season due to elbow inflammation. He'll seek a deal with another club during the offseason.


Cardinals may not be able to keep Pat Neshek
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek may have to test the open market this winter, according to MLB.com.

After his performance last season, there's a sense that Neshek has priced himself out of St. Louis' bullpen. Neshek was exceptional with the club, posting a 1.87 ERA over 67 1/3 innings. The performance earned him a trip to the All-Star Game. The team will likely attempt to re-sign Neshek, but there's a sense he can get a more lucrative deal elsewhere. 


Report: Former Orioles infielder Brian Roberts to retire
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) Former Orioles infielder Brian Roberts is set to retire, according to MASN.

Roberts played 14 seasons in the majors, all but one of which came with Baltimore. He finished out his career with the Yankees last season. Roberts was elected to two All-Star teams during his tenure in Baltimore. He finished 18th in the MVP voting in 2005 after hitting .314/.387/.515. Injuries kept him down the last few seasons of his career. Roberts suffered two concussions, which contributed to him missing time in both 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

He retires with a career .276/.347/.409 batting line over 5,531 at-bats. 


Phillies send Andres Blanco to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) The Phillies sent infielder Andres Blanco to Triple-A Friday. 

With the move, the club opens up a spot on the 40-man roster. Blanco played 25 games in the majors last year, hitting .277 over 47 at-bats. 


Rangers, Colby Lewis have exchanged numbers
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/17/2014) The Rangers have had some preliminary contract talks with pitcher Colby Lewis, according to ESPN.

Lewis put up less-than-stellar numbers last season, but was coming off hip and elbow surgery. He was better over the second half, posting a 3.86 ERA over 86 1/3 innings. Both Lewis and the club have shown interest in a possible reunion, and have exchanged contract figures. 


 
 
 
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