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Week 25 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.

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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 Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Catcher

Not much happening at the catcher position at this late point in the season. Recent callup Wilin Rosario seems to have emerged as the preferred option in Colorado, starting six of the last seven games over Chris Iannetta. Unfortunately, Rosario hasn't provided much more than a couple homers during that stretch and remains too raw for mixed-league use. Iannetta is probably a lost cause at this point, at least for the rest of 2011.

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

Heating up
Miguel Montero: .350 (28 for 80), 4 HRs, 20 RBI, .992 OPS in 16 games
Alex Avila: .341 (15 for 44), 2 HRs, 12 RBI, 1.003 OPS, 5 BBs, 13 Ks in 12 games
Nick Hundley: .447 (17 for 38), 3 HRs, 1 SB, 1.237 OPS in 11 games
Mike Napoli: .560 (14 for 25), 4 HRs, 1 SB, 1.787 OPS, 8 BBs, 7 Ks during eight-game hit streak

Cooling off
Geovany Soto: .102 (6 for 59), 1 HR, .392 OPS, 7 BBs, 19 Ks in 20 games
A.J. Pierzynski: .170 (8 for 47), 4 2Bs, .455 OPS in 12 games
Jonathan Lucroy: .050 (1 for 20), .217 OPS in seven games

Worth a second look
Nick Hundley (20 percent started): Hundley has done nothing but mash since returning from elbow surgery in mid-August, batting .413 (38 for 92) with five homers and a 1.210 OPS over the course of about a month. He begins the extra-long Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 18-29) with three games at Coors Field and ends it with three games against the weak Cubs rotation, so he should have more mashing in his future. Granted, he's playing six of his nine games at PETCO Park, but he has actually done fine there this season, batting .309 with a .962 OPS. If you have a need at catcher, look no further.
Ryan Doumit (13 percent): Doumit has been on a nice little run since returning from a fractured ankle in August, batting .327 (33 for 101) with four homers in 33 games. His Fantasy production hasn't quite measured up to those numbers, but that might change this week with four left-handed pitchers on tap. Doumit has destroyed lefties to the tune of a .968 OPS this year. At the very least, he's a good sleeper for deeper leagues.

Approach with caution
Russell Martin (63 percent started): Martin scored a ton of Fantasy points during a short period of time in mid-August, but since his five-hit, two-homer performance on Aug. 25, he's batting .175 (7 for 40) in 13 games. He has been banged up recently, so if the Yankees clinch the division early, you have to think they'll give him some extra rest. Plus, they'll be facing a deep Rays rotation in seven of their 11 games this week, so you shouldn't expect Martin to do much damage even when he's in the lineup.
Geovany Soto (47 percent): Yup, the collapse continues for Soto, who has been a constant on this list recently. Not only has his batting average dipped from a miserable .243 to a pathetic .221 over the last three weeks, but he has almost zero chance of snapping out of it over the final scoring with pitchers like Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Chris Carpenter and Mat Latos on the schedule. Sit him already.

Injury concerns
None.

First base

The Twins still hope Justin Morneau can return from post-concussion symptoms this season, but now that they've acknowledged he might not, he's officially a lost cause in Fantasy for the rest of 2011 -- which is what you most likely expected when he first came down with the symptoms in late August. If you're desperate in an AL-only league, you can probably still pick up Chris Parmelee to fill in at first base, but he likely won't offer much power at the position.

Must-Start Options: Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Paul Konerko, Alex Gordon, Michael Young, Billy Butler

Heating up
Miguel Cabrera: .425 (31 for 73), 3 HRs, 16 RBI, 1.205 OPS, 12 BBs, 13 Ks in 19 games
Carlos Pena: .333 (13 for 39), 4 HRs, 1.348 OPS, 15 BBs, 12 Ks in 13 games
Justin Smoak: .368 (7 for 19), 2 HRs, 1.184 OPS in seven games

Cooling off
Brandon Allen: .131 (8 for 61), 4 2Bs, .417 OPS, 7 BBs, 29 Ks in 16 games
Billy Butler: .074 (2 for 27), no extra-base hits, .181 OPS in seven games
Mark Teixeira: .125 (3 for 24), 1 HR, .404 OPS, 1 BB, 10 Ks in six games

Worth a second look
Eric Hosmer (81 percent started): The Royals are the only team playing eight games this week. Every other team has nine or more. That might seem like justification to sit Hosmer, but it's not. The rookie has performed like a Fantasy stud down the stretch, batting .360 with seven homers in his last 89 at-bats. Sitting him now would be self-destructive, especially since the Royals have favorable matchups in those eight games against the Tigers, White Sox and Twins rotations.
Carlos Lee (77 percent): Don't look now, but Lee is performing like a high-end Fantasy option again, scoring 20-plus Head-to-Head points in three straight scoring periods. He has performed better against lefties than righties this season, but lately, it hasn't made a difference. With favorable matchups against pitchers like Travis Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Alex White, Esmil Rogers, Kevin Millwood and Jake Westbrook this week, the chances of Lee staying hot are high enough that you should probably keep him active.

Approach with caution
Freddie Freeman (71 percent started): The Braves still have a big enough lead in the wild-card race (and a big enough deficit in the NL East race) that they'll most likely know their playoff fate midway through Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 19-28). Considering Freeman is playing through a strained left hip flexor, he's one of the prime candidates for extra rest, and even if he doesn't get it, he'll have a hard time contributing much in a week against Anibal Sanchez, Javier Vazquez, Stephen Strasburg and three of the Phillies' best. Now isn't the best time to use him.
James Loney (38 percent): Yes, Loney had his day in the sun, but if the matchups this week are any indication, whatever remains of his hot streak is about to reach an abrupt end. He's batting .202 with a .516 OPS against lefties this season compared to .297 and .775 OPS against righties. Of the nine pitchers he faces, four are left-handed, and the five righties include Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Daniel Hudson. Oh, and he also plays three games at PETCO Park. Safe to say he's not an attractive option in mixed leagues this week.

Injury concerns
Todd Helton attempted to return from his latest bout with back stiffness Tuesday and couldn't finish the game. Manager Jim Tracy has already said he doesn't plan to play Helton regularly down the stretch. The 38-year-old has had a nice bounce-back season, but you clearly can't trust him in Fantasy right now ... Justin Smoak who has begun to show signs of life at the plate for the first time since his injury-plagued August, is dealing with another injury, this time to his groin. The Mariners consider it a mild strain, but if he doesn't return over the weekend, you should probably sit him in Fantasy. You should probably be sitting him in standard leagues anyway given the depth at first base.

Second base

Chase Utley returned to the lineup for the second game of a doubleheader Thursday after missing eight games with a mild concussion. He had been asymptomatic for several days before he returned, but the Phillies wanted to be extra cautious with him since they've nearly clinched the No. 1 seed in the NL already. That's sort of the problem for him going forward. A 32-year-old veteran like him isn't going to play every day with nothing on the line. Considering he hasn't been especially productive lately anyway, scoring less than 20 Head-to-Head points in each of the last six scoring periods, he's by no means a must-start in standard mixed leagues.

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

Heating up
Ian Kinsler: .353 (18 for 51), 8 HRs, 18 runs scored, 3 SBs, 1.306 OPS in 12 games
Mark Ellis: .393 (11 for 28), 2 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.076 OPS during seven-game hit streak
Howard Kendrick: .353 (6 for 17), 3 HRs, 1.271 OPS in four games

Cooling off
Orlando Hudson: .091 (4 for 44), 1 HR, .326 OPS in 14 games
Kelly Johnson: .105 (4 for 38), no extra-base hits, 1 SB, .296 OPS, 4 BBs, 16 Ks in 12 games
Dustin Ackley: .111 (3 for 27), no extra-base hits, 1 SB, .337 OPS, 4 BBs, 11 Ks in eight games

Worth a second look
Michael Cuddyer (51 percent started): Cuddyer has been in and out of the lineup for the better part of three weeks with a wrist injury, which has caused many owners to shy away from him in crunch time. But let's not forget he was performing like a must-start option before his troubles, averaging 24.3 Head-to-Head points during a 10-week stretch. He has started back-to-back games since returning. If he continues to start over the weekend, you'll want to take advantage of his favorable matchups this week against the Mariners, Indians and Royals rotations, especially at a weak position like second base.
Rickie Weeks (25 percent): Weeks, who was initially expected to serve as a pinch hitter upon returning from a six-week absence for a badly sprained ankle, returned to the starting lineup sooner than expected Sunday and has started three games in a row. He has just enough time to regain his stroke before the extra-long Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 19-28), so if you've stashed him all this time, you wouldn't want to hold back now.

Approach with caution
Martin Prado (81 percent started): Prado has been fighting himself at the plate recently, batting .190 (16 for 84) over his last 21 games, and will have an uphill battle this week against pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Javier Vazquez, Stephen Strasburg, Vance Worley, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Considering his week-to-week upside is only so high anyway, you shouldn't feel obligated to stick with him at this crucial point in the season.
Danny Espinosa (57 percent): Espinosa has had a few more hits recently, but considering he's batting .212 (42 for 198) with three homers, two steals and a .609 OPS since the All-Star break, he's no longer deserving of your patience. He has slumped his way out of the Rookie of the Year race and hopefully your Fantasy lineup, too. You certainly shouldn't expect him to get back on track against pitchers like Cliff Lee, Vance Worley, Roy Oswalt, Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy, Anibal Sanchez and Javier Vazquez.

Injury concerns
Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch in the right foot Wednesday and was hobbling after the game. But X-rays were negative, and he should be just fine for the weekend. Barring the unforeseen, you'll want him active in Fantasy ... Jemile Weeks missed a game Sept. 11 because of dehydration and has been dealing with leg cramps ever since. They became enough of an issue for him to sit out Thursday, but you have to think he'll return over the weekend. He doesn't have the greatest matchups this week, so he's just a borderline starter in mixed leagues.

Third base

Injuries have allowed both the Marlins and Padres to turn the hot corner over to recent callups. Matt Dominguez has started five straight games for the Marlins, and James Darnell has started six straight games for the Padres. Both have some measure of upside, but neither has demonstrated enough offensive ability to deserve any real attention in Fantasy. At this point, you're just scouting them for 2012.

Must-Start Options: Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Michael Young, Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, Pablo Sandoval, Emilio Bonifacio

Heating up
Mike Moustakas: .370 (10 for 27), 1 HR, .948 OPS in seven games
Lonnie Chisenhall: .321 (9 for 28), 4 HRs, 1.107 OPS, 0 BBs, 5 Ks during seven-game hit streak Adrian Beltre: .500 (14 for 28), 4 HRs, 8 RBI, 1.536 OPS in six games
Chris Davis: .444 (8 for 18), 1 HR, 1 SB, 1.379 OPS, 4 BBs, 5 Ks in five games

Cooling off
Kyle Seager: .170 (9 for 53), 3 2Bs, 1 SB, .447 OPS in 16 games
Casey McGehee: .129 (4 for 31), two extra-base hits, .399 OPS in 11 games
Mark Reynolds: .065 (2 for 31), .259 OPS, 5 BBs, 13 Ks in eight games
Ryan Roberts: .154 (4 for 26), one extra-base hit, 2 SBs, .434 OPS in seven games

Worth a second look
Mark Reynolds (76 percent started): Reynolds' recent slump might cause some Fantasy owners to shy away from him at their time of greatest need, but with 11 games on the schedule this week, the all-or-nothing slugger has plenty of time to get back on track and could capitalize on some favorable matchups against a patchwork Red Sox rotation, not to mention Rick Porcello and Brad Penny. Plus, eight of their 11 games are on the road, where he's a .261 hitter compared to .169 at home.
Edwin Encarnacion (45 percent): Encarnacion dealt with a shoulder injury over the weekend that caused his starting percentage to drop significantly, but it ended up being no big deal. He's batting .367 (11 for 30) with a homer over his last eight games and has been as reliable as any third baseman since the All-Star break, scoring at least 17 Head-to-Head points in each of the last nine scoring periods. At a time when so many mainstays will be getting a few extra days off, Encarnacion is a relatively safe start in Fantasy.

Approach with caution
Chipper Jones (57 percent started): The Braves have been leaning on the 39-year-old Jones more than usual during the stretch run, starting him in nine of their last 10 games, but that doesn't mean he's any more reliable in Fantasy. As soon as the Braves clinch the wild card, which could happen mid-week, they'll want to give Jones as much rest as possible. And even if the Braves falter, Jones doesn't figure to have much success against some of the best pitchers the NL East has to offer this week. Weigh your options carefully.
Placido Polanco (37 percent): Polanco is playing with a sports hernia and a bulging disc in his back -- two injuries that would have meant the end of the season for some players. The Phillies have a commanding lead for the top seed in the NL and would be crazy to keep running Polanco out there after they clinch it. Plus, they're scheduled to face nine right-handed pitchers in their 11 games this week. Polanco is batting .253 against righties compared to .343 against lefties. If at all possible, bench him.

Injury concerns
Alex Rodriguez, who has been in and out of the lineup with a thumb issue, most recently missing five straight games, is set to return to the lineup Friday. That's encouraging news, of course, but it's possible this injury could bother him for the rest of the season, making him less than a safe start at third base in Fantasy. The possibility of him having a big week still might make him your best option at the position, though. Monitor his performance over the weekend and weigh your options carefully ... Brett Lawrie left Wednesday's game with a bruised left knee. The injury doesn't seem particularly serious -- Lawrie said he felt fine afterward -- so you should keep the streaking rookie active at either second or third base.

Shortstop

Troy Tulowitzki picked the worst possible time to go down with an injury. He has tried his best to play through a sore left hip but doesn't seem to be progressing quickly enough and recently acknowledged that, with the Rockies out of the playoff race, his best choice might be to sit for a while. How long? Hard to say -- and that's the most frustrating part. During a 10-game week, Tulowitzki could still get to play a solid six or seven games, but would you want to wager your season on it? If he doesn't return over the weekend, he'll be too much of a gamble for most mixed-league owners in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 19-28).

Must-Start Options: Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Emilio Bonifacio

Heating up
Starlin Castro: .348 (23 for 66), 1 HR, 4 SBs, .888 OPS in 15 games
Erick Aybar: .381 (16 for 42), 1 HR, 1 SB, 1.031 OPS, 5 BBs, 3 Ks in 12 games
Marco Scutaro: .459 (17 for 37), 1 HR, 16 RBI, 1.203 OPS, 5 BBs, 2 Ks in 10 games
Rafael Furcal: .345 (10 for 29), 1 HR, 3 SBs, .958 OPS, 5 BBs, 2 Ks in eight games

Cooling off
Asdrubal Cabrera: .113 (6 for 53), 1 HR, 1 SB, .397 OPS, 5 BBs, 16 Ks in 14 games
Trevor Plouffe: .111 (4 for 36), one extra-base hit, 1 SB, .339 OPS, 10 Ks in 10 games
Dee Gordon: .111 (3 for 27), 1 2B, 1 SB, .291 OPS, 1 BB, 2 Ks in six games

Worth a second look
Erick Aybar (71 percent started): Aybar's early-August slump scared many Fantasy owners away, but he has had a productive season overall and is clearly back on track now, batting .362 (25 for 69) with three steals and a .974 OPS over his last 19 games. Plus, he's a player who you can trust to remain in the lineup during the season's final week with the Angels pushing the Rangers for the division title. Aybar should be starting in most Fantasy leagues.
Marco Scutaro (28 percent): Scutaro's recent hot hitting has pretty much answered the question of which Red Sox shortstop will get the most at-bats going forward. Scutaro has started 10 straight games at the position, returning Jed Lowrie to a utility role. Scutaro has a good chance of continuing the hot hitting this week with seven games against the Orioles pitching staff, so if you're hurting at shortstop, pick him up.

Approach with caution
Derek Jeter (87 percent started): Yes, Jeter has been fairly reliable in the second half, but the 37-year-old is another candidate for extended time off if the Yankees clinch the AL East as early as their current lead suggests they will. Plus, the Yankees will be facing 10 right-handed pitchers this week, meaning Jeter won't get to make the most of his .350 batting average and .931 OPS against lefties. Jeter is by no means a must-sit -- he's sure to score some points just by batting in the upper third of the Yankees lineup -- but if you have another worthy starter at shortstop, you might want to go that route instead.
Dee Gordon (28 percent): Gordon put together a nice little hot streak when he first returned from a shoulder injury in early September, but now that he's slumping, his lack of plate discipline is once again a hindrance. If he's not hitting, he's not doing anything. Gordon is batting .222 against lefties so far in his young career, which isn't a surprise for a left-handed hitter. With four lefties on tap for the Dodgers this week, he's more or less unusable in mixed leagues.

Injury concerns
Yunel Escobar has missed three straight games because of an elbow injury that resulted from him getting hit by a pitch Sept. 10. He has no structural damage and could return over the weekend, but if he doesn't, you wouldn't want to roll the dice on him in mixed leagues considering his so-so production recently ... Rafael Furcal suffered a mild knee strain sliding into second base Wednesday, which is a shame considering he had just begun to pick it up at the plate recently. The brittle 33-year-old is a risky option on a week-to-week basis anyway, so unless he gets a clean bill of health over the weekend, you shouldn't bother with him.

Outfield

Most Added Hitters
* as of Sept. 16
Player % increase
1. Jason Bay, OF, N.Y. Mets 9
2. Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies 9
3. David Murphy, OF, Rangers 9
4. Marco Scutaro, SS, Red Sox 9
5. Jesus Montero, DH, Yankees 8
6. Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox 6
7. Shelley Duncan, DH, Indians 6
8. Omar Infante, 2B, Marlins 5
9. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers 5
10. Nick Hundley, C, Padres 5

Matt Holliday injured himself taking a practice swing Tuesday and is expected to remain sidelined through the weekend with inflammation in the tendon of one of his fingers. The Cardinals think he'll be able to return during the early stages of the extra-long Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 19-28), and now that they're back in the playoff race, he probably will. But considering his lack of production recently -- he's averaging just 12.3 Head-to-Head points over the last six scoring periods -- you might want to look into alternatives in standard mixed leagues. This injury seems like one that could linger. The Blue Jays have turned to converted pitcher Adam Loewen in center field, which has to be an improvement over the Mike McCoy-Dewayne Wise platoon. Loewen offers intriguing power potential but is still a little raw -- at least as far as hitters go. With Colby Rasmus expected to return from a wrist injury over the weekend, Loewen's stay in the lineup might be a short one. You can leave him for AL-only leagues. Bryan LaHair has been splitting time in right field for the Cubs recently. He put up monster numbers at Triple-A Iowa and has gotten off to a good start in the majors. Considering his age and past failures, though, he has the smell of a Quadruple-A player. You can leave him for NL-only leagues.

Must-Start Options: Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Michael Morse

Heating up
Jacoby Ellsbury: .377 (29 for 77), 4 HRs, 1 SB, 1.176 OPS, 9 BBs, 9 Ks in 18 games
Jason Bay: .400 (16 for 40), 3 HRs, 12 RBI, 1 SB, 1.207 OPS in 12 games
Hunter Pence: .385 (15 for 39), 2 HRs, 1 SB, 1.134 OPS in 10 games
B.J. Upton: .429 (15 for 35), 2 HRs, 2 SBs, 1.327 OPS, 10 BBs, 13 Ks in 10 games
Lance Berkman: .429 (12 for 28), 1 3B, 3 2Bs, 1.122 OPS in eight games
Jayson Werth: .321 (9 for 28), 1 HR, .831 OPS during seven-game hit streak
Josh Willingham: .440 (11 for 25), 3 HRs, 10 RBI, 1.323 OPS during seven-game hit streak
Alex Gordon: .417 (10 for 24), 2 HRs, 1.208 OPS, 0 BBs, 7 Ks in five games
Gerardo Parra: .538 (7 for 13), 1 HR, 1 SB, 1.523 OPS, 1 BB, 0 Ks in four games

Cooling off
Brett Gardner: .148 (13 for 88), 2 HRs, 1 2B, 7 SBs, .497 OPS in 27 games
Kyle Blanks: .140 (8 for 57), 1 HR, 2 SBs, .429 OPS, 6 BBs, 17 Ks in 17 games
Curtis Granderson: .158 (9 for 57), 1 HR, .529 OPS, 8 BBs, 21 Ks in 16 games
Drew Stubbs: .189 (10 for 53), 3 2Bs, 4 SBs, .552 OPS, 9 BBs, 18 Ks in 16 games
Andrew McCutchen: .136 (6 for 44), 3 HRs, .628 OPS, 6 BBs, 14 Ks in 14 games
Shane Victorino: .143 (7 for 49), 1 HR, 2 SBs, .467 OPS, 5 BBs, 13 Ks in 12 games
Nick Swisher: .146 (6 for 41), 2 HRs, 1 2B, .572 OPS in 11 games
Austin Jackson: .118 (4 for 34), one extra-base hit, .378 OPS, 4 BBs, 15 Ks in nine games
Jason Heyward: .150 (3 for 20), no extra-base hits, 2 SBs, .483 OPS, 6 BBs, 7 Ks in seven games

Worth a second look
Desmond Jennings (81 percent started): With Jennings in his first rookie slump, batting .138 (8 for 58) over his last 14 games, some Fantasy owners might be tempted to jump off the bandwagon. But you should think of the slump more as a market correction than a case of the league catching up to him. He couldn't maintain a 1.000 OPS forever, after all. The Rays have no incentive to rest a young player like him during the final days of the season, which counts for a lot in Fantasy. You should keep Jennings active in mixed leagues.
Juan Pierre (67 percent): Given his reliability from week to week, Pierre deserves a permanent spot on this list as one of the most consistently underrated players in Fantasy. The decline in steals surprisingly hasn't limited his value too much. The White Sox get to play 10 games this week and are facing the makeshift Indians, Royals and Blue Jays rotations. How can Pierre go wrong?
Mike Stanton (63 percent): Stanton was back in the lineup for the second game of a doubleheader Thursday after missing 10 of the previous 11 games with a hamstring injury. He played the whole game without incident, which was a definite improvement from the last time he tried to return and didn't make it through the third inning. He's not completely out of the woods yet, but as long as he gets through the weekend without a setback, you'll want his power potential in your lineup for the extra-long scoring period.
Josh Willingham (50 percent): You wouldn't know it because he bats in a lineup that might as well be nonexistent for Fantasy purposes, but Willingham is setting career highs left and right thanks to a strong performance over the last few months. Since returning from an Achilles' injury in July, he's batting .279 with 16 homers and a .936 OPS in 215 at-bats. He has scored at least 20 Head-to-Head points in five of the last eight scoring periods. He's not getting nearly the attention he deserves, so if you're short an outfielder, pick him up.
Dexter Fowler (44 percent): Speaking of not getting the attention he deserves, since returning from the minors on July 15 and adding a leg kick to his swing, Fowler is batting .300 with 32 extra-base hits, a .927 OPS and eight steals in 223 at-bats. He's likely to keep it going with favorable matchups this week that include a four-game series against the Astros pitching staff. Granted, seven of the team's 10 games are on the road, but Fowler is one of the few Rockies hitters who actually hits better there, batting .291 compared to .248 at home. He's a nice sleeper even in mixed leagues.

Approach with caution
Nick Swisher (69 percent started): Swisher has had a good second half overall, but he has a few factors working against him this week. First, he's still playing through tendinitis in his elbow that recently cost him some playing time. Second, he has cooled off at the plate with the injury. Third, he's in line to face 10 right-handed pitchers in his 11 games this week and is batting .242 and .796 OPS against righties compared to .305 with a .909 OPS against lefties. Fourth, he's scheduled to face James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and Jeff Niemann twice, not to mention Jon Lester once. Yeah, I'm staying away.
Nelson Cruz (54 percent): The Rangers activated Cruz from the disabled list Tuesday, but apparently just for emergency purposes. Manager Ron Washington doesn't think the slugger's hamstring is ready to go yet. Cruz will likely return to the lineup in the near future, but because the Rangers figure to be cautious with him down the stretch and because they face pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver in a relatively short nine-game week, Cruz remains a risky start in standard mixed leagues.
Jason Heyward (48 percent): The Braves have begun to give Heyward regular at-bats again, starting him in eight of the last nine games. That doesn't mean he's performing any better, though. Other than the improved walk rate, he has slumped as much as ever lately and doesn't figure to snap out of it against pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Javier Vazquez, Stephen Strasburg, Vance Worley, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in a nine-game week. Continue to avoid Heyward in Fantasy.
Jason Bay (43 percent): Looks like Bay is finally showing some signs of life. Unfortunately, it's too little too late for Fantasy purposes. You wouldn't want to rely on the longtime underachiever (nearly two years running now) during crunch time, especially when the Mets are scheduled to face Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
David Murphy (33 percent): Murphy is on track for his fourth straight scoring period with 20-plus Head-to-Head points and has been so impressive during that stretch that manager Ron Washington says he plans to keep starting him even when Nelson Cruz (hamstring) returns to the lineup. Good news, right? Maybe not when the Rangers are scheduled to face some of the best pitchers the Athletics, Mariners and Angels have to offer. Plus, six of their nine games on the road, where Murphy has just a .687 OPS. He's probably not the sleeper you're looking for.

Injury concerns
Adam Jones has been out since Monday with a swollen right thumb, which came on the heels of a swollen left ankle, which came on the heels of a stay at the hospital for chest pains and shortness of breath. He's hoping to return to the lineup Friday, but given the way his health has gone lately, you shouldn't necessarily expect him to stay there. Obviously, if Jones has a big weekend, you'll probably want to get him active in Fantasy -- he has been an advisable starter virtually all season -- but you shouldn't feel obligated to activate him just because he's back in the lineup ... Shin-Soo Choo returned to the lineup Thursday after missing a little more than two weeks with a strained oblique. He paid for the quick turnaround when he was forced to leave after taking an awkward swing in his very first at-bat. The Indians have since ruled him out for the season, so you're free to cut him now.

Best 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 25
9/19 9/20 9/21 9/22 9/23 9/24 9/25 9/26 9/27 9/28
Indians
SEA CHW (x2) CHW CHW MIN MIN (x2) MIN @DET @DET @DET
vs. Furbush vs. Floyd, Axelrod vs. Buehrle vs. Humber vs. Diamond vs. Pavano, Duensing vs. Hendriks vs. Scherzer vs. Fister vs. Porcello
Two doubleheaders give Indians 12-game week, with Scherzer and Fister their toughest opponents.
Phillies
STL WAS (x2) WAS WAS @NYM @NYM @NYM @ATL @ATL @ATL
vs. Lohse vs. Wang, Peacock vs. Milone vs. Lannan vs. Dickey vs. Gee vs. Pelfrey vs. Delgado vs. Lowe vs. Hudson
Another team with more games than days this week, and another team facing mostly fill-in starters.
Twins
@NYY SEA SEA SEA @CLE @CLE (x2) @CLE KC KC KC
vs. Hughes vs. Vargas vs. Pineda vs. Beavan vs. Masterson vs. Huff, McAllister vs. Carmona vs. Mendoza vs. Mazzaro vs. Paulino
This is becoming a pattern. It's like MLB intentially put off the doubleheaders until roster expansion.
White Sox
-- @CLE (x2) @CLE @CLE KC KC KC TOR TOR TOR
-- vs. Carmona, Talbot vs. Jimenez vs. Gomez vs. Paulino vs. Teaford vs. Chen vs. Cecil vs. Alvarez vs. McGowan
Wow, an off day! Still a doubleheader, though. Indians, Royals, Jays rotations not so deep right now.
Red Sox
BAL (x2) BAL BAL -- @NYY @NYY @NYY @BAL @BAL @BAL
vs. VandenHurk, Guthrie vs. Reyes vs. Hunter -- vs. Garcia vs. Hughes vs. Burnett vs. Hunter vs. Britton vs. Simon
Nothing like facing the O's rotation seven times in 10 days. How is this only the fifth-best schedule?
Worst 5 Hitting Schedules for Week 25
9/19 9/20 9/21 9/22 9/23 9/24 9/25 9/26 9/27 9/28
Rangers
-- @OAK @OAK @OAK SEA SEA SEA @LAA @LAA @LAA
-- vs. Harden vs. McCarthy vs. Cahill vs. Vasquez vs. Hernandez vs. Furbush vs. Haren vs. Santana vs. Weaver
Six games on the road is bad news for Rangers. Hernandez, Haren, Weaver would be bad news for anybody.
Mets
-- @STL @STL @STL PHI PHI PHI CIN CIN CIN
-- vs. Jackson vs. Garcia vs. Westbrook vs. Hamels vs. Halladay vs. Lee vs. Bailey vs. Arroyo vs. Volquez
Six of these pitchers are merely so-so, which shows just how intimidating the Phillies' big three are.
Cubs
MIL MIL MIL -- @STL @STL @STL @SD @SD @SD
vs. Greinke vs. Marcum vs. Narveson -- vs. Carpenter vs. Lohse vs. Jackson vs. Latos vs. Stauffer vs. LeBlanc
Cubs open week with three games vs. deep Brewers rotation and close it with three games at PETCO Park.
Braves
@FLA @FLA @FLA -- @WAS @WAS @WAS PHI PHI PHI
vs. Nolasco vs. Sanchez vs. Vazquez -- vs. Strasburg vs. Detwiler vs. Wang vs. Worley vs. Oswalt vs. Hamels
First six don't look bad at first glance, but Braves draw Marlins' best three, not to mention Strasburg.
Dodgers
-- SF SF SF @SD @SD @SD @ARI @ARI @ARI
-- vs. Lincecum vs. Vogelsong vs. Bumgarner vs. LeBlanc vs. Harang vs. Luebke vs. Hudson vs. Miley vs. Collmenter
Top of Giants rotation plus three games at PETCO makes for bad week no matter who D-backs start.

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' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

The Orioles declined a $5-million option on Hundley for the 2015 season but had interest in bringing him back into the fold at a lesser salary. He hit .243/.273/.358 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 218 at-bats between Baltimore and San Diego in 2014.


Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

Downs also received a non-roster invite to MLB camp.


Red Sox, Padres complete Hanigan-for-Middlebrooks trade
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Red Sox and Padres completed a trade Friday, with catcher Ryan Hanigan heading to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox announced.

Hanigan, 34, is signed for two more seasons with a team option for 2017. He hit .218/.318/.324 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 225 at-bats in 2014.

Middlebrooks, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2015 season. He hit .191/.256/.265 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 215 at-bats in 2014.


Giants get Class A hurlers for Marlins 3B McGehee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Giants are trading minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo for Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.

Both pitched at a Class A level last season and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.


Dodgers dump RHP Brian Wilson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Three days after designating reliever Brian Wilson for assignment, the Dodgers have released him.

Wilson struggled in 2014 after a strong stint upon his arrival with Los Angeles in 2013. He finished the year with a 4.66 ERA and 29 walks in 48 1/3 innings.


Report: LHP Craig Breslow staying with Red Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Left-hander reliever Craig Breslow is set to sign a one-year deal with the Red Sox for $2 million, per WEEI.com.

Breslow pitched for Boston the last two years, but collapsed in 2014 after compiling a 1.81 ERA the previous year. He finished with a 5.93 ERA and 73 hits in 54 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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