The Fantasy Baseball Hit Parade is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Each week, we'll assess Fantasy-relevant hitters based on streaks, matchups, injuries and lineup changes and divide them into five categories: "no-brainers," "advisable starts," "shaky starts," "strictly AL/NL-only" and "don't bother."
These designations are designed to rate each player's Fantasy value for the current week only and have no bearing on his value for the season as a whole.
Any player dealing with injury will have the injury listed in parentheses after his name. His condition will most definitely influence his category designation for the week.
Any players not appearing on these lists are presumed to be below "don't bother" status and are obvious sits in Fantasy.
The information has been updated through Thursday, July 19.
Jonathan Lucroy, who has been out with a broken hand since May 27, is aiming to return Thursday. Based on the way his minor-league rehab assignment began this past Thursday, with a 2-for-3 performance at Class A Wisconsin, he shouldn't have much trouble meeting that goal. Because he'd be limited to half a week of action, though, now probably isn't the time to activate him in mixed leagues. He was looking like a breakthrough player before the injury, hitting .345 with five home runs in 139 at-bats, so he's worth a flier if nobody bothered to stash him in your league. If nothing else, he'll be a marked improvement over his replacement, Martin Maldonado.
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Worth a second look: Carlos Santana, Indians
As was inevitable for a player with his ability, Santana started to break out of his funk with a two-hit performance Wednesday that included his first home run since May 15. He followed it up with a two-walk performance Thursday, showing a renewed understanding of the strike zone that should have his Fantasy owners all the more encouraged about his progress. At a weak position like catcher, those small signs are all you need to start Santana again, especially when his matchups include low-end pitchers like Tommy Hunter, Scott Diamond and Samuel Deduno.
Approach with caution: Mike Napoli, Rangers
One of these weeks, Napoli is going to blow up for five home runs, and no one will ever doubt him in Fantasy again. Well, at least not for a while. This week, though, his prolonged slump that has him batting .148 (13 for 88) over his last 26 games seems likely to continue. The Rangers are at home, yes, but they're facing pitchers like Felix Doubront, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana in only a six-game week. In standard one-catcher leagues, perhaps you should look to a Salvador Perez type instead.
No-brainers: Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Carlos Ruiz, Matt Wieters, Brian McCann
Advisable starts: Carlos Santana, A.J. Pierzynski, Miguel Montero, Salvador Perez, Jesus Montero
Shaky starts: Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Alex Avila, Wilin Rosario, Ryan Doumit, J.P Arencibia, Yasmani Grandal, Russell Martin, A.J. Ellis
Strictly AL/NL-only: John Buck, Geovany Soto, Michael McKenry, Rod Barajas, Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki, Miguel Olivo, Martin Maldonado, John Jaso, Josh Thole, Devin Mesoraco, Ramon Hernandez, Jonathan Lucroy (hand)
Don't bother: Lou Marson, Jesus Flores, Ryan Hanigan, Yorvit Torrealba, Chris Snyder, Jason Castro (knee), Chris Iannetta (wrist), Victor Martinez (knee)
This time a month ago, Ike Davis and Brandon Belt were two of the hottest pickups off the waiver wire, but while Davis has continued to thrive, Belt has faded back into obscurity. It's not all his fault. The Giants keep sticking catcher Buster Posey at first base, forcing Belt out of the lineup for seven of their last 17 games. Still, the young first baseman is back to being an NL-only option as a result.
Lance Berkman, who decided to rehab at the major-league level rather than go on a rehab assignment after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in May, has started only two of the Cardinals' five games since coming off the DL. Apparently, the Cardinals will bring the 36-year-old along slowly, which is good news for Allen Craig but bad news for Berkman himself. In shallower leagues, he might not even be worthy of a bench spot right now.
Worth a second look: Chris Carter, Athletics
Carter probably isn't worth your time in standard mixed leagues, but in deeper leagues, he could make a surprising contribution this week. Since coming up from the minors in late June, he has finally begun to show his potential with a .310 batting average, five home runs and .444 on-base percentage in 29 at-bats. Of course, he's also been the lesser half of a lefty-righty platoon with Brandon Moss, but with five lefties on tap for the Athletics this week, the lesser half will become the greater half. And a great one he'll be against the Triple-A pitchers in the Blue Jays and Orioles rotations.
Approach with caution: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
After getting off to a hot start when first promoted from the minors in late June, Rizzo has cooled off a bit, batting .259 (7 for 27) with no extra-base hits in his last seven games. In and of itself, that's no reason to bench the high-profile rookie, but with high-end hurlers like James McDonald, Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright on tap for the Cubs in a six-game week, you can probably do better than Rizzo at the deep first base position in standard mixed leagues.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Paul Konerko, Billy Butler, Allen Craig, Joe Mauer, Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Dunn, Michael Morse, Kevin Youkilis (hamstring), Corey Hart, Eric Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana
Shaky starts: Anthony Rizzo, Michael Cuddyer, Adam LaRoche, Justin Morneau, Ike Davis, Ryan Howard, Tyler Colvin, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Chris Davis, Kendrys Morales, Daniel Murphy, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Carlos Lee, Carlos Pena, Mark Reynolds, Adam Lind, Chris Carter, Casey McGehee
Strictly AL/NL-only: Lance Berkman, Dustin Ackley, Garrett Jones, Brandon Belt, Bryan LaHair, Brandon Moss, Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, Todd Helton, Ty Wigginton, Jordan Pacheco, Wilson Betemit, Chris Johnson, Casey Kotchman
Don't bother: Tyler Moore, James Loney, John Mayberry, Juan Rivera, Matt Carpenter, Travis Ishikawa, Joey Votto (leg), David Ortiz (Achilles), Mitch Moreland (hamstring), Mike Carp (shoulder), Matt Adams
The latest chapter in Dustin Pedroia's sprained thumb saga -- otherwise known as "the DL stint" -- ended after the minimum 15 days Thursday, which might actually be something of a disappointment for Fantasy owners. Pedroia hasn't hit all that well since the saga began, and his replacement, a minor-league journeyman named Pedro Ciriaco, was beginning to make a name for himself in deeper leagues. Ciriaco's performance likely was unsustainable, though, and Pedroia has to be feeling better now than he was two weeks ago. He's not quite back to must-start status yet, but with so few quality options available at second base, you'll mostly likely want to get him active.
Worth a second look: Marco Scutaro, Rockies
After a five-week stretch in which he averaged 20.2 Head-to-Head points, Scutaro has come back down to earth over his last 15 games, batting .217 (13 for 60) with only one extra-base hit. He's been picking it up a little lately, though, batting .316 (6 for 19) over his last five games, and plays in a couple of hitter-friendly venues this week, including three games at Arizona and three games at home, where he's batting .303 on the year. Granted, he's not the most exciting one-week pickup ever, but at second base this week, he's probably the best you can do.
Approach with caution: Danny Espinosa, Nationals
The Nationals have some especially tough matchups this week against pitchers like R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Fiers and Zack Greinke, which is probably reason enough to sit a .241 hitter who strikes out every third at-bat like Espinosa. But having only two lefties on tap pretty much clinches it. Espinosa may be the hot hand right now, batting .333 (16 for 48) over his last 13 games, but considering he's a .217 hitter against righties compared to .301 against lefties, the odds are against him this week.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips
Advisable starts: Dan Uggla, Neil Walker, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro
Shaky starts: Omar Infante, Jose Altuve, Chase Utley, Mike Aviles, Rickie Weeks, Michael Young, Jemile Weeks, Kyle Seager, Kelly Johnson, Daniel Murphy, Howard Kendrick, Danny Espinosa, Dustin Ackley, Gordon Beckham
Strictly AL/NL-only: Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista, Ryan Roberts, Darwin Barney, Ryan Theriot, Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger, Sean Rodriguez
Don't bother: Mark Ellis, Pedro Ciriaco, Jerry Hairston, Chris Getz, Jamey Carroll, Brandon Inge, Yuniesky Betancourt, Ryan Raburn, Stephen Lombardozzi, Tyler Greene, Logan Forsythe, Jose Lopez, Maicer Izturis, Skip Schumaker, Chris Nelson (heart), Robert Andino (shoulder), Brian Roberts (hip)
With Nick Markakis back in the lineup to begin the second half, Chris Davis has sat out three straight games against lefties. Surprised? Well, turns out he sat out four straight against lefties before the break. It's gone under the radar given the surplus of righties the Orioles have faced over the last few weeks, but that surplus won't last forever. With Davis' OPS and on-base percentage on the decline as well, the all-or-nothing slugger appears to be little more than a last resort in mixed leagues.
Worth a second look: Todd Frazier, Reds
With Joey Votto recovering from knee surgery, power-hitting rookie Todd Frazier is expected to fill in at first base. He's more valuable to Fantasy owners at third base, though, where he's spent parts of this season filling in for the perpetually injured Scott Rolen. The inconsistent at-bats have so far kept Fantasy owners away, but now that he's secure for the next month or so, his .896 OPS deserves some looks in mixed leagues, especially during a week in which he's facing the Astros and Rockies rotations.
Approach with caution: Kyle Seager, Mariners
Just when you were about ready to trust Seager again given his renewed extra-base power over the last three games -- all on the road -- the Mariners are set for another full week at home, where he's batting .167 with a .539 OPS. They actually have some favorable matchups, including four games against the rocky Royals rotation, but with that crazy split, it won't so much matter for Seager, will it?
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Martin Prado, Ryan Zimmerman
Advisable starts: Aramis Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis (hamstring), Alex Rodriguez, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Moustakas, David Freese, Trevor Plouffe
Shaky starts: Brett Lawrie (calf), Emilio Bonifacio, Mike Aviles, Michael Young, Daniel Murphy, Chase Headley, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Alvarez, Todd Frazier, Kyle Seager, Chris Davis, Hanley Ramirez (hand), Chipper Jones, Mark Reynolds, Casey McGehee
Strictly AL/NL-only: Chris Johnson, Ryan Roberts, Placido Polanco, Wilson Betemit, Jordan Pacheco, Ty Wigginton, Sean Rodriguez, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger
Don't bother: Willie Bloomquist, Jamey Carroll, Cody Ransom, Brandon Inge, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan, Scott Rolen, Logan Forsythe, Jerry Hairston, Juan Uribe, Stephen Lombardozzi, Jose Lopez, Maicer Izturis, Jose Bautista (wrist), Evan Longoria (hamstring), Jed Lowrie (leg), Chris Nelson (heart), Robert Andino (shoulder), Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist), Ian Stewart (wrist), Brent Morel (back), Nolan Arenado, Danny Valencia, Eduardo Nunez
After alternating with Willie Bloomquist when he first came off the DL, Stephen Drew has started six of the last seven games for the Diamondbacks. He's still not hitting all that well, batting just .192 (10 for 52) since coming off the DL, and if rumors count for anything, the Diamondbacks may only be playing him to showcase him for a possible trade, which could result in him once again becoming a part-time player. Despite his history as a serviceable Fantasy shortstop, his 38 percent ownership rate seems about right.
With Ian Desmond missing five games with an oblique injury before returning Friday, Danny Espinosa got enough playing time at shortstop to become eligible at the position in standard Fantasy leagues. Of course, given his inability to make consistent contact this season, he's not a particularly exciting option at the position. In terms of Fantasy value, he's about in the Alexei Ramirez range.
Worth a second look: Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins
Bonifacio hasn't made tons of noise since returning from a two-month absence for a thumb injury, but he's batting a respectable .292 (7 for 24) with two stolen bases and nearly as many extra-base hits (three) as he had in the six weeks before the injury. As long as he's swinging the bat well, his base-stealing ability should be more than enough to carry him at a weak position like shortstop, and matchups against Mike Minor, Kip Wells and Ross Ohlendorf this week should ensure he continues to swing the bat well.
Approach with caution: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox
After looking like he might be on the verge of turning his season around by batting .412 (35 for 85) during a 22-game stretch, Ramirez has slowed down over his last six, collecting just one extra-base hit. He still has only two homers on the season, which is unacceptable for a player with a sub-.300 on-base percentage. During a week in which he's facing pitchers like Francisco Liriano, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Roy Oswalt, you shouldn't be the least bit excited about using him in mixed leagues.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins
Advisable starts: Ian Desmond, Derek Jeter, Trevor Plouffe, Emilio Bonifacio, Marco Scutaro
Shaky starts: Alcides Escobar, Rafael Furcal, Erick Aybar, Jhonny Peralta, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez, Mike Aviles, Hanley Ramirez (hand), Danny Espinosa, Zack Cozart, Yunel Escobar
Strictly AL/NL-only: Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista, Stephen Drew, Cliff Pennington, Ryan Theriot, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Brian Dozier, Josh Rutledge
Don't bother: Pedro Ciriaco, Paul Janish, Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt, Cody Ransom, Tyler Greene, Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Cesar Izturis, Troy Tulowitzki (groin), Jed Lowrie (leg), Dee Gordon (thumb), Andrelton Simmons (finger), Jason Bartlett (knee), Eduardo Nunez, Billy Hamilton
After sitting for Jarrod Dyson against right-handed pitchers in his first handful of games off the DL, Lorenzo Cain has started two straight against righties, showing that the Royals are ready to turn him loose after his three-month-long layoff due to a groin injury. And why not? He's batting .391 (9 for 23) with two home runs since returning, renewing his sleeper appeal in mixed leagues. Good luck finding a better hitter owned in less than 50 percent of leagues this time of year.
Anthony Gose figures to be a good hitter someday, having made rapid progress in the Blue Jays' minor-league system after looking more like a project than a prospect two years ago. But the Desmond Jennings-like power-speed threat isn't the only player the Blue Jays have called on to fill Jose Bautista's void. They also promoted Travis Snider from Triple-A Las Vegas, where he was hitting .335 with a 1.021 OPS. Either player would have mixed-league appeal with full-time at-bats and a smooth transition to the majors (which seems like a long shot for Snider), but because the distribution of playing time between the two is unclear, you can leave the duo for AL-only leagues.
Worth a second look: Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks and Drew Stubbs, Reds
A four-game absence because of a hamstring injury is about the only reason Fantasy owners aren't all-in on Kubel yet. But he came back strong with two homers Wednesday to give him a .315 batting average, 13 home runs and a 1.069 OPS over his last 33 games. And with the Diamondbacks at home (where he's batting .331 with a 1.088 OPS compared to .257 and .734 on the road) and facing the Rockies rotation and a couple of the weaker links in the Mets rotation, you can expect more of the same this week. Stubbs, meanwhile, is pretty much a forgotten man in Fantasy with his .223 batting average on the year. But he actually has been picking it up lately, batting .462 (6 for 13) with a stolen base over his last four games, and has favorable matchups at Houston and Colorado this week. Between his speed and power potential, he looks like a sneaky start in mixed leagues.
Approach with caution: Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays and Carlos Quentin, Padres
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times ... well, I don't know what comes next, but Rasmus looks like he's done it again to Fantasy owners, emerging from his seven-week hot stretch with a .088 (3 for 34) batting average and 11 strikeouts over his last nine games. Given his history of extreme highs followed by extreme lows, you can afford to give someone else a shot, especially with the Blue Jays playing only six games this week. Quentin hasn't been so hot lately either, batting .160 (12 for 75) over his last 21 games. Even though he's not at home this week, where he's batting only .192, he's still not looking like mixed-league material with matchups against Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson.
No-brainers: Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Michael Bourn, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Melky Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Zobrist, Austin Jackson, Martin Prado, Josh Willingham, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Upton, Alex Rios
Advisable starts: Ryan Braun (groin), Matt Holliday (thigh), Jason Heyward, Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Hunter Pence, Jay Bruce, Shane Victorino, Bryce Harper, Allen Craig, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Alex Gordon, Adam Dunn, Jason Kubel, Yoenis Cespedes, Desmond Jennings, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Trevor Plouffe, Andre Ethier, Nick Swisher, Dexter Fowler
Shaky starts: Colby Rasmus, Drew Stubbs, Alejandro De Aza, Nick Markakis, Michael Cuddyer, Emilio Bonifacio, Coco Crisp, Nelson Cruz, B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan, Matt Joyce (back), Tyler Colvin, Lorenzo Cain, Chris Young, Michael Brantley, Todd Frazier, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Quentin, Chris Davis, Howard Kendrick, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Norichika Aoki, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Dayan Viciedo, Cody Ross, Torii Hunter, Denard Span, Ben Revere, Quintin Berry, Brennan Boesch, J.D. Martinez, Rajai Davis, Juan Pierre
Strictly AL/NL-only: Michael Saunders, Lance Berkman, Ryan Doumit, Garrett Jones, Justin Ruggiano, Casper Wells, Delmon Young, Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, Bryan LaHair, Seth Smith, Brandon Moss, Yonder Alonso, David Murphy, Alexi Amarista, Cameron Maybin (wrist), Jon Jay, Luke Scott, Jeff Francoeur, Raul Ibanez, Jordan Schafer, David DeJesus, Will Venable, Gerardo Parra, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Ludwick, Jason Bay, Alex Presley, Ty Wigginton, Scott Hairston, Jonny Gomes
Don't bother: Anthony Gose, Andres Torres, Justin Maxwell, Travis Snider, Daniel Nava, Bobby Abreu, Matt Carpenter, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Johnny Damon, Tyler Moore, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Heisey, John Mayberry, Jerry Hairston, Tony Campana, Skip Schumaker, Leonys Martin, Ryan Sweeney, Stephen Lombardozzi, Juan Rivera, Peter Bourjos, Carlos Gomez, Willie Bloomquist, Nyjer Morgan, Jose Bautista (wrist), Giancarlo Stanton (knee), Mitch Moreland (hamstring), Franklin Gutierrez (head), Mike Carp (shoulder), Andy Dirks (Achilles), Vernon Wells (thumb), Nolan Reimold (neck), Brett Gardner (elbow), Jayson Werth (wrist), Grady Sizemore (back), Eric Thames, Brett Jackson, Domonic Brown, Wil Myers
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