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 Saturday, Aug. 4.
Don't look now, but Michael McKenry has started four of the Pirates' last six games. You say that doesn't mean anything to you? Well, it should. He's batting .397 (27 for 68) with eight homers and a 1.272 OPS over his last 22 games, demonstrating the same combination of power and on-base ability that he did throughout his minor-league career. McKenry is clearly a step up offensively from incumbent Rod Barajas, and if the Pirates are beginning to realize it, he could soon become viable in all Fantasy leagues. As of now, he's already worth picking up in two-catcher formats.
Ryan Lavarnway is kind of in the same boat. Recalled from the minors Thursday with David Ortiz nursing an Achilles injury, the Red Sox's farmhand could see semi-regular at-bats until Ortiz returns. And then what? Backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia? Back to the minors? Considering he hit 32 home runs between Double- and Triple-A last year -- and with a good batting eye to boot -- you want to see him get his shot, but he might be nothing more than a stopgap this year.
Worth a second look: Salvador Perez, Royals
Apparently, the buzz on Perez is going in one ear and out the other for some Fantasy owners. He remains unowned in 41 percent of leagues despite batting .327 with an .863 OPS since returning from a preseason knee injury about six weeks ago. After taking it easy when he first came off the DL with a little extra rest here and there, he's now playing four out of every five games, and his insanely high contact rate and minor-league track record both suggest he can sustain his current level of production. He should be especially productive in a week he's facing four left-handers given his career .450 batting average and 1.283 OPS against them.
Approach with caution: Russell Martin, Yankees
So Martin has four home runs in his last 16 games. Big deal. He still has an uninspiring .261 (12 for 46) batting average during that stretch and a downright nauseating .192 batting average on the season. If power is what he needs to contribute in Fantasy, a week on the road won't do him any good. Nine of his 12 home runs this season have come at home. In mixed leagues, you can do better.
No-brainers: Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina, Carlos Santana, Buster Posey, Miguel Montero, Brian McCann
Advisable starts: Matt Wieters, Mike Napoli, A.J. Pierzynski, Salvador Perez, Jesus Montero, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Shaky starts: Wilin Rosario, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Doumit, Alex Avila, Russell Martin, A.J. Ellis, Michael McKenry
Strictly AL/NL-only: John Buck, Ryan Lavarnway, John Jaso, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Iannetta, Geovany Soto, Josh Thole, Derek Norris, Erik Kratz
Don't bother: Steve Clevenger, Yan Gomes, Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Martin Maldonado, Ramon Hernandez, Lou Marson, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Snyder, Carlos Ruiz (foot), J.P Arencibia (hand), Yasmani Grandal (oblique), Devin Mesoraco (head), Jason Castro (knee), Victor Martinez (knee)
|1.||Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds||32|
|2.||Josh Rutledge, SS, Rockies||26|
|3.||Chris Johnson, 3B, Diamondbacks||23|
|4.||Mike Olt, 1B, Rangers||16|
|5.||Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers||16|
|6.||Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds||10|
|7.||Ike Davis, 1B, Mets||8|
|8.||Chris Carter, 1B, Athletics||8|
|9.||Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves||7|
|10.||Denard Span, OF, Twins||7|
After seemingly going out of their way to audition everyone else at the position, the Astros are finally buying into Brett Wallace as their starting first baseman. His .354 batting average over the last two months at Triple-A likely had something to do with it, as did his sudden increase in power. Nope, his two-homer game Wednesday wasn't entirely an isolated event. The possibility of the 25-year-old being a late bloomer makes him worth a flier in NL-only leagues.
Chris Carter might be worth a flier in more than that. After platooning with Brandon Moss when he first came up from the minors in late June, he has started 13 of the last 14 games for the Athletics, splitting time between first base and DH. Also 25, Carter, like Wallace, was written off by Fantasy owners coming into the season, but considering power and patience were what made him a top prospect in the first place, his nine homers and 19 walks in 77 at-bats are awfully encouraging. If you need cheap power, he might be your best bet off the waiver wire right now.
Worth a second look: Adam LaRoche, Nationals
So ... are you surprised LaRoche has come roaring back from a rocky June with a .429 (21 for 49) batting average and seven homers in his last 13 games? You shouldn't be. He's a career .297 hitter with a .896 OPS after the All-Star break compared to .247 and .768 before it. That's a stark contrast -- and in a large enough sample that you can't simply dismiss it as a fluke. And even if you do, you at least have to acknowledge that he's likely to continue the hot hitting this week, with pitchers like Dallas Keuchel, Jordan Lyles, Armando Galarraga, Lucas Harrell and Patrick Corbin on the schedule.
Approach with caution: Eric Hosmer, Royals
Whatever progress Hosmer has made with his three consecutive 15-point weeks to begin the second half is about to come to a screeching halt. With a career batting average 50 points lower and a career OPS 200 points lower against lefties, the four on tap for the Royals this week should preclude him from doing any real damage. If you've suffered with him all season, you'll take any excuse to sit him, right?
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Mark Teixeira, Billy Butler, Adrian Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Paul Konerko, Joe Mauer, Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Dunn, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Kevin Youkilis, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Chris Davis
Shaky starts: Allen Craig, Justin Morneau, Daniel Murphy, Mike Napoli, Eric Hosmer, Ike Davis, Ryan Howard, Nick Swisher, Michael Young, Kendrys Morales, Carlos Pena, Carlos Lee, Mark Reynolds, Chris Carter, Chris Johnson
Strictly AL/NL-only: David Ortiz (Achilles), Tyler Colvin, Dustin Ackley, Todd Frazier, Garrett Jones, Mitch Moreland, Casey McGehee, Brandon Belt, Bryan LaHair, Yonder Alonso, Brett Wallace, Jordan Pacheco, Wilson Betemit, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Keppinger, Mike Carp, John Mayberry
Don't bother: Todd Helton, Brandon Moss, Yan Gomes, Ty Wigginton, Tyler Moore, James Loney, Juan Rivera, Matt Carpenter, Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Lance Berkman (knee), Joey Votto (leg), Adam Lind (back), Logan Morrison (knee), Lucas Duda, Matt Adams
Emilio Bonifacio, who had just gained eligibility at second base after moving there when the Marlins dealt Omar Infante to the Tigers, is back on the DL with an injury to the same thumb that required surgery in May, costing him two months. Bonifacio should only miss 2-3 weeks this time, but that's still a long absence at this crucial point in the season. Given his elite base-stealing ability, he was probably starting for you at either second base, third base, shortstop or the outfield, so you'll want to scan the first three categories at those positions for potential replacements.
Condemned to a part-time role with the Diamondbacks, Ryan Roberts is back to playing every day with the Rays. Granted, it's at third base, but his value is greatest at second base, where he's also eligible in standard leagues. He still offers enough power and speed that he'll have weeks when he's an advisable start, provided he keeps the job.
Worth a second look: Daniel Murphy, Mets
As if Murphy's .397 (46 for 116) batting average and 20 extra-base hits (more than half his season total) over his last 32 games weren't reason enough to take a chance on him at a weak position, his home-away splits pretty much seal the deal. He's batting .365 with a .905 OPS at Citi Field, where the Mets play all six of their games this week, compared to .256 and .672 on the road. It's an oddity considering Citi Field is known as more of a pitcher's park, but at this point in the season, how can you argue with the results?
Approach with caution: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
Hill is also fond of home cooking, which is unfortunate since the Diamondbacks play four of their seven games on the road this week. Of course, that's better than the whole week. Most of the time, you'd gladly tolerate a .257 batting average and .721 OPS in four games for the chance at a .340 batting average and .956 OPS in three, but Hill's matchups this week against the Pirates and Nationals pitching staffs make him a long shot to meet those numbers at either venue. Second base is a weak enough position that you may still have to start him this week, but not if you have the choice of a Neil Walker or Danny Espinosa instead.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia
Advisable starts: Jason Kipnis, Neil Walker, Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, Danny Espinosa, Aaron Hill
Shaky starts: Brandon Phillips (calf), Ben Zobrist (back), Rickie Weeks, Kyle Seager, Chase Utley, Dan Uggla, Mike Aviles, Dustin Ackley, Marco Scutaro, Omar Infante, Michael Young, Jemile Weeks, Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Howard Kendrick
Strictly AL/NL-only: Gordon Beckham, Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista, Darwin Barney, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Keppinger, Stephen Lombardozzi, Maicer Izturis, Yuniesky Betancourt, Scott Moore, Mark Ellis
Don't bother: Omar Quintanilla, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Jordany Valdespin, Pedro Ciriaco, Jerry Hairston, Chris Getz, Jamey Carroll, Brandon Inge, Tyler Greene, Logan Forsythe, Robert Andino, Jose Lopez, Skip Schumaker, Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Chris Nelson (heart)
|3.||Red Sox||TEX3, @CLE4|
Mike Olt is the latest big-name prospect to arrive in the big leagues, getting the call Thursday after hitting .288 with 28 home runs and .977 OPS in 354 at-bats at Double-A Frisco. His combination of power and plate discipline is enticing and should play especially well with that lineup in that ballpark, but right now, the Rangers don't have a clear opening for him. Surely, he'll spell Mitch Moreland at first base against lefties, but unless he forces the issue, his contributions may end there. His upside makes him worth a flier if you're able to stash him on your bench, but temper your expectations.
Worth a second look: Chris Davis, Orioles
Exhibit A: With Jim Thome sidelined and the DH spot available, Davis has started nine straight games for the Orioles. Exhibit B: Davis is batting .342 (13 for 38) with three homers in those nine games. Exhibit C: The Orioles are facing Blake Beavan, Kevin Millwood, Will Smith, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza and Bruce Chen this week. Exhibit D: The Orioles play all seven of their games at home, where Davis is batting .290 with a .901 OPS compared to .243 and .672 on the road. The defense rests.
Approach with caution: Chris Johnson, Diamondbacks
In the battle of third base-eligible Chrises with overly common surnames, Johnson gets the short end of the stick this week. Sure, he's hot, batting .423 (22 for 52) with four home runs in his last 14 games, and seems to be getting everyday at-bats with his new team, but he's also notoriously streaky and is about to get a healthy dose of reality from Jeff Karstens, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Stephen Strasburg and Edwin Jackson. The reward doesn't justify the risk in mixed leagues.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Edwin Encarnacion, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Trumbo, Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado
Advisable starts: Kevin Youkilis, David Freese, Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy
Shaky starts: Aramis Ramirez (wrist), Brett Lawrie (rib cage), Mike Moustakas, Chase Headley, Kyle Seager, Mike Aviles, Michael Young, Will Middlebrooks, Pedro Alvarez, Chipper Jones, Mark Reynolds, Chris Johnson, Marco Scutaro, Evan Longoria (hamstring)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Ryan Roberts, Todd Frazier, Casey McGehee, Wilson Betemit, Jordan Pacheco, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger, Mike Olt, Stephen Lombardozzi, Scott Rolen, Maicer Izturis, Yuniesky Betancourt, Eric Chavez
Don't bother: Danny Valencia, Ryan Wheeler, Yan Gomes, Ty Wigginton, Willie Bloomquist (back), Sean Rodriguez, Jamey Carroll, Cody Ransom, Brandon Inge, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan, Robert Andino, Logan Forsythe, Jerry Hairston, Juan Uribe, Jose Lopez, Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Jose Bautista (wrist), Alex Rodriguez (hand), Pablo Sandoval (hamstring), Trevor Plouffe (thumb), Jed Lowrie (leg), Placido Polanco (back), Chris Nelson (heart), Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist), Ian Stewart (wrist), Brent Morel (back), Nolan Arenado, Eduardo Nunez
Though Mike Aviles made his return from turf toe Friday after a five-game absence, that injury has a tendency to linger. Just because he's back doesn't mean he's healed, so you might want to shy away from him if you have viable alternatives in mixed leagues. Unfortunately, his return leaves Pedro Ciriaco without a place to play. Though Ciriaco lacks the upside for mixed-league use, he has played well when given the opportunity this year, batting .338 (26 for 77) with six steals.
Erick Aybar, who has been out since July 21 with a non-displaced fracture in his right big toe, has done some hitting and running and could potentially return to the lineup Monday. With his steals down this year, though, he was barely viable in mixed leagues before the injury. You wouldn't want to gamble on him in his first week back.
Worth a second look: Josh Rutledge, Rockies
Rutledge did nothing but hit in the minors, batting .320 with an .870 OPS in 855 at-bats, and so far has done nothing but hit in the majors, batting .346 with an 1.049 OPS in 81 at-bats. He also has been just as effective on the road (.400) as at home (.321), so the Rockies' six road games this week are no reason to shy away from him at the weak shortstop position. Granted, he won't be able to maintain quite this pace forever, but his power and speed are legitimate.
Approach with caution: Jhonny Peralta, Tigers
Peralta's recent point production doesn't seem so bad, but a two-homer game July 29 has a lot to do with it. Those home runs were two of only five hits he's had in his last 11 games, making him 5 for 35 during that stretch. His power hasn't been nearly consistent enough this year for you to tolerate such streakiness. With the Yankees' and Rangers' rotations on tap for the Tigers this week, leave Peralta for the AL-only owners.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins
Advisable starts: Derek Jeter, Josh Rutledge, Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Danny Espinosa
Shaky starts: Alexei Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Mike Aviles, Marco Scutaro, Jhonny Peralta, Zack Cozart, Yunel Escobar, Erick Aybar (foot)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista, Stephen Drew, Ryan Theriot, Brian Dozier, Luis Cruz, Maicer Izturis, Yuniesky Betancourt
Don't bother: Omar Quintanilla, Pedro Ciriaco, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Paul Janish, Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist (back), Robert Andino, Cody Ransom, Tyler Greene, Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Cesar Izturis, Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Cliff Pennington (elbow), Ian Desmond (oblique), Troy Tulowitzki (groin), Trevor Plouffe (thumb), Jed Lowrie (leg), Dee Gordon (thumb), Andrelton Simmons (finger), Jason Bartlett (knee), Eduardo Nunez, Billy Hamilton
Plenty of old faces in new places following the trade deadline. Travis Snider is now a Pirate after spending the last four-plus years teasing the Blue Jays with his stellar minor-league numbers. The cat-and-mouse game between player and front office can finally come to an end as Snider at long last gets a chance to prove himself without interruption. Of course, he's been just as much of a tease for Fantasy owners all these years, which is why you should probably leave him for NL-only leagues.
Just as interesting as the players who changed teams, though, are the ones who didn't. With Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence now out of Philadelphia, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry finally have a chance to contribute on an everyday basis. Brown is a former top prospect who has lost some of his luster over the last couple seasons, both because his Triple-A numbers have declined and because the Phillies have never really given him a chance. He's worth a flier in NL-only leagues given his five-category potential, but again, he comes with some question marks. Mayberry was a popular sleeper entering the season given the power he showed as a part-timer last season, and though his numbers this year don't look so hot in continued part-time duty, consistent at-bats could help him meet his potential.
Worth a second look: Nick Markakis, Orioles and Desmond Jennings, Rays
Since coming back from a broken hand July 13, Markakis is batting .358 (34 for 95) with two homers in 22 games. His power numbers were up before the injury, giving reason to believe he could regain his 2007-2009 form, when he was one of the top outfielders in Fantasy. With a career .303 batting average and .852 OPS in the second half, he could be poised for a strong finish. If nothing else, his matchups this week against the worst the Mariners and Royals have to offer won't slow him down. Jennings, meanwhile, has been anything but hot since his return from the disabled list June 5, batting .220 in 53 games. But he has enough peaks in there to suggest he's still taking advantage of favorable matchups. He certainly has those this week, with Carlos Villanueva, Henderson Alvarez, J.A. Happ, Cole De Vries and Nick Blackburn on the schedule. If you've been stashing him all this time in mixed leagues, you have your excuse to start him.
Approach with caution: Allen Craig, Cardinals and Carlos Quentin, Padres
Lance Berkman's recent return to the DL should ensure that Craig continues to play every day, but right now, at-bats aren't the issue. The issue is production; he's batting .255 (25 for 98) over his last 26 games. His track record, both in the majors and minors, suggests he'll bounce back from it soon, but with Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee on tap for the Cardinals, you shouldn't bank on it this week. As for Quentin, his tendency to run hot and cold is as evident now as ever. After getting off to a hot start when he returned from the DL in late May, he's batting just .204 (21 for 103) over his last 29 games. He's been especially bad at home (.211 batting average, .657 OPS), which is where the Padres play their first three games this week, and to close out the week, they face three of the best the Pirates have to offer. Quentin will catch fire again at some point, but you should keep him reserved for now.
No-brainers: Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Michael Bourn, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Melky Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Jackson, Martin Prado, Josh Willingham, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Rios
Advisable starts: Carlos Beltran, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Adam Dunn, Shane Victorino, Ben Zobrist, Josh Reddick, Hunter Pence, Jay Bruce, Nelson Cruz, Andre Ethier, Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Nick Markakis, Desmond Jennings, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Jason Kubel, Alejandro De Aza, Chris Davis, Giancarlo Stanton (knee)
Shaky starts: Allen Craig, Colby Rasmus (groin), Drew Stubbs, Dexter Fowler, Jayson Werth, Nick Swisher, Carl Crawford, Coco Crisp, B.J. Upton, Alfonso Soriano, Lorenzo Cain, Matt Joyce, Chris Young, Michael Brantley, Ichiro Suzuki, Torii Hunter, Carlos Quentin, Denard Span, Ryan Doumit, Ryan Ludwick, Howard Kendrick, Michael Saunders, Carlos Lee, Dayan Viciedo, Cody Ross, Ben Revere, Angel Pagan, Quintin Berry, Rajai Davis, Carlos Gomez, Justin Ruggiano
Strictly AL/NL-only: J.D. Martinez, Garrett Jones, Tyler Colvin, Casper Wells, Norichika Aoki, Delmon Young, Juan Pierre, Brennan Boesch, Domonic Brown, Travis Snider, Todd Frazier, David Murphy, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Belt, Bryan LaHair, Starling Marte, Yonder Alonso, Alexi Amarista, Cameron Maybin, Jon Jay, Jeff Francoeur, Raul Ibanez, Jordan Schafer, David DeJesus, Will Venable, Gerardo Parra, Wilson Betemit, Alex Presley, Scott Hairston, Stephen Lombardozzi, Jonny Gomes, John Mayberry, Mike Carp, Eric Thames, Andy Dirks
Don't bother: Brandon Moss, Jason Bay, Nate Schierholtz, Gregor Blanco, Anthony Gose, Andres Torres, Ty Wigginton, Justin Maxwell, Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Heisey, Nyjer Morgan, Jerry Hairston, Jordany Valdespin, Willie Bloomquist (back), Tony Campana, Skip Schumaker, Juan Rivera, Peter Bourjos, Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Jose Bautista (wrist), Trevor Plouffe (thumb), Lance Berkman (knee), Seth Smith (hamstring), Daniel Nava (wrist), Logan Morrison (knee), Luke Scott (back), Franklin Gutierrez (head), Grady Sizemore (back), Lucas Duda, Brett Jackson, Wil Myers
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