The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner 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. 11.
Kurt Suzuki's move to the Nationals has freed up the primary catcher spot for rookie Derek Norris, who had briefly been sent back to the minors due to a shortage of at-bats. Maybe now that he's playing more consistently he'll be able to hit more consistently. True, he's not exactly a stud in waiting, but he has more power than the average catcher, which makes him potentially relevant in two-catcher leagues.
Digging even deeper, Erik Kratz has been getting been getting the majority of the starts over Brian Schneider with Carlos Ruiz sidelined by plantar fasciitis. Expectations should be only so high for a 32-year-old minor-league journeyman, but Kratz's four homers in 41 at-bats so far show that the power he demonstrated throughout his minor-league career is halfway legit. NL-only owners should at least be aware of him.
Worth a second look: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
After making a name for himself in the weeks leading up to his broken hand in late May, Lucroy's numbers since returning -- particularly the .742 OPS -- have left a bit to be desired. This week could be exactly what he needs to get his season back on track, though. The Brewers face bottom feeders in five of their seven games, including three at Coors Field. And though the matchups against Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels might be kind of tough, both are left-handers, bringing the total number of lefties on tap to four. Lucroy has destroyed left-handed pitching to the tune of a 1.344 OPS this year. Now might be a time to take a flier on him in mixed leagues.
Approach with caution: Jesus Montero, Mariners
After disappointing for much of the season, Montero seems to be on the right track lately, batting .458 (11 for 24) over his last six games. But all six of those games have come on the road, where he's batting .320 with an .803 OPS on the year. You have to remember that, like all of the Mariners' young hitters, he's a different player at home, batting .214 with a .603 OPS. The Mariners are at home for all six of their games this week, so in leagues where each team starts only one catcher, you can probably do better than Montero.
No-brainers: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Carlos Santana, Miguel Montero, Brian McCann, Matt Wieters
Advisable starts: A.J. Pierzynski, Ryan Doumit, Jonathan Lucroy, Salvador Perez, Alex Avila
Shaky starts: Jesus Montero, Wilin Rosario, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Russell Martin, A.J. Ellis, Michael McKenry
Strictly AL/NL-only: John Buck, Ryan Lavarnway, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Iannetta, Geovany Soto, Ramon Hernandez, Josh Thole, Erik Kratz
Don't bother: Jason Castro (knee), Devin Mesoraco, Nick Hundley, Steve Clevenger, Yan Gomes, Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Martin Maldonado, Lou Marson, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Snyder, Mike Napoli (quadriceps), Carlos Ruiz (foot), J.P Arencibia (hand), Yasmani Grandal (oblique), Victor Martinez (knee)
Tyler Colvin is back to playing full time with Todd Helton sidelined for good with a torn labrum in his hip, and though he has slowed down lately, batting .203 (16 for 79) with no homers in his last 25 games, in weeks like this one, when he has seven games at home, he's still plenty relevant in mixed leagues. When he gets hot, he gets hot.
After initially looking like they'd be ready to return this week, David Ortiz (Achilles) and Joey Votto (knee) both suffered setbacks over the weekend. Votto actually needs a second surgery, so he'll definitely be out this week, if not next. Ortiz's situation is a little more up in the air, but considering he still feels pain when he runs straight forward, you probably shouldn't gamble on him outside of AL-only leagues. Besides, he's been out for close to a month now, so he'll probably need a rehab assignment before returning.
Worth a second look: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
If you like what Rizzo has delivered so far since his arrival from Triple-A Iowa six weeks ago, you're going to love him this week. The Cubs don't have a single left-handed pitcher on tap, and like most young hitters, the left-handed-hitting Rizzo does most of his damage against opposite-handed pitchers, batting .353 with a .974 OPS against righties. And some of the ones he'll face this week -- including Armando Galarraga, Bud Norris, Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos -- have a knack for giving up home runs.
Approach with caution: Justin Morneau, Twins
You have to love what Morneau is doing in the second half so far. He's batting .347 with four home runs and a .949 OPS and has even begun to deliver at Target Field, hitting two home runs during Twins' last homestand. So while I don't want to scare you away from a player whose value is clearly on the rise, first base is a deep enough position that Morneau might not be your best choice in a week he's facing high-strikeout pitchers Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer at home before traveling to Seattle and the AL's most pitcher-friendly park for three games. Seems like the makings of an off week, doesn't it?
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Billy Butler, Adrian Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Dunn, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Adam LaRoche, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Allen Craig, Freddie Freeman, Kevin Youkilis (arm), Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Santana
Shaky starts: Eric Hosmer, Justin Morneau, Ike Davis, Ryan Howard, Tyler Colvin, Daniel Murphy, Nick Swisher, Chris Davis, Michael Young, Kendrys Morales, Carlos Pena, Carlos Lee, Mark Reynolds, Chris Carter, Chris Johnson
Strictly AL/NL-only: David Ortiz (Achilles), Dustin Ackley, Todd Frazier, Garrett Jones, Mitch Moreland, Eric Chavez, Brandon Belt, Yonder Alonso, Brett Wallace, Jordan Pacheco, Wilson Betemit, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Keppinger, Mike Carp, John Mayberry, Michael Cuddyer (oblique)
Don't bother: Bryan LaHair, David Cooper, Brandon Moss, Casey McGehee, Yan Gomes, Ty Wigginton, Tyler Moore, James Loney, Juan Rivera, Matt Carpenter, Paul Konerko (concussion), Joey Votto (knee), Mike Napoli (quadriceps), Lance Berkman (knee), Adam Lind (back), Logan Morrison (knee), Lucas Duda, Matt Adams
Apart from Jason Kipnis' continued struggles and Dan Uggla's minor resurgence, the most exciting development at second base is Tyler Greene's move from St. Louis, where he wasn't getting regular at-bats even against lefties, to Houston, where anyone with any measure of offensive potential gets regular at-bats. Greene certainly has that, having demonstrated 20-20 potential during his climb up the minor-league ladder. He's eligible at both second base and shortstop, the two weakest positions in Fantasy, so if he ends up getting the at-bats that used to belong to Jed Lowrie, don't be surprised if he becomes relevant in mixed leagues. He's already worth a flier in NL-only formats.
Worth a second look: Gordon Beckham, White Sox
After about two months of ineptitude, Beckham has homered twice in his last five games, which wouldn't be such a big deal if his last power surge hadn't led to eight homers over a 31-game span. A week against the bottom-feeder Blue Jays and Royals rotations could catapult him to a full-fledged hot streak. It's a bit of a long shot, but second base is a weak enough position that a long shot might be your best shot.
Approach with caution: Dustin Ackley, Mariners
With 74 Head-to-Head points over the last four weeks, Ackley is the No. 9 second baseman in Fantasy during that stretch, so naturally, you might conclude he's rediscovered his form. And perhaps he has. But whatever momentum he gained during that stretch he's likely to lose with the Mariners' return home for six games this week. Ackley is batting .215 with a pathetic .592 OPS at home, and though his road numbers are pretty miserable in their own right, the homefield disadvantage is so prevalent throughout the Mariners' lineup that you can't realistically expect Ackley to emerge as the lone exception.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips
Advisable starts: Chase Utley, Aaron Hill, Neil Walker, Jose Altuve, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Jason Kipnis (neck)
Shaky starts: Danny Espinosa, Daniel Murphy, Kyle Seager, Omar Infante, Gordon Beckham, Mike Aviles, Michael Young, Howard Kendrick, Dustin Ackley, Marco Scutaro, Jemile Weeks, Kelly Johnson (groin)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Ryan Roberts, Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista, Darwin Barney, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Keppinger, Stephen Lombardozzi, Scott Moore, Mark Ellis, Chris Getz, Brandon Inge (shoulder), Daniel Descalso
Don't bother: Omar Quintanilla, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Maicer Izturis, Jordany Valdespin, Pedro Ciriaco, Jerry Hairston (hip), Jamey Carroll, Tyler Greene, Logan Forsythe, Skip Schumaker (wrist), Chris Nelson, Emilio Bonifacio (thumb)
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Pablo Sandoval, out since July 24 with a strained hamstring, began a rehab assignment Friday, which means he'll likely be back in the majors for the start of Fantasy Week 20 (Aug. 13-20). Of course, the Giants don't have the greatest matchups, so you might want to give him a week to find his footing if you can help it. Likewise, Trevor Plouffe, who began rehabbing his sprained thumb Saturday, is expected to return Monday. Of course, the risks with him are as much performance-related as health-related, so you're better off sitting him in mixed leagues, probably.
Josh Vitters, whose biggest claim to fame is being the third overall pick in the 2007 draft -- ahead of Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner and Jason Heyward, among others -- is up in the majors after an encouraging stint at Triple-A Iowa, where he hit .304 with 17 homers and an .869 OPS in 415 at-bats. Of course, he hasn't been getting everyday at-bats with the Cubs, so perhaps he's still earning their trust after disappointing in his previous two minor-league seasons. Given his early struggles as a professional, his upside is in question, so he's probably of greater interest to NL-only than long-term keeper owners right now.
Worth a second look: Kevin Youkilis, White Sox
Even though he's been a little banged up lately, having sat out Tuesday with a sore knee and Sunday with a sore forearm, Youkilis is having a strong month of August, batting .276 with a .400 on-base percentage and four home runs. His OPS -- both in terms of power and patience -- has improved by leaps and bounds since he came over from the Red Sox, enough that you should probably be starting him regardless of the matchups. Of course, having Carlos Villanueva, Henderson Alvarez, Ricky Romero, Aaron Laffey, Luis Mendoza, Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie on the slate makes it that much easier this week.
Approach with caution: Michael Young, Rangers
No fancy splits or matchups here. I just worry that Young's recent 10-game hitting streak, during which he hit .357 (15 for 42), might cause some of his Fantasy owners to backslide. We finally got his starting percentage below 70, people. Let's not lose sight of our goal to eradicate him from every mixed-league lineup on the farthest corners of CBSSports.com. He had only two extra-base hits during the streak anyway. Big whoop.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Zimmerman, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Trumbo
Advisable starts: Aramis Ramirez, Martin Prado, Evan Longoria, Kevin Youkilis (arm), David Freese, Chase Headley
Shaky starts: Pablo Sandoval (hamstring), Mike Moustakas, Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy, Kyle Seager, Michael Young, Pedro Alvarez, Chipper Jones, Mark Reynolds, Chris Johnson, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles, Todd Frazier, Trevor Plouffe (thumb)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Ryan Roberts, Wilson Betemit, Jordan Pacheco, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger, Mike Olt, Stephen Lombardozzi, Eric Chavez, Brandon Inge (shoulder), Daniel Descalso, Josh Vitters, Luis Cruz
Don't bother: Casey McGehee, Scott Rolen (back), Maicer Izturis, Ryan Wheeler, Yan Gomes, Ty Wigginton, Sean Rodriguez, Jamey Carroll, Chris Nelson, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan, Logan Forsythe, Jerry Hairston (hip), Juan Uribe, Willie Bloomquist (back), Jose Bautista (wrist), Alex Rodriguez (hand), Brett Lawrie (oblique), Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Jed Lowrie (leg), Placido Polanco (back), Lonnie Chisenhall (wrist), Ian Stewart (wrist), Nolan Arenado, Eduardo Nunez
So much for the calm before the storm. We haven't even reached September yet, and the minors have already begun to spill into the majors, with Manny Machado and Jean Segura getting the call in the last week. Segura you can take or leave. He'll probably be less than elite in his prime but has enough extra-base pop and base-stealing ability that he could factor in deeper leagues. Machado, on the other hand, is as good as prospects get, but he's also just 20 years old and was hitting only .266 with a .789 OPS at Double-A Bowie. So far, he's off to a great start, but in time, the jump to the majors may prove to be a bit much for him. By bumping him to third base, the Orioles aren't even letting him play his natural position, which only adds to the pressure. Still, because he's eligible at such a weak position and has such a high ceiling, Machado is worth a flier in all leagues.
Worth a second look: Erick Aybar, Angels
As much as I'd like to plug Josh Rutledge here for the second straight week, in the interest of spreading the wealth, I'll go a different route. At 48 percent, Aybar might be just as underowned as Rutledge, especially at the rate he's producing now. Yes, I know he just returned from the disabled list Monday, but in five games since returning, he's 9 for 20 with a home run. If you combine those numbers with the ones he was putting up before the foot injury, he's batting .345 (49 for 142) with five homers over his last 39 games. No, he's not the steals threat he used to be, but at shortstop, hot is hot.
Approach with caution: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals
Furcal, on the other hand, has been running on fumes over the last couple months, batting just .199 with a .508 OPS since the end of May. But at least he's still stealing bases, right? Check that: He has only four during that 55-game stretch. His matchups against the Diamondbacks and Pirates this week aren't the easiest in the world, but more than anything else, his six games at home figure to keep him down. This season, he's batting .233 there compared to .294 everywhere else.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus, Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, Asdrubal Cabrera
Advisable starts: Josh Rutledge, Derek Jeter, Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Erick Aybar
Shaky starts: Alexei Ramirez, Danny Espinosa, Stephen Drew, Rafael Furcal (back), Manny Machado, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles, Jhonny Peralta, Zack Cozart, Trevor Plouffe (thumb)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Yunel Escobar (elbow), Ruben Tejada, Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista, Jean Segura, Ryan Theriot, Cliff Pennington, Brian Dozier, Luis Cruz, Daniel Descalso
Don't bother: Omar Quintanilla, Maicer Izturis, Pedro Ciriaco, Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Paul Janish, Jamey Carroll, Tyler Greene, Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Willie Bloomquist (back), Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Ian Desmond (oblique), Troy Tulowitzki (groin), Jed Lowrie (leg), Dee Gordon (thumb), Andrelton Simmons (finger), Jason Bartlett (knee), Eduardo Nunez, Billy Hamilton
Continuing the theme of September call-ups arriving a month early, Brett Jackson is up for the Cubs, and, unlike third baseman Josh Vitters, he's playing every day. That's bad news for Bryan LaHair, who is now strictly a bench player. It's not the best news for Fantasy owners either considering Jackson had 158 strikeouts in only 407 at-bats at Triple-A Iowa. As you can imagine, he was hitting only .256 there, and that's in the Pacific Coast League, where numbers are usually inflated. Sure, he has power, speed, upside and all that, but you should expect his transition to the majors to be a bumpy one. So far, he has 11 strikeouts in 17 at-bats.
Andy Dirks is back after missing two months with an Achilles injury, and you might remember he was earning some looks as a sleeper before the injury, thanks to a high batting average. But since he's mostly sitting against lefties right now, he's not the most advisable play in mixed leagues.
Worth a second look: Justin Ruggiano, Marlins and Carlos Gomez, Brewers
Ruggiano was one of the hottest pickups off the waiver wire this time a month ago, but over the last five weeks, he's only the 60th highest-scoring outfielder in Fantasy. And yet he's still batting .348 overall. Part of the problem is he no longer has much lineup support now that the Marlins have traded half their roster away, but part of the problem is he hasn't had many opportunities against left-handers lately, sitting out with a back injury when the Marlins faced three in a row last week. He does most of his damage against lefties, batting .439 with a 1.420 OPS compared to .299 and .843 against righties. The good news is he's healthy for the three lefties on tap this week, which, combined with the four games at Coors Field, should mean he'll be able to overcome the lack of lineup support. Like Ruggiano, Gomez has a series at Coors this week, but unlike Ruggiano, he's been plenty hot lately, batting .288 (19 for 66) with five homers and six steals over his last 18 games. He's already secured regular at-bats, but the four lefties on tap should only ensure he remains in the lineup this week. And the matchups against Jeff Francis, Tyler Chatwood, Drew Pomeranz, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick should ensure he remains productive in mixed leagues.
Approach with caution: Hunter Pence, Giants and B.J. Upton, Rays
Just when you thought Pence's transition to the Giants -- he's batting .149 (7 for 47) with his new team so far -- couldn't get any worse, he opens the week against the Nationals' studly trio of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg before closing it with three games at the mother of all pitcher's parks in San Diego. Even when he was in a favorable environment in Philadelphia, he wasn't contributing consistently enough to retain must-start status, so he's certainly benchable now, at his lowest of lows. B.J. Upton, meanwhile, is coming off one of his best weeks of the season, but keep in mind he was facing the bottom-feeder Blue Jays and Twins rotations. This week, his matchups figure to a bit tougher against pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke. If Upton's .241 batting average over the last four years tells you anything, it's that he's vulnerable to high-end pitching. That's not to say you should absolutely sit him this week, especially if you're trying to make up ground in steals, but the hot streak doesn't make him any less risky of a start.
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No-brainers: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Matt Holliday, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Jackson, Josh Willingham, Adrian Gonzalez
Advisable starts: Michael Bourn, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Adam Dunn, Martin Prado, Shane Victorino, Ben Zobrist, Josh Reddick, Jay Bruce, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andre Ethier, Jacoby Ellsbury, Allen Craig, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Morse, Corey Hart, Jason Kubel, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Ben Revere, Carl Crawford, Justin Ruggiano, Carlos Gomez
Shaky starts: Hunter Pence, Bryce Harper, Desmond Jennings, Colby Rasmus (groin), Drew Stubbs, Dexter Fowler, Jayson Werth, Nick Swisher, Coco Crisp, Tyler Colvin, Chris Davis, 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, Carlos Lee, Dayan Viciedo, Cody Ross, Norichika Aoki, Angel Pagan, Starling Marte, Rajai Davis, Yonder Alonso, Todd Frazier, Trevor Plouffe (thumb)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Andy Dirks, Garrett Jones, Brett Jackson, Casper Wells, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, Michael Saunders, Domonic Brown, Travis Snider (hamstring), David Murphy, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Belt, Quintin Berry, Alexi Amarista, Cameron Maybin, Jon Jay, Jeff Francoeur, Raul Ibanez, David DeJesus, Will Venable, Gerardo Parra, Wilson Betemit, Alex Presley, Scott Hairston, Stephen Lombardozzi, Jonny Gomes, John Mayberry, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera, Eric Thames, Michael Cuddyer (oblique)
Don't bother: Juan Pierre, Bryan LaHair, Brandon Moss, Luke Scott (back), Jason Bay, Nate Schierholtz, Gregor Blanco, Anthony Gose, Andres Torres, Ty Wigginton, Justin Maxwell, Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Jarrod Dyson (ankle), Chris Heisey, Nyjer Morgan, Jerry Hairston (hip), Jordany Valdespin, Skip Schumaker (wrist), Juan Rivera, Peter Bourjos, Willie Bloomquist (back), Jose Bautista (wrist), Lance Berkman (knee), Emilio Bonifacio (thumb), Jordan Schafer (shoulder), Seth Smith (hamstring), Daniel Nava (wrist), Logan Morrison (knee), Franklin Gutierrez (head), Brett Gardner (elbow), Grady Sizemore (back), Lucas Duda, Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras
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