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 Wednesday, Sept. 12.
Carlos Ruiz, who spent a month on the DL with plantar fasciitis, has been off for about a week now, but he didn't make his first start until Wednesday. Though he got through that game fine, the Phillies don't think he's ready to catch every day yet, leaving the majority of the starts for 32-year-old rookie Erik Kratz. Ruiz has appeared as a pinch hitter a few times and, as you might expect for someone with a .340 batting average and .968 OPS, has performed well in the role, but he probably won't get the at-bats to make a significant contribution in mixed leagues.
Mike Napoli, who has been out since Aug. 10 with a strained quadriceps, has finally begun a rehab assignment and might be ready to return over the next few days. Of course, by this point, his return is no longer such an exciting prospect for Fantasy owners. He was having a down season before the injury and, given his history of streakiness, might not have enough time to right the ship, especially if he's splitting at-bats with Geovany Soto. If you're desperate for power, go ahead and start him, but understand that you're taking a leap of faith by doing so.
Worth a second look: Wilin Rosario, Rockies
Now, Rosario -- that's where the power's at. With another home run Wednesday, the unheralded rookie ranks second among catchers with 24 -- and he hasn't even been a starter all year. He's in position to add a couple more to that total this week, with three games at home and four lefties on tap. He's batting .322 with a 1.076 OPS against southpaws this season. With his ownership percentage at only 67, a bunch of Fantasy owners are sleeping on some serious potential here.
Approach with caution: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Lucroy looked like he had some serious potential at one point earlier this season, but he's gone 11 games without an extra-base hit, batting .263 (10 for 38) during that stretch. He does most of his damage against lefties, and the only two on tap for the Brewers this week (Wandy Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez) are pretty tough. Same goes for the four righties (A.J. Burnett, James McDonald, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmermann). You might want to pull a switcheroo here if Rosario is available in your league.
No-brainers: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer (back), Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Matt Wieters
Advisable starts: A.J. Pierzynski, Wilin Rosario, Salvador Perez
Shaky starts: Brian McCann, Ryan Doumit (side), Yasmani Grandal, Jesus Montero, Jonathan Lucroy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Jaso, Chris Iannetta, A.J. Ellis, Josh Donaldson, J.P Arencibia, Alex Avila, Russell Martin, Mike Napoli (quadriceps)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Erik Kratz, Carlos Ruiz, Kurt Suzuki, Geovany Soto, Michael McKenry, Welington Castillo, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway, George Kottaras
Don't bother: Rob Brantly, Ryan Hanigan, David Ross, Derek Norris, John Buck, Martin Maldonado, Jason Castro, Josh Thole, Jeff Mathis, Miguel Olivo, Rod Barajas, Chris Snyder
Just when he seemed to be at his hottest, batting .340 (34 for 100) with six home runs and a 1.031 OPS over his last 27 games, Corey Hart came down with a case of plantar fasciitis -- a painful condition that doesn't just go away with a couple weeks' rest. The good news is he anticipates playing through it. The bad news is not every player is able to do so. It's a tricky injury with an indefinite treatment plan, so some concern is warranted in Fantasy. Then again, as hot as Hart is, you pretty much have to stick with him if he's willing to give it a go.
Brandon Moss has started eight of the last 13 games at first base for the Athletics, forcing Chris Carter to the bench each time. On the one hand, you can understand why. Moss has seven home runs in his last 19 games and is the one of the two first basemen who bats left-handed. But on the other hand, Carter didn't do anything to lose full-time at-bats, actually performing better against righties than lefties. Carter's .933 OPS would have made him an attractive sleeper in mixed leagues down the stretch, but as a platoon player, he's more of an AL-only option. And frankly, given the Athletics' matchups against the Tigers and Yankees, Moss isn't such a hot start this week either.
Worth a second look: Eric Hosmer, Royals
Been a while since we've talked about him, hasn't it? Yes, Hosmer has been a disappointment this season, but his recent numbers suggest his 2012 isn't a lost cause. Over his last 27 games, he's batting .321 (27 for 84) with four home runs, three stolen bases and a .900 OPS. He finished last season on a high note, which is part of what made him such a highly-regarded pick this season, and he's plenty affordable right now. He should be able to put up worthwhile mixed-league numbers against Gavin Floyd, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeanmar Gomez.
Approach with caution: Ike Davis, Mets
Davis has been a fairly reliable player since turning his season around in early June, posting a .903 OPS over his last 81 games. But he still can't hit at home, batting .181 with a .573 OPS, and he still can't hit lefties, batting .168 with a .531 OPS. That's trouble in a week he's scheduled to play at home and face three lefties -- especially when those lefties are Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Mark Buehrle. Because he's also losing some starts to Lucas Duda now, you might not have too many more opportunities to start Davis this season.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Edwin Encarnacion, Billy Butler, Buster Posey
Advisable starts: Joey Votto, Allen Craig, Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer (back), Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Santana, Justin Morneau, Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Paul Konerko, Nick Swisher, Corey Hart (foot)
Shaky starts: Ryan Howard, Michael Morse (wrist), Anthony Rizzo (shoulder), Garrett Jones, Adam Dunn (oblique), Mark Reynolds, Kevin Youkilis, Ike Davis, Mark Trumbo, John Mayberry, Carlos Lee, Michael Young, Tyler Colvin, Brandon Belt, Dustin Ackley, Jordan Pacheco
Strictly AL/NL-only: Mike Napoli (quadriceps), Todd Frazier, Chris Carter, Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy (back), Carlos Pena, Lucas Duda, Adam Lind, Chris Johnson, Mitch Moreland, Yonder Alonso, Chris Parmelee (groin), Brett Wallace, Brandon Moss, Jeff Keppinger
Don't bother: James Loney, Casey Kotchman, George Kottaras, Eric Chavez, Mauro Gomez, Mike Carp, Matt Carpenter, Mike Olt (foot), Tyler Moore, Mark Teixeira (calf), David Ortiz (Achilles), Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Matt Adams
And just like that ... Dan Uggla is back! The "benching" lasted mere days, as a few doubles and a homer were apparently enough to get him back in the lineup. That's not such a bad thing for Fantasy owners, of course -- he does genuinely seem to be getting back on track and has the kind of skill set that could lead to big numbers in a short period of time -- but now you're back to guessing whether or not to start him again. Chances are if you have a need at second base, the potential for a big week from Uggla outweighs whatever scrubby production you could get off the waiver wire. Might as well roll the dice, even with the Braves' less-than-favorable matchups this week.
Worth a second look: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
Weeks, like Uggla, was a disappointment for much of this year, but he's certainly turned things around lately. And it's been going on longer than most Fantasy owners probably realize. He's batting .281 with 13 homers and an .879 OPS in 249 at-bats since the beginning of July, which are pretty much the kind of numbers you expected from him all along. A second baseman who performs at that level shouldn't have to answer to matchups, so don't let the Brewers' slate against the Pirates and Nationals scare you away.
Approach with caution: Kyle Seager, Mariners
The splits for Seager have become all too familiar by now, but his recent spike in production -- which happens to coincide with a road trip, mind you -- may brainwash his Fantasy owners into believing they can trust him on an every-week basis. This will snap them out of it: Seager is batting .214 with a .611 OPS at home, where he plays all six of his games this week, and .250 with a .709 OPS against left-handed pitchers, who he faces three times this week. Please try to start someone else.
No-brainers: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Phillips, Aaron Hill, Martin Prado
Advisable starts: Chase Utley, Rickie Weeks, Marco Scutaro
Shaky starts: Danny Espinosa, Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, Dan Uggla, Kyle Seager, Michael Young, Omar Infante, Dustin Ackley, Howard Kendrick, Gordon Beckham, Neil Walker (back)
Strictly AL/NL-only: Mark Ellis, Daniel Murphy (back), Ryan Roberts (ankle), Kelly Johnson, Logan Forsythe, Everth Cabrera, Ruben Tejada, Darwin Barney, Jeff Keppinger, Jemile Weeks, Chris Nelson, Tyler Greene, Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Aviles, Brock Holt
Don't bother: Alexi Amarista, Donovan Solano, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, DJ LeMahieu, Cliff Pennington, Johnny Giavotella, Stephen Lombardozzi, Alexi Casilla, Maicer Izturis (rib), Jamey Carroll, Skip Schumaker
|5.||Pirates||@CHC1, MIL3, @HOU3|
Mark Trumbo's disastrous second half has caused him to lose his stranglehold on the left field job, with Vernon Wells starting four of the last eight games for the Angels. Of course, third base is the most likely place where Fantasy owners have continued to resort to Trumbo, having few alternatives available to them at the position. If he's not playing every day, then his hopes of a sudden turnaround are pretty much out the window. Time to find someone else, if you haven't already.
Worth a second look: Marco Scutaro, Giants
With eligibility at second base, third base and shortstop, Scutaro has been a treasure for Fantasy owners since coming over to the Giants, batting .341 with an .808 OPS. He's the seventh highest-scoring middle infielder in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch and, given his .436 (17 for 39) batting average over his last nine games, is showing no signs of slowing down. If you haven't allowed yourself to fall for him yet, this week's seven-game slate against the Rockies' and Padres' pitching staffs is the perfect time to do so.
Approach with caution: Pedro Alvarez, Pirates
Alvarez had his power stroke going over the second half of August, but someone must have hit the off switch in September. He's batting .132 (5 for 38) over his last nine games. The infinitely streaky slugger is utterly useless when he's at less than his best, so even though his matchups against the Cubs, Brewers and Astros this week look pretty favorable, you're taking a big risk by starting him in Head-to-Head leagues.
No-brainers: Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Chase Headley, Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado, Aramis Ramirez, Adrian Beltre (shoulder)
Advisable starts: Hanley Ramirez, David Freese, Alex Rodriguez, Marco Scutaro
Shaky starts: Kevin Youkilis, Pablo Sandoval, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Pedro Alvarez, Mark Reynolds, Kyle Seager, Chipper Jones, Michael Young, Mark Trumbo, Omar Infante, Trevor Plouffe, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Jordan Pacheco
Strictly AL/NL-only: Todd Frazier, Chris Davis, Daniel Murphy (back), Jed Lowrie, Luis Cruz, Ryan Roberts (ankle), Chris Johnson, Eric Chavez, Logan Forsythe, Alberto Callaspo, Jeff Keppinger, Brett Wallace, Mike Aviles, Matt Dominguez
Don't bother: Lonnie Chisenhall, Scott Rolen, Donovan Solano, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, Kevin Frandsen (ankle), Mauro Gomez, Willie Bloomquist (back), Ryan Wheeler, Mike Olt (foot), DJ LeMahieu, Stephen Lombardozzi, Josh Vitters, Maicer Izturis (rib), Ryan Wheeler, Jamey Carroll, Matt Carpenter, Jack Hannahan, Eduardo Nunez
Troy Tulowitzki ... how much longer can we wait around for that guy? He was initially supposed to come back Sept. 1. No dice. Then, he was looking at Sept. 10. Wrong again. If you didn't know any better, you'd think the Rockies were just planning to hold him out the rest of the season. He hasn't played in three months, after all. What could he have to gain from a couple weeks' action? Because the Rockies insist they want to bring him back at some point, though, you pretty much have to keep him stashed in Fantasy. You just shouldn't hope for much to close out the season.
Worth a second look: J.J. Hardy, Orioles
From June 9 to Aug. 24 -- a span of 65 games -- Hardy hit only five home runs. In 17 games since then, he has hit ... five home runs. He's also batting .309 (21 for 68) during that stretch, so the slugging shortstop with a tendency to run hot and cold has apparently turned the other handle on the bathroom sink. If that's the case, matchups don't matter. Splits don't matter. Nothing can stop the wrecking ball that is a red-hot Hardy. If you're in a position to gamble for what could be huge rewards, Hardy has the potential to deliver.
Approach with caution: Jed Lowrie, Astros
Lowrie has the potential to deliver huge rewards himself, but considering he just came off the disabled list Tuesday after missing two months with an ankle injury, starting him this week would be the gutsiest move you could make this time of year -- gutsier than I'm able to justify, frankly. Yeah, when he's hot, he's great, but he's been known to disappoint many a Fantasy owner who thought he had him figured out. Better let Lowrie prove it first.
No-brainers: Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, Jimmy Rollins, Starlin Castro, Derek Jeter (ankle)
Advisable starts: Elvis Andrus, Ian Desmond, Marco Scutaro, J.J. Hardy, Alcides Escobar
Shaky starts: Asdrubal Cabrera (wrist), Erick Aybar, Josh Rutledge, Danny Espinosa, Alexei Ramirez, Jhonny Peralta, Trevor Plouffe, Manny Machado
Strictly AL/NL-only: Luis Cruz, Yunel Escobar, Stephen Drew, Ruben Tejada, Jed Lowrie, Everth Cabrera, Tyler Greene, Mike Aviles, Pedro Ciriaco, Brock Holt, Andrelton Simmons (ankle), Troy Tulowitzki (groin)
Don't bother: Zack Cozart (oblique), Dee Gordon, Alexi Amarista, Donovan Solano, Jurickson Profar, Robert Andino, Joaquin Arias, Ryan Theriot, Jean Segura, Cliff Pennington, Maicer Izturis (rib), Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Willie Bloomquist (back), Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, Brendan Ryan, Billy Hamilton
The Reds have opted to bench struggling center fielder Drew Stubbs, who's batting .152 (17 for 112) over his last 31 games. Manager Dusty Baker doesn't anticipate it being a permanent change, but for Fantasy purposes, it's pretty much the straw that breaks the camel's back. If you're among the 33 percent who've stuck it out with Stubbs, desperate for whatever home runs and stolen bases he provides, turn the page already. In a worst-case scenario, you can fall back on Chris Heisey, who should at least provide a few homers in place of Stubbs.
The Blue Jays have also made a change to their outfield (albeit a lower-profile one), swapping out semi-prospect Moises Sierra for full-fledged prospect Anthony Gose. And this time around seems to be going a little better for Gose, who's batting .412 (7 for 17) with four steals in his last six games. He's still a bit raw, but he'll contribute a healthy number of steals down the stretch.
Michael Morse has had to miss time recently with a bone bruise caused by a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. He should be able to play through the injury, but no one can say how effective he'll be. He has just two extra-base hits in his last 21 games, batting .238 (19 for 80) during that stretch, so you might want to consider sitting him if it's a halfway viable option for you.
Worth a second look: Angel Pagan, Giants and Adam Eaton, Diamondbacks
Pagan isn't completely healthy right now, having to contend with a laceration on his hand, but his matchups this week against the Rockies and Padres are so good that you'll want to chance the possibility of a lost game here or there just so you can get his bat in your lineup. Pagan is batting .327 (52 for 159) with eight steals, 23 extra-base hits and a .943 OPS over his last 38 games, making him the highest-scoring hitter in Head-to-Head leagues during that stretch. Obviously, if his situation changes over the weekend, you'll want to reconsider, but right now, you should like what you see. Eaton's situation isn't entirely crystal clear either since he'll eventually have to contend with Chris Young, who's out with a strained quadriceps, but the hunch here is Eaton continues to start if and when Young returns. The speedster should be on base plenty against the Padres and Rockies this week, and he might even show off his extra-base pop with three games at home and three games at Coors Field. He's on the deeper end of the sleeper pool for sure, but I'm liking his chances this week.
Approach with caution: Josh Reddick, Athletics and John Mayberry, Phillies
Reddick has been a disaster in September so far, batting .091 (4 for 44) in 11 games, so you'd be tempted to sit him even with favorable matchups. Because his this week -- Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Hiroki Kuroda -- are anything but, it's a relatively easy call, provided you have some outfield depth in your league. Just don't look to Mayberry as the replacement. Yeah, he's been a hot pickup recently, batting .341 (30 for 88) with five homers in his last 24 games, but it could all come to an end for him this week, with R.A. Dickey, Matt Harvey, Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor and Tim Hudson on the schedule. Let him be your surprise play some other week.
No-brainers: Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton (knee), Giancarlo Stanton, Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward, Alex Rios, Jay Bruce, Adam Jones, Curtis Granderson
Advisable starts: Allen Craig, Carlos Gonzalez, Adrian Gonzalez, Martin Prado, Alex Gordon, Andre Ethier, Ben Zobrist, Nelson Cruz, Shane Victorino, Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Upton, Desmond Jennings, Bryce Harper, Jacoby Ellsbury, Nick Swisher, Austin Jackson, Angel Pagan (hand), B.J. Upton, Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham, Jayson Werth, Ben Revere, Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, Hunter Pence, Norichika Aoki, Jason Kubel, Corey Hart (foot)
Shaky starts: Josh Reddick, Michael Morse (wrist), Yoenis Cespedes (wrist), David Murphy, Garrett Jones, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Ludwick, Adam Dunn (oblique), Alejandro De Aza, Carlos Gomez (quadriceps), Mark Trumbo, Colby Rasmus, Tyler Colvin, Cody Ross, Adam Eaton, Michael Brantley, Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Quentin (knee), John Mayberry, Delmon Young, Ryan Doumit (side), Jon Jay, Carlos Lee, Lorenzo Cain, Brandon Belt, Justin Ruggiano, Howard Kendrick, David DeJesus
Strictly AL/NL-only: Todd Frazier, Rajai Davis, Trevor Plouffe, Dexter Fowler, Andy Dirks, Dewayne Wise, Chris Davis, Matt Joyce, Drew Stubbs, Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Dayan Viciedo, Yonder Alonso, Nate McLouth, Denard Span, Chris Parmelee (groin), Brett Jackson (knee), Michael Saunders, Domonic Brown, Travis Snider (hamstring), Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Brandon Moss, Seth Smith, Juan Pierre, Pedro Ciriaco, Scott Hairston, Anthony Gose, Justin Maxwell, Scott Podsednik
Don't bother: Chris Young (quadriceps), Eric Thames, Donovan Solano, Raul Ibanez, Jose Constanza, Jonny Gomes, Andres Torres, Ezequiel Carrera, Gregor Blanco, Starling Marte, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Gerardo Parra, Brennan Boesch, Jeff Francoeur, Jose Tabata, Alexi Amarista, Franklin Gutierrez, Luke Scott, Stephen Lombardozzi, Willie Bloomquist (back), Matt Carpenter, Tyler Moore, Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Michael Cuddyer (oblique), Eric Young (rib cage), Brett Gardner (elbow), Grady Sizemore (back), Wil Myers, Oscar Taveras
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