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Start and sit hitters for Week 1

Senior Fantasy Writer
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In more recent iterations of what I'll call the "weekly hitting advice column" (because it's undergone several name changes over the years), I went so far as to rank every player at every position every week. And it was glorious.

But it was also a backbreaker -- a monster undertaking that imposed itself on every other task I set out to accomplish in a given week.

Those tasks are ever-evolving. In case you haven't noticed, CBSSports.com Fantasy News has become increasingly versatile over the last few years with daily podcasts, daily video call-in shows and a growing Twitter presence. Last year, we introduced rest-of-season rankings, and this year, we've added a blog. The goal is clear: to provide Fantasy advice on as many subjects as possible in as many forms as possible as efficiently as possible.

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To put it bluntly, I can no longer justify spending one-third of my office time on something as simple as weekly hitting advice -- at least not in written form.

And that's not coming from me.

So this season, I've been tasked with stripping down last year's version of the weekly hitting advice column to its most essential parts -- the real decision points for those few Fantasy owners who have legitimate decisions to make.

Because let's face it: Baseball is a big-picture sport. Attempting to predict hitter performances from week to week is mostly fruitless and borderline crazy. Players fluctuate between hot and cold without warning, independently of matchups, all season long.

What this column should aim to do -- and if it hasn't in the past, then the extra time I put into it was actually counterproductive -- is give you a sense of direction if you've become totally lost at a position, usually because of injury or the outright collapse of the player you drafted to start there. Rarely will reading it inspire you to make a lineup change, but that should have always been the case. The winning approach to Fantasy Baseball is to start your best players and trust them to perform as they should. And if you ever lose sight of who your best players are, that's what the rest-of-season rankings are for.

All this new version is lacking is the minutia that was probably just distracting you from the big picture anyway. The same research goes into it as the old version. It's just streamlined now. Simplicity and clarity are the goals, with an emphasis on clarity. Again, all the information in the world won't help you if you don't know what to do with it.

So here's how it works. At each position, I list the players who are "too obvious" for the upcoming week. Basically, they supersede whatever else I have to say about the position. In most leagues, that means you're automatically starting them. For shallower ones where you have to choose between a couple, I've gone ahead and ranked them. With those players accounted for, I then suggest a start and a sit for the upcoming week and make my case for each, revealing two or three "instead of" examples to provide additional context.

Altogether, I touch on about 20 players at each position. More than that in the outfield, actually. No, it's not every player, but it's all you should need to feel confident you've put your best foot forward.

All stats are updated through Thursday, March 27.

Catcher

Too obvious: Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Jonathan Lucroy, Wilin Rosario, Brian McCann, Matt Wieters, Salvador Perez, Evan Gattis

Start: Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Various injuries have contributed to Montero developing a reputation as a slow starter over the last few years, but he was healthy this spring, plays for one of the eight teams with seven games this week and closes out the week at Coors Field, where he's a career .295 hitter with an .872 OPS, his best numbers at any stadium where he's gotten at least 100 at-bats. If you somehow dropped the ball at catcher, deep as the position is, he's a worthy gamble this week.
Instead of: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Russell Martin

Sit: Travis d'Arnaud, Mets
His prospect status has earned d'Arnaud a roster spot in just about all leagues, but he's been completely overmatched against major-leaguers so far. His spring performance hasn't helped. Through Thursday, he was batting just .159 (7 for 44). It's probably just a matter of time before he lives up to his pedigree, so you wouldn't want to cut him for a short-term fix, but you shouldn't expect any breakthroughs in a week he's facing Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Johnny Cueto.
Instead of: Jason Castro, Mike Zunino, Montero

First base

Five Best Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Marlins COL4, SD3
2. Rays TOR4, TEX3
3. Rockies @MIA4, ARI3
4. White Sox MIN3, @KC3
5. Yankees @HOU3, @TOR3

Too obvious: Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis, Prince Fielder, Freddie Freeman, Albert Pujols, Eric Hosmer, Buster Posey, Allen Craig, Carlos Santana, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Trumbo, Anthony Rizzo, Matt Adams, Jose Abreu

Start: Brandon Moss, Athletics
Whether or not Moss sits against lefties this season is irrelevant this week, with six righties on the schedule. And considering the one lefty is somebody named Roenis Elias, he might just end up starting all seven games. A 30-homer guy for the first time last year, Moss compiled a .904 OPS against righties and hit two-thirds of his homers on the road, where the Athletics play all seven of their games this week.
Instead of: Mike Napoli, Nick Swisher, Ryan Howard

Sit: Mark Teixeira, Yankees
Even if you assume Teixeira is as good as new coming off wrist surgery, which his .091 spring batting average would hardly suggest, he's a notoriously slow starter. He has a career .238 batting average in April compared to .278 overall. The Yankees may have favorable matchups this week, but he has to prove his competence all over again before you can seriously consider starting him in a mixed league.
Instead of: Brandon Belt, Napoli, Moss

Second base

Too obvious: Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Matt Carpenter, Ian Kinsler, Martin Prado, Ben Zobrist, Aaron Hill, Jose Altuve, Jedd Gyorko, Brandon Phillips, Daniel Murphy

Start: Kolten Wong, Cardinals
Here's where overemphasizing the week-to-week can get you into trouble. The Cardinals don't have the greatest matchups this week, facing some of the best the Reds and Pirates have to offer, but if you don't have an obvious starter at second base, do you honestly think you'll find a better sleeper than Wong? He has a legitimate prospect pedigree, has hit .375 with a 1.080 OPS this spring and is the latest anointed starter for the organization that brought you Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig the last two years. Keep the faith.
Instead of: Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon

Sit: Chase Utley, Phillies
Though still productive overall, Utley has begun to show his age with his struggles against same-handed pitchers. He hit .245 with a .754 OPS vs. lefties last year, and the Phillies face three in their six games this week. That's not exactly a death sentence for him, but he doesn't have any momentum heading into the season, having hit .175 (10 for 57) so far this spring. If you drafted him as part of a tandem with second base being so deep this year, you might want to bench him this week.
Instead of: Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier

Third base

Too obvious: Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Matt Carpenter, Josh Donaldson, Ryan Zimmerman, Martin Prado, Kyle Seager, Pedro Alvarez

Start: Marcus Semien, White Sox
The White Sox may soon realize they upgraded with the injury to Gordon Beckham. Now is the perfect time to beat everyone to the punch in Fantasy. Semien, who showed Ian Kinsler-like potential in the minors last year, has impressed with a .333 batting average and .903 OPS this spring and should put his best foot forward against pitchers like Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen this week. You wouldn't want to drop anyone of value for the versatile infielder -- this pick is too speculative for that -- but if you got burned at third base, he's highly available.
Instead of: Will Middlebrooks, Todd Frazier

Sit: Mike Moustakas, Royals
With the work he put in this offseason, Moustakas offers plenty of reasons to believe he'll finally make good on his potential this year, but he's been so disappointing so far in his major-league career that you shouldn't go out of your way to start him just yet. His strong spring performance isn't enough to earn him the benefit of the doubt in a week he's facing Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Sale.
Instead of: Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez

Shortstop

Five Worst Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Royals @DET3, CHW3
2. Cardinals @CIN3, @PIT3
3. Mets WAS3, CIN3
4. Rangers PHI3, @TB3
5. Brewers ATL3, @BOS3

Too obvious: Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jean Segura, Jose Reyes, Ian Desmond, Ben Zobrist, Elvis Andrus, Everth Cabrera

Start: Brad Miller, Mariners
The Mariners' matchups are nothing special this week, apart from them playing seven games, but I can't pass up what may be my only opportunity to recommend Miller in this space. If the Cactus League had an MVP award, he'd be in line for it. A .334 hitter over his minor-league career, he has hit well over .400 this spring, piling up 14 extra-base hits in 57 at-bats. If he goes the route of Matt Carpenter this year, as his skill set suggests he could, he'll quickly become "too obvious" at the weakest position in Fantasy.
Instead of: Andrelton Simmons, J.J. Hardy, Starlin Castro

Sit: Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals
Peralta is one of those shortstops who you can get away with starting in a mixed league but who you can't expect to give you any kind of advantage at the position. Particularly this week, with pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Tony Cingrani, Homer Bailey, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano on tap, you'll want to weigh your alternatives.
Instead of: Jed Lowrie, Alexei Ramirez, Derek Jeter

Outfield

Too obvious: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Bryce Harper, Jose Bautista, Shin-Soo Choo, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday, Jay Bruce, Justin Upton, Yasiel Puig, Hunter Pence, Alex Rios, Allen Craig, Mark Trumbo, Jason Heyward, Domonic Brown, Jayson Werth, Wil Myers, Starling Marte, Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, Shane Victorino, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Carlos Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Curtis Granderson, Alfonso Soriano, Desmond Jennings

Start: Adam Eaton, White Sox
An elbow injury late last spring robbed Eaton of what could have been a breakout season, but so far, he's making the most of his second chance, demonstrating the patient approach, extra-base pop and plus-speed that got everyone so excited in the first place. And considering his first five games are against Ricky Nolasco, Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen, the start of the regular season doesn't figure to slow him down. You drafted him for his upside. Time to cash in.
Instead of: Michael Cuddyer, Khris Davis, Leonys Martin

Sit: Christian Yelich, Marlins
As a second-year player with a top prospect pedigree, Yelich could be poised for a breakout season, but he won't make a strong case for it this week, with the Marlins at home for seven games. Their expansive ballpark stifled his developing power stroke last season, limiting him to a .256 batting average and .672 OPS there compared to .319 and .862 everywhere else. The Marlins also face four left-handers this week, against whom Yelich hit .165 with a .476 OPS last season.
Instead of: Kole Calhoun, Brett Gardner, Marlon Byrd

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
A.J. Pierzynski likely staying with Cardinals
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:21 pm ET) The return of Yadier Molina from a thumb injury is unlikely to force the Cardinals to part ways with his replacement, A.J. Pierzynski, reports FOXSports.com.

The Cardinals are expected to work Molina back in slowly when he makes his expected return to the lineup Friday, which should still leave time for Pierzynski to play. The fact that rosters expand in a few days should help Pierzynski's chances, since the team will be able to carry three catchers.

Pierzynski has appeared in 21 games since joining the Cardinals, hitting .265/.324/.338 in 68 at-bats. 


Tigers DFA Jose Ortega, clear 40-man spot
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:09 pm ET) The Tigers designated pitcher Jose Ortega for assignment Friday, to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the team announced.

Ortega has been pitching at Triple-A Toledo since May, after he gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings in the majors.  


Felix Doubront getting the start Saturday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:52 pm ET)  Cubs pitcher Felix Doubront will start the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, according to ESPN.com Friday.

Doubront, who is working his way back from a calf injury suffered just after his acquisition from the Red Sox, finished his rehab assignment last week at Double-A Tennessee. He allowed nine runs in 14 innings overall while on assignment, and it is not clear if the team intends to keep him in the rotation moving forward.  


Carter Capps' return from DL could come soon
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Marlins reliever Carter Capps could return to the team shortly after rosters expand Sept. 1, MLB.com reports Friday.

Capps, who has been out since late May with an elbow injury, began his minor-league rehab assignment at the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate earlier this week. He had a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings prior to injuring his elbow. 


Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez likely to get first taste of the majors
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has thrived since making the switch to the bullpen at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Friday is "almost a lock" to join the team when rosters expand next week.

Gonzalez has appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen at Triple-A, posting a 1.72 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 15 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old struggled mightily at Class A Clearwater earlier in the season, before the switch to the bullpen was made, after a disappointing run in spring training.

"He wasn't sharp, he wasn't strong in spring training," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "So to see what he's doing now, see what that looks like, anxious to see that if he's one of the guys. He should be one of the guys."


Jorge De La Rosa blocked on waivers
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa was claimed on waivers and will not be traded prior to Monday's deadline, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman Friday.

It is not clear which team claimed De La Rosa, but it was apparently done solely to block a trade to a possible contender. The Rockies looked to trade De La Rosa before the non-waiver deadline in July, but he will not head into free agency, where the Rockies intend to make him a qualifying offer before trying to re-sign him.  

He has a 4.19 ERA and 13-9 record in 154 2/3 innings on the season. 


Nelson Cruz, Orioles open to long-term deal
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz has been a bargain this season while working on a one-year, $8 million deal, and CBSSports.com Baseball insider Jon Heyman reports Friday the arrangement could become a long-term one this offseason.

The Orioles and Cruz have not begun early negotiations on an extension, both sides have expressed a willingness to continue to relationship beyond this season. Cruz leads the league with 34 home runs, and is hitting .256/.324/.510 with 88 RBI in 130 games overall.  


Mets discussing Travis d'Arnaud position change
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) The Mets have had preliminary conversations with catcher Travis d'Arnaud about possibly changing positions to keep him healthy, the New York Daily News reports Friday.

"We've talked about it,” manager Terry Collins said. "We’ve brought it up. Obviously, with what he's started to do offensively, we've got to see if these concussions are leading to anything. Is he changing his position (defensively), where he is positioning himself behind the hitter, to get less foul tips?"

d'Arnaud has had four reported concussions in his career, an issue that is only exacerbated by playing behind the plate. Despite that, Collins does not think it is likely to happen at this point.

d'Arnaud has made himself an indispensable part of the club's long-term plans with his play this season. Since returning from his latest concussion in June, he is hitting .265/.308/.486 over his last 50 games. 


Joe Thatcher's mound session 'didn't go well'
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) Angels reliever Joe Thatcher tried to throw off a mound recently, but his sprained ankle continues to bother him, and he told the Orange Country Register Thursday the session went poorly.

Thatcher is still aiming to return in mid-September, but it is not clear if he has a timetable to throw off a mound again at this point. Once his ankle is healed, however, Thatcher expects to return quickly.

"My arm is in shape," he said. "So as soon as my ankle is ready, I'll be ready to go. There's no build-up process."


Searching for answers, Justin Masterson to pitch out of stretch
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Justin Masterson is looking for a solution to his ongoing woes, and he told the St. Louis Dispatch his next start will feature a drastic change.

After trying it out during a bullpen session Wednesday, Masterson told reporters he will pitch exclusively out of the stretch in his start against the Cubs. The decision comes after Masterson has allowed 19 runs in his first 23 innings since the Cardinals acquired him, and the hope is that simplifying his deliver will lead to better results.

"For the most part, I was pitching out of the windup, and things would get better out of the stretch at times," Masterson said. "So we simplified it. I went only out of the stretch (in the bullpen). Less moving parts. You don't have to worry about step back, turn around, ready to throw."

Masterson feels like he can pitch out of the stretch without sacrificing velocity or overall effectiveness. He has struggled mightily with out of the stretch this season, however, allowing a .312/.414/.455 line with runners on base. 


 
 
 
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