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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
Mariners' Fernando Rodney allows homer, earns save Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:27 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney gave up a home run in the ninth inning Monday but was able to finish off his team's 3-2 win over the Angels for his eighth save.

Rodney retired the first batter he faced in the ninth inning but then served up a homer to center field to bring the Angels within one. After another out, the closer put a man on base with a walk, but catcher Mike Zunino was able to throw out a pinch-runner on a steal attempt to finish the game.

Rodney owns a 5.56 ERA and 11:7 K:BB ratio in 11 1/3 innings.


Athletics' Billy Butler snaps hitless skid Monday vs. Twins
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:23 am ET) Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler ended an 0-for-20 slump by hitting a single in the first inning Monday but couldn't find another hit across his final four at-bats in his team's 8-7 loss to the Twins.

"I got one, but I had other pitches to hit," Butler said after the game, per the Bay Area News Group. "It’s just not working out for me right now, you know? I got pitches from (Twins’ starter Phil) Hughes after that, pitches to hit from other guys, too."

Butler was unable to find success late against closer Glen Perkins, popping up with a man on base and his team down two.

"I got a pitch from Perkins," Butler said. "I was just swinging, and I’m not getting the results for reasons I can’t see right now."

Butler, who sported a .377 batting average and 1.023 OPS on April 22, is hitting .257/.318/.396 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 101 at-bats due to his recent struggles.


Angels' David Freese collects fifth home run Monday
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(1:18 am ET) Angels third baseman David Freese went 1 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Mariners Monday.

Freese delivered the fifth solo homer of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning to close the gap to one run, but the Angels were unable to complete the comeback, with a pinch-runner getting caught stealing for the final out of the game. The third baseman has hit .220/.262/.420 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 100 at-bats.


Angels' Matt Joyce knocks first home run Monday vs. Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Angels left fielder Matt Joyce went 1 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 3-2 loss to the Mariners Monday.

Joyce answered a pair of solo home runs in the top of the seventh with one of his own in the bottom half of the inning. He was then pulled for a pinch-runner after drawing a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth inning with his team down one run, but the runner was caught stealing to end the game.

Joyce has hit .148/.195/.222 with one home run and seven RBI in 81 at-bats.


Mariners' Seth Smith hits second home run Monday vs. Angels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Mariners designated hitter Seth Smith went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 win over the Angels Monday.

Smith pushed his team's lead to 3-1 with his eighth-inning home run, and the insurance run would prove vital, as the Angels slugged a solo homer of their own in the bottom of the ninth. Smith has hit .274/.329/.516 with two home runs and seven RBI in 62 at-bats.


Mariners' Logan Morrison slugs fourth home run Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:09 am ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison went 1 foe 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 3-2 win over the Angels Monday.

Morrison was the only Seattle player to reach more than once on a day in which his team managed just four hits and one walk but scored three runs, all on solo homers. His home run was his third in his last four games and extended his hitting streak to six games.

Morrison has hit just .222/.271/.389 with four home runs and seven RBI in 90 at-bats, but he sported a .149 batting average less than a week ago before his recent offensive success.


Giants OF Angel Pagan gets two hits in victory
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(1:05 am ET) Giants outfielder Angel Pagan went 2 for 4 from the plate during Monday night's 2-0 win against the Padres. 

Pagan hit an RBI single in the third inning, which scored Nori Aoki. He also hit a single in the first inning. Pagan now has a slash line of .350/.373/.447. 


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(1:04 am ET) Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz went 1 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-2 win over the Angels Monday.

The Mariners were only able to collect four home runs Monday night; incredibly, three were solo homers, with the first coming from Cruz, the major-league home-run leader. He broke a scoreless tie with his seventh-inning shot over the left field wall. It was his fifth home run in the last six games.

Cruz has hit .340/.382/.796 with 14 home runs and 26 RBI in 103 at-bats. He'll look to keep rolling as the series against the Angels continues Tuesday.


Giants' Santiago Casilla earns save against Padres
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(1:02 am ET) Giants closer Santiago Casilla earned his eighth save of the season in Monday night's 2-0 win over the Padres. 

Casilla pitched the ninth inning, struck out one batter and held the Padres without a hit. He now has an ERA of 2.13. 


Red Sox's Allen Craig 'ready' in case Hanley Ramirez misses time
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:01 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Allen Craig could be facing an increase in playing time after Hanley Ramirez suffered a shoulder injury while crashing into an outfield wall Monday. Craig said he'll "be ready" for the challenge if needed, the Boston Herald reports.

"I enjoy playing the game as much as possible," Craig said Monday night. "Like I said before, you never want to get an opportunity because of someone’s injury, but I don’t want to jump the gun on anything. I hope Hanley’s OK. If my name’s called, I’ll be ready."

Craig replaced Ramirez in Monday's game and went 1 for 4 in his team's 5-1 loss to the Rays. He has hit .146/.222/.220 with one home run and two RBI in 41 at-bats.


 
 
 
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