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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
John Lackey rediscovers winning path vs. Reds
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:07 pm ET) Cardinals starting pitcher John Lackey put together a dominant outing to get in the win column Friday night at home against the Reds, improving to 3-2 on the year. He allowed one run on six hits and no walks while striking out five over 7 2/3 innings of a 2-1 victory. Of his 87 pitches, 66 were strikes.

Over his last four starts covering 22 innings, Lackey has allowed 11 earned runs. He owns a 3.86 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP over 30 starts (191 1/3 innings). Lackey will make his final start of the regular season Wednesday in Chicago against the Cubs.

Allen Webster can't win one Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:04 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Allen Webster turned in a strong start Friday against the Orioles.

Webster allowed one run on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one during the outing. Webster allowed his only run during the third inning. With two outs, Webster walked a batter to load the bases. Nelson Cruz delivered an RBI single, giving the Orioles the lead. Webster would work out of the inning without giving up another run. Webster would settle in after giving up the run, going 2 2/3 scoreless innings before leaving the game.

Webster was in line for the win, but the Orioles mounted a comeback. He earned the no-decision for his efforts. Webster will take on the Rays in his next start. 


Kevin Gausman avoids the loss Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:03 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman avoided the loss Friday against the Red Sox.

Gausman allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits over five innings. He struck out three and did not issue any walks during the outing. Gausman was solid early, turning in three straight scoring innings to open the game. Things took a turn in the fourth, as the inning started with two solo home runs. He allowed an additional run in the fifth inning on an error. The run did not count as earned.

The Orioles managed a comeback, giving Gausman a no-decision. He’ll take on the Yankees in his next start.


David Holmberg serves up two homers in loss to Cardinals
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:56 pm ET) Reds pitcher David Holmberg turned in another solid outing but came away with a tough-luck loss Friday night against the Cardinals in St. Louis, dropping to 1-2 on the year.

The opening inning proved to be costly for Holmberg. He permitted solo home runs to Randal Grichuk and Matt Holliday in the opening frame for his only damage of the night. He yielded two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three over six innings of a 2-1 defeat. Of his 106 pitches, 63 were strikes.

Holmberg owns a 5.25 ERA over 24 innings of work. He will make his final start of the season Thursday at home against Milwaukee.


Zach Putnam gets two out save
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:55 pm ET) White Sox reliever Zach Putnam picked up a two out save Friday against the Rays.

Putnam entered with a one-run lead, and managed to shut the door. He made things interesting, giving up a hit against his first batter, but managed strikeouts against the next two hitters to end the game. It was Putnam's sixth save of the season.


Jose Quintana wins one Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:51 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana turned in a strong start Friday against the Rays.

Quintana allowed three runs, one earned, on nine hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out six and did not issue any walks during the outing. The Rays started the scoring early, picking up two runs on a first inning error. With two outs, Wil Myers managed to reach on a fielding error by second baseman Marcus Semien. Logan Forsythe then doubled two runs home. Both runs were unearned by Quintana. Forsythe would tag Quintana for an earned run in the fourth inning. He hit a solo home run to leadoff the inning. 

With the win, Quintana improved to 9-10. He’ll take on the Tigers in his next start. 


Jeremy Hellickson turns in rough start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:49 pm ET) Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson had a rough start Friday against the White Sox.

Hellickson allowed four runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out one and walked two during the outing. Hellickson got off to a strong start, turning in four scoreless innings to start the game. He seemed to tire in the top of the fifth inning. Hellickson walked the leadoff hitter, and gave up a double to the second batter. Both of those runs came around after two straight run-scoring singles. Avisail Garcia drove in two more runs on a double later in the inning. 

With the loss, Hellickson dropped to 1-4. He’ll take on the Red Sox in his next start. 


Julio Teheran goes seven innings strong in tough-luck loss
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:48 pm ET) Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran hurled seven dominant innings in a tough-luck loss to the Mets at home Friday night, dropping to 13-13 on the year. He permitted two runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out six over seven innings of a 5-0 defeat.

Over his last three starts covering 20 1/3 innings, Teheran has allowed six earned runs. He owns a 2.88 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 32 starts (216 innings). Teheran will have one more chance to climb over .500 before the end of the season. That opportunity will come Wednesday at home against Pittsburgh.


Zack Wheeler jumps one game over .500 Friday
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(10:47 pm ET) Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler turned in a gem Friday night against the Braves in Atlanta, improving to 11-10 on the year. The right-hander permitted five hits and two walks while striking out seven over six innings of a 5-0 victory.

Wheeler has permitted just one earned run over his last two starts away from home (12 innings). He owns a 3.49 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP over 31 starts (180 1/3 innings). His final start of the season will come Thursday at Washington.

Jeff Locke pitches well in no-decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:29 pm ET) Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke pitched well in a no-decision at home Friday night against the Brewers. The left-hander permitted two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out three over seven innings of a 4-2 win.

All of Pittsburgh's runs were scored in the eighth inning when Locke was out of the game. Over his last three starts covering 19 1/3 innings, Locke has allowed six earned runs. He owns a 3.60 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over 20 starts (127 1/3 innings). His next start will come Wednesday at Atlanta.

 
 
 
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