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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
Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers headed for bullpen role
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers is likely to end up pitching out of the bullpen in 2015, reports MLB.com.

Scheppers, who spent 2014 as a starter, struggled with injuries and will likely be the set-up in the eighth inning.

"We talked to him about what his role is right now," manager Jeff Banister said. "He is pitching significant innings at the back end of the game. We are looking for Tanner to be one of our guys, along with Neftali to lock down the game and help us win the games we are supposed to win."

Scheppers is still building back his arm strength and is hoping to regain a bigger role with the club at some point.

"Of course I have big expectations for myself," Scheppers said. "If you're in the big leagues, you want to be a big key on the team you are playing on. But I have found out the hard way that if you look too far ahead, you get excited and then have a setback, it brings you back to earth."


Madison Bumgarner fans 11 in Giants' minor league game
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Madison Bumgarner through six scoreless innings in a minor league game for the Giants on Friday.

Bumgarner struck out 11 and allowed just two hits. 

"I feel good about it," Bumgarner said, per MLB.com's William Boor. "I made a lot of good pitches today. There weren't that many that were bad I felt like. I felt dang good about it."


Angels prospect Roberto Baldoquin showing he belongs
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Angels prospect Roberto Baldoquin is still getting used to being in the United States. But the Cuban-born player is proving to his team he belongs in the big leagues, reports MLB.com.

Baldoquin hit a towering home run Friday, showing Angels management just another tool in his arsenal.

"He's 20, we're going to take our time with him -- but he has some things that you just can't teach," general manager Jerry Dipoto said of Baldoquin, who will start the season at one of the Class-A levels. "He has soft, quick hands, he has great feet, and he has a wonderful internal clock on the field."

Manager Mike Scioscia loves what he's seen from the 20-year-old so far this spring.

"We've worked him out; he's got a nice approach to the ball, has a real easy, fluid swing," Scioscia said. "That ball jumped out of his bat."


Giants' Jake Peavy adds new pitch mid-game
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy began throwing a new pitch in his most-recent start, in the middle of the game. 

Peavy began throwing a four-seam changeup, a pitch he'd never even tried to throw before he was on the mound in a spring game. 

"It's unlike anything I've ever thrown before," Peavy said, per MLB.com's Barry Bloom. "The first five I threw bounced to the plate, they were about 50 feet."

By the time he left the game, he was already recording strikeouts with the new pitch. 

"It just got better as the game went on," said Peavy. "I'm excited about it. I'm excited to have this time to work on a little bit of everything."


Yankees' Stephen Drew starts to emerge from slump
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Yankees infielder Stephen Drew went three for three on Friday, which is a significant bright spot in what's been a tough spring. 

Prior to Friday's game, Drew only had six hits all spring. The 3-for-3 game boosted his average from .167 to .231. 

"He's swung the bat better the last two weeks," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "The one thing you want is you want a lineup that there's pressure on the pitcher of the opposing team the entire time, and I feel that we have that type of lineup that we can do that, where so much pressure doesn't fall on a couple of guys."


Yangervis Solarte can play anywhere, do anything for Padres
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Padres utilty man Yangervis Solarte will be in the lineup most days. He just doesn't know where. 

"Every day, it's a new place," he said per MLB.com's Corey Brock. "And that's good for me. I can play everywhere. That's a good situation. I can do everything. The more positions I can play, the better it is for me. I think that it can help me and help the team."

"We feel good about Solarte in there," said manager Bud Black.

Solarate has started at three infield positions this spring and is hitting .295. 

"Overall, he's done a nice job moving around the diamond," Black said. "The versatility he brings is very advantageous for us. He brings some offense, some durability."


Paulo Orlando, Moises Sierra battling for last Royals' roster spot
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) The last man on the Royals' roster will be either Paulo Orlando or Moises Sierra . The two are battling for the fifth outfielder spot. 

With just over a week to go in spring training, Orlando seems to have the advantage.

"He's done everything well. He plays solid defense in all three outfielder spots. He's a true center fielder," manager Ned Yost said, per MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan. "He's swinging the bat really well. He has made great strides the last couple of years. He's athletic and can run. He fits our profile."

Orlando is hitting .367 this spring, 47 points higher than Sierra. 


Diamondbacks' Robbie Ray trying to find change-up
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray has spent the spring trying to improve his breaking ball. In the process, he lost his change-up. 

"It'll come back," Ray said, per Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com. "I threw it (Thursday) and it's already starting to come back. I just have to throw it more."

Ray changed the finger position on his change-up grip to help get it back to its previous effectiveness. 

"Granted, yeah, I've lost a little touch for my change-up, but the slider is where it needs to be right now," he said. "I feel like I can always find the change-up. I've had it for so long. It's a matter of two bullpens and then maybe a game and I'll have it back. But I definitely feel like I'm in a better place right now."


Homer Bailey pitches three innings in Reds' minor league game
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Homer Bailey continued his return from elbow surgery with a three-inning outing in a Reds' minor league game on Friday. 

Bailey had surgery last September on a torn flexor mass tendon near his elbow.

Bailey allowed one run on three hits, walking two and striking out four. He threw 41 pitches, 25 for strikes. 

"I think Homer's first inning he was up (in the strike zone)," said Reds manager Bryan Price, per MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "He made a good adjustment going into the second inning and threw the ball much better. I thought he looked terrific."

Bailey also pitched three innings in a minor league game last Sunday. He'll start again on April 1. 


Johnny Cueto returns to mound in Reds minor league game
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/27/2015) Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto returned to the mound for the first time since March 15 in a minor league game on Friday. 

Cueto gave up two runs on five hits in five innings. He struck out four and didn't walk a batter. Cueto threw 60 pitches, including 47 strikes. 

"I thought I was going to be a little wild and stuff like that, but no, everything felt pretty good," Cueto said, per MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "I was trying to throw the ball down and I was effective. So I was very pleased with my start."

Cueto left the team in mid-March to return home to the Dominican Republic, after his mother needed open heart surgery. He returned after the operation. 

"He threw all of his pitches for strikes, a lot of balls were in play on the ground," manager Bryan Price said. "I thought he threw very well, especially after a fairly extended layoff from facing hitters."


 
 
 
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