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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
Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts exits game with apparent injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:05 pm ET) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was removed from Thursday's game against the Rangers due to an apparent wrist injury.

Bogaerts was hit on the wrist by a pitch in the second inning but initially stayed in the game. He played a few innings in the field before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the fourth. He has hit .268/.320/.376 with two home runs, 15 RBI and two stolen bases in 157 at-bats.


Report: Yankees' Chris Martin to begin rehab Saturday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:54 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Chris Martin will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, LoHud.com reports.

Martin was placed on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis in early May. He has posted a 3.55 ERA and 13:3 K:BB ratio in 12 2/3 innings.


Mariners' Robinson Cano dealing with flu-like symptoms
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:50 pm ET) Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano is missing his first start this season on Thursday due to flu-like symptoms, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said that Cano's symptoms popped up overnight after the team returned home from a road trip. He added that the second baseman had lost a couple pounds due to dehydration and was receiving fluids.

Cano, who went 9 for 37 on the road trip, has hit .253/.296/.333 with one home run and 13 RBI in 186 at-bats.


Rangers don't intend to start Delino DeShields at second base
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:38 pm ET) Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields played three innings at second base on Sunday, but the Rangers have no intentions to start him at the position in the immediate future, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"We like what Delino has given us at this point," manager Jeff Banister said. "He’s shown aptitude and instincts. He’s shown maturity in his at-bats. We are trying to find ways to keep him engaged and at the top of the lineup, because when he is on base, he scores runs. I don’t think we can put too much on his plate, but I don’t want to pile it so that things are falling off the edges."

A Rule 5 pick this offseason, DeShields has hit .265/.378/.373 with 10 RBI, 21 runs and 11 stolen bases in 83 at-bats.


Yankees' Slade Heathcott (quad) scratched Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:21 pm ET) Yankees center fielder Slade Heathcott has been scratched from Thursday's lineup against the A's due to a sore right quad, YES reports.

Heathcott has started four of the last six games in center field, but he'll be replaced by Chris Young due to the injury. Heathcott is 6 for 17 with one home run and three RBI in six games.

The Yankees are road favorites (-110) in Oakland on Thursday, per VegasInsider.com.


Orioles send Tyler Wilson to Triple-A Norfolk
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:05 pm ET) The Orioles sent pitcher Tyler Wilson back to Triple-A Norfolk following Thursday's doubleheader against the White Sox.

Wilson gave up two runs in six innings while starting Game 1 of the doubleheader, which was lost by the Orioles. He returns to a 2-4 record with a 3.29 ERA and 32:7 K:BB ratio in 41 innings over eight starts with Norfolk.


Orioles closer Zach Britton earns 13th save Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7:54 pm ET) Six appearances. Six saves. That has been how the last 11 days have gone for Orioles closer Zach Britton.

Britton nailed another one down Thursday in the second game of a doubleheader against the White Sox. He finished with a flourish, fanning pinch-hitter Alexei Ramirez.

He has pitched scoreless ball in 16 of his 19 games.


White Sox slugger Adam LaRoche blasts fifth home run Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7:50 pm ET) Adam LaRoche followed up his three-hit performance from the first game of the White Sox doubleheader with the Orioles with a two-run home run in the nightcap. LaRoche's bomb was his fifth of the season, and first since May 13. 

His third-inning home run, his only hit of the game, gave the White Sox a temporary 3-2 lead. Though it wouldn't be enough as the Orioles went on to defeat the White Sox 6-3.  


Report: Athletics' Coco Crisp to miss a month after undergoing epidural
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp will undergo an epidural Friday, which will sideline him for a month, reports the Bay Area News Group.

Crisp is on the 15-day disabled list with a neck injury. He is hitting .044 in 45 at-bats this season. He has not played since May 19.


Orioles SP Mike Wright merely mediocre, but snags second win
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7:45 pm ET) Orioles right-hander Mike Wright did not perform Thursday to the level he achieved in his first two starts, but that would have been virtually impossible. He had not allowed a run in two starts going in.

He pitched well enough in his latest outing to raise his record to 2-0, holding the White Sox to three runs on six hits in five innings in the second game of a doubleheader. He walked none and fanned two.

Wright was plagued by the long ball. He began the game by yielding a home run to Adam Eaton and gave up a two-run shot to Adam LaRoche in the third.

"There were some pitches I missed (with location)," Wright said, per MASNSports.com. "First batter of the game I missed up and away. Lucky enough to get through five and we got the win, so that was good."

The runs he allowed were the first in three starts. He will try to keep up the good work next Tuesday in Houston.


 
 
 
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