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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
White Sox RP David Roberts makes quick work of Mariners for save
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:05 pm ET) White Sox closer David Robertson retired the side in order, working a scoreless ninth inning to protect the 4-2 win over the Mariners on Thursday. Robertson needed just 10 pitches, en route to his 27th save of the season.

Robertson has now converted four consecutive save chances.


In rematch, White Sox SP Carlos Rodon beats Mariners
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Rodon (6-5, 4.15 ERA) blanked the Mariners over his first six innings. Rodon started the seventh inning, but he walked the first batter he faced and then gave up a two-run home run to Franklin Gutierrez for the only damage against him.

On Saturday, Rodon took a no-decision against these same Mariners. But Thursday he was able to pick up the victory. In five August starts, Rodon went 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA.


Nationals' Jonathan Papelbon survives shaky outing for 21st save
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Papelbon has now given up three runs in eight outings since coming to Washington in a trade at the end of July. Overall this season, he is a perfect 21-for-21 in save opportunities and owns an impressive 1.85 ERA.


Padres SP Andrew Cashner effective, but takes loss Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:42 pm ET) Padres starter Andrew Cashner pitched well against the Nationals on Thursday, but the Padres were unable to offer much in the way of offensive support. Cashner allowed three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out six, but the Padres dropped the game 4-2.

Cashner (5-13, 4.05 ERA) kept the Nationals scoreless over the first four innings, and the Padres gave him an early 1-0 lead. But he got into trouble in the fifth inninng, when he hit a batter with the bases load, and then gave up an RBI single. Cashner then gave up a solo home run to Jayson Werth in the sixth.

All-in-all, it wasn't a bad outing for Cashner. In five August starts, Cashner went 1-3 with a 3.72 ERA.


Nationals SP Joe Ross dazzles in victory on Thursday
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(10:36 pm ET) Nationals rookie starter Joe Ross enjoyed an excellent outing against the Padres on Thursday. The young right-hander allowed one unearned run on just one hit over six solid innings. He walked two and struck out seven, en route to the 4-2 victory.

Ross (5-5, 3.24 ERA) posted the finest start of his young career, as this was the first time he did not allow an earned run in any of his 11 outings. 

Ross made six starts in August and did not fare all that well. He went 3-2 with a 5.03 ERA in August.


Nationals CF Denard Span (hip) going back to DL on Thursday
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(10:30 pm ET) Two days after being activated from the disabled list, Nationals center fielder Denard Span is heading back to the DL on Thursday. The Nationals placed the oft-injured Span on the 15-day DL with left hip inflammation. 

Span missed about six weeks with back tightness, and this latest ailment appears to be related to that injury. It is not yet clear if Span will need more than the minimum 15 days before returning.

The Nationals will announce a corresponding roster move on Friday.


Rays RP Brad Boxberger K's the side for 31st save Thursday
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(10:25 pm ET) Rays reliever Brad Boxberger needed 14 pitches to strike out the side, preserving the 5-4 win over the Twins on Thursday. Boxberger picked up his 31st save of the season with the impressive showing.

This was a solid outing for Boxberger, who had allowed a run in each of his previous three appearances.


Rays' Drew Smyly knocked around but gets no-decision Thursday
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(10:21 pm ET) Twins starter Drew Smyly was bailed out by his offense on Thursday, though he did not factor in the final decision. Smyly went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. He walked two and struck out five.

Smyly was given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but he allowed the Twins to creep back into it. He allowed a run in each of the second and third innings to tie the game. Then he gave up two runs in the fourth, including a solo home run to Eduardo Escobar. Smyly left the game trailing 4-2.

But the Rays were able to rally back and get Smyly off the hook, as they went on to win 5-4.

In three starts since returning from the disabled list, Smyly is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA.


Twins' Tommy Milone unable to hang on to lead in loss Thursday
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(10:14 pm ET) Twins starter Tommy Milone was roughed up a bit in his outing against the Rays on Thursday. The left-hander allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, as the Twins lost by a score of 5-4. 

Milone (6-4, 3.86 ERA) got off to a bad start, as he allowed the Rays to score twice in the first inning, including a solo home run by Logan Forsythe.

The Twins rallied to take a 4-2 lead over the next few innings. But Milone gave up another run in the fifth and two more in the sixth.

Milone last pitched on Sunday, working the 12th inning and picking up his first-career save in a 4-3 win over the Orioles. In three starts since returning from the disabled list, Milone is 1-1 with a 4.93 ERA


Pirates RP Mark Melancon shuts the door for 41st save Thursday
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(10:07 pm ET) Pirates closer Mark Melancon did what he does best on Thursday, as he protected a 2-1 victory over the Marlins. Melancon worked around a hit in a scoreless ninth inning, picking up his MLB-leading 41st save.


 
 
 
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