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Start and sit hitters for Week 18

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Though normally in Fantasy Baseball, you'd start your best players every week regardless of matchups, in those weeks when you do need a fill-in, whether because of injuries or the total collapse of a trusted starter, Scott White is here to help.

At each position, he'll list the players who are "too obvious" for the upcoming week, meaning the ones you wouldn't consider sitting for anyone off the list, and then suggest a start and a sit based on a variety of short-term factors.

All stats are updated through Thursday, July 24.

Edwin Encarnacion is almost fully recovered from a strained quad, and the Blue Jays seem motivated to get him back in the lineup as soon as possible. He may not get a rehab assignment, but you shouldn't worry about rust for a player as high-end as him.

Jedd Gyorko is also on the verge of returning. He's been out since June 3 with plantar fasciitis, but the Padres could welcome him back to the lineup as early as this weekend. As cold as he was before the injury, though, he'll need to do some damage before you consider activating him in mixed leagues.

Scott's sleepers for Week 18
Player Own/Start %
1. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers 79/63
2. Gregory Polanco, OF, Pirates 94/70
3. Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies 83/70
4. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 89/75
5. Mike Napoli, 1B, Red Sox 85/66
6. Stephen Vogt, C/1B/OF, Athletics 63/56
7. Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals 89/72
8. Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics 90/70
9. Jed Lowrie, 2B/SS, Athletics 76/58
10. Denard Span, OF, Nationals 70/58

Eric Hosmer (hand), Mark Teixeira (lat), Scooter Gennett (quad), Manny Machado (back) and Pedro Alvarez (knee) are all dealing with day-to-day injuries that could potentially linger into next week. Of them, Teixeira's and Hosmer's are probably the most serious, so you may want to go ahead and line up replacements for them.

And with that, on to the position-by-position breakdown ...

Catcher

Too obvious: Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, Carlos Santana, Salvador Perez, Devin Mesoraco, Miguel Montero, Evan Gattis, Brian McCann

Start: Stephen Vogt, Athletics
A sore foot may be preventing Vogt from caching, but it hasn't slowed down his bat. He's 7 for 17 (.412) in his last five games, giving him a .357 batting average since his arrival June 1. If it was all singles, I could understand the lack of interest, but he has provided enough pop to rank among the top performers at catcher since his arrival. No reason for that to change in a week he's facing Brad Peacock, Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen.
Instead of: Derek Norris, Kurt Suzuki, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Sit: Yan Gomes, Indians
Gomes has seemingly earned his place among the "too obvious" at the position with a .313 (31 for 99) batting average and six home runs in his last 28 games, but he has benefited from a favorable schedule during that stretch. Not so this week. Not only do the Indians have some of the toughest matchups of any team, facing pitchers like Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez, Chris Young and Yu Darvish, but all six of their games are against right-handers. Gomes, ever the lefty killer, is batting just .239 against righties this year.
Instead of: Vogt, Wilson Ramos

First base

Too obvious: Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Bautista, Jose Abreu, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, Todd Frazier, Victor Martinez, Brandon Moss, Jonathan Lucroy, Buster Posey, Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Davis, Matt Adams, Carlos Santana

Start: Mike Napoli, Red Sox
Napoli has kind of flown under the radar because of a disproportionately low RBI total, but with the Red Sox upping their scoring in recent days, his .294 (40 for 136) batting average, seven home runs and .885 OPS in 38 games since returning from a DL stint for a finger sprain may begin to pay dividends. He's been especially hot lately, batting .385 (10 for 26) in his last seven games, and gets six games at home this week, where he's batting .290.
Instead of: Mark Trumbo, Michael Morse, Steve Pearce

Sit: Allen Craig, Cardinals
The suggestion to sit Craig is hardly the scandal it was before Oscar Taveras began stealing his at-bats three weeks ago, but especially this week, he figures to be a waste of a lineup spot. The one time you can count on him to play is when the Cardinals face a left-handed pitcher (thanks to his favorable splits against them), and they face exactly none this week. Their matchups against Tyson Ross, Jesse Hahn, Wily Peralta and Kyle Lohse aren't especially promising either.
Instead of: Napoli, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Howard

Second base

Too obvious: Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, Dee Gordon, Anthony Rendon, Matt Carpenter, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Chase Utley, Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick, Neil Walker

Five Best Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Reds ARI3, @MIA4
2. Tigers CHW3, COL3
3. Athletics @HOU3, KC3
4. Blue Jays @BOS3, @HOU4
5. Cubs COL4, @LAD3

Start: Emilio Bonifacio, Cubs
The good news is Bonifacio started the Cubs' first three games after returning from an oblique injury Tuesday. The bad news is he didn't do much of anything in them, going 4 for 14 (.286) with no stolen bases. He has a better chance of making his presence known this week, though, with six lefties on tap. Typically, a team won't face even half that many in a given week, so Bonifacio has an especially rare chance to capitalize on his .377 batting average against lefties. And the matchups, at least for that first series against Colorado, work in his favor as well.
Instead of: Kolten Wong, Omar Infante, Jordy Mercer

Sit: Josh Rutledge, Rockies
In the rare event you're forced to scour the waiver wire for a hot-hand play at what has been one of the deeper positions in Fantasy this year, Rutledge may appear to be an even better choice than Emilio Bonifacio with his .400 (8 for 20) batting average in five games filling in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. But this week, he'll be on the road, away from the hitter's haven that is Coors Field, and closes it out against Jake Arrieta, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez. I'm leaving him for NL-only leagues.
Instead of: Martin Prado, Bonifacio, Tommy La Stella

Third base

Too obvious: Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Anthony Rendon, Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, Matt Carpenter, Manny Machado, Carlos Santana, Pablo Sandoval

Start: Chase Headley, Yankees
While Headley's overall numbers are still most accurately described as stinky, his performance so far in July suggests he may have some hope for a turnaround, especially with the recent move from a pitcher's park to a hitter's park. He's on the road this week, but with a .320 (24 for 75) batting average for the month and an explanation for the turnaround that sounds halfway legitimate -- he went back to gripping the bat like he did prior to last spring, when he broke his right hand -- he might actually do some damage against pitchers like Colby Lewis, Nick Martinez, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz.
Instead of: Martin Prado, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Johnson

Sit Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians
With nothing but right-handers on tap for the Indians, Chisenhall might seem like a decent candidate for a rebound week. But his recent struggles -- he's batting .213 (26 for 122) with a .622 OPS in his last 34 games -- have nothing to do with platoon splits. In fact, he actually has a higher batting average against lefties (.333) than righties (.313) this season. Considering four of his six games are against Hisashi Iwakuma, Felix Hernandez, Chris Young and Yu Darvish, you can probably do better at third base.
Instead of: Aramis Ramirez, Nolan Arenado, Brock Holt

Shortstop

Too obvious: Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez, Ian Desmond, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Ben Zobrist, Jimmy Rollins, Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar

Five Worst Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Marlins WAS3, CIN4
2. Brewers @TB3, @STL3
3. Phillies @NYM3, @WAS4
4. Indians SEA3, TEX3
5. Twins @KC3, @CHW3

Start: Jed Lowrie, Athletics
Lowrie's two month-long slump did a pretty good job of sinking his numbers, which makes his resurgence now easy to overlook. But particularly at shortstop, where half the teams in your league could probably stand to upgrade, you want to know when a player of his caliber is batting .379 (22 for 58) with a .901 OPS in his last 15 games. He could have even more in store against Brad Peacock, Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen this week.
Instead of: Jean Segura, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta

Sit: Andrelton Simmons, Braves
Well, that didn't last long. Not only is Simmons out of the two-hole, where he finally managed to contribute something in Fantasy as a table setter for Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and company, but he's just 3 for 25 (.120) in his last seven games. He doesn't steal bases and, at least this year, he doesn't hit home runs, so when he's not hitting for average, what's the incentive to start him? His matchups this week could better as well. He faces Ian Kennedy twice and Zack Greinke and Tyson Ross once each.
Instead of: Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Arismendy Alcantara

Outfield

Too obvious: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Bautista, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence, Nelson Cruz, Michael Brantley, Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Jayson Werth, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Matt Holliday, Alex Rios, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Heyward, Jay Bruce, Alex Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun, J.D. Martinez, Charlie Blackmon, Bryce Harper, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Ben Zobrist, Torii Hunter

Start: Austin Jackson, Tigers
Maybe Jackson's recent hot streak -- he's batting .429 (24 for 56) with a 1.163 OPS in his last 13 games -- is all the reason you need to start him this week, but I'll give you two more. The Tigers are facing bottom feeders like Hector Noesi, John Danks and Franklin Morales, not to mention whoever the Rockies dig up to start Saturday's game, and four of the six pitchers on tap throw left-handed. Jackson is batting .326 with an .847 OPS against lefties.
Instead of: Marlon Byrd, Marcell Ozuna, Steve Pearce

Sit: Khris Davis, Brewers
Davis may have homered Thursday, but he's clearly in a funk right now, batting .208 (11 for 53) in his last 14 games. In a season of extreme highs and lows (he hit just .215 in his first 39 games, remember), he could be due for a downturn. His matchups against Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, David Price, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn certainly don't help his case.
Instead of: Jackson, Gregory Polanco, Corey Dickerson

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Player News
Twins' Byron Buxton named No. 1 prospect by MLB.com
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was named the top prospect in baseball by MLB.com Friday.

Buxton played just 31 games in 2014 due to wrist and concussion issues and finished with a .240/.313/.405 line along with four home runs, 16 RBI and six stolen bases in 121 at-bats with high Class A Fort Myers. He also went 0 for 3 at the Double-A level. Buxton is making his second straight appearance atop MLB.com's top prospect list.

The rest of MLB.com's top-five prospects (in order) are Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, Astros shotstop Carlos Correa, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Cubs shortstop Addison Russell. None of the quartet appeared in the top five of last year's MLB.com prospect list, though all four cracked the top 12.


Red Sox designate Drake Britton for assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Red Sox designated pitcher Drake Britton for assignment Friday, clearing a roster spot for pitcher Alexi Ogando.

Britton appeared in seven games with the Red Sox in 2014, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four batters and walking two. He posted a 5.86 ERA and 37:38 K:BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket.


Peter Moylan 'doing fantastic' in return from Tommy John
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Free-agent pitcher Peter Moylan indicated Friday that he's "doing fantastic" in his return from his second Tommy John surgery, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"I’m doing fantastic, mate. Dropped 35 pounds," Moylan said. “My goal is to be 100 percent by end of spring. Ball is coming out great, though. Probably have to throw for some teams right around the start of spring to gauge interest, but there have already been some nibbles, which is encouraging."

Moylan underwent the procedure last March after receiving a non-roster invitation from the Astros. He's throwing from about 70 percent strength off a mound and in the process of deciding whether to sign a a deal in the near future or after the season begins. He hopes to resume pitching in the big leagues by midseason at the earliest.

Moylan has made 309 appearances since debuting in 2006, compiling a 21-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 213:121 K:BB ratio in 276 innings.


Braves' Shelby Miller: Sinker is 'going to take me to the next level'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller had an up-and-down season with the Cardinals in 2014. He began the season by going 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA before going 2-7 with a 5.11 ERA over his next 16 appearances (15 starts).

Miller, however, was able to finish the season on a high note, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and .190 opponents' batting average over his final seven starts. Miller attributes his success down the stretch to incorporating a sinker into his repertoire, per FOX Sports South.

"I said I'm going to throw some of these, and we'll see where it's at," Miller said of a conversation he had with catcher A.J. Pierzynski before an Aug. 23 start against the Phillies. "It felt good so we just went with it. I started throwing it literally within three days. It's a good pitch that I picked up quick.

"I still need a lot of work with it. I need a lot of work with all my pitches. There's all sorts of ways to get better. But I think that's definitely a pitch that will help me be more efficient and take me deeper into games. That's [the sinker] going to be a huge pitch for me this year that's ultimately going to take me to the next level. Not only that but kind of mixing it all together, becoming more of a complete pitcher more than a thrower."

Miller added he will also begin to work more on his changeup, which he threw just 2.2 percent of the time in 2014, per FanGraphs.com.

"I know [Braves pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] has been known for changeups," Miller said. "A lot of great pitchers have come through this organization, [and] that's a pitch I would love to pick up. I want to be able to throw it more consistently, [and] have a little bit more confidence in it."


Scott Baker agrees to minor-league deal with Yankees
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Yankees agreed to a minor-league deal with pitcher Scott Baker, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. If Baker makes the major-league roster, he will be paid $1.5 million.

Baker made 25 appearances (eight starts) for the Rangers in 2014, going 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings.


Rockies designate Jayson Aquino for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) After completing a two-team trade Friday, the Rockies decided to designate Jayson Aquino for assignment, the team announced.

Aquino spent 2014 bouncing around the minor league, pitching in 18 games with a 5.13 ERA in 107 innings pitched. He went 5-10 with 83 strikeouts in stints with both Double-A Tulsa and Class A Modesto.


Report: Red Sox express willingness to trade Edward Mujica
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Red Sox have expressed a willingness to trade reliever Edward Mujica, a source told FOX Sports. The right-handed reliever is set to make $4.75 million in 2015.

Mujica, who was an All-Star with St. Louis in 2013, went 2-4 with a 3.90 ERA and eight saves in his first season with Boston in 2014.


Orioles 1B/OF Steve Pearce agrees to $3.7M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Orioles avoided arbitration with outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce, agreeing to a $3.7 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Pearce reportedly filed for $5.4 million, while the Orioles reportedly offered $2 million.

Pearce is coming off his best season as a major leaguer, batting .293 with a .373 on-base percentage, .556 slugging percentage, .930 OPS, 21 home runs, 26 doubles and 49 RBI in 102 games.


Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is 'staying put'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) A team source told CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman that Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is "staying put."  Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told FOX Sports earlier in the week that it is "highly, highly unlikely" Tulowitzki will be traded before opening day.

Tulowitzki, who has been linked to trade rumors involving the Mets this offseason, is under contract through 2020 on a six-year, $118 million deal. He is also recovering from August hip surgery.


Red Sox agree to deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with pitcher Alexi Ogando, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which includes $1.5 million in bonuses, according to USA Today.

Ogando has been a free agent since being non-tendered by the Rangers in December. Ogando made just 27 relief appearances in 2014 due to an elbow injury. He went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA.

Ogando, who was an All-Star in 2011, also has experience starting at the major-league level, going 19-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 48 career starts.


 
 
 
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