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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 Trevor Plouffe wants to cement his place at third
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(11:51 pm ET) Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe is completely aware of the threat that Miguel Sano brings when it comes to the third base spot. Sano is considered by many to be a can't-miss player. But Plouffe is trying not to let that affect him or his play. 

“You can’t think about anything like that,” Plouffe said. “You can’t worry about what other people are saying about you. I’m more focused on getting this organization out of this rut that we’ve dug ourselves over the last four years.”

After moving around the infield for years, Plouffe seems to have found his place at third. The 28-year-old has a batting average of .245 with 62 home runs, 224 RBI and 398 strikeouts in five seasons.


Rangers' Ross Ohlendorf (groin) leaves Thursday's game
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:41 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Ross Ohlendorf was removed from Thursday's game against the Rockies due to recurring tightness in his right groin, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Ohlendorf tossed a scoreless inning and struck out two Thursday in his first appearance since March 15 but continued to battle groin issues. He's competing for a spot in the bullpen.


Yankees 3B Chase Headley wants more action in the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(11:39 pm ET) Yankees third baseman Chase Headley has played the fourth most innings on the field for the team with 78, but he has only had 13 chances at fielding balls, reports the New York Times. He is hoping that he gets more opportunities going forward.

“It’s crazy,” Headley said. “I’m begging for ground balls.”

Headley came over from the Padres last spring having spent his entire career there. He seemed to suffer the same circumstances there with limited chances to field balls. He spoke to some of his current teammates and his infield coach.

“I’ve talked with Joe Espada,” Headley said of the Yankees’ new infield coach. “And Didi and Stephen — I just want a routine, easy ground ball.”

Headley, who won a National League Gold Glove in 2012, has been using his practice time to stay sharp.

“Sometimes you’ll do a drill where the coach will flip the ball so you’re reading the swing and it’s a little bit more gamelike,” Headley said. “But there’s really no substitute for getting ground balls, and unfortunately that’s out of your control in spring training, so you do the best you can with it. The good thing is I’ve done it for a long time, so I’ll be fine.”


Rangers' Nick Martinez tosses six scoreless innings Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:15 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez allowed just five hits and one walk in six scoreless innings while striking out four in Thursday's spring start against the Rockies.

Martinez is battling for the final spot in the team's rotation and did a good job making his case Thursday, limiting the Rockies to just one extra-base hit. He allowed a run in his spring debut but has delivered 8 2/3 scoreless innings in his last two appearances to lower his spring ERA to 0.84.


Rockies' Christian Friedrich impressing with slider
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:07 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Christian Friedrich has hit his stride with his slider as he continues to build upon a strong performance from last season after being moved to the bullpen, MLB.com reports.

"I saw a real good slider, the slider we saw last September -- the one that disappears, especially to left-handed hitters," manager Walt Weiss said. "He's in a good place. Maybe the velocity is not quite what it was when we saw him in September. It's ticking up. But the slider is a swing-and-miss pitch."

Friedrich has surrendered just one earned run in six innings while striking out two batters and walking two.

"The hard thing that every pitcher does when they feel they've got the stuff is, they want to show everybody they've got the stuff," Friedrich said. "I've had games where I was teetering on the edge of, 'I feel really good tonight; let's see what comes out,' then there's a lack of execution. As a starter, some days the two-seamer was 87, 88 [mph]. Now it's coming out harder, 90 [or] 91."


Diamondbacks' Peter O'Brien seeing time in outfield
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:03 pm ET) Diamondbacks catcher Peter O'Brien spent his second consecutive day in the outfield during a minor-league game Thursday, and he hasn't been behind the plate since developing throwing problems earlier in March, the Arizona Republic reports.

"I think he's going to play some outfield (once the minor league season starts) and catching isn't out of the question, but we're still talking internally to figure out what's best for him," farm director Mike Bell said.

While the team has been reluctant to publicly acknowledge O'Brien's catching issues, he's unlikely to be the long-term answer behind the plate, as general manager Dave O'Brien reportedly indicated in January. The Diamondbacks figure to roll with Tuffy Gosewisch as the team's primary catcher unless an addition is made.


Reds' Michael Lorenzen tosses three one-run innings Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) Reds pitching prospect Michael Lorenzen surrendered one earned run on four hits in three innings in Thursday's 13-2 win over the Indians.

"It went good," Lorenzen said after the outing, per MLB.com. "My fastball command was good. The tempo was good. That was the most important thing for me -- tempo and fastball command. I was able to go out there and accomplish my goal for the day."

Lorenzen came into Thursday's start having allowed no hits and six walks in two innings in his previous appearance. He threw 45 pitches in Thursday's game and another 20 in the bullpen to reach his pitch-count target.

"I worked on some breaking balls," Lorenzen said. "I gave up some two-strike hits with my breaking ball. I didn't finish them. They were a lot better in the bullpen with a couple of adjustments that I made."

The Reds are looking at Lorenzen for a long-relief role but could use him as a starter at some point this season.

"That gives him a chance to get to 80-85 [pitches] in his next outing, which to me, means he's ready to start," manager Bryan Price said before the game. "You can safely say he could throw 90-95 pitches in his first start of the season."


White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie says plantar fasciitis is not an issue
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) After initially being bothered by plantar fasciitis at the beginning of spring training, White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie said he is over the injury, reports MLB.com.

"It's fine," Gillaspie said. "First thing [in the morning] and last thing at night, it's kind of sore, but as far as affecting me playing, it doesn't. It did a little bit when I first got here, but it has gone away. Credit to [White Sox head athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] for working hard with me every day on that."

While Gillaspie will likely be dealing with discomfort in his foot for most of the season, he said it's nothing he can't manage.

"The workload lessens as you get into the season as far as practice hours go. Obviously, I'm hoping that calms it down a bit, having a little less to do," Gillaspie said. "It's not a big issue."


Mets' Matt Bowman shines in spot start vs. Nationals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:48 pm ET) Mets pitching prospect Matt Bowman surrendered just two hits and one walk in five scoreless innings while striking out four in Thursday's 8-3 win over the Nationals.

"He was extremely impressive against a very good team," manager Terry Collins said after the outing, per MLB.com. "These guys, like all pitchers, are starting to get in shape. They're starting to get their stuff going and you see what they really have, and what they can really feature. I can understand why he's very much liked around here and how he showed up in this camp. From what I saw tonight, the command of his stuff, the poise, he's a pretty impressive-looking pitcher."

With the Mets set to open the regular season against the Nationals, the team held Opening Day starter Bartolo Colon out of Thursday's matchup and opted to use Bowman, who has posted a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings this spring.


White Sox SP Brad Penny allows six runs vs. Dodgers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:34 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Brad Penny struggled in Thursday's spring loss to the Dodgers, giving up six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings while striking out two.

"I went out there and I was kind of letting it go, throwing more than pitching," Penny said after the outing, per MLB.com. "I got behind. I was working on the cutter today, which I thought was better than it has been. So, just too many balls over the plate."

Penny is competing for a spot in the team's opening rotation while Chris Sale is sidelined. He's put together a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring.


 
 
 
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