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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
Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


 
 
 
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