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Start and sit hitters for Week 23

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, Aug. 28.

Yadier Molina, who has spent the last seven weeks rehabilitating from thumb surgery, is expected back in the lineup Friday. Because he's beating his initial timetable of 8-12 weeks, you'll want to monitor him over the weekend to make sure he's swinging the bat like he's capable. Considering he went 5 for 6 on his rehab assignment at Double-A Springfield, I'd anticipate activating him right away.

To the surprise of many, the Pirates demoted high-profile rookie Gregory Polanco to Triple-A Indianapolis Monday, giving Travis Snider a shot as their everyday right fielder. Snider has cooled off since the move, though, and Polanco didn't perform all that poorly, really, while with the Pirates. He'll be back, just maybe not this week.

In other Pirates news, Pedro Alvarez is in a walking boot after spraining his foot diving for a ball Tuesday, which gives you all the more incentive to sit him. His playing time wasn't assured anyway with the Pirates no longer trusting him at third base.

Anthony Rizzo and Adrian Gonzalez both have sat recently with stiff backs. Neither sounds like more than a day-to-day thing, but anything back-related has a tendency to linger. Neil Walker has been in and out of the lineup with a sore back for weeks. Still, you'll want to start them if they appear ready to go Monday.

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

Catcher

Scott's sleepers for Week 23
Player Own/Start %
1. Kennys Vargas, 1B, Twins 60/50
2. Justin Morneau, 1B, Rockies 96/73
3. Yan Gomes, C, Indians 87/36
4. Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs 64/29
5. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals 74/14
6. Dustin Ackley, 2B/OF, Mariners 73/62
7. Erick Aybar, SS, Angels 87/71
8. Brock Holt, 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF, Red Sox 70/52
9. Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Giants 80/59
10. Wil Myers, OF, Rays 81/42

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

Start: Yan Gomes, Indians
Gomes had achieved "too obvious" status in the weeks leading up to his Aug. 21 concussion, but his minimal stay on the 7-day DL may make some of his owners hesitant to activate him right away, especially if they happen to notice his Indians are among the teams with the worst matchups this week. But four of his seven games are against left-handed pitchers, against whom he's batting .343 with an .895 OPS this season. That's reason enough for me to start him.
Instead of: Travis d'Arnaud, Kurt Suzuki, Carlos Ruiz

Sit: Stephen Vogt, Athletics
We all know what's up with Vogt by now, right? The Athletics haven't started him against the last eight left-handed starting pitchers they've faced -- understandably, considering he's batting .219 with a .680 OPS against lefties -- so in a week when they're facing four in six games, you can't expect him to do much for you. Bonus material: The matchups aren't the worst, so teammate and fellow catcher-eligible player Derek Norris, who's batting .323 with a .913 OPS against lefties, could be a worthwhile replacement.
Instead of: Gomes, Russell Martin, Norris

First base

Too obvious: Miguel Cabrera, Jose Abreu, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Albert Pujols, Victor Martinez, Freddie Freeman, Todd Frazier, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Santana, Adam LaRoche, Buster Posey, Lucas Duda, Matt Adams

Start: Kennys Vargas, Twins
Fantasy owners are just aching to start Vargas with the way he's performed since arriving Aug. 1, and they have every reason to this week. Though I've written on more than one occasion that he's bound to regress, I do trust in his power, and only one of the pitchers he's scheduled to face this week, Kevin Gausman, allows home runs at a below-average rate. Hector Noesi, John Danks, Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker, meanwhile, all allow them at an above-average rate.
Instead of: Brandon Moss, Steve Pearce, Ryan Howard

Sit: Mark Trumbo, Diamondbacks
Trumbo looked like he was on the verge of a hot streak when he hit a bunch of singles in early August, but the home runs never came. Now, he's batting .233 (7 for 30) in his last eight games and has to travel to pitcher-friendly Petco Park and Dodgers Stadium this week. He's batting only .229 on the road. He'll also face almost exclusively right-handed pitchers -- including bat-missers like Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Zack Greinke -- and has done most of his damage against lefties this year, batting .262 with an .856 OPS compared to .228 and .625 against righties.
Instead of: Vargas, Justin Morneau, Michael Morse

Second base

Too obvious: Robinson Cano, Jose Altuve, Anthony Rendon, Ian Kinsler, Chase Utley, Brian Dozier, Dee Gordon, Matt Carpenter, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist, Josh Harrison

Five Best Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Padres ARI4, @COL3
2. Rockies SF3, SD3
3. Angels @HOU2, @MIN4
4. Twins @BAL1, CHW2, LAA4
5. Giants @COL3, @DET3

Start: Dustin Ackley, Mariners
Ackley certainly qualifies as a hot-hand play, batting .364 (12 for 33) with four doubles, a triple, a homer and two steals in his last nine games. And if you take it back further than that, he's batting .313 with an .859 OPS in his last 37 games. Not only do the Mariners play four games at Texas this week, where they'll face a hitter-friendly pitching staff in a hitter-friendly environment, but all seven of their games are on the road, where Ackley is batting .282 compared to .230 at home. And six are against righties, which is as helpful as you'd expect for a left-handed hitter like him.
Instead of: Scooter Gennett, Kolten Wong, Aaron Hill

Sit: Arismendy Alcantara, Cubs
With his batting average on the verge of dropping below the Mendoza line, Alcantara has picked it up in his last five games, batting .412 (7 for 17) with two home runs and two steals. But a five-game stretch isn't a definitive turnaround, and the Cubs' matchups against Jimmy Nelson, Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole aren't exactly favorable. Let's keep the .226 hitter seated, shall we?
Instead of: Ackley, Brock Holt, Yangervis Solarte

Third base

Too obvious: Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Beltre, Anthony Rendon, Todd Frazier, Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Santana, Josh Harrison, Nolan Arenado, Pablo Sandoval

Start: Trevor Plouffe, Twins
The Twins have been piling up runs in August, and Plouffe is one of the big reasons why, batting .301 (28 for 93) with three homers and an .851 OPS for the month. He's been at his best lately, batting .375 (9 for 24) with a homer and five doubles in his last six games. Given the Twins' matchups this week against pitchers like Kevin Gausman, Hector Noesi, John Danks, Hector Santiago and whatever schlub the Angels find to start Friday's game, he's a good bet to keep it up.
Instead of: Aramis Ramirez, Martin Prado, Casey McGehee

Sit: Nick Castellanos, Tigers
Though he hasn't gotten a ton of attention in Fantasy, Castellanos has been halfway decent in his last 20 games, batting .306 (22 for 72) with three home runs and an .856 OPS. But his matchups this week should bring him down to size. He's facing the Indians' strikeout-tastic foursome of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer as well as Jake Peavy, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson.
Instead of: Plouffe, Brock Holt, Yangervis Solarte

Shortstop

Too obvious: Jose Reyes, Dee Gordon, Ian Desmond, Ben Zobrist, Josh Harrison, Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Alexei Ramirez, Danny Santana, Jhonny Peralta

Five Worst Hitting Schedules
Team Schedule
1. Phillies @ATL3, @WAS3
2. Tigers @CLE4, SF3
3. Indians DET4, CHW3
4. Diamondbacks @SD4, @LAD3
5. Mets @MIA3, @CIN3

Start: Erick Aybar, Angels
While the slump finally came for Aybar right after the All-Star break, toppling the house of cards that made him appear to be one of the top shortstops in Fantasy before then, he's come out of it with a 13-game hitting streak in which he's batted .449 (22 for 49). Only two of his 22 hits during that stretch have gone for extra bases, but solid contact is solid contact. And he should have more of it in store this week against pitchers like Brad Peacock, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone.
Instead of: J.J. Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, Zach Walters

Sit: Elvis Andrus, Rangers
For all that has befallen the Rangers during their disastrous 2014, Fantasy owners haven't grown the least bit disenchanted with Andrus, who's still started in 82 percent of leagues. Because he lacks power, his value has always depended on his supporting cast. Look around him. Other than Adrian Beltre, there's nobody left to drive him in. He's also not running so much anymore thanks to a career-worst 63.9 percent success rate on stolen bases. He's just the 16th-best shortstop in Head-to-Head points leagues over the last eight weeks and has iffy matchups against the Royals and Mariners starting rotations this week.
Instead of: Aybar, Brock Holt, Yangervis Solarte

Outfield

Too obvious: Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Carlos Gomez, Michael Brantley, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig, Justin Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Ryan Braun, Jayson Werth, Matt Kemp, Matt Holliday, Ben Zobrist, Bryce Harper, Josh Harrison, Billy Hamilton, J.D. Martinez, Corey Dickerson, Lucas Duda, Christian Yelich, Jay Bruce, Nick Markakis, Denard Span, Kole Calhoun, Charlie Blackmon, Starling Marte, Josh Hamilton

Start: Jorge Soler, Cubs
As I pointed out with Arismendy Alcantara, while the Cubs aren't among the teams with the worst matchups this week, theirs aren't the greatest either. Even so, I'm encouraged enough by what Soler has done only two games into his career to take a shot on him right out of the gate. OK, so it's more about his upside and what I perceive to be major-league readiness than what he's done in two games, but all the same, if you don't know where else to turn at outfield this week, the numbers he put up in the minors were Kris Bryant-like and deserving of more hype than they got. Plus, I feel like prospects of a certain caliber have an advantage over opposing pitchers at first, as Gregory Polanco showed.
Instead of: Marlon Byrd, Curtis Granderson, Rajai Davis

Sit: Khris Davis, Brewers
Despite his ups and downs, Davis has provided enough power that you just can't chance sitting him in some leagues, particularly those that require five outfielders. But he seems to be on the downswing now, batting .200 (3 for 15) in his last six games. Plus, the Brewers face nothing but righties this week. His batting average is 40 points lower against them than lefties. Maybe you give Davis the week off in shallower formats.
Instead of: Soler, Wil Myers, Michael Morse

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
Rangers 1B Mitch Moreland won't play spring games until next week
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland will run the bases on Tuesday, and won't seen any spring games until next week, according to the Star-Telegram. Texas is taking a cautious approach with Moreland in camp after he underwent ankle surgery last June.

The 29-year-old Moreland hit .246/.297/.347 over 167 at-bats last year.


Blue Jays' Gibbons yet to settle on closer, could use committee
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday that while Brett Cecil has the ability to close, he might not serve as the team's closer, the National Post reports.

"He could do it. He might not. It might be somebody else," Gibbons said.

The manager also raised the possibility of using multiple closers.

"It could be one of those deals where one night he might be closing, the other night he might have to come in at the end of the seventh or eighth inning," Gibbons said.

Despite the face that Gibbons hasn't deemed Cecil his closer, he did praise his pitching ability Tuesday.

"He’s got some overpowering stuff," Gibbons said. "He’s a lefty and I don’t think there’s a better curveball out there. He can throw it for strikes, he can bring it down low in the zone and bounce it for a strikeout. That’s kind of his go-to pitch. He doesn’t rattle. He’s pretty confident and calm when he’s out there."

Cecil went 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA, 76:27 K:BB ratio and five saves in 53 1/3 innings in 2014. He owns a 11.1 career K/9 rate in relief.


White Sox's Geovany Soto feeling good at the start of spring games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) White Sox catcher Geovany Soto said he is feeling good after being limited to 78 games the last two seasons due to injuries. He missed time in 2014 because of arthroscopic surgery on his left foot and a torn meniscus in his right knee.

"I love where I'm at," Soto said, per The Chicago Tribune. "My legs feel great. My whole body feels great. I'm just anxious to get started and show these guys what I can do, hopefully stay healthy and break camp."


Dodgers' Mattingly: Hyun-Jin Ryu's (back) next step will be BP
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:22 pm ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters that starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu came out of Monday's bullpen session "fine," and that his next step will likely be throwing batting practice, according to SB Nation.

Ryu is dealing with a back injury, but has been throwing the last couple of days without pain. At this point, Ryu remains without a timetable for his first spring game. He went 14-7 in 2014 with a 3.38 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 152 innings pitched last season.


Hinch: Astros 'likely' to use seven-man bullpen in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Astros manager A.J. Hinch indicated that the team is likely to use a seven-man bullpen this season, leaving two spots open for competition this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"Likely," Hinch said of a seven-man bullpen. "There’s always a chance that (changes) depending on how the schedule plays out, and there’s always a debate on how many pitchers to carry during interleague. Now interleague is pretty much year round, so I mean, in a perfect world with our roster, it’s likely to carry a seven-man ‘pen. If we feel like we need an extra pitcher or injury happens, there’s different ways to shape our roster, then we will, but likely 12."

The two open spots will likely be filled by a left-handed pitcher and a long reliever. The competition for the second lefty in the pen likely comes down to Kevin Chapman and nonroster invitees Joe Thatcher and Darin Downs. The long relief role has a broader list of candidates, including Alex White and Asher Wojciechowski, who will prepare both as starters and relievers.

"We’re going to stretch out a lot of our guys," Hinch said. "Some of them are because they’re competing in that fifth starter spot, some of them are bullpen guys. Will Harris is going to throw multiple innings. Obviously (Sam) Deduno has been a starter in the past, he’s in a competition for the fifth man spot. Wojo, White, those guys are going to need to, going to plan for the season on both fronts, whether it’s a starter or reliever. But we’re preaching multiple innings. It’s important if you have a seven-man bullpen that you have a couple of guys that can get four, five, six outs if needed and be a bridge to the rest of the bullpen."


Rangers' Tolleson: 'I'd like to be that bridge' between starters, closers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson told reporters he would like to become the link between the starting rotation and back-end relievers Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz this season, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"I would like to be that bridge," Tolleson said.

Tolleson led the club with 71 2/3 innings of relief last season. He pitched more than one inning 20 times and held left-handed hitters to a .282 on-base percentage.

"He's got the skill set to be one of those that we use in the latter portions of the game," manager Jeff Banister said. "He seems to love the competition."


Nationals faced with tough decision regarding Michael Taylor
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:10 pm ET) The Nationals are faced with a tough decision when it comes to outfield prospect Michael Taylor, who appears to be on the cusp of being ready for a regular role at the major-league level.

A major issue is playing time since the Nationals have a starting outfield of Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Denard Span. Taylor would be a solid fourth outfielder, but having him coming off the bench is not ideal for his development.

“It’s the same age-old decision that must be made regarding guys that are just on the cusp of being big-league ready and everyday players,” manager Matt Williams said, per NatsInsider.com. “And a question of depth on your team, too. … It’s a question of depth on your team, it’s a question of how much playing time they’re really going to get, and are they better served staying in the minor leagues and getting those at-bats until their opportunity arises. But Mike’s close. He’s really close.”


Nationals' Aaron Barrett: 'I'm ready for a full season'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Aaron Barrett worked on strengthening his shoulder and legs in the offseason to improve his longevity throughout the entire season. Barrett admitted he wasn't used to a full major-league schedule, which contributed to him feeling "tired" in the middle of his rookie season.

"I'm ready for a full season," Barrett said. "Last year was a long season for me. It was my first year up. I had a lot of appearances, a lot of warm-ups and stuff like that. I think that is part of the process of coming up and working on that. I did as much training as I possibly could for this year."


Daniel Descalso brings versatility, playoff experience to Rockies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Rockies infielder Daniel Descalso is ready to fill the role of versatile veteran who can play second base, third base or shortstop as needed, the Denver Post reports.

"I'll be ready for whatever comes my way," Descalso said Monday. "It's been a while since I've played just one position for any length of time, so I've worked hard to reach a comfort level at all three spots. I have an idea of what it takes to stay sharp."

Another factor that piqued the interest of the Rockies this offseason was his postseason experience, as he has played in 44 postseason games and won one championship.

"All of that factored in quite a bit," manager Walt Weiss said. "I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that's a big reason why we brought Danny in here."

Descalso has made 110 starts at second base, 91 at third base and 88 at shortstop in his five-year career, seeing at least 100 appearances at all three poitions. He hit .242/.333/.311 in 161 at-bats last year with the Cardinals.


Francona: Jason Kipnis likely to make spring debut this weekend
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(12:02 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday second baseman Jason Kipnis (hand) will likely make his spring debut this weekend, per MLB.com.

 
 
 
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