The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner is your guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming scoring period. Every week, we'll give you the latest on injuries, lineup changes, streaks and matchups, highlighting the players who might surprise or disappoint as a result.
The shortened Fantasy Week 15 (July 14-17) gives us an opportunity to look at each series individually and provide an even more focused analysis for the four-day period. We'll resume the position-by-position format in Fantasy Week 16 (July 18-24).
Any players not listed here fall into the "status quo" category, meaning you should take your usual approach with them. All statistics are updated through Sunday, July 10.
Cleveland at Baltimore, four games
Nothing but right-handers on the schedule for both teams, which probably doesn't hurt anyone's value since neither team has a certified "lefty killer." But it does help the value of two Cleveland outfielders who have thrived against righties: Grady Sizemore (.805 OPS) and Michael Brantley (.771 OPS). Both have a good chance of getting their seasons back on track this week against pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Alfredo Simon and Mitch Atkins. This week might also be a good time for rookie Lonnie Chisenhall to break out if not for the sinus fracture he suffered Thursday. He'll attempt to play through it, but with Luis Valbuena now back in the majors (at the expense Cord Phelps), the Indians have plenty of infielders to fill in for him if need be. For the Orioles, Mark Reynolds and Vladimir Guerrero both have hand contusions after getting plunked last weekend against the Red Sox. Neither is expected to miss any time, but in Reynolds' case, the injury is just another reason to weigh your options in shallower mixed leagues. He and J.J. Hardy were Fantasy mainstays in June, but both cooled off right before the All-Star break, with Reynolds batting .150 (3 for 20) over his last six games and Hardy batting .150 (6 for 40) over his last 10.
N.Y. Yankees at Toronto, four games
The Blue Jays play four games at Rogers Centre, which is good news for the portion of their lineup that performs better there, which includes Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar and Rajai Davis. In Davis' case, it's just a secondary reason to look into him this week. The main one is his recent turnaround at the plate. Just before the break, the speedy outfielder rebounded from his June swoon to hit .355 (11 for 31) with six steals over eight games. Eric Thames, Travis Snider and Edwin Encarnacion have also put up good numbers recently, though their sleeper appeal is negated somewhat by the tough matchups against the Yankees rotation. The Yankees will be playing without All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who'll miss 4-6 weeks following knee surgery, but replacement Eduardo Nunez has been a serviceable Fantasy fill-in in the past and deserves a look at a weak position. So does Derek Jeter, who should be rested up and ready to build off his five-hit game Saturday. On the other hand, Nick Swisher is probably too risky to start after missing the last two games with a strained quadriceps, and Brett Gardner figures to sit half the week with two left-handers on schedule.
Same old, same old: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, Yunel Escobar
Worth a second look: Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Rajai Davis, Eric Thames, Travis Snider
Approach with caution: Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner
Florida at Chicago Cubs , four games
Logan Morrison is as recommendable as any Fantasy option this week. Not only does he seem to be back on track at the plate, batting .292 (14 for 48) with three homers over his last 12 games, but he also gets to make use of his .863 OPS on the road and .921 OPS against right-handers in each of the Marlins' four games this week. Looking a little deeper, Emilio Bonifacio seems to be reborn since manager Jack McKeon moved him to the leadoff spot, batting .413 (19 for 46) with 11 steals during a 12-game hitting streak. With eligibility at both shortstop and third base, he's a potential steal off the waiver wire for the short week. The Cubs don't have as many attractive options this week, in part because they face Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco right out of the gate. That duo is good enough to keep someone like Alfonso Soriano, who has only two extra-base hits over his last 11 games, at bay, but probably not good enough to shut down someone as hot as Aramis Ramirez, who has 10 homers over his last 18 games.
Kansas City at Minnesota, four games
The Twins are the lucky team to draw the Royals' Triple-A rotation for the short week, which means just about every one of their hitters -- from All-Star Michael Cuddyer to underachiever Joe Mauer to overachievers Alexi Casilla and Ben Revere -- gets a spike in value. About the only Twins who shouldn't get you excited this week are the two recovering from injuries. Delmon Young, who has been out since June 25 with a sprained ankle, will make his return Thursday, but considering he hasn't been able to muster more than a .605 OPS when healthy, you wouldn't want to roll the dice on him. Jim Thome has had trouble pushing off his left foot because of a toe injury, and at age 40, he might be pretty slow to return. The biggest story for the Royals is their struggling rookies -- particularly Mike Moustakas, who has just one hit in his last 23 at-bats. Eric Hosmer hasn't been as bad recently, but with Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing on the schedule, he's in for a bad week. Hosmer is batting .179 against lefties and .237 on the road.
Same old, same old: Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer
Worth a second look: Alexi Casilla, Ben Revere
Approach with caution: Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Delmon Young
Milwaukee at Colorado, four games
The series is at Coors Field, which is of course good news for all hitters involved, but it's a bigger deal for the Rockies, who as a whole, struggle on the road. It's an especially big deal for Ian Stewart, who has a golden opportunity to win back the starting third base job thanks to Charlie Blackmon's broken foot and Ty Wigginton's versatility. Of course, you'd like his chances a little more if the Brewers weren't throwing the top of their rotation at him. Among the studs dealing with injuries, Ryan Braun (calf) is a safer bet to return than Carlos Gonzalez, who has a deep bone bruise in his wrist and needed a cortisone injection on Tuesday. The shorter week means less margin for error, so you're better off avoiding him. The Brewers face four right-handers this week -- only two of them good (Ubaldo Jimenez and Jhoulys Chacin) -- which is especially good for Nyjer Morgan, who's batting .338 against righties and could run all day if he takes advantage of the wide gaps at Coors Field. Casey McGehee is also worth a flier. With a fresh start in a good hitter's park, he could turn his season around.
Same old, same old: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Troy Tulowitzki
Worth a second look: Casey McGehee, Jonathan Lucroy, Nyjer Morgan, Todd Helton, Ty Wigginton
Approach with caution: Carlos Gonzalez
San Francisco at San Diego, four games
The Padres play four games this week, but considering those games come against a deep Giants pitching staff, including two All-Stars, and at arguably the worst hitter's park in baseball, the advantage of the extra game is more or less negated. Not like they have any good hitters anyway. Chase Headley has slowed down recently and is batting only .248 at home. Jason Bartlett missed Sunday's game with a sore thumb, which probably isn't a big deal, but considering he's batting .158 in July and .238 on the season, he's a player to avoid regardless. For the Giants, Cody Ross missed the final six games of the first half with a hamstring injury and should be able to return after such a long layoff, but he'll have even more competition for at-bats now. His absence opened the door for Nate Schierholtz to break through, batting .425 (17 for 40) with three homers over his last 10 games. He has an OPS over .800 now and is arguably the Giants' second-best offensive player, giving him sleeper appeal this week as a hitter who'll be playing four games. Ross is left to fight with Pat Burrell for at-bats in left field.
Texas at Seattle, four games
If this series was at Texas, we'd have a lot more to talk about. But instead, it's at a pitcher's park, which makes the Rangers and Mariners rotations all the more imposing. At least you don't have to worry about Chone Figgins wrecking your Fantasy team anymore. He's still hanging around, but he's no threat to steal at-bats from anyone after the Mariners promoted Kyle Seager to take over at third base. Seager was a good contact hitter in the minors, but he was considered a mid-level prospect and might not contribute much in mixed leagues. Justin Smoak might not either, at least not this week. He hit .073 (4 for 55) over the final 16 games of the first half and doesn't stand a good chance of rebounding with the tough matchups this week. In contrast, Mike Napoli was hot before the break but might find the at-bats in short supply with only one left-hander on schedule. His loss, however, is Mitch Moreland's gain. Moreland is one of the few Rangers who's about as good on the road as at home, and he hasn't had much trouble at Safeco Field in his young career. He should make the most of the righty-heavy schedule.
Same old, same old: Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Ichiro Suzuki
Worth a second look: Mitch Moreland, Dustin Ackley
Approach with caution: Mike Napoli, Justin Smoak
Boston at Tampa Bay, three games
With Carl Crawford's (hamstring) return delayed until at least Monday, the Red Sox will have to take on the Rays pitching staff and dual aces David Price and James Shields without him. True, so many of their hitters are so high-end that the matchups hardly make a difference for Fantasy purposes, but in a week with only three games, their borderline starters, such as Marco Scutaro and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, don't deserve the time of day. The Rays don't have quite as much to fear with Andrew Miller and John Lackey to open the week and Josh Beckett less than certain for his Sunday start, but some of their better hitters are still candidates to sit. B.J. Upton is batting only .174 at home -- a split you'd normally overlook given his upside -- but in a shorter week, the margin for error is slim enough that you should at least weigh your alternatives. Matt Joyce, meanwhile, will likely sit against the lefty, and you wouldn't want to start the slumping outfielder for only two games.
Same old, same old: Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist
Worth a second look: None
Approach with caution: Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce
Chicago White Sox at Detroit, three games
Miguel Cabrera suffered a slight strain of the right oblique in the All-Star game Tuesday, and the team will reevaluate him Thursday. Cabrera immediately dismissed the severity of the injury and said he would play Friday, but any time an oblique is involved, it's never that simple. He's not necessarily a recommended sit, but during a week in which his team plays only three games, the consequences of sitting him are minimal enough that you can at least consider it. Austin Jackson, who missed the final three games of the first half with a wrist injury, should be ready to go Friday, but as poorly as he has hit all year, you don't have much incentive to start him. Speaking of poor hitting, the White Sox's three big underachievers -- Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham -- probably don't deserve the benefit of the doubt with so many comparable hitters set to play four games this week. A.J. Pierzynski, on the other hand, has been swinging a hot bat since June 6, batting .361 (35 for 97) in 27 games, and is batting .305 against righties on the season. The three righties on schedule this week should keep him fairly productive despite playing only three games.
Same old, same old: Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch
Worth a second look: A.J. Pierzynski
Approach with caution: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson
Philadelphia at N.Y. Mets, three games
|1.||Emilio Bonifacio, OF, Marlins||35|
|2.||Mike Trout, OF, Angels||32|
|3.||Eduardo Nunez, 3B, Yankees||25|
|4.||Danny Valencia, 3B, Twins||19|
|5.||Nate Schierholtz, OF, Giants||19|
|6.||Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves||13|
|7.||Travis Snider, OF, Blue Jays||13|
|8.||Zack Cozart, SS, Reds||13|
|9.||Mike Napoli, 1B, Rangers||8|
|10.||Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies||8|
Injuries are the story here, as both Jose Reyes (hamstring) and Shane Victorino (thumb) figure to remain sidelined into Fantasy Week 16 (July 18-24). Their replacements, Lucas Duda and John Mayberry, both have some measure of upside, but only Mayberry has delivered on it so far, batting .333 (6 for 18) with two homers in four games. In a normal week, he might earn some mixed-league looks, but with three games on tap, he's more of an NL-only sleeper. Placido Polanco's status for this week is still up in the air as he attempts to play through a bulging disc in his back. It hasn't gone well so far -- he's batting .151 in his last 24 games -- so even if he's able to grunt through the injury, you might not be so satisfied with the results. Of course, the Phillies pitching staff is the main obstacle for any team that faces them, and Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee should be enough to prolong Jason Bay's struggles and slow down Angel Pagan, who is hitting only .217 at home. Raul Ibanez is another player to avoid this week. He has been sitting for left-handers recently, which means the matchup against Jonathon Niese on Saturday might shorten his week to two games.
St. Louis at Cincinnati, three games
The Reds have to face Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia in two of their three games this week, which is tough way to begin the second half, no doubt. But it's not like all of their hitters are doomed. In fact, Jay Bruce could be in line for a big week if he follows his usual pattern of streakiness. He came out of a slump to hit .444 (8 for 18) with three homers over his final five first-half games, which could just be the tip of the iceberg if you compare it to his month of May. Digging deeper, Ramon Hernandez has hit well enough -- .390 (16 for 41) with three homers in 11 games -- to garner some looks in mixed leagues, and rookie Zack Cozart, who was recently called up to replace the light-hitting Paul Janish, just needs to show some pop to become a viable mixed-leaguer himself. Granted, you wouldn't consider starting either over Drew Stubbs, but Stubbs is the player trending the wrong direction right now, with no extra-base hits in July. If you have suitable alternatives, he's a candidate to sit in mixed leagues. The same is true for struggling Cardinals Colby Rasmus and David Freese, who are both batting under .200 over their last eight games.
Same old, same old: Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto
Worth a second look: Zack Cozart, Ramon Hernandez
Approach with caution: Colby Rasmus, David Freese, Drew Stubbs
Washington at Atlanta, three games
Granted, both of these teams are playing only three games this week, but you shouldn't necessarily approach them the same way. The Braves' matchups against the weak Nationals rotation help offset the lack of games, meaning borderline players like Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla should probably remain active. Even a player like Freddie Freeman is worth starting if you're lacking a true stud at first base. His hot hitting to end the first half -- .345 (10 for 29) with four homers in eight games -- should continue against the Nationals pitching staff regardless of how many games the Braves are playing. Then again, you might want to temper your enthusiasm for Martin Prado, who was expected to return from a staph infection Friday and replace Chipper Jones (knee surgery) at third base. Prado still might return Friday, but the Braves recently decided to extend his rehab assignment through Thursday. If they give him a travel day, he's suddenly playing a two-game week. The Nationals' situation isn't quite as favorable. Against Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, the hits will be in short supply, making struggling players Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond candidates for your bench. One National you probably wouldn't want to sit, though, is Michael Morse, who has carried his hot streak into July despite a hairline fracture in his left forearm.
Pittsburgh at Houston, three games
What we have here are two relatively poor offensive teams playing only three games, which means not a lot of their hitters are worth recommending in Fantasy. The good news is one borderline starter, Neil Walker, had just begun to come around before the break, batting .438 (14 for 32) over his last eight games after batting .083 (2 for 24) over his previous eight. He's safe to start despite the three-game week -- especially on the road, where he hits 40 points higher. Another borderline starter, Jose Tabata, is set to come back from a DL stint for a quadriceps injury, but his exact role is up in the air given the play of Alex Presley in his absence. With right fielder Garrett Jones capable of playing first base, where Lyle Overbay has stunk it up all year, the Pirates have some maneuverability, so they might be able to get both Tabata and Presley in their lineup. Better wait and see what actually happens, though. Some of the Astros' hitters are too vulnerable to certain scenarios to use in a three-game week. Brett Wallace sits against lefties, so the one on schedule ruins him. Carlos Lee struggles against righties, so the two on schedule all but ruin him.
L.A. Dodgers at Arizona, three games
The Dodgers acquired Juan Rivera from the Blue Jays on Tuesday, which isn't as big as it sounds. Rivera would have some low-end appeal if he played every day, but he'll probably just take over as the lesser half of a platoon with Tony Gwynn, making him a low-end NL-only option. The bigger lineup changes are in Arizona, where Ryan Roberts and Stephen Drew appear to be falling out of favor. Third baseman Sean Burroughs has started each of the last six games against right-handed pitchers, leaving Roberts for the lefties. Stephen Drew is on the better end of that split, sitting for Willie Bloomquist against lefties. With two lefties and one righty on schedule, neither Roberts nor Drew figures to play all three games this week, making both risky starts in mixed leagues. At least Kelly Johnson seems to be finding some consistency. He was on a pretty good run before the All-Star break, batting .289 (13 for 45) with four homers and a 1.085 OPS in 12 games, and playing at home is usually a good thing for him. Rod Barajas, who has been out since June 19 with a sprained ankle, has a good chance of returning as the Dodgers' starting catcher on Friday, but you'll need to see some power from him before you consider activating him.
L.A. Angels at Oakland, four games (doubleheader Saturday)
The Angels and Athletics are in a unique situation this week. They're playing four games instead of three, but since the extra game is part of a doubleheader, chances are a lot of their regulars will sit once anyway. Of course, we're not even sure who their regulars are anymore, particularly in the Angels' case. They rushed top prospect Mike Trout to the majors at age 19 to fill in for Peter Bourjos, whose hamstring injury is considered just a day-to-day issue. When Bourjos returns, Trout has to go back down, right? The Athletics have their own dilemma with a top prospect. Chris Carter is finally getting some playing time, starting nine of the last 11 games at either first base or DH, but he isn't hitting well enough to secure a starting spot. He's one of the several Athletics to avoid this week with Dan Haren and Jered Weaver on tap, as is Jemile Weeks, who has struggled with only one extra-base hit in July. The Angels' matchups aren't so imposing that you won't find any good options there. Erick Aybar deserves a look if you're stuck with a shortstop playing only three games, and Mark Trumbo has homered in four of his last five games and has an .862 OPS on the road compared to .720 at home.
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