Fantasy Baseball Week 18 Preview: Top 10 sleeper hitters include Danny Santana, Hunter Pence
The Rangers picked a fine time to have favorable matchups, what with the return of Hunter Pence and emergence of Danny Santana. Scott White shares his top hitters for Week 18.
Before I get into the players you might consider starting in Week 18 (July 22-28), let me first address one you probably shouldn't: Yordan Alvarez.
The Astros are one of four AL teams — the Orioles, Royals and Angels being the others — who will play a series in an NL park, which means no DH spot. Alvarez is banged up and didn't start either game during the Astos' trip to Colorado earlier this month. Chances are he's coming off the bench for the three games at St. Louis.
The good news is there's actually an exciting crop of sleeper hitters this week, which isn't the case every week. You should be able to find a satisfactory replacement owned in less than 80 percent of CBS Sports leagues.
TEX Texas • #38 • Age: 28
Danny Santana has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past month, contributing in all five categories. The Rangers have been finding him playing time all over the diamond, most recently working him out at third base, and have a seven-game schedule against the Mariners and Athletics pitching staffs this week.
Hunter Pence DH
TEX Texas • #24 • Age: 36
Hunter Pence's month-long absence for a groin strain dropped him back below the ownership threshold to qualify for this list, but he's still a top-12 outfielder in terms of Head-to-Head points per game this year. The Rangers' favorable matchups include Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Daniel Mengden and Homer Bailey.
CLE Cleveland • #35 • Age: 24
Oscar Mercado has taken advantage of some favorable matchups already in Week 17, rebounding from a miserable start to July. He makes regular contact, steals bases and is beginning to show some pop, so you can count on him to take advantage of the most hitter-friendly schedule in baseball this week.
C.J. Cron 1B
MIN Minnesota • Age: 29
In five games back from an IL stint for a thumb injury, C.J. Cron has already doubled twice and homered, so the power stroke is still intact. He doesn't have the same reputation, but the per-game production has basically been on the same level as Jose Abreu this year.
MIA Miami • #26 • Age: 28
The Marlins have only six games this week, which takes them out of the running for best matchups. But Garrett Cooper has been so productive since entering the lineup in mid-May that you'll want to run him out there against pitchers like Ivan Nova, Dylan Covey, Reynaldo Lopez and Alex Young.
ARI Arizona • #53 • Age: 28
Having six games isn't so bad when the toughest pitcher on the schedule is Jordan Yamamoto. The other five -- Aaron Brooks, Dylan Bundy, John Means, Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Richards -- are the kind that should help Christian Walker tap into his power stroke this week.
STL St. Louis • #41 • Age: 24
Tyler O'Neill appears to have overtaken Jose Martinez in the Cardinals' outfield pecking order and has put together an impressive eight-game stretch in which he's batting .394 (13 for 33) with four homers. The power is monstrous when he makes contact, and opening the week against Trevor Williams, Chris Archer, Jordan Lyles and Dario Agrazal should help him tap into it further.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10 • Age: 24
Bryan Reynolds is back to playing virtually every day again after facing some competition from Melky Cabrera earlier and is still batting around .340, for some reason. It'll surely regress, but the line-drive and hard-hit rates suggest he should remain an asset in that category, particularly with matchups like the ones he has this week.
Kevin Newman SS
PIT Pittsburgh • #27 • Age: 26
Another Pirate whose greatest contribution is batting average, Kevin Newman's place in the batting title race has been a more recent development but isn't so far-fetched, really. He's kind of in the same mold as David Fletcher, which makes him usable when he has favorable matchups.
DET Detroit • #24 • Age: 36
Even though he still hits for average and plays regularly, a lack of power has rendered Miguel Cabrera mostly useless at the first base position, but if there was ever a week to take a trip down memory lane, this is it. The Tigers are facing four lefties in their six games, and they're squishy types like Wade LeBlanc, Yusei Kikuchi, Marco Gonzales and Tommy Milone. Cabrera has hit .320 with a .927 OPS vs. lefties this year.
Best hitter matchups for Week 18
Worst hitter matchups for Week 18
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