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The outfield position has thinned out a good bit over the last week, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Corey Dickerson and Wil Myers all going on the DL.
It's not the Red Sox's fault, though. They actually did something to combat it Friday, calling up Rusney Castillo to man right field on a semi-regular basis.
By now, you probably know he's a pretty big deal, potentially giving the Red Sox something like what the White Sox got from Jose Abreu last season. OK, so that's an unfair standard to set for anyone, but he's at an age (27) where he's expected to produce right away. The question is whether or not you can start him right away in Fantasy.
Fortunately, he has the weekend to audition for a lineup spot. Having stashed him all this time, I think in most cases I'd be willing to roll the dice, but then again, upside is only theoretical. Some people need to see results first, and for those people, his promotion comes at the perfect time.
Regardless of whether he lives up to the hype in his first weekend back in the big leagues, though, he'll have an easy go of it in Fantasy Week 8 (May 25-31). The Red Sox have the second-best matchups of any team, going against pitchers like Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey, Phil Hughes, Nick Martinez, Yovani Gallardo, Phil Klein and Wandy Rodriguez.
That's even more reason to believe.
Best Hitting Matchups for Week 8:
1. White Sox: @TOR3, @BAL2, @HOU3
2. Red Sox: @MIN3, @TEX4
3. Indians: TEX3, @SEA4
4. Orioles: HOU3, CHW2, TB3
5. Mets: PHI3, MIA3
An eight-game slate pushes the White Sox ahead of the Red Sox, but the Orioles also play eight games. Their schedule isn't as favorable because they have to face Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Chris Sale in three of them, but their fringy mixed-leaguers are easier to fit into a Fantasy lineup. I mean, who's betting on Adam LaRoche right now?
Worst Hitting Matchups for Week 8:
1. Mariners: @TB3, CLE4
2. Cubs: WAS3, KC3
3. Braves: @LAD3, @SF4
4. Angels: SD3, DET4
5. Diamondbacks: @STL3, @MIL3
That's right: No team plays just five games this week, making this list all about the opposing pitchers. Unfortunately, given the injury-depleted state of pitching across the league right now, I have to use the term "worst" pretty loosely. The toughest pitcher the Diamondbacks face in their six games this week is Lance Lynn -- nobody's idea of a true ace -- so keep that in mind.
And with that, I give you my player recommendations for this week. Remember: For five up, I'm limiting my choices to those owned in less than 90 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, with the assumption being that those owned in more are automatic starts.
All stats are updated through Thursday, May 21.
Josh Harrison, 3B/OF, Pirates: So you gave up on Harrison, did
you? Looks like he's not a one-year wonder after all. He's one of the
hottest players in baseball right now, batting .514 (18 for 35) with two
home runs, four doubles and a stolen base over his last eight games, and
considering his BABIP is still only .277, more regression (the good
kind) is coming. His strikeout and line-drive rates are actually
improved from a year ago, so I'm betting he's back to must-start status
sooner than not. No sense sitting him now.
Start instead of: Mark Trumbo, Maikel Franco
Denard Span, OF, Nationals: Fantasy owners' continued disinterest
in Span is on the verge of embarrassing now. He was only the 14th-ranked
outfielder in Head-to-Head leagues last year and the 21st-ranked
outfielder in Rotisserie. Why do I use last year's ranking instead of
this year's? Well, he spent the first two weeks this year recovering
from core muscle surgery, which I suspect is why he's still an
afterthought now. All he has done since returning, though, is hit .333
with an .885 OPS, and he's currently riding a nine-game hitting streak
in which hee has hit .410 (16 for 39). He'll be the player all the other
Nationals are driving in when they beat up on the back end of the Cubs
and Reds rotations this week.
Start instead of: Jay Bruce, Dexter Fowler
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants: Belt is hitless in two games since
homering in three straight at Cincinnati last weekend, but one of those
games was against Clayton Kershaw. You wanted him facing lefties, right?
Whether you did or didn't is irrelevant with seven righties on tap for
the Giants this week. Belt knows what to do against them, batting .347
with a .994 OPS for the year, and he's a good bet, given his home-away
splits, to take advantage of hitter-friendly Miller Park to open the
Start instead of: Kendrys Morales, Brandon Moss
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: Looks like a healthy dose of Coors
Field was all Utley needed to get right. He actually started to have
better luck a couple games before the Phillies' road trip -- giving him
a .450 (9 for 20) batting average, four doubles and a triple in his last
six games -- and I use the term "luck" deliberately. For all his
struggles to begin the season, his strikeout rate has remained as low as
ever. His BABIP, meanwhile, is a ghastly .173 -- obviously too low to
believe. He has had more extreme platoon splits over the last few years,
so a full six games against right-handed pitchers, including three more
against the Rockies pitching staff, should be enough to keep him going.
Start instead of: Addison Russell, Brandon Phillips
Steve Pearce, 1B/2B/OF, Orioles: Pearce did hit a grand slam
Thursday, but to say he's hot would be disingenuous. Still, his .294 (5
for 17) batting average and two home runs over his last five games is
the best we've seen from him since he homered in back-to-back games to
start the year. Knowing how streaky he can be (just check out the
month-by-month breakdown of his 2014), now is a decent time to gamble on
him, especially since, with eight games, he could continue to flounder
and still turn in usable production.
Start instead of: Moss, Russell, Phillips
Kendrys Morales, 1B, Royals: Morales has been one of the biggest
beneficiaries of the Royals' suddenly explosive lineup, driving in all
those high on-base guys to emerge as a must-start Fantasy option. But
unless manager Ned Yost is planning on playing either him or Eric Hosmer
in the outfield, Morales figures to be the odd man out during the
Royals' three-game series at the Cubs to end the week. Maybe Yost uses
that series as an opportunity to give Hosmer a day off and Morales still
ends up starting four games, but at a deep position, those playing-time
limitations will be tough to overcome.
Sit instead of: Lucas Duda, Adam Lind
Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs: If you own Castro, I'm guessing you've
been pretty underwhelmed with him so far. His batting average isn't as
low as it was two years ago, but he hasn't brought much to the table
otherwise. That's certainly true for May, during which he has hit .215
(17 for 79) in 20 games. Don't expect a turnaround this week either. The
Cubs face nothing but right-handers, against whom Castro is batting .246
compared to .417 against lefties, and four of them -- Jordan Zimmermann,
Max Scherzer, Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura -- aren't what you'd
call favorable matchups.
Sit instead of: Jimmy Rollins, Alexei Ramirez
Jake Marisnick, OF, Astros: At this point, you probably don't
need much of a reason to sit Marisnick. With a .170 (9 for 53) batting
average over his last 16 games, he's making that case all on his own.
But since he's still started in nearly half of all Fantasy leagues, I'm
thinking this stat will be the clincher for some owners: For all his
successes earlier this season, he's batting just .200 with a .614 OPS
against lefties, and the Astros have four of them on tap this week. That
split was reversed last season, so maybe it doesn't make any sense, but
again, you'll take whatever excuse you can get to sit him.
Sit instead of: Rusney Castillo, Curtis Granderson
Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: Andrus' drastic lefty-righty splits,
on the other hand, are a two-year trend. He's batting just .173 against
righties this season (in a whopping 110 at-bats!) after batting .247
with just a .607 OPS against them last season. The Rangers' matchups
this week aren't so terrible, but given that they're facing six
righties, you shouldn't expect Andrus to get on base too much. Steals
are all he brings to the table anyway, and he has just five of those so
far. He's one of the most over-started players at 64 percent.
Sit instead of: Yunel Escobar, Jung Ho Kang
Yasmany Tomas, 3B/OF, Diamondbacks: You're not going to like
hearing it since he's one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now,
batting .500 (13 for 26) over his last six games, but I'm still not
convinced Tomas is a game-changer in mixed leagues. His .349 batting
average would suggest otherwise, but his .442 slugging percentage is
awfully low by comparison. Power is supposed to be his standout tool,
and we just haven't seen it yet. I'm not saying you can't start Tomas --
as I said earlier, the Diamondbacks' matchups aren't so bad --
but in standard mixed leagues, you probably have a better third baseman
Sit instead of: Jimmy Paredes, Alex Rodriguez