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It's that time of year again -- time for me to pretend I know what any and every hitter will do over the course of one week.
Which is, of course, ridiculous. That's one-twenty-sixth of a player's season, and how he divides his production over the course of 26 weeks is mostly random.
So then, it's also time for me to remind you that, more weeks than not, you shouldn't have to resort to this guide. For hitters much more so than pitchers, your lineup should be more or less fixed. Your best players are your best players, and benching one only risks missing out on the best he has to offer.
But occasionally, you get in a bind. One of your go-to guys is injured, or you have two or three options of seemingly equal promise. That's what this guide is for.
Going mostly by matchups, I'll give you five hitters I like for the upcoming week (starts) and five hitters I don't like (sits). For the starts, 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. That's right: You wouldn't start the starts over just anyone, and in a deep enough league, you wouldn't automatically sit the sits either.
I'll also give you the five best and five worst hitting matchups for the week ahead to help you unearth your own starts and sits.
Here are the five best for this week:
Best Hitting Matchups for Week 1:
1. Athletics: TEX4, SEA3
2. Brewers: COL3, PIT3
3. Red Sox: @PHI3, @NYY3
4. Braves: @MIA3, NYM3
5. Giants: @ARI3, @SD4
Now, the five worst:
Worst Hitting Matchups for Week 1:
1. Mets: @WAS3, @ATL3
2. Twins: @DET3, @CHW3
3. Cardinals: @CHC3, @CIN3
4. Reds: PIT3, STL3
5. Mariners: LAA3, @OAK3
Get used to seeing one of the Nationals' opponents at the top of this list.
All right. Enough with the preliminary stuff. On with starts and sits!
All spring stats are updated through Thursday, April 2.
Five hitters to start
Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, Orioles: You probably won't find
Pearce on the waiver wire in your league, but if you already own him,
chances are you're not starting him. But you should. With a late surge
last year, he finished with a higher OPS (.930) than Jose Bautista (.928) and has homered five times in 51 at-bats this
spring. Against pitchers like Jake Odorizzi,
Nathan Karns, Mark Buehrle, Aaron Sanchez and Drew Hutchison, he should be able to keep it going.
Start instead of: Mark Trumbo, Lucas Duda
Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants: Belt has a history of crushing it
in spring training, so you could argue his .369 (24 for 65) batting
average and four home runs this exhibition season are just par for the
course. But I like that he's gotten back to walking at a high rate (12
times in 21 games) after his plate discipline abandoned him during an
injury-plagued 2014. The Giants are one of just four teams playing seven
games this week, and the first three are against the Diamondbacks' shaky
starting rotation. With nothing by right-handers on tap, you shouldn't
have to worry about Belt sitting unexpectedly.
Start instead of: Justin Morneau, Matt Adams
Marcus Semien, 2B/3B, Athletics: Of all the Athletics who
could benefit from the team's favorable matchups this week, Semien is
the one I can get behind most, in part because of the position he plays.
It's a shame he doesn't have shortstop eligibility yet, but coming off a
strong spring, his combination of power, plate discipline and speed
(well, at least the first two -- he hasn't shown much speed at the
major-league level yet) should make for a productive week against
pitchers like Yovani Gallardo, Colby Lewis, Ross Detwiler, Nick Martinez and J.A. Happ.
Start instead of: Chase Headley, Brandon Phillips
Eric Young, OF, Braves: This is a fun one. The Braves
identified Young as their leadoff man early in spring training, where he
has hit .319 (23 for 72) with seven stolen bases, and he's facing
pitch-to-contact types like Henderson Alvarez,
Mat Latos, Tom Koehler, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon this week.
With his speed, he's going to get on base, and when he gets there, it'll
be up to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Travis d'Arnaud to keep him at first. Both catchers are notorious for not
doing that, so I wouldn't be shocked to see a 4-to-5-steal week for
Start instead of: Oswaldo Arcia, Marlon Byrd
Chris Coghlan, OF, Cubs: Coghlan really came on at the end
of last season, batting .312 with an .874 OPS over the final three
months, and while my gut says it was too good to be true, he's followed
it up with a productive spring. Because he's a platoon player, you'll
need to pick your spots with him, but the Cubs are facing nothing but
right-handers this week, against whom he hit .294 with an .832 OPS last
year, with three of those games at Coors Field.
Start instead of: Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter
Five hitters to sit
Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds: Hamilton is too important to your
steals total to bench in a categories league, so I'm intending this
recommendation more for Head-to-Head points leagues. Hey, in the
standard CBSSports.com format, steals are worth two points, so he's
going to be valuable in the long run. But coming off a spring in which
he's hit .213 (10 for 47) after a rookie season that caused everyone to
doubt his hitting ability, I'm not liking his chances against the best
the Pirates and Cardinals have to offer. And in that second series, Yadier Molina figures to keep him parked at first base anyway.
Sit instead of: Adam Eaton, Khris Davis
Daniel Murphy, 2B, Mets: Murphy looks like a go for the
start of the season, but that doesn't change the fact that he's gotten
only 17 Grapefruit League at-bats so far. Chances are he'll be rusty
while most every pitcher he'll be facing will be at peak form. That's a
problem, especially since four of those pitchers are Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Julio Teheran.
Sit instead of: Chase Utley, Rougned Odor
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: Hosmer will enter the season on a
high note after another productive spring (nothing new for him), but he
gets four left-handers right out of the gate. That's not as big of a
deal for him as it is for some young left-handed hitters, but he was
better against righties last year. The only two on tap for him this week
are Jeff Samardzija and Jered Weaver, which is bad enough, but he's also stuck in two
pitcher's parks, playing three games at home, where he hit .219 last
year, and three at Angels Stadium.
Sit instead of: Michael Morse, Billy Butler
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Rangers: After a disastrous season in
which he was plagued by injuries and hit .211 from June 1 on, Choo
needed to hit better than .171 (7 for 41) to justify a starting spot
right out of the gate, especially with the Rangers facing pitchers like Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Kendall Graveman, Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel in a six-game week. I understand that in
five-outfielder or AL-only leagues, you may not have a choice, but in
three-outfielder mixed leagues, you probably do.
Sit instead of: Brett Gardner, Adam Eaton
Mike Zunino, C, Mariners: The buzz has been building for
Zunino over the course of this spring, during which he has hit .353 (18
for 51) with seven -- yes, seven -- home runs. It's a noteworthy
performance for a player with his upside, but let's not forget he hit
.199 last year. In a one-catcher league, you probably didn't draft him
as your starter, so you'll want to stick with Plan A and let him prove
himself first, especially with the Angels and Athletics pitching staffs
on tap for Week 1.
Sit instead of: Russell Martin, Yasmani Grandal