Week 17 Hitting Planner

The Fantasy Baseball Hitting Planner is the essential guide to setting your lineup for the upcoming week. Every Saturday, we provide you with favorable and unfavorable matchups, along with news and notes on lineups. The Pitching Planner, complete with upcoming two-start pitchers, will be posted on Sunday.

Weather planner: Taking into account all games with at least a 50 percent chance of precipitation according to Weather.com, the following games are in danger of being rained out: Texas at Chicago White Sox (50 percent chance) on Monday.

This week's news and notes for each team:

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks rank 25th in team batting average and host a tough Cubs pitching staff before playing in pitcher-friendly San Francisco. Fortunately, they have a few hot hitters in their starting lineup.

1. Stephen Drew , SS -- Drew, an emerging power hitter at a power-poor position, entered the All-Star break with a four-game streak of two hits or more. He's batting .370 (10-for-27) in his last five games.
2. Conor Jackson , LF -- Jackson entered Saturday riding a six-game hitting streak during which he's batting .407, helping him fit the description of a second-half player. He improved his slugging percentage in the second half by .083 points in 2006 and .156 points last year. Get him active.
3. Orlando Hudson , 2B -- Hudson entered Saturday with a six-game hitting streak of his own, batting .393 (11-for-28) during that stretch. Hudson's hit streak, though, probably just indicates another hot stretch, not the continuation of a second-half trend like Jackson's.
4. Chad Tracy , 1B -- Tracy, who lost his full-time job early in 2007, has taken advantage of his return to everyday duty in place of Eric Byrnes . He entered Saturday batting .417 (20-for-48) in July and .444 (12-for-27) over his last five games. His lack of walks suggests the hot hitting won't last, but no harm in starting him now.
5. Mark Reynolds , 3B -- The ever-streaky Reynolds remains a home run waiting to happen, but he has only five hits in his last 11 games. Let him take a seat in mixed leagues.
6. Chris Snyder , C -- Snyder continues to progress from his fractured testicle, beginning a rehab assignment Saturday. He's a sleeper to post an .850-plus OPS in the second half, which would make him a top-10 Fantasy catcher. Miguel Montero remains in the lineup for now.
7. Chris Young , CF -- The Diamondbacks didn't so much mind Young batting under .240 as a rookie last year, but it starts to get embarrassing midway through his sophomore season. He looks more like Corey Patterson than Alfonso Soriano right now.
8. Alex Romero -- Justin Upton won't return from his strained oblique until early August, but considering his .242 batting average and six home runs since April, you probably won't even miss him. Romero replaces him for now, but he won't do anything Fantasy-relevant.

Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar strained left shoulder, which forced him to miss four straight games entering Saturday, might soon force him to go on the DL. The Braves plan to evaluate him over the weekend. His recent lack of power makes him not worth the risk no matter what they decide. Fortunately, 24-year-old prospect Brent Lillibridge has begun to swing a hot bat in his absence. Give him a look in NL-only leagues. ... Matt Diaz , out with a strained posterior cruciate ligament since May 28, has begun a rehab assignment and is awaiting clearance to play without a bulky brace on his left knee. He could potentially return this week, cutting into the at-bats of NL-only options Mark Kotsay and Gregor Blanco .

Baltimore Orioles: Melvin Mora has homered in three straight games, batting .500 (6-for-12) during that stretch. His batting average remains on the wrong side of .250, but if you want to take a chance on him, now's the time ... Luke Scott , another one of the more streaky players in baseball, has three home runs in the first two games after the break. The Orioles also face six right-handed pitchers next week, meaning he should remain in the lineup.

Top 10 Hitters Added
Player % Change
1. Hank Blalock , 3B, TEX 16
2. Chad Tracy , 3B, ARI 10
3. Carlos Delgado , 1B, NYM 7
4. Chris Iannetta , C, COL 7
5. Fernando Tatis , 3B, NYM 7
6. Andre Ethier , OF, LAD 6
7. Adam Jones , OF, BAL 6
8. Mike Aviles , SS, KC 6
9. Chris Davis , 3B, TEX 6
10. Adam Lind , OF, TOR 6

Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz , out since May 31 with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, has begun a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket and homered in three straight games. Still, the Red Sox say he won't return until July 25, making him useless for the first half of Fantasy Week 17. Start him only in AL-only leagues -- and even then, probably just Rotisserie formats ... The Red Sox don't need Big Papi with the way Kevin Youkilis has swung the bat lately. With homers in each of his first two games after the break, he now has four in his last six games. Keep him active, as always.

Chicago Cubs: Alfonso Soriano , out with a broken left hand since early June, will likely return for weekend series against the Marlins. You can't expect much, though, from one of the streakiest players in baseball in only half a week, so keep him reserved until Fantasy Week 18 (July 28-August 3) ... Ryan Theriot went 3-for-4 Saturday and is batting .389 (21-for-54) in July. The sparkplug refuses to slow down despite a noticeable lack of talent, so keep him active in all leagues.

Chicago White Sox: Carlos Quentin homered in the first game back from the break, giving him four in his last six games. He never lost must-start status, but he's clearly heating up again after a brief cold spell ... Alexei Ramirez has reached a point where anyone with a need at second base should consider starting him. He's hitting over .350 and slugging over .500 since May.

Cincinnati Reds: Jeff Keppinger has become the everyday shortstop with Jerry Hairston going on the DL with a hamstring injury. Think of Keppinger as kind of a poor man's Placido Polanco . He doesn't walk often, but strikes out even less. He also consistently hits in the .290-.320 range. Consider using him as you would Polanco until Hairston returns ... Rookie Jay Bruce has moved into the leadoff role with Hairston down, and he has a home run since the break. Still, he'll need to do more before you can activate him in mixed leagues again.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians apparently want to give former prospect Andy Marte another look as their everyday third baseman. He's started six of the last seven games, moving Casey Blake over to first base. Ryan Garko has taken a seat on the bench, but his stats hadn't done you much good in Fantasy anyway. Marte probably won't ever develop into a stud, but he still deserves a flier in AL-only leagues.

Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki (hand) has hit the cover off the ball on his Double-A rehab assignment and looks ready to return Monday. His .166 batting average might steer you away in Fantasy, but with so few elite options available at the position, might as well take a chance ... Scott Podsednik has started three of the last five games in center field, replacing Willy Taveras . If the trend continues, Podsednik still has enough stolen base potential for Rotisserie leagues.

Detroit Tigers: You've heard it a million times, yes, but Gary Sheffield might really -- really, really -- have found his stroke this time. He has gone 3-for-8 with a home run and a double since the break. A modest achievement? Yes, but considering his complete dearth of power in the first half, any early indication of power in the second is a good indication ... Carlos Guillen became the latest player to miss time after his wife had complications following the birth of their child. (Is it just me, or did every player aim for an All-Star birth -- not berth -- this year?) He likely won't miss more than a game or two, so keep him active.

Florida Marlins: Jorge Cantu , who has a surprise 18 homers after hitting a total of 15 the previous two seasons, refuses to slow down. He went 4-for-5 Saturday, making him 6-for-9 since the break, and he entered the break with three home runs in his last seven games. Keep him active in all leagues at all times ... Rookie catcher John Baker , struggling at the plate since taking over for the injured Matt Treanor , showed signs of life with a four-RBI day Saturday against the Phillies. He got hung up in the minors for a few years, but his numbers there look good enough to make him a decent flier in NL-only leagues.

Houston Astros: The All-Star break apparently did Miguel Tejada some good even though he played in the actual All-Star game. He has gone 5-for-8 in the first two games of the second half after entering the break hitting .190 since May. Get him back active in all leagues if you benched him during his slump.

Best 5 Hitting Matchups
Team Schedule
1. Chicago Cubs @ARI3, FLA4
2. Milwaukee Brewers @STL4, HOU3
3. Pittsburgh Pirates @HOU3, SD4
4. San Diego Padres @CIN3, @PIT4
5. Toronto Blue Jays @BAL4, SEA3

Kansas City Royals: Don't look now, but Billy Butler might have remembered how to hit. The 22-year-old prospect with killer minor-league numbers has gone 4-for-9 with two home runs and seven RBI in two games since the break. He has particularly impressive plate discipline for a young guy and could make an immediate impact in mixed leagues if he gets going ... Jose Guillen missed the first two games after the break with back spasms, but manager Trey Hillman expects him to return Sunday. Keep him active in AL-only leagues.

L.A. Angels: Howie Kendrick hasn't done much at the plate since hitting his first two home runs July 10 at Texas, batting .214 (3-for-14). He did hit .357 in the second half last year, though, so now's the time to take a chance on him ... Chone Figgins started Friday, returning from his personal leave. If you have any reservations about starting him, they should stem from his .158 (9-for-57) batting average since June 25, not any threat of him missing time.

L.A. Dodgers: Nomar Garciaparra , back playing shortstop, flashed a little more nostalgia with two home runs in his first game after the break. Think of it as nothing more than a quick stroll down memory lane and leave him on the waiver wire in mixed leagues ... James Loney entered Saturday batting only .226 (12-for-53) in July. Keep the disappointing sophomore reserved.

Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder is mashing again, hitting two home runs in the week before the break and two home runs in the first two games after. Don't worry about him. He'll still finish with between 35 and 40 bombs, assuming he stays healthy ... Rickie Weeks has at least one hit in seven of his last eight games, but he's still batting a pathetic .218. Maybe one day he'll reach his potential, but with a .689 OPS, he won't do it this year.

Minnesota Twins: Justin Morneau upped his hitting streak to nine games with a 2-for-4 day at the plate Saturday. During that stretch, he has three home runs, a .515 batting average (17-for-33) and a 5-for-5 game. You'd never bench him, obviously, but feel extra confident starting him this week ... Disappointing 22-year-old Delmon Young has come out of the break with a vengeance, hitting 7-for-9 with his fourth home run. Hopefully, you didn't cut him because he still has plenty of potential and looks like he wants to make good on it.

N.Y. Mets: Angel Pagan , out since the middle of May with a bruised left shoulder, would have returned at the beginning of Fantasy Week 17 (July 21-27), but he aggravated the injury at the start of his minor-league rehab assignment. Hence, expect Fernando Tatis and Endy Chavez to continue playing regularly for the Mets ... Speaking of Tatis, he has begun to resemble the player who hit 34 home runs for the Cardinals in 1999, going into Saturday's game with four home runs in his last 10. He's worth picking up in all NL-only leagues, but keep in mind he entered the season with 56 at-bats since 2003 for a reason.

N.Y. Yankees: It starts for Robinson Cano -- another torrid second half. The struggling Yankees second baseman, who hit .343 with 13 home runs in the second half last year and .365 with 11 home runs in the second half of 2006, has gone 6-for-10 with a home run to start the second half this year. Get him active if you have him and, if you don't, try trading for him on the cheap ... The acquisition of Richie Sexson means Jason Giambi has pretty much no chance of starting against left-handed pitchers. He becomes a low-end mixed-league option when he doesn't get consistent at-bats ... Johnny Damon (shoulder) and Hideki Matsui (knee) both probably have more serious injuries than the Yankees let on. The Yankees at least talk like Damon will return at the end of Fantasy Week 17, but keep him reserved in case he doesn't.

Oakland Athletics: Matt Murton has played more or less every day since the Athletics called him up from the minors, giving him his first real opportunity to deliver on his potential. Pick him up in all AL-only leagues ... Frank Thomas (quadriceps) has begun taking batting practice and hopes to return by the end of the month. He likely won't return in time for Fantasy Week 17 (July 21-27), though, so keep him reserved.

Worst 5 Hitting Matchups
Team Schedule
1. Seattle Mariners BOS3, @TOR3
2. Washington Nationals @SF3, @LAD3
3. Arizona Diamondbacks CHC3, @SF3
4. Texas Rangers @CHW3, @OAK3
5. Cleveland Indians @LAA3, MIN3

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard , one of the hottest players before the break with nine home runs in 15 games, has one already after the break. With his batting average up over .230 after lingering in the .210 range all season, don't expect to bench him again in Fantasy ... Shane Victorino , on the other hand, cooled off over the break, going 1-for-9 in his first two games back. He remains worth starting in all leagues, but if one of the trade rumors involving him comes true, he might miss a game or two next week.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Xavier Nady string of inconsistent at-bats will continue over the weekend with the birth of his child. He should return no later than Monday, though, so keep him active in all leagues ... Adam LaRoche , hot going into the break, had two hits in his first game back and has yet to go hitless in his first three. Considering he usually plays better in the second half, he looks like a must-start in Fantasy right now.

San Diego Padres: Scott Hairston , who hit five home runs in a span of five games before the break, hasn't started since the break. As a platoon player, he remains just an NL-only option ... Josh Bard (ankle) has begun a rehab assignment and might return to the lineup in the next week, replacing rookie Nick Hundley . Neither player has done enough at the plate this season for you to care about him in Fantasy.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants held Ray Durham out of the lineup both Friday and Saturday even though the oft-injured 36-year-old doesn't have any known injuries. Might a trade be coming? No one could speculate how a trade might affect Durham's Fantasy value without knowing his destination, so play it safe and bench him right now ... If the Giants do in fact trade Durham, Eugenio Velez would likely become the everyday second baseman. His stolen base potential makes him worth a pickup in all NL-only leagues and even some mixed Rotisserie formats.

Seattle Mariners: Raul Ibanez , who hit five of his first 10 home runs during a seven-game stretch, hit one in the first game after the break and another early Saturday. He now has three in his last four games, so get the streaky player active before he cools off again ... Bryan LaHair , called up to take Richie Sexson place, has decent power, but the 25-year-old rookie didn't have particularly good numbers in the minors. Leave him for AL-only leagues.

St. Louis Cardinals: The entire middle of the Cardinals' batting order has gone crazy over the last few games. No. 2 hitter Ryan Ludwick , fresh off his first All-Star appearance, is batting .435 (10-for-23) with four home runs over his last five games. He looks likes less and less of a fluke. No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols is batting .440 (11-for-25) over his last six games -- not too out of the ordinary for him. No. 4 hitter Troy Glaus is batting .667 (14-for-21) with four home runs over his last five games. His hot streaks are getting closer and closer together. No. 5 hitter Rick Ankiel is batting .354 (17-for-48) with six home runs in his last 13 games. Obviously, you don't want to bench any of these guys right now, but they've all pretty much become Fantasy must-starts even when cold.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays seem in no hurry to bring Jason Bartlett (knee) off the DL, and manager Joe Maddon said Friday he still looks a little stiff. His return seems imminent, but since he offers nothing more than low-end steals potential in Fantasy, keep him reserved ... Carlos Pena has begun to cool off again, entering Saturday with one hit -- a single -- in his last 10 at-bats. He seems hardly worth the trouble in mixed leagues.

Texas Rangers: Hank Blalock is off the DL and back in the starting lineup, but at third base instead of first base as originally reported. The Rangers like 22-year-old rookie Chris Davis so much they want to keep him in the starting lineup at first base. And who can blame them? He has seven home runs in just over 60 at-bats. Pick him up in all leagues ... Ramon Vazquez , who started at third base after Blalock got hurt, gets a raw deal, having to go to the bench despite keeping his batting average well over .300. The hot hitting wouldn't have lasted, though. He just doesn't have that kind of offensive potential ... Gerald Laird can't run on his injured hamstring and won't return for another week or two. Meanwhile, rookie Max Ramirez has begun to heat up at the plate with two multi-hit games right before the All-Star break. He looks like he'll do more for your Fantasy team these days than Jarrod Saltalamacchia will.

Toronto Blue Jays: Outfield prospect Adam Lind , long a Fantasy tease, has finally begun to make the most of his talents. He homered in his first game after the break, extending his hitting streak to seven games. He's batting .417 (10-for-24) during that stretch and has four home runs since returning to the majors in late June ... Joe Inglett , a miscast utility player starting at second base and batting leadoff, has begun to come back down to earth, his batting average dropping from .322 to .295 since the beginning of July. He remains nothing more than a low-end AL-only option and only because he gets regular at-bats.

Washington Nationals: Ronnie Belliard , who powered up when the Nationals made him their starting third baseman, opened the second half at second base, displacing Felipe Lopez . Expect the trend to continue, making Lopez, a former 40-steal player, even more worthless than he'd already become ... The Nationals have turned to Johnny Estrada , fresh off the DL, behind the plate in each of the first two games after the break. Paul Lo Duca , meanwhile, has begun playing first base, making him an intriguing Fantasy option at catcher as long as he gets everyday at-bats. Jesus Flores looks like the odd man out here even though he has the most upside.

Have a burning question regarding Fantasy Baseball? We invite you to send your questions, comments and scouting reports on players to: dmfantasybaseball@cbs.com. Please include your full name, city and state. You'll have the chance to be heard by thousands of Fantasy players just like yourself!

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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