Week 22 Hitting Planner
Our Scott White breaks down the ever-changing lineups of contenders and pretenders in his Week 22 edition of his 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: Florida at Atlanta (60 percent chance) on Tuesday.
This week's news and notes for each team:
Arizona Diamondbacks: When Justin Upton (oblique) began his rehab assignment Aug. 11, the Diamondbacks said they wanted to keep him in the minors for a week to 10 days, so you have to figure he'll return to the lineup either this weekend or early in Fantasy Week 22 (Aug. 25-31). When he returns, the Diamondbacks won't have a way to keep him, Chad Tracy, Mark Reynolds, Conor Jackson and Adam Dunn in the lineup at once -- or so you'd think. But according to the Tucson Citizen, Reynolds, who spent some time at shortstop in the minors, has begun taking ground balls at second base. He probably won't end up starting at second, but you know the Diamondbacks would rather bump Augie Ojeda from the lineup than one of their big bats (most likely Tracy). If he became eligible at second base, Reynolds would easily rank among the top 10 at the position ... Chris Snyder has four homers in his last 10 games. Pick him up already.
Atlanta Braves: If you needed another incentive to bench him, Casey Kotchman is on the bereavement list and might miss a few games heading into next week. He's batting only .157 (11-for-70) since joining the Braves ... Chipper Jones is batting only .278 (30-for-108) with three home runs over the last two months. Granted, he has battled various leg injuries during that stretch, but if you own him in Fantasy, you shouldn't feel obligated to start him right now. Double check your lineup for other options and bench him if applicable.
Baltimore Orioles: Has Melvin Mora's magical run ended? He entered Saturday's game batting .200 (3-for-15) over his last four games, but he did hit a three-run home run Thursday. Obviously, this streak, which has him batting .411 with 10 home runs in the second half, has to end sooner rather than later, but Mora has done enough by now that you should keep him active even when he shows signs of slowing down ... Luis Montanez has resumed starting semi-regularly in center field after missing time recently with a sore hand. At age 26, he doesn't exactly qualify as a prospect, but he had a monster season at Double-A Bowie and has looked good at the plate so far. Take a flier on him in deeper AL-only leagues.
Boston Red Sox: J.D. Drew has sat out much of the last week with a herniated disk, which has the potential to sideline him into next week and beyond. Considering he has only three home runs since his monster June, you might want to consider other options. Coco Crisp has started in his absence ... To fill the void of Mike Lowell (oblique), the Red Sox have most often moved Kevin Youkilis to third base, clearing a spot for Sean Casey at first. Because they continue to experiment, though, Casey only has value in deeper AL-only leagues ... Jason Bay's move to a big market continues to go better than anyone could have expected. He's batting .347 (26-for-75) with four home runs in a Red Sox uniform and doesn't rank far behind Manny Ramirez in terms of Fantasy appeal ... Jason Varitek has homered in three straight games. He has disappointed all season, but at a weak position like catcher, three homers goes a long way to improving a player's value. Take a flier on him again in mixed leagues.
Chicago Cubs: Derrek Lee left Saturday's game with back spasms, which can get a little tricky at times. Considering he has only five home runs since May, you might want to play it safe and bench him if you have viable alternatives ... Going into Saturday, Mark DeRosa had homered in two straight games and three times in the last week, bringing his career high to 16. If you don't consider him a must-start middle infielder, think again. He's on pace for nearly 100 RBI and 100 runs scored ... Alfonso Soriano, who came off the DL hot in late July, entered Saturday hitless in his last three games and batting .148 (4-for-27) over his last seven. You'd never consider benching him, obviously, but knowing his history of streakiness, you had to expect a slump on the horizon ... Kosuke Fukudome is hitting .199 since July 1 and doesn't deserve to start right now in mixed leagues.
|1.||Hideki Matsui, OF, NYY||21|
|2.||Ty Wigginton, 3B, HOU||18|
|3.||Ian Stewart, 3B, COL||17|
|4.||Jed Lowrie, SS, BOS||14|
|5.||Ryan Church, OF, NYM||14|
|6.||Jeff Kent, 2B, LAD||10|
|7.||Melvin Mora, 3B, BAL||8|
|8.||Alexei Ramirez, 2B, CHW||8|
|9.||Denard Span, OF, MIN||8|
|10.||Chris Dickerson, OF, CIN||7|
Chicago White Sox: Stud alert. Unless you missed the latest entry, his name is Alexei Ramirez. He qualifies at second base and is batting .333 (11-for-33) with five home runs during an eight-game hitting streak. He should start for somebody in your league -- hopefully, you ... Nick Swisher has homered in four straight games and looks like he has the advantage as he and Paul Konerko vie for playing time at first base. You can start him right now in mixed leagues, but with a .237 batting average, you shouldn't expect the hot hitting to last for long ... Carlos Quentin has gone from scary to just plain terrifying since the All-Star break, batting .349 with 13 home runs and a staggering 1.237 OPS. If you need Fantasy advice for those numbers, you probably have a VCR blinking 12 o'clock somewhere.
Cincinnati Reds: The time has come to forget about Jerry Hairston. The Reds placed their speedy outfielder back on the DL with the same hamstring injury that he suffered immediately before the All-Star break. At this point, you have to consider any at-bats you get from him a bonus. He has only so long to get that hamstring in base-stealing shape before the season ends, and he hasn't made much progress so far ... After not showing much power coming out of the All-Star break, Brandon Phillips has homered five times in his last 13 games and three times in his last six. He looks on the right side of streaky and could easily make a late-season push for a second straight 30-30 campaign.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians hope to get both Travis Hafner (shoulder) and Victor Martinez (elbow) back soon, possibly this week. Both have begun Triple-A rehab assignments and have shown signs of hitting like their once-studly selves. Hafner has reportedly regained the strength in his right shoulder -- the source of his struggles over the last two seasons. Don't start either of these guys until they return and prove their health, but make sure they don't stay on the waiver wire ... Ryan Garko, who doesn't have to contend for at-bats anymore, entered Saturday riding an eight-game hitting streak during which he's batting .367 (11-for-30) with two home runs. He still has some sleeper potential in AL-only leagues ... Jamey Carroll has begun seeing some time in the lineup lately with Jhonny Peralta moving to DH and Asdrubal Cabrera moving to shortstop, but he has virtually no power and little Fantasy appeal even in deeper AL-only leagues.
Colorado Rockies: At the beginning of the season, the Rockies had disappointments up and down their batting order. But, my, how the tides have turned. With a few midseason breakouts and several veterans rounding into form, the Rockies now have one of the most Fantasy-relevant starting lineups:
1. Clint Barmes, 2B -- Giving Barmes the
everyday job at second base over Jeff Baker
might not have improved the Rockies lineup much, but Barmes had three
hits Friday and is now batting .279 in August. Continue to think of him
as a low-end mixed-league option.
2. Willy Taveras, CF -- Moving a speedster like Taveras to second in the batting order might seem like blasphemy, but he's batting .368 in that spot with seven stolen bases in only 38 at-bats. With 60 stolen bases on the season, he has replaced Juan Pierre as the prototypical stolen-base specialist in Rotisserie leagues.
3. Matt Holliday, LF -- Speaking of base stealers, Holliday himself has become something of one, joining the 20-20 club with three swiped bags last week. He has an outside shot at the 30-30 club with a batting average on the right side of .350. Can you say stud?
4. Brad Hawpe, RF -- Hawpe looked like one of the biggest busts on Draft Day when he hit .231 with three home runs through the first two months of the season. But since then, he's hitting .324 with 19 home runs, including three in the last week. Start him in all leagues.
5. Garrett Atkins, 1B -- Atkins has taken over at first base since Todd Helton (back) went on the DL in early July. The shift across the infield hasn't affected his Fantasy appeal much. He has put together kind of a down season, though, posting a .791 OPS, but he still deserves to start in all leagues.
6. Ian Stewart, 3B -- If the Rockies seem in no hurry to bring Helton off the DL, Stewart is the No. 1 reason why. With a four-hit game Friday, the rookie is hitting .307 with a .974 OPS in a significant number of at-bats (163). Time to start him in mixed leagues.
7. Chris Iannetta, C -- The breakout catcher has recently begun to show signs of life again, but he entered Saturday batting .240 since June. Still, he offers more power than you'll normally find at the position and remains a must-start.
8. Troy Tulowitzki, SS -- My, how the runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year has fallen -- specifically, from second in the batting order to eighth. He hasn't made significant strides with his .238 batting average all season and no longer qualifies as a must-own in Fantasy.
Detroit Tigers: Gary Sheffield entered Saturday riding a seven-game hitting streak during which he's batting .379 (11-for-29) with one home run. Sad as it sounds, this hot streak might be his best all season, so if you still hope to get anything out of him, consider activating him now. Keep in mind, though, he has only a .729 OPS ... Matt Joyce and Marcus Thames have begun platooning in left field again, meaning the left-handed Joyce gets the majority of at-bats. He has enough power to make an impact in Rotisserie leagues, but because he sits against left-handers, he won't help much in Head-to-Head leagues. Thames has again become just an AL-only option.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez missed Friday's game with a bruised left thumb and apparently had trouble gripping a bat before the game. He ended up pinch running, so the Marlins obviously don't think he'll have to go on the DL, but he could conceivably miss a few games early next week. Because he plays such a weak position, though, you have to keep him active ... Cody Ross, who struggled to begin the second half after becoming an everyday player, went 3-for-4 with a home run Friday and now has a seven-game hitting streak. When he gets hot, you want him active, so consider taking a flier on him again ... Paul Lo Duca has become John Baker's new platoon partner, meaning neither player has any Fantasy value outside of NL-only leagues. For what it's worth, though, Baker is 5-for-9 over his last three games. Matt Treanor appears the odd man out here, not that any Fantasy owner had any reason to depend on him in the first place.
Houston Astros: The Astros have given up on Michael Bourn as an everyday player, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering they lost Carlos Lee (broken finger) for the season. Bourn, hitting .225 with 33 stolen bases, started only once over the last week and is now strictly an NL-only option ... With Bourn out of the lineup, Ty Wigginton has moved from third base to the outfield. The added versatility only improves his Fantasy appeal, as does his .417 batting average and seven home runs in August.
|1.||Houston Astros||@NYM1, CIN3, STL3|
|2.||Chicago Cubs||@PIT3, PHI4|
|3.||L.A. Angels||OAK3, TEX4|
|4.||Minnesota Twins||@SEA3, @OAK4|
|5.||Kansas City Royals||TEX3, @DET3|
Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon will likely have to go on the DL with a tear in his right quadriceps and could conceivably miss the final five weeks if the Royals decide to take an ultra-cautious approach. He still has some of the highest upside of any young hitter in baseball, but since he has done nothing but disappoint for a second consecutive season, don't feel obligated to stash him in mixed leagues ... In Gordon's absence, Mark Teahen will move to third base, where he began his career, leaving the Royals with an opening in their outfield that Joey Gathright filled Friday night. Gathright just returned from a shoulder injury and has a light bat, but if you have a desperate need for stolen bases in Rotisserie leagues, he can suffice as long as he continues to play every day ... Mike Aviles has multiple hits in four straight games, upping his season batting average to .333. For some inexplicable reason, he remains unowned in 32 percent of Fantasy leagues.
L.A. Angels: After beginning the second half like he wanted to contend for a batting title, Howie Kendrick has cooled off in August, batting only .211 entering Saturday. With his power developing slower than expected, he looks like a poor man's Ryan Theriot, making him a shaky start in mixed leagues ... The Angels have called Quadruple-A player Kendry Morales back up to the big leagues. He might start occasionally, bumping Juan Rivera out of the lineup, but Rivera still looks like the better choice for AL-only leagues.
L.A. Dodgers: The acquisition of Manny Ramirez has apparently sparked new life in the bat of Andre Ethier. The left-handed hitter originally looked destined for the bench with the arrival of Ramirez, but with five home runs in his last seven games, the Dodgers can't keep him out of the lineup. Ethier's power surge likely won't last, and he'll always have to look over his shoulder for Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, but he deserves a flier in deeper mixed leagues right now.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun returned to the lineup Friday after missing nine of the previous 11 games with a tight back. The nagging injury might crop up again sometime over the next week, forcing the slugger to miss a couple more games, but you have to keep him active. He does more with four games than most players do with seven ... J.J. Hardy, who cooled off in early August after a power surge in early July, has heated up again. He's batting .353 (12-for-34) with three home runs during his eight-game hitting streak and deserves a starting spot in all Fantasy leagues ... Prince Fielder gets hot every now and then, but he can't seem to sustain a streak long enough to make up any significant ground in his pursuit of last year's 50 home runs. At this point, 40 seem out of reach. He's batting .115 (3-for-26) over his last eight games but should remain active in all leagues ... Ray Durham has started more often than Rickie Weeks lately, but the two continue to split at-bats. Leave both for NL-only leagues.
Minnesota Twins: Alexi Casilla, who returned from a thumb injury Thursday after the Twins originally thought he might miss the rest of the season, has immediately regained his starting job at second base and No. 2 spot in the batting order. His lack of home runs and stolen bases makes him a low-end option in mixed leagues, though ... With Casilla's return to the lineup, Nick Punto moves to third base and drops to seventh in the batting order. He entered Saturday's game batting .386 (17-for-44) during a 10-game hitting streak, making the normally light hitter a decent stopgap until he cools off ... Denard Span continues to thrive as the Twins' leadoff hitter, getting multiple hits in five of his last seven games. He doesn't have much power -- at least in terms of home runs -- but with a .325 batting average, he looks like a viable mixed-league option right now.
N.Y. Mets: Ryan Church made his second return from post-concussion syndrome Friday, and this one figures to stick after he rushed back too soon in late June. Manager Jerry Manuel has said he'll play every day, meaning surprise bounceback player Fernando Tatis has to go to the bench. Church might occasionally sit for Tatis against tough left-handers, but Tatis still loses pretty much all of his mixed-league appeal ... Second baseman Luis Castillo, who was supposed to return from a strained hip flexor Saturday against the Astros, begged to stay out of the lineup and on the DL before Saturday's game. He wants to work out with the team for a few days and, with the team playing so well, doesn't want to interfere with his replacement platoon of Damion Easley and rookie Argenis Reyes. Castillo offers minimal stolen-base potential and might not even play every day when he returns, so this news shouldn't rock the foundation of your Fantasy hopes and dreams.
N.Y. Yankees: Hideki Matsui, still bothered by a sore left knee, came off the DL on Tuesday and has started every game since, playing DH. He has only two hits since his return, but one left the park, and you have to like his RBI potential down the stretch. Get him active as no less than a No. 4 Fantasy outfielder ... Ivan Rodriguez started for only the fifth time in eight games Saturday, making him less than an "everyday" catcher for the Yankees. Because he no longer offers much statistically to separate himself from the rest of the pack at catcher, he might quickly fall out of favor in mixed leagues if he doesn't regain regular at-bats soon ... Derek Jeter has raised his batting average 12 points since Aug. 12, batting .486 (18-for-37) in eight games over that stretch. He's no longer a threat for 20 home runs and might not even reach a dozen, but he still knows how to put together a hitting streak. Keep him active as a less-than-elite but worthy starting Fantasy shortstop.
Oakland Athletics: Mark Ellis had to leave Friday's game because of pain in his right shoulder -- an injury he suffered sliding into second base Thursday. Shoulder injuries for hitters often lead to DL stints, but this one doesn't sound particularly serious just yet. Still, considering Ellis has a .234 batting average, you should probably find someone else to start this week. Check your league's waiver wire. You might just spot a Mike Aviles staring you right in the face ... Jack Cust also left Friday's game, suffering from blurred vision. The condition doesn't sound particularly serious, but you already have enough reasons, most of them statistical, not to bother with Cust in mixed leagues ... Frank Thomas has gone hitless in his last seven games -- a span of 22 at-bats. Any amount of power potential the 40-year-old has remaining in his bat certainly doesn't make up for this level of torture. Let him go in mixed leagues unless you have an especially deep bench.
|1.||N.Y. Yankees||BOS3, TOR3|
|2.||St. Louis Cardinals||MIL2, @HOU3|
|3.||Milwaukee Brewers||@STL2, PIT3|
|4.||Arizona Diamondbacks||@SD3, LAD3|
|5.||Washington Nationals||LAD3, ATL3|
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies placed Geoff Jenkins (quadriceps) on the 15-day DL Saturday, which means Jayson Werth finally becomes an everyday player. With 17 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 295 at-bats, he deserves a flier in all Rotisserie leagues even with a batting average hovering around .260 ... Even though Pedro Feliz (back) came off the DL on Wednesday, the Phillies have continued to start Greg Dobbs at third base -- against right-handers, anyway. Dobbs' numbers project better than Feliz's over a full season, but in a platoon situation, neither of these players matters much in mixed leagues ... Ryan Howard's miserable season continues despite his occasional power surges. He's batting .111 (6-for-54) over his last 15 games and has an OPS (.796) more befitting of a reserve outfielder than a guy widely considered the best power hitter in baseball. You have to start him in most mixed leagues still, but you probably don't want to.
Pittsburgh Pirates: A couple of illnesses have ravaged the Pirates lineup in recent days. Nate McLouth has a stomach virus and missed his fourth straight game Saturday. The Pirates think he should return in the coming days, so keep him active. Ryan Doumit, meanwhile, left Friday's game with symptoms of dehydration and remained out of the lineup Saturday. The Pirates say he'll return Sunday, though, so he, like McLouth, should remain active in all leagues ... Adam A. LaRoche, who hit .390 with seven home runs in July before going on the DL with a ribcage injury, has begun to find his form again since returning Aug. 14, homering for the second time in five games Sunday. He can hit homers by the dozens when he gets hot, so pick him up if he remains unowned in your league.
San Diego Padres: The Padres don't have much to celebrate right now, which is understandable for a team that has to field Tadahito Iguchi and Nick Hundley on an everyday basis. Since returning from a separated shoulder in early August, Iguchi is batting only .133 (6-for-45). With only two home runs all season, he doesn't show near the power he did in his younger days and doesn't deserve to start even in NL-only leagues. Hundley, meanwhile, has acceptable power for a 24-year-old catcher, but his .202 batting average won't win many fans in Fantasy. He looks like he'll keep his job even with Josh Bard coming off the DL, but his appeal doesn't improve any as a result.
San Francisco Giants: With a .420 batting average and 1.066 OPS, Randy Winn is having an August to rival his May, when he hit .342 with a .939 OPS. Get him active in all Fantasy leagues ... The Giants keep finding ways to get 22-year-old Pablo Sandoval in the lineup, either at third base, first base or his primary position behind the plate. He has yet to homer, but he carried a six-game hitting streak into Saturday, batting .524 (11-for-21) during that stretch. Take a flier on him in NL-only leagues, especially since he qualifies at catcher.
Seattle Mariners: Even with his two hits Friday, Jose Lopez is batting .114 (4-for-35) over his last nine games. His overall numbers still make him a Fantasy starter, but you have to expect some prolonged cold streaks for a hitter who walks as infrequently as he does ... Raul Ibanez, who has surged into the Fantasy spotlight with a .423 batting average and five home runs in August, entered Saturday hitless in his last two games. That doesn't mean his hot streak is over -- not necessarily, anyway -- but keep in mind it has to end sometime. Start him for now.
St. Louis Cardinals: Skip Schumaker is batting .444 (16-for-36) over his last nine games and scored three runs in each of his last two entering Saturday. As the Cardinals leadoff hitter, he generally scores plenty of runs and is a decent week-to-week stopgap option in mixed leagues ... Albert Pujols had three hits Saturday for the fourth time in seven games. He remains as good as ever.
Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton, amid all of his baserunning gaffes and subsequent benchings, has actually hit the ball pretty well lately, batting .350 (7-for-20) over the last seven days. Even during a disappointing season, he deserves to start in all leagues because of his stolen bases ... On Friday, Rocco Baldelli hit his first home run since returning from a mitochondrial disorder, which is a nice story that would sound better to Fantasy owners if he hadn't just gone five days without playing. Until he can play and homer regularly, he's not worth your time.
Texas Rangers: With Ian Kinsler on the DL and possibly out for the season with a sports hernia, Ramon Vazquez, who has spent much of the season starting at third base for Hank Blalock, has become the Rangers' regular second baseman. He has begun to hit more like himself in August, though, after an improbably good start, batting .244 (10-for-41). Leave the glorified utility infielder for AL-only leagues ... Blalock, meanwhile, made his return from the DL Friday. But his sore shoulder still bothers him enough that he has to move from third base to first, which doesn't sound like a good sign for his hitting. Let him prove he can still hit for power before picking him up in mixed leagues ... Rookie Chris Davis has moved from first base to third to accommodate Blalock, which will only improve his versatility going into next season.
Toronto Blue Jays: After coming over in a waiver trade with the Pirates, Jose Bautista immediately became the Blue Jays' leader in home runs with a pathetic 12 blasts this season. Even though he plays the same position as Scott Rolen, who should come off the DL soon, the Blue Jays have to find a spot for him in their starting lineup. Treat him as just an AL-only option, though, because apart from offering a handful of home runs, he doesn't do much statistically ... Adam Lind, on the other hand, does. With a .346 (9-for-26) batting average and three home runs over the last seven days and a .302 (61-for-202) batting average and nine home runs on the season, he has emerged as the best rookie outfielder in the American League -- even better than Jacoby Ellsbury. Pick him up in all Fantasy leagues.
Washington Nationals: Willie Harris keeps mistaking himself for a power hitter. He hit two home runs Friday to bring his career high to 12. Before this year, he had never hit more than two in a season. Since he doesn't show any signs of slowing down, reap the benefits while you still can in NL-only leagues. He even has some low-end mixed-league appeal now, especially considering he has a better OPS than Ryan Howard ... Ronnie Belliard put up such ridiculous numbers when shortstop Cristian Guzman missed time with a thumb injury that the Nationals decided to keep him in the lineup at first base even after Guzman returned. He had another four-hit game Friday to give him two in his last four games. He's batting .581 (18-for-31) over his last eight games and is a decent stopgap in mixed leagues.
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