Many Fantasy leagues have to set their lineups very early this week because of the games in Japan between Boston and Oakland, as well as Sunday night's battle between Atlanta and Washington in brand new Nationals Park.

So basically, that means you'll have to do some pickin' and choosin' a little earlier than normal, affecting your lineups for the first full scoring period. While that's great news for Daisuke Matsuzaka's owners (he could get three starts), it's not great news for people with iffy injured players or guys still in position battles. This week's Hitting Planner will try to give you a leg up on the competition in that aspect.

Psssssttt ... Baseball season is almost here!

American League

Baltimore Orioles: The O's starting shortstop job is still up for grabs, which instantly brings this response from you, "Really? This is the best Fantasy information on the O's you can give me?" Luis Hernandez is probably going to be the man, but he's barely AL-only worthy. ... Adam Jones will start in center field as expected, but he's going to hit eighth in the lineup, just behind Luke Scott and ahead of the shortstop. That's not a great spot to see fastballs, so a slow start can be expected -- with plenty of strikeouts. He hit .275 this spring with just one stolen base attempt -- and he was caught.

Boston Red Sox: Jet-lag might affect this team a little bit, but thankfully they're hitting against an Oakland team outside of spacious McAfee Coliseum, although the Tokyo Dome has equally large foul territories. ... Dustin Pedroia had an ugly spring, hitting just .179, but remember that the '07 AL Rookie of the Year is coming off a broken hand from last fall and he had the flu for a bit this spring. ... J.D. Drew, a player that has fallen off big-time in Fantasy owners' minds, had a solid March, hitting .321 with a homer and five RBI. However, he was scratched from the season opener with back spasms. ... Jacoby Ellsbury will be hitting lower in the batting order, despite how well he did leading off in last year's World Series. ... Bottom line: Start all of your Red Sox because they have extra games in this scoring period and the A's staff isn't even close to what it once was.

New York Yankees: The Bronx Bombers are getting older, despite the recent injection of youth with Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera and Shelley Duncan. Cano was sidelined with back spasms, but he should be fine for the first week (he played Sunday). ... Jason Giambi is supposed to be in great shape again, and he's hitting well to the opposite field this spring, something the team has worked with him on. He's batting .367 through 12 spring games, and he could be a nice rebound player in '08, possibly 25 homers and 90 RBI again. ... Alex Rodriguez, the consensus No. 1 Fantasy pick entering March, is controversy-free and he hasn't disappointed at the plate -- .452 BA, 3 HR and 8 RBI.

Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria was finally demoted to Triple-A Durham by the Rays Monday. Manager Joe Maddon balked at making a decision on him for the past three weeks, and the third baseman had done everything right this spring. He slowed just a bit recently, and that could have been enough to start him in the minors. Don't cut him though if you have roster room. Remember what Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence did last season after a month in the minors? ... Will Carlos Pena drop back to earth after signing a nice contract in the offseason? There aren't any indications of that just yet -- he leads the team this spring with four homers and 13 RBI through Monday. ... Eric Hinske (.909 spring OPS) has likely earned a spot on this club as a reserve outfielder or the starter at third base now. ... Elliot Johnson has surprised this month also, and with Ben Zobrist hurt, he could be the infield utility man. He hit .463 average with a 1.145 OPS this spring, but that's not to be expected in-season.

Toronto Blue Jays: Scott Rolen, who was expected to have a nice rebound year away from St. Louis, broke his finger during a routine drill Sunday morning. He lost the fingernail as well, which is more of a problem than the fracture, believe it or not. He could be out six weeks. Marco Scutaro gets the nod at third base in his absence. ... Aaron Hill had a solid '07 season and is picking right back up this spring, with team highs in batting average (.441), base hits (15), runs (seven) and RBI (seven). ... Shannon Stewart won the platoon left fielder's spot (alongside Matt Stairs) from Reed Johnson.

Chicago White Sox: Brian Anderson might have surpassed Carlos Quentin for the fourth outfielder's spot. Quentin hasn't been horrible with a .290 average, but Anderson has been too good to deny, leading the team in spring with 21 hits, 10 runs, four homers and a .362 batting average. ... Nick Swisher isn't a natural center fielder, but the White Sox need him there. What's nice to see from him this spring is all the extra-base hits. He has six doubles, two triples and two homers among his 16 base hits. ... Alexei Ramirez has earned a spot as a utility player, but Juan Uribe is probably still the starter at second base.

Cleveland Indians: Travis Hafner had a horrible '07 by his standards, and he has a couple of homers this spring with a .432 on-base percentage. Being DH-only eligible hurts his Fantasy value, so he has to really produce at the plate for his owners to get positive value. ... Last year's surprise at the plate, Asdrubal Cabrera, continues to make owners smile. He has 12 hits and a .324 batting average, with eight runs scored. Josh Barfield will sit the pine again (he's hitting .238).

Detroit Tigers: With Curtis Granderson (broken finger) sidelined at least three weeks, Brandon Inge suddenly has new life breathed into his career in Motown. He played center field Sunday and SS Edgar Renteria took Granderson's spot atop the lineup. ... Placido Polanco continues to get little respect in Fantasy circles, but he rarely strikes out, he's batting .453 and only two hitters in the majors have hits than him (24) this spring.

Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler is getting a ton of love from people other than Emack and I, and we should amend that. He's batting .358 this spring, has plus-power and has a chance to lead this team in RBI. His DH-only eligibility hurts, but you could do much worse with the 17th first baseman or 51st outfielder in that spot. ... Alex Gordon hit .264 after the break last season, and he's batting .318 in March.

Minnesota Twins: Carlos Gomez has officially won the starting center fielder's job. He hit .286 this spring, but it's his 10 stolen bases that should have you excited about the top prize in the Johan Santana trade. He instantly becomes a nice pickup in mixed Rotisserie leagues.

L.A. Angels of Anaheim: The Angels have talked about having four outfielders all spring, but don't discount what Juan Rivera can do once an injury hits Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter or Gary Matthews Jr., who sprained his ankle Monday already.

Oakland Athletics: In this past weekend's Tout Wars auction, there were five A's hitters taken in the reserve draft. If that's not a sign that this team is devoid of Rotisserie talent, I'm not sure what is. Bobby Crosby has three homers this spring after spending the winter months in the batting cages. He's a right-hander in a predominantly left-handed lineup, so his success is crucial to this team. ... Jack Hannahan has impressed management this spring and he'll get a chance to play while Eric Chavez tries to heal.

Seattle Mariners: Mike Morse is a co-leader in the majors this spring with 27 hits. He's leading the majors this month with a .519 batting average also. Don't get too crazy, he's just a reserve outfielder with the M's worthy of AL-only ownership.

Texas Rangers: The big story in Rangers' camp has to be the prolific hitting of new outfielder Josh Hamilton. His teammates have welcomed him into the fold and he's tearing the cover off the ball. ... Interestingly, the Rangers started Kevin Mench at first base for the first time against the Cubs Monday. He had a big '04 season in Texas, but he'll have to out-produce a few players to get a shot.

National League

Atlanta Braves: Kelly Johnson sat out Monday's game with a sore knee, but he insists it's just rest and nothing to be concerned about for the regular season. .. Mark Kotsay is the successor to Andruw Jones in center field, but Josh Anderson could get at-bats if/when Kotsay is injured. The former A's outfielder has played only 185 games in the past two seasons because of back issues. ... Matt Diaz will finally get regular at-bats in left field without platooning.

Florida Marlins: Cody Ross went to have his knee examined by a doctor Monday according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. If Cameron Maybin starts the season in the minors, Ross could get the Opening Day start for the Marlins in center. Ross had a torn ACL in 2003.

New York Mets: Brian Schneider is back in the team's lineup and his hamstring appears to be fine enough for him to work this week, getting associated with his pitchers. Fantasy-wise, he's not someone you want to start, but he's a good game manager, which should help this pitching staff.

Philadelphia Phillies: Pat Burrell is probably playing his final season at Citizens Bank Park for the Phillies. He has been an up-and-down player with the Phillies for his entire career, but in a walk year, you just might see his best effort, beating his '03 season in which he hit .282, with 37 homers and 116 RBI. He had a huge second half last season, hitting .302 with 22 homers and 65 RBI in his final 258 at-bats, but his inconsistency could hurt Head-to-Head owners.

Washington Nationals: Johnny Estrada took batting practice Monday, but he's starting the season in the minors to get ready to back up Paul Lo Duca. Jesus Flores will be the early-season backup backstop. ... With Ronnie Belliard closing in on the second base job, the team is actively trying to trade Felipe Lopez, but his contract is a little fat, according to the Washington Post. Nick Johnson, who was fourth in the NL in OPS two seasons ago, is expected to be the starting first baseman, leaving Dmitri Young as the odd-man out. ... Wily Mo Pena's oblique injury opens the door for Elijah Dukes in left field. Dukes played nine innings and his hamstring appears to be fine.

Chicago Cubs: Alex Cintron, Ronny Cedeno and Mike Fontenot are still battling for two utility spots -- we like Cedeno and Fontenot for the record. All three are worth skipping in mixed leagues though. ... Ryan Theriot has had a nice spring, batting .362 with six steals. As the leadoff man, the Quiet Riot could make a ton of noise in this lineup.

Cincinnati Reds: Javier Valentin has been getting some work in lately, with David Ross sidelined with a back injury. The Cincinnati Enqurier notes that Ross could even get backdated onto the 15-day disabled list to start the season. Paul Bako could get at-bats too, but neither Valentin or Bako are mixed-worthy. Neither is Ross at this point either.

Houston Astros: Hunter Pence is like the Easter Bunny -- he loves spring and Cadbury Eggs. He leads the majors this month with 50 total bases. He's hitting .397 though, which is less than what he did last spring, but no cause for alarm there.

Milwaukee Brewers: J.J. Hardy has been battling the flu lately, but manager Ned Yost told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he believes his shortstop will be ready for the season opener. Alcides Esobar is hanging around just in case Hardy can't go. ... Mike Cameron's 25-game suspension allows the Brewers to keep Tony Gwynn Jr., who is expected to see the most starts in center field until Cameron returns, with Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler also getting some starts, rather than cutting two of the three. ... Rickie Weeks (hand) was hitting .125 with 20 strikeouts in 40 at-bats this spring before going 2-for-4 with a hot single up the middle and a homer Sunday.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Freddy Sanchez (shoulder) could still end up starting at second base on opening day. If he can't go, Luis Rivas could get the nod. ... Nate McLouth is expected to win the team's starting center fielder's job. He is a fireplug with a great mix of speed and power that Rotisserie numbers love out of a lesser-name guy. His hitting can hurt, but he had 16 steals total in August and September combined last season.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals did you a favor by saying Colby Rasmus won't start the season in the majors. First, they took the spotlight off of him in Fantasy drafts, allowing him to slip to shrewd owners like yourself. Second, they're still getting him lots of PT with the big club despite not being on the 40-man roster. Since they continue to use him so much, it tells you how close he is to being called up. ... While Albert Pujols' elbow injury is still scary, his 15 RBI this spring are still second in majors, which should make you feel a little more comfortable.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Much has been made about Chris B. Young and his rookie season with the D-Backs. He has plenty of speed and power, but he strikes out a lot and he doesn't get on base enough for a leadoff man. After a rough start to the spring, he has picked it up lately, with eight hits in his past 10 at-bats, including three doubles, two home runs and four walks. His batting average is up to .346 this spring and those owners that picked him as a No. 3 outfielder are looking good heading into April.

Colorado Rockies: The Rockies continue to try to trade Marcus Giles, but the days of him having great Fantasy value appear to be in the rear-view mirror. The Dodgers and Orioles are possibilities, according to the Denver Post. ... Brad Hawpe's elbow injury appears to be behind him, after going 2-for-3 Sunday with a double, triple and four RBI. He broke out last season with his first 100-RBI effort, and he continues to be the guy that gets the least publicity in that lineup, yet he's hitting .417 this spring.

Los Angeles Dodgers: With Nomar Garciaparra (broken bone) and Andy LaRoche (torn thumb ligament) sidelined through the first couple weeks of April, it looks like Tony Abreu will start the season as the Dodgers' man on the hot corner. Shortstop prospect Chin-Lung Hu has been playing some innings there, but manager Joe Torre isn't too keen on that, according to the L.A. Daily News. ... The leading RBI man this spring is Matt Kemp with 17. Along with Andre Ethier (14 spring RBI), both have built up their Fantasy value, although Kemp will start in right, which makes him a nice pickup in mixed leagues. Their ascension could actually cut into Juan Pierre's at-bats in left.

San Diego Padres: Chase Headley being reassigned to minor-league camp should be a temporary move, much like Rasmus'. He is ranked fourth in slugging percentage (.738) among NL hitters this spring, with four homers and 14 RBI. Scan your waiver wires immediately, hoping foolish owners drop the slugger. ... Brian Giles (knee) should be ready for opening day, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

San Francisco Giants: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Ray Durham continues to miss time with a tight left hamstring, but he's still expected to be the team's starting second baseman on opening day. ... One of Durham's possible replacements, Kevin Frandsen, ruptured his left Achilles' tendon in a minor league game Monday and he might miss the season. That means that Eugenio Velez, who leads the majors with 13 stolen bases, could have an even bigger Fantasy impact in NL-only leagues.

Don't forget to check back this weekend for a revised Hitting Planner for the rest of Week 1.

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