By Chris Cwik, CBSSports.com
Is Juan Francisco the next star the Blue Jays pulled off the scrap heap? It’s starting to become an interesting question. Francisco has not only jumped off to a hot start, hitting .269 with 10 home runs, but similar players have seen the same transformation in Toronto in recent years.
Both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were able to salvage their careers after joining the Blue Jays, making it a little easier to buy Francisco. But even if Francisco’s hot start is a fluke, he’s worth starting in Fantasy leagues this week.
Juan Francisco, 3B, Blue Jays (45 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: Home against Twins, at Orioles
Francisco hasn’t changed all that much since joining Toronto. He’s walking more, but he’s still a high-power, low-average player. The good thing is, he’s made some slight improvements to his game. He’s putting more balls in the air, which should help with his power. Though he’s primarily being used against righties, Toronto should face at least six righties — with a chance to face seven — in Week 11. There’s still some risk here, as Francisco’s strikeout rate won’t produce a high average, but he’s a nice boom-or-bust player who finds himself in a favorable position this week.
Players I would start him over: Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Lawrie, Trevor Plouffe
Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks (63 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: At Phillies, Mets
Kennedy’s resurgence in San Diego has continued two months into the year. While some skeptics might be quick to point out his favorable park, it’s worth noting that Kennedy has made some major strides. His strikeout rate is way up, which is partially due to increased velocity, and his walk rate has fallen back to career numbers. He’s still a fly ball pitcher, but he’s been able to cut down on them a bit this year, leading to a lower home run rate. Combine all of that with two great matchups, and Kennedy looks like a must-start Week 11.
Players I would start him over: (two start) Marco Estrada, (two start) Hisashi Iwakuma, Jered Weaver
A.J. Burnett, SP, Phillies (42 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: Home against Padres, Cubs
Burnett is actually in the middle of an awful stretch, making him a tough start for most owners. The numbers aren’t great. Not only are his peripherals trending in the wrong direction, but Burnett has also given up 29 earned runs over his last six starts. If he’s going to turn it all around, that should happen Week 11. While both of his games come at home, he’s taking on two of the worst offenses in the game. He’s a risky start, especially while in this tailspin, but his opponents are weak.
Players I would start him over: Tyler Skaggs, Rick Porcello, Ervin Santana (one start)
Michael Bourn, OF, Indians (40 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: At Rangers, Red Sox
It took a month, but Bourn seems to have finally come around at the plate. Some of his success is based on a .380 BABIP, but there’s still some hope he can remain effective even after regression hits. The bigger issue might be whether he’s healthy enough to start racking up steals. He only has five on the year, and has dealt with hamstring issues. If he’s over those issues, the steals might start coming in bunches. If not, he’s at least hitting well enough to get by for a spot-start.
Players I would start him over: Adam Eaton, Starling Marte, Domonic Brown
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, White Sox (13 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: Home against Tigers, Royals
Gillaspie has exceeded expectations this year, but he’s still not close to being a mixed-league starter. Finding help at third is tough this year, especially in deeper leagues. That’s where Gillaspie might be able to make a difference. His average is boosted by a high .398 BABIP, but he makes solid contact, and his peripherals aren’t awful. Gillaspie also showed decent power last season, so his home run drought won’t continue for long. His upside is limited, and he may just put up an empty batting average, but he’s performed well and hits in the middle of a surprisingly strong lineup. He’s worth a shot if you’re desperate.
Players I would start him over: Matt Dominguez, Emilio Bonifacio, Trevor Plouffe
Mike Minor, SP, Braves (73 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: At Rockies, home against Angels
This recommendation is strictly based on matchup, and not on Minor’s skills. He’s managed to come back from shoulder issues looking like his old self. Home runs have been a bit of a problem early, and that makes him a questionable start in Coors Field. The Rockies sport the best offense in baseball, and perform even better in the thin air of Denver. The Angels have also performed well on offense this year, making it two poor opponents for Minor. Some owners will always start their studs, but asking for two good starts out of Minor is tough Week 11.
Players I would start instead: Ian Kennedy, Josh Beckett, Jason Hammel (one start)
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees (76 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: At Mariners, Athletics
Gardner’s a fine player, but he’s stuck at a position where it’s easy to find contributors. While Gardner will hit for a decent average and rack up some steals, it’s hard to call him elite in any category. He’s not really a bad start, as he’s reliable, but for players looking for a spark, there might be other options on the wire this week. Playing in two pitcher-friendly parks could hurt Week 11.
Players I would start instead: Marcell Ozuna, Michael Bourn, Khris Davis
Phil Hughes, SP, Twins (63 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: At Blue Jays
There are a lot of reasons to buy into Hughes’ resurgence this year. He’s altered his pitch mix, and he just refuses to give up walks. Unfortunately, all of that goes out the window against the Blue Jays. The team has hit well this year, particularly for power. The Blue Jays lead the majors with 84 home runs. Despite his improvements, Hughes remains an extreme fly ball pitcher. That won’t play in Toronto’s home park. Give Hughes a one-week rest.
Players I would start instead: Francisco Liriano, Henderson Alvarez (one start), Nathan Eovaldi (one start)
Jered Weaver, SP, Angels (79 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: Home against Athletics
It’s getting tough to recommend pitchers facing the A’s. Not only is the team among the best in the league in nearly every offensive category, but they employ a bevy of platoon bats. That means they can customize their lineup on a daily basis based on the pitcher’s weakness. It’s a brilliant team-building strategy, and it’s clearly paid off this year. Weaver’s in the middle of another solid season, but it’s tough to expect much against Oakland.
Players I would start instead: Wily Peralta (one start), Tyson Ross (one start), C.J. Wilson (one start)
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals (71 percent started Week 10)
Week 11 schedule: Home against Yankees, at White Sox
Hosmer hit just .246/.275/.352 in 122 at-bats in May. That’s a small sample size, to be sure, but it’s worrisome considering how many Royals have cratered on offense. On top of that, he’s hit just one home run this year. There’s still some hope for a rebound, but Hosmer plays at a stacked position. Until he can start showing the skills that got him drafted in the middle rounds, Hosmer may need a break from Fantasy starting lineups.
Players I would start instead: Adam LaRoche, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira
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