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Fantasy Baseball Lineup Analysis: AL 04/20

Time to catch up on all the latest news on American League lineups. Just as with the National League, there is plenty to dive into. Surprise hitters, unfortunate injuries, and a few notable prospect promotions. The five hottest hitters in the American League over the past ten days have been: Jarred Kelenic, Brent Rooker, Austin Hays, Matt Chapman, and Jonah Heim. Keep in mind the stats detailed below are through April 18. I will try to include any last-minute updates that come through from yesterday’s action. Keep reading for notes on all 15 American League lineups.

More great fantasy baseball advice and analysis: Waiver Wire & FAAB Recommendations | Daily MLB Injury Report | MLB DFS Picks | Line-up Analysis | Dynasty Rankings and Strategy | MLB Bullpen Updates | MLB Player Props | Prospect Rankings & Analysis | Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers

Fantasy Baseball Lineup Analysis

AL East

New York Yankees

Injuries have started catching up to the Yankees. Josh Donaldson is rehabbing but felt tightness and has been delayed. Giancarlo Stanton is on the IL with a strained hamstring and is expected to be out for six weeks. With both players out, the door is open for Oswald Peraza to prove he belongs in the Major Leagues. While with the big league team, Peraza figures to get regular playing time and should be picked up wherever he is available.

Anthony Volpe has moved up to the leadoff spot and has started to look more comfortable at the plate. The average might not ever get above .250 this year, but he is up to eight stolen bases which helps him provide plenty of value. With Volpe moving up, LeMahieu has moved down to fifth.

Is Franchy Cordero a thing? Yes and no. He is in the lineup only against right-handed pitchers batting sixth. His strikeout rate is high, he will not provide much average, and the 44.4 HR/FB% is unsustainable. That being said, he is hitting the ball hard and Yankee Stadium plays to his strength. He is a viable option only in deep leagues where you need the power boost.

Boston Red Sox

The unfortunate news was Adam Duvall’s placement on the IL with a wrist fracture. Rob Refsnyder has been the biggest beneficiary in terms of playing time, but the Sox recently called up Jarren Duran. Despite batting third when playing, Refsnyder has moved to the bench in both games since Duran’s promotion.

Although he has gotten off to a slow start, Triston Casas continues to bat in the middle of the lineup. Casas was a “my guy” this draft season and his increased chase rate and lack of progression at the plate have been concerning. The high potential has me holding out hope. The Red Sox lack other options at first base so Casas should continue to find himself in the lineup regardless of if he starts playing better.

Enrique Hernandez has been batting fifth in the Boston lineup. Despite his prime lineup spot, Hernandez is not worth adding. He is batting below .200 and provides little speed or power upside. Christian Arroyo has been a bit banged up and the Red Sox called up Enmanuel Valdez to provide some help in the middle infield. Valdez has shown flashes of power in the Minor Leagues but has an inconsistent hit tool and was struggling in Triple-A prior to this promotion. I am not adding him anywhere at this point.

Toronto Blue Jays

I liked Matt Chapman this off-season, I drafted Matt Chapman this off-season, but I did not think that Matt Chapman would be this good. Chapman looked like a future MVP candidate back in 2018-2019. He will not hit above .400 all season, but his HR/FB% looks very sustainable and I am fully buying this breakout. He is batting fifth for Toronto and is primed for elite run production behind Vladdy and Varsho.

Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk are splitting time almost evenly at Catcher. A true timeshare hurts both of their fantasy values. Kirk has been far from fantastic, but Jansen has looked lost at the plate. I expect Kirk to start seeing more playing time if Jansen continues to struggle.

Brandon Belt is getting the majority of the time at DH but is far from an everyday player. He bats sixth or seventh when in the lineup but is striking out over 40% of the time. Santiago Espinal has started to see some more playing time in his place but has been even worse early on. Addison Barger is an intriguing stash name to remember with both players struggling.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have two fantasy-relevant bats stuck on the strong side of a platoon. Both Brandon Lowe and Josh Lowe have been excellent to start the season. Despite their strong start, the Rays seem intent on platooning them. Brandon is more likely to work his way out of a platoon than Josh is. Josh appears to have made massive strides in the strikeout department and has 20/20 upside. I am still adding Josh despite the platoon based on the upside when he plays.

Harold Ramirez and Luke Raley continue to split time batting in the middle of the lineup. Ramirez appears on the weak side of the platoon but has been playing more than Raley. He has been swinging the bat extremely well and is up to three home runs already. He has not hit more than seven since 2019 but is showing a dramatic increase in his launch angle early on. Everybody is focused on the Yandy Diaz power breakout while Ramirez might be experiencing the same thing.

After a hot start, Isaac Paredes is losing playing time. When in the lineup he continues to bat third against lefties and sixth against righties. He has been sitting more frequently against righties which is alarming to his future playing time outlook. Jose Siri is rehabbing and could return in the next couple of weeks. His return projects to cut into Manuel Margot’s playing time and push Margot to the opposite side of Lowe’s platoon.

Baltimore Orioles

The top of the Orioles’ lineup has been red hot as of late. Mullins, Rutschman, and Mountcastle are all locked in. Mullins is most surprising for me after being down on him for most of the off-season. His walk rate is way up and he looks to be a threat to steal 40+ bases. Mountcastle might deserve an even better slash line than he has. He is batting just .219 with a .204 BABIP despite a line drive rate over 21.8% and an average EV over 94 mph. Buy Mountcastle now if it is not too late.

Adam Frazier is moving up in the lineup while Gunnar Henderson continues to slide down. Henderson’s strikeout rate is still above 34% and his ground ball rate is still above 40%. His whiff rate remains way too high, and I am growing concerned. I doubt Baltimore is looking to send Henderson back to Triple-A, but Jordan Westburg continues to look Major League ready while Henderson does not.

The Orioles might like Jorge Mateo batting ninth because of the way he flips the lineup, but he could start moving up if he continues to perform at this level. So far, he is slashing .370/.426/.652 with eight stolen bases. His quality of contact looks much improved. He is also striking out less while walking more. I am still a little bit skeptical, but Mateo looks like he could be a big-time fantasy asset for 2023. Late news: Mateo left the game on Wednesday with right hip discomfort. This is something to monitor closely.

AL West

Houston Astros

Mauricio Dubon has taken a stronghold on the second base job with Jose Altuve out. He is playing every day batting eighth while moving up in the lineup with Chas McCormick battling an injury. Dubon is making contact at an extremely high rate with a strikeout rate below five percent and a batting average over .300. The average is nice, but Dubon is yet to attempt a stolen base and has no power upside. He will only hold this job as long as Altuve is out and is not somebody I am targeting on the waiver wire. McCormick meanwhile was placed on the IL with a back injury. Expect Jake Meyers to get most of the playing time in center field and bat toward the bottom of the lineup.

After a slow start, Alex Bregman has started to heat up at the plate. He continues to bat second ahead of Yordan Alvarez and Jose Abreu. I had concerns about Abreu entering the season and so far, those concerns have been validated. He is hitting for no power with a major drop in his barrel rate and exit velocity. He is 36 years old, and you should begin to lower your expectations.

Corey Julks and David Hensley continue to split time in the lineup batting somewhere in the back half. Julks has 25 home run upside but his hit tool is suspect and you should not expect the batting average to stay over .300. He could start to see his lineup time increase if Hensley continues to struggle.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have not been shy about pushing their 2022 first-round pick Zach Neto quickly through their system. Neto was promoted from Double-A last weekend and has been in the lineup every game since. With a full lineup, Neto was batting eighth but moved up to leadoff with rest days for Trout and Ward. Neto has done nothing but hit since being drafted and is worth adding in any league based on upside. The sample size is small, but he has plus speed, a good hit tool, and sneaky pop. I do not expect him to hit toward the top of the lineup consistently, but I am still buying Neto.

After a bit of a slow start, Hunter Renfroe has been red-hot at the plate. Since April 8, he has a 239 wRC+ with four home runs. Hitting behind Trout and Ohtani, Renfroe should continue to be a big-time fantasy asset for the 2023 season.

Gio Urshela continues to play every day with solid production. He is batting over .300 while adding a home run and steal. He is moving up in the lineup recently hitting as high as fifth. While the early average is nice, I am not fully buying a bounce-back season. His ground-ball rate is up, his barrel rate is down, and the BABIP should start falling. With Urshela moving up in the lineup, Brandon Drury has started sliding down. Drury has been terrible early on and I am not expecting this to change. He is a candidate to lose playing time when Jared Walsh returns.

Texas Rangers

The Ranges’ lineup took a significant hit right after the previous AL Lineup article was released. Corey Seager is going to be out for at least four weeks with a hamstring strain. This is a devastating blow to fantasy teams and a concern moving forward as these types of injuries tend to linger. With Seager out, Josh Smith has moved up to second in the lineup against righties. Smith has also taken over the shortstop responsibilities after playing left field early this year. Smith is struggling at the plate, thanks in part to a fly ball rate north of 60%. He has never had extreme fly ball numbers in his Minor League career so there is a chance this rate is yet to stabilize. Smith might already be losing his grip on the second spot in the lineup due to his struggles.

Travis Jankowski and Bubba Thompson have been the two bench players to see their playing time increase recently. Jankowski is swinging a hot bat and Thompson has incredible speed, but neither is worth adding in fantasy.

Adolis Garcia was a favorite of mine during draft season. He is off to a slow start, but much of that can be attributed to a low BABIP. His barrel rate is steady, his strikeout rate is down, and his chase rate is down. Now is the time to buy the dip on Garcia before his BABIP evens out and the breakout occurs.

Seattle Mariners

The top six batters in Seattle’s lineup are set in stone. The one to spend time talking about is that sixth batter. Jarred Kelenic was in a platoon early on but appears to have worked his way into an everyday role. Kelenic has been INSANE over the past 10 days, showing signs of becoming the prospect everybody once thought he was. Kelenic homered in four straight games earlier this week and is also up to three stolen bases on the year. His BABIP will come down and the strikeout rate remains a concern, but his chase and whiff rates are both down and he is tearing the cover off the ball. He could move up even higher in Seattle’s lineup if this hot streak continues.

After the top six, there are two openings at second base and DH followed by JP Crawford. Crawford is somebody I have been targeting as a buy-low in deeper leagues and am encouraged by his early exit velocity numbers. Kolten Wong has been abysmal for Seattle and now might be the perfect time to stash Dylan Moore. Moore is working his way back from an oblique strain and could take the starting second base job away from Wong if his -11 wRC+ does not improve. The combination of Tommy La Stella and AJ Pollock are platooning and batting seventh. Neither one is worth rostering in this playing time situation.

Oakland A’s

Oakland’s lineup has seen plenty of changes over the past 10 days. Esteury Ruiz has moved his way up in the lineup to the leadoff spot. Ruiz has been red hot, bringing his average up over .300 and is already up to four stolen bases on the year. He still does not hit the ball hard and will not contribute much in the power department, but a leadoff hitter with 40-steal potential is always valuable.

Brent Rooker is batting third. Not only is Rooker batting third a surprise, but he has been one of the best hitters in baseball recently. He is batting over .300 since 04/08 with four home runs to go with it. Is this sustainable? The power is legit and always has been a constant in Rooker’s profile. Rooker runs high whiff rates with high fly ball rates which limit his batting average upside. A .250 batting average with 25 home runs is a realistic projection. Rooker suffered a hamstring injury on Tuesday and the outlook is still unclear. This is something to monitor.

Kevin Smith has been getting more playing time recently, mostly in place of Conner Capel. Neither batter is performing well at the plate and should not be picked up. The A’s called up top prospect Jordan Diaz on Wednesday and he figures to play every day somewhere in the infield. The thing to watch with Diaz is his launch angle. If he can keep it up around 10 degrees, he could put up solid fantasy production specifically in points leagues.

Ramon Laureano is on the IL with a hamstring injury. The A’s said the rest was precautionary, but it appears a little bit more serious than that. Conner Capel could see his playing time increase as well as Tony Kemp seeing more time in the outfield while Laureano is out.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

No changes at the top of the lineup as the top four hitters have remained consistent. As predicted in last week’s article, Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino look just fine at the plate. They both figure to finish the season in the top 10 at their respective positions.

Everybody continues to point to his excellent quality of contact and remains calm on MJ Melendez, but I am not so calm. He moved down in the lineup for the first time all season yesterday. Melendez’s big issue early in his Minor League career was a strikeout rate. He is striking out over 35% of the time with a whiff rate of over 40%. If you own Melendez, I would be preparing a backup plan just in case he does not snap out of this funk.

Nicky Lopez appears to have worked his way back into an everyday lineup spot. This is not so much his own doing as it is the extreme struggles of Michael Massey and Hunter Dozier. Lopez is batting at the bottom of the lineup while playing all over the infield. There is very limited upside here, but he has value if you are in need of stolen bases. Dozier and Massey are easy drops in most leagues.

Kyle Isbel had moved up to fifth in the lineup for a few games but is back to hitting eighth while the Royals try moving Edward Olivares up. Neither player is worth rostering at this point.

Detroit Tigers

Nick Maton is up to the leadoff spot in the Tigers’ lineup. Maton has been swinging the bat well with three home runs since April 11. He still is not playing against lefties and his 15.8 HR/FB% is not sustainable, but Maton should be on your radar in deep leagues. He has eligibility at 2B and 3B and could be a decent source of run production if he continues to lead off.

After a mid-game benching, Javier Baez is showing some signs of life at the plate. The contact skills seem to be improving slightly, but the power is still missing. He has no barrels and is yet to attempt a steal. I am fine holding him in deep leagues but would be moving on in shallower formats.

Detroit is trying out some new names in the bottom half of their lineup. Zach McKinstry is getting some playing time at second base over Jonathan Schoop. McKinstry does not hit for average and runs too high of a groundball rate to ever hit for much power. Detroit also called up Tyler Nevin although he has only appeared in a few games. I would be stashing Justyn Henry-Malloy now as he continues to dominate Triple-A pitching.

Matt Vierling appeared to have a hold on an everyday job but has been sitting against righties more frequently. The breakout pick for Vierling might not end up coming to fruition. If he is not playing, he is not worth rostering although I still believe in the upside.

Chicago White Sox

With Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both landing on the IL, the White Sox called up Lenyn Sosa to help in the infield. Sosa was off to a scorching start in Triple-A before his promotion and has been batting eighth in the lineup. Just as it did during his brief big league stint last year, the strikeout rate has gone up and he is batting .200. Sosa has limited game power and is not a threat to steal many bases. There is limited fantasy upside here and you can probably find better options on the waiver wire.

Jake Burger is the other player to find himself in the lineup with the recent injuries. Burger looks dominant at the plate right now thanks to a 62.5% HR/FB rate. This and his barrel rate are unsustainably high, but he is pulling the ball more while hitting it in the air even more than in previous seasons. He is unlikely to occupy a lineup spot when the team is healthy, but if you need a short-term fill-in, Burger could be a nice guy to target.

Eloy Jimenez is back off the IL and has slotted into the cleanup spot in Chicago’s lineup. Jimenez and Luis Robert were two popular breakout picks this season. Jimenez currently has a 43 wRC+, with a strikeout rate over 30%, and a negative launch angle. Robert meanwhile is off to a much better start with five home runs already. Seeing Robert steal some bases and work more walks would be nice, but it is hard to complain with a .278 ISO.

Minnesota Twins

The one bright side to injuries for fantasy players is the promotion of young prospects. As Minnesota has seen their injury count continue to rise, Eduoard Julien was promoted to the Major Leagues. He is batting leadoff for the Twins and playing second base. The results have not been spectacular mostly thanks to a ground ball rate north of 70%. With Jorge Polanco on the mend, Julien’s days in the Major Leagues could be limited.

Donovan Solano was playing first base and batting sixth with Joey Gallo on the IL. Now that Gallo is back healthy, Solano will likely be regulated to bench duties. Gallo was off to a strong start and could be a nice boost to your team if you kept him during his IL stint. Speaking of returns, Max Kepler is back off the IL. He was batting leadoff early in the year but has been hitting seventh since returning. Batting that low in the lineup lowers his fantasy value.

If anybody has been holding onto Nick Gordon, now is the time to drop him. The Twins are getting healthy, and Gordon is struggling to start the year. He is nothing more than a bench bat for the team.

Cleveland Guardians

After drawing the start on Opening Day, Will Brennan remained on the strong side of a platoon for the first couple weeks. Although he is unlikely to play against every lefty, he did start last Sunday with a lefty on the mound and appears locked into a regular role. He is batting seventh most nights while demonstrating excellent contact skills. His exit velocities are mediocre at best, and he is unlikely to hit more than 10 home runs but can be a reliable source of average if your team needs help there.

After a slow start, Josh Naylor appears to also be in more of a platoon role. He is batting fourth against righties while sitting against most lefties. Now might be an intriguing time to buy Naylor in fantasy. He has a BABIP down below .200 and the rest of his contact skills look as they did last season. I am not too worried about this slow start, and you could get Naylor at a huge discount if you buy now. Gabriel Arias appears to be on the opposite side of this current platoon. Arias has shown flashes in the Minor Leagues but has failed to hit with any consistency in the majors. He is not worth rostering right now.

Myles Straw continues to bat ninth and get on base at an extremely high clip. Straw is also up to seven steals already, but his numbers come with a .391 BABIP. Straw’s career BABIP is .306. If he loses .100 points off his current BABIP, he is a .230 hitter with no power. Sell Straw now while his value is at its highest.

Amed Rosario is dealing with a back injury but the good news is that his MRI came back clean. Despite the MRI looking clean, the Guardians decided to call up top prospect Brayan Rocchio. Rocchio profiles to have a solid hit tool with plus speed and underrated power. You can check out my write-up on him from last off-season here. He figures to play every day while with the team. If he plays well, this could shift Rosario to the outfield in place of Brennen/Gonzalez.

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