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AL Lineup Analysis 04/24

Following up on my weekly article on National League lineups, here is the report on American League lineups. The top five hitters in the American League over the past week have been Wander Franco, Xander Bogaerts, Nathaniel Lowe, Ty France, and Jeremy Pena. That is a fascinating list of players, two of whom are likely free agents in your league. I detail all 15 American League teams in the article below! Please keep in mind I am writing this article on Saturday morning. I will try to get any big updates such as injury news into the article before it is published on Sunday!

AL East

New York Yankees

ATTENTION ALL JOEY GALLO OWNERS: Stay. Calm. He has gotten off to a rough start in 2022 and has sat twice in the past week both against lefties. There is nothing in his profile that raises any red flags. He is making more contact than he has in previous years and still looks to be the same exact hitter that fantasy managers drafted. A high walk rate and hard contact guy who is going to strike out a lot. He has posted a wOBA of .184, but his xwOBA is .318. Owners need to relax and not stress his rough start. Aaron Hicks is off to a nice start in the Bronx. Over the past week, he seems to have taken over the leadoff spot in that lineup which could lead to a lot of runs in fantasy. He is not going to hit .270 all year, but if the Yankees keep batting him at the top of the order he holds some fantasy value.

I am tempted to suggest trying to buy Gleyber Torres. The average exit velocity is up, the pull percentage is up, and the fly ball percentage is up. This resembles 2019 when he hit 38 home runs. He likely will not ever do that again, but I think there is a chance he hits 25.

Boston Red Sox

There is nothing too notable in terms of the Red Sox lineup. Kike Hernández has continued to struggle early. He seems to be selling out to try and hit home runs as he has increased his pull percentage to 51.2% and his launch angle is up at 26.3 degrees. As a result, he has popped up an astounding 27.9% of the time. Hernández needs to adjust if he wants to have any success this season. The Red Sox just put out their first lineup with Hernández not batting leadoff on Friday night. This could be a sign of things to come. Jarren Duran is off to another hot start in AAA. If Hernández and Jackie Bradley Jr. keep struggling to hit, Duran could find himself getting another chance in the bigs. He is worth a roster spot if you have a deep enough bench.

Toronto Blue Jays

George Springer was hit by a pitch on Wednesday and left the game. He was absent on Thursday, but manager Charlie Montoyo says that he should be fine and return to the lineup soon. This in fact was the case as he returned to the lineup on Saturday. With all of the injuries they have had, Raimel Tapia and Cavan Biggio have continued seeing increased playing time. Neither one has much to offer in terms of fantasy value.

Fantasy managers panicking over Alejandro Kirkr’s rough start and Zack Collins’ hot start need to relax. Collins has gotten off to a terrific start, but he has a whiff rate over 42% and a chase rate of almost 30%. These numbers are too high for Collins to have sustained success. Kirk is clearly the better player and the Blue Jays know this. He is not in danger of losing his lineup spot and should figure out his launch angle issues shortly. He is a potential buy low target for fantasy managers.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays continue to use a multitude of platoons in their lineup. Randy Arozarena has continued to struggle to find his footing early on. The season is still young, but I am growing more concerned each day. The -3.6 degree launch angle he is posting along with his 1.8 BB% are the most concerning stats.

I am not entirely sure what to make of Ji-man Choi. He has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the first two weeks. The Rays are still only putting him in the lineup against right-handed pitchers, but the production has been so good that might change. The caution flag is that Choi has posted a BABIP of .600 so far. His .393 average is unsustainable and will likely come crashing down shortly. The rest of the statistics look solid though so maybe Choi ends up as a .250 hitter with 20 HRs. I am just not sure how much value that holds as a first baseman.

Baltimore Orioles

I am somebody that is concerned about Cedric Mullins. Part of the reason for his breakout 2021 was the drop in his chase rate. In 2019 and 2020 his chase rate was 36.5 and 32.6. That number dropped to 27.8 in 2021 and is back up to 36 this year. The rest of Mullins’ profile still looks the same and he is not in danger of losing his lineup spot, but I am concerned he winds up being closer to a .260/.315/.450 compared to the numbers he put up last year.

Jorge Mateo continues to play almost every day. I do not think he is necessarily a good hitter, but if you are desperate for steals he can help in that category. Other reports out of Baltimore are that Adley Rutschman should be returning to Triple-A from injury soon. Once that happens it is not long until he gets promoted to the big leagues.

AL West

Houston Astros

Jose Altuve was placed on the Injured List. Aledmys Diaz and Niko Goodrum are likely to split the playing time with neither one holding much fantasy value. The biggest boost in value is for Jeremy Peña. Peña is now batting leadoff for the Astros. He has continued his excellent start and now sees his value boost even higher batting at the top of the order. Peña is somebody I would buy high on.

Jose Siri has seemed to take away some of Chas McCormick’s playing time. Siri has started four of the last six games while McCormick has only started three. Siri is the better player in real life and fantasy. He has a serious issue with whiffs and strikeouts, so I am not sure how much value he will have long term but he is a player worth monitoring at least for the time being.

Los Angeles Angels

Joe Maddon was not lying when he said Taylor Ward would play every day and bat in a middle-of-the-lineup spot. Ward has started all five games since returning and has batted third once, clean-up once, and second three times. After much of the fantasy community talked down on Madden’s decision, it looks like Ward could be a very good baseball player. He is worth adding in leagues he is available in.

We have not been able to see who will lose the majority of the playing time. Mike Trout has been injured so both Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh have been seeing regular playing time. With Trout returning this weekend we will be able to see what unfolds. My money is on Marsh keeping his everyday job as I believe him to be a budding star for the Angels. I think it is possible that Jared Walsh could see his playing time take a hit against lefties instead of Marsh. A situation to monitor over the next week.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have faced a lot of lefties over the past week. This has meant a lot of playing time for Nick Solak and a lot of bench time for Brad Miller and Jonah Heim. Nick Solak has looked very good at the plate hitting .276/.344/.483 so far. His expected stats think he should be performing even better than that. Adolis Garcia and Andy Ibañez have really struggled at the plate. Both could start seeing their names off of the lineup card if this keeps up. Solak would be a viable option to steal playing time from both. I am not rushing to pick up Solak yet, but it is a situation I am closely monitoring. If he starts playing against righties, I would add him to your team.

Seattle Mariners

Mitch Haniger has been out of the lineup with COVID. This has led to more playing time for Abraham Toro. Toro has been on fire over the past week and could stick in the lineup even after Haniger returns. Over the past week the stats for Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic, and Abraham Toro are as follows:

  • Abraham Toro: .417/.563/.833
  • Jarred Kelenic:.222/.263/.556
  • Julio Rodríguez: .250/.286/.300

Kelenic could find himself on the bench more against lefties with Rodríguez sitting some against righties. If Toro keeps hitting, the Mariners will have to find ways to get his bat in the lineup. Kelenic has started to pick it up at the plate. The Mariners are being patient with their young players, but they can only wait so long.

Oakland A’s

The A’s are another team that has dealt with COVID issues over the past week. They recently promoted one of their top prospects, Nick Allen, to the big-league team. Allen is an infielder who has been able to post solid averages throughout the minors but is mostly known for his glove. Player comps are closest to a Nick Madrigal or Nico Hoerner, but probably a little bit worse. He is not worth picking up in fantasy leagues. The highest fantasy value on this team is Sean Murphy. Besides him, there are not many other players worth rostering unless you are desperate. Seth Brown is still your best dart throw for power on this team as he is one of the few players consistently on the lineup card.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

The Royals lineup has continued to struggle, and they have begun mixing things up. Nicky Lopez has moved to the top of the lineup recently. I was very out on Lopez going into the season, but he continues to out-perform his expected statistics. This might just be who he is, which can be very valuable to a fantasy team. He provides a high average and should start stealing some bases since he stole 22 last season. If he is available, he might be worth adding if you play in a category league.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are continuing to search for offense with Javier Baez on the IL. Willi Castro has started to get some playing time, but he is not worth adding in any format. Reports out of Detroit are that Baez should return Sunday or early next week. I wrote an article last week for Fantrax discussing some of my concerns with Jeimer Candelario. You can check that out here! Spencer Torkelson continues to look like a superstar in the making. He has a chance to be a top-five first baseman as early as next season.

If you drafted Akil Baddoo, I would be okay cutting him. He has started to see the bench more often and just has looked completely overmatched at the plate. He has posted a first percentile xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG. Not good at all and not worth rostering on your team. As soon as Riley Greene returns he figures to take over the center field position for Detroit.

Chicago White Sox

Probably the most frustrating lineup in the majors for fantasy managers. Especially those who roster Andrew Vaughn. Despite looking phenomenal at the plate and like one of the White Sox best hitters, Tony La Russa continues to put Vaughn on the bench. He has been playing Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, and Gavin Sheets instead. In my head, there is no way this can continue.

Luis Robert left the game on Thursday with a groin injury. Groin injuries are never a good thing especially for a player like Robert who relies on his legs for a large portion of his game. A.J. Pollock just returned from the injured list so he figures to take over the lineup spot from Robert.

*LATE UPDATE*: Eloy Jimenez was carted off on Saturday. If he misses significant time Andrew Vaughn could see his playing time increase to every day. If serious, losing Jimenez and Robert would be devastating for Chicago.

Minnesota Twins

All Byron Buxton owners were able to breathe a sigh of relief this week as he returned to the lineup. This is great for the game of baseball and Buxton as he avoided any serious injury. Max Kepler was one of my favorite sleepers this season, and I am sticking by him even after his rough start. He has a 73rd percentile xwOBA, 74th percentile xBA, and 64th percentile xSLG. The season is still early and I think there is a good chance Kepler starts seeing better results.

Cleveland Guardians

The hype that took over the league with Steven Kwan seems to have cooled off. The funniest part of that is over the past week Kwan is still hitting .417 and slugging .667. Not much has changed in his profile, yet I have seen people considering dropping him already. The Guardians seem resistant to putting him in the lineup against all lefties, but Kwan will play most games. He is a guy who can easily hit above .300 and is useful to your fantasy teams in areas other than power.

The Guardians need help at first base. Bobby Bradley has been playing most of the games there, but he has really struggled early on. With Kwan, Straw, Mercado, and Naylor all vying for time in the outfield I could see Naylor taking over some of the first base reps. This would help improve the fantasy value of Kwan and Naylor. Naylor is off to a strong start through his first five games off the IL. He could be a sneaky add in deeper leagues.

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