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Fantasy Baseball Lineup Takeaways: AL Analysis 04/20

The season continues to move along and there seems to be more news than ever. Prospect promotions are happening left and right. Injuries are through the roof. This might be the most chaotic start to a fantasy season I have ever experienced. Luckily, this lineup series should help keep you on track. You should also check out this week’s NL counterpart. The five hottest hitters in the AL over the past week have been Vinnie Pasquantino, Jordan Westburg, Jose Altuve, Daulton Varsho, and Amed Rosario. Keep reading for the latest news and notes from all 15 teams.

Please note that this article was written the day before publication. I will do my best to update the article with any relevant information from the previous night’s games.

Fantasy Baseball Lineup Takeaways

AL East

New York Yankees

  • Taylor Trammell was claimed off waivers from the Dodgers
    • The Yankees mark Trammell’s third team this season as he continues to look for a permanent home
    • With the outfield set and Trent Grisham the fourth man in line, Trammell is not expected to be in the lineup much and is not fantasy-relevant
  • Austin Wells is only playing against right-handed pitchers
    • The season is not starting as Wells or the Yankees would have hoped as he is batting well under the Mendoza Line
    • While the surface stats are rough, let’s go through the positives:
    • Wells has a line drive rate north of 20%, he is walking more than he is striking out, he is posting above-average contact rates, and he has a double-digit barrel rate
    • Seems like a nice buy-low opportunity in dynasty leagues and an interesting watchlist candidate in two-catcher formats

Boston Red Sox

  • Wilyer Abreu is moving into a regular role
    • With Trevor Story out for the season, the team is experimenting with using Ceddanne Rafaela at shortstop instead of the outfield
    • With Tyler O’Neill a bit banged up, Rafaela has been needed in the outfield but the long-term plan appears to use him at short and Abreu in more of a regular role
    • Abreu has been batting fifth in the lineup and is up to three stolen bases. Unfortunately, there are significant hit tool concerns here and Abreu is not a must-roster player
  • Tyler O’Neill has landed on the 7-Day IL
    • As mentioned previously, O’Neill is banged up after a collision with Rafael Devers
    • This concussion is not expected to sideline O’Neill for long and Boston will be eager to get him back in the lineup
    • With him out, Rafaela is in the outfield and David Hamilton has maintained a regular role batting low in the lineup
  • Rafael Devers is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee
    • Whenever an MRI is involved, fantasy managers hold their breath, but Devers appears to be okay in the grand scheme of things
    • Boston is likely to be careful with his injury, but he should not miss extended time
    • For any games he misses, Pablo Reyes appears most likely to get playing time with Enmanuel Valdez moving up in the lineup
  • Connor Wong has taken back the primary catching duties
    • Wong and Reese McGuire have been rotating in and out all season but Wong has the edge in playing time right now
    • He is batting between fifth and seventh in the lineup with all of the injuries and is quietly up to three home runs already
    • His batted ball data remains mediocre but he is hitting more fly balls which could help sustain his increased home run production

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Ben Rortvedt is playing catcher on the strong side of a platoon
    • Rortvedt joined the team just before the start of the season and is now batting ninth in the lineup against right-handed pitchers
    • He has never hit for much power, but has excellent plate discipline which gives him some value in two-catcher OBP leagues
    • He is barreling the ball up more than ever before which should lead to some better home run luck
  • Amed Rosario is heating up and playing some second base with Brandon Lowe out
    • Rosario is off to the best start of his career which should be no surprise given the Rays’ ability to find talent
    • His chase rate remains alarmingly high, but he is whiffing less and barreling the ball up more than ever before
    • With 96th percentile speed, Rosario is an intriguing fantasy asset so long as he is in the lineup on a regular basis
  • Josh Lowe is starting a rehab assignment
    • Lowe has been out all season with a strained oblique but should return to the lineup in the next two weeks
    • With Lowe coming back, I would guess Richie Palacios or Amed Rosario are most likely to lose playing time
    • Palacios has performed well against right-handed pitching but the team could opt to sub one lefty in for another
    • Lowe is worth checking the waiver wire for in case somebody dropped him

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Danny Jansen is back from the IL
    • Jansen is unlikely to step into an everyday role, but his return will have an impact on Alejandro Kirk’s fantasy value
    • Kirk is struggling offensively once again this season making it difficult for Toronto to justify keeping him in the lineup
    • Expect the team to ride the hot hand more often than not but Jansen is the more intriguing fantasy asset if his playing time increases
  • Davis Schneider is getting more playing time
    • Splitting time between second base and left field, Schneider is trying to prove capable of handling an everyday role
    • There is no denying that he hits the ball hard, but his average launch angle is so high it will lead to low BABIPs and low batting averages
    • I am not rushing to pick him up even with more playing time
  • Bo Bichette is still struggling to make hard contact
    • Bichette is up to two stolen bases which is good to see, but his barrel rate has plummeted early on this season
    • Pairing this with high chase rates continues to make Bichette a player I am concerned about moving forward
    • He is in no jeopardy of losing his job, but he is not a player I am trying to buy low on
  • Daulton Varsho hit fifth in the lineup on Friday
    • Varsho had moved down in the lineup while struggling, but his recent hot streak has him moving back up
    • He is up to four home runs on the season but there is not a lot to love in his underlying profile
    • Varsho is more of a sell-high during this hot streak

Baltimore Orioles

  • Colton Cowser is even getting starts against left-handed pitchers
    • While he is unlikely to play against every left-handed pitcher, it is encouraging to see the Orioles in more than just a strict platoon. He has even moved up in the lineup batting as high as second
    • Cowser has been phenomenal so far and is absolutely crushing the baseball
    • There remain some whiff rate concerns but overall, Cowser has huge fantasy potential this season and beyond
  • Jordan Westburg is living up to the hype
    • Many had high hopes for Westburg after last year’s promotion, but that optimism seemed to fade after early-career struggles
    • Well, now Westburg is back and up to four home runs and two stolen bases
    • With high whiff and chase rates, his average is bound to come down. However, the power is real and so is the speed. I am not selling high unless you can get more than .260 with 20/20 potential
  • Patience or Panic with Jackson Holliday?
    • The game’s top prospect has gotten off to a dreadful start to his career
    • The strikeouts stink, but that is not where my main concern lies
    • Holliday has struggled to hit the ball in the air consistently throughout his Minor League career and is struggling to get his launch angle up early on
    • Patience is key to a young player’s development and fantasy managers should not give up on him too quickly

AL West

Houston Astros

  • Mauricio Dubon continues to see more playing time
    • Dubon is primarily playing center field and taking Jake Meyers’ spot in the lineup
    • He makes contact at a high rate but really does not hold any significant fantasy value
    • Dubon is not worth picking up
  • Chas McCormick is yet to hit a home run
    • McCormick continues to move around the bottom half of the lineup but has been a bit disappointing early on for fantasy managers
    • He has increased his launch angle but has yet to barrel up the baseball
    • If you own McCormick give it one more week before cutting him

Los Angeles Angels

  • Jo Adell was getting more playing time but that has already disappeared
    • Adell is primarily batting eighth in the lineup but is yet again getting another chance to prove himself capable of handling a Major League role
    • Adell has always put up impressive Minor League numbers but has never been able to keep his strikeout rate in check once he is promoted
    • The sample size is small, but early on Adell is striking out less than he ever has and is already up to three stolen bases. His track record and prospect pedigree make him somebody to keep tabs on
    • Mickey Moniak is Adell’s biggest competition
  • Brandon Drury is battling a hamstring injury
    • Drury returned to the lineup on Friday
    • In his absence, Luis Rengifo has taken over the second base role and could continue to play there until Drury is healthy enough to play the field
    • Rengifo is up to five stolen bases already but is failing to hit for much power early on
    • He is batting seventh in the lineup most games and is a valuable fantasy asset with upside if his power returns
  • Mike Trout is doing Mike Trout things
    • Just when everybody had passed the torch of “best current player” to Ronald Acuna Jr, Trout is making noise again
    • It is more than just the home runs. Trout is already up to five stolen bases
    • If he can stay healthy, Trout could finish as a top-five fantasy asset

Texas Rangers

  • Ezequiel Duran is finally stepping into a regular role
    • Duran has been seemingly buried on the depth chart but is now getting consistent playing time at first base batting sixth or eighth in the lineup
    • Duran was one of my favorite sleepers entering the season and has significant fantasy upside if he can limit the strikeouts. He is a watch-list candidate with multipositional eligibility
    • With Duran entering the lineup, Jared Walsh has moved to a bench role
  • Wyatt Langford is yet to hit a home run
    • After all of the Spring Training hype, many have been slightly disappointed with Langford’s start
    • While the power is yet to come, there is a TON to be encouraged by from his start. His whiff and chase rates are both excellent which are skills that are difficult to teach
    • The power is going to come as will the stolen bases (98th percentile speed). Buy low in redraft and make sure to hold in keeper/dynasty leagues

Oakland Athletics

  • JD Davis is on the IL
    • Davis was the team’s primary third baseman the first few weeks of the season but had gone ice cold at the plate prior to his injury
    • Darell Hernaiz has stepped into his starting spot and has been batting toward the bottom of the lineup
    • Hernaiz has shown off an impressive hit tool throughout the Minor Leagues but is off to a very slow start in his Major League career. Until he proves he can start impacting the ball more, he is not worth rostering
  • Tyler Nevin is getting regular playing time
    • Nevin is rotating between DH and outfield batting in the middle of Oakland’s lineup
    • He has never quite been able to put it all together at the Major League level in a few different stints but could get extended playing time in Oakland’s depleted lineup
    • Until he shows some sort of upside, Nevin is not worth paying attention to in fantasy
  • Esteury Ruiz is back from Triple-A but not playing much
    • Ruiz is now up to two home runs and two stolen bases despite very limited at-bats this season
    • Everything in Ruiz’s profile looks really encouraging from a development standpoint it is just about playing time now
    • He is an interesting stash/buy low for fantasy managers

Seattle Mariners

  • Jonatan Clase was promoted to the Major Leagues
    • Clase appears to be in line to start on a regular basis and bat in the bottom third of the lineup
    • A switch-hitter, Clase has 80-grade speed that should instantly put him on fantasy radars
    • The biggest key to his success will be keeping his strikeout rate in check. This is something Clase was showing improvements with during his brief stint at Triple-A
  • Jorge Polanco should see his BABIP start to climb
    • Polanco has continued to bat third in Seattle’s lineup despite a slow start to his Mariners’ career
    • He is up to three home runs but is struggling to hit for average
    • Under the hood, he is hitting a ton of line drives with a good launch angle and should see his BABIP start to climb
  • I continue to be intrigued by Ty France
    • France is doing everything right. High barrel rate, high EVs, excellent line drive rate, but the results have been mediocre
    • This feels like a player that could explode at any second and I am buying in despite the slow start
    • He is now batting fourth or fifth for Seattle which should lead to more RBI opportunities

AL Central

Detroit Tigers

  • Parker Meadows is dropping in the lineup
    • After starting the season in the leadoff spot, Meadows is down to the bottom third and even losing playing time against righties
    • Meadows has been struggling all season with a high strikeout rate and very low exit velocity numbers
    • He is not worth holding onto in fantasy. Matt Vierling and Wenceel Perez are the two most likely candidates to step into a regular role if Meadows continues to struggle
  • Javier Baez has three stolen bases
    • Nobody is paying much attention to Baez in fantasy anymore (and rightfully so), but the three stolen bases is not nothing
    • Everything under the hood looks bad from a statistical standpoint and it would not be surprising to see Baez lose playing time as the season moves on
  • Mark Canha is batting second in the lineup
    • Canha is up to a surprising three home runs already this season showing off an increased barrel rate and pull percentage
    • At 35, I am not totally buying a power resurgence but he has shown the ability to hit 20+ home runs at previous points in his career
    • If you are desperate for outfield help, he could be worth a look. He even hit leadoff when Riley Greene got the day off on Friday

Kansas City Royals

  • Vinnie Pasquantino is back to hitting
    • Pasquantino struggled out of the gate but has been red hot at the plate recently
    • His contact skills are some of the best in baseball and he is now also up to three home runs
    • He is a doubles monster and is batting in a surprisingly solid lineup that should provide him with plenty of RBI and run opportunities. He is a strong four-category contributor
  • Maikel Garcia switched spots with Pasquantino
    • Garcia has gone ice cold at the plate but continues to bat leadoff in the Royals’ lineup
    • His barrel rate and exit velocities still look very strong and his chase and whiff rate are both better than the league average
    • Garcia should start seeing his luck improve again and fantasy managers should remain in on him during this cold stretch
  • Kyle Isbel could be losing playing time
    • Isbel is struggling to start the season and nothing in the data suggests he should start seeing improvement
    • Garrett Hampson is the most likely candidate to see increased playing time although his only real fantasy skill is speed
  • Michael Massey is back from the IL
    • Massey was inserted right back into the lineup upon his return batting seventh in the lineup
    • Massey has flashed power potential but he needs to prove himself before being picked up in fantasy leagues
    • Adam Frazier moved to the bench in a corresponding move

Chicago White Sox

  • Eloy Jimenez is back from the IL
    • Thankfully, this was a brief stint on the IL for Jimenez who will insert back into the middle of Chicago’s lineup
    • With Jimenez back, Robbie Grossman has moved to the bench and Gavin Sheets has taken over in the outfield
    • A dark-horse candidate to lose playing time is Andrew Vaughn who is batting under .200 with zero home runs so far
    • Vaughn is a fine drop in shallow leagues where replacement level is high at first base
  • Paul DeJong is starting to play more at shortstop
    • DeJong is batting sixth in the lineup most games
    • His stats early on are solid with three home runs but he is also striking out nearly 40% of the time
    • He should not be expected to maintain a starting role and is not worth worrying about from a fantasy perspective

Minnesota Twins

  • Carlos Correa is on the IL with an oblique injury
    • This now marks the third Twins’ starter to go down early on this season as Correa joins Royce Lewis and Max Kepler on the IL
    • With all three out, playing time is completely up for grabs in Minnesota
    • Willi Castro appears to be the first in line to fill in for Correa at shortstop and has been batting seventh most games in the lineup
    • Castro has plenty of speed but is not getting on base enough to utilize that. He is not worth picking up
  • Austin Martin continues to play every day
    • Martin is batting between fifth and seventh in the lineup most games but is yet to steal a base or hit a home run
    • His contact skills look solid with the real issue being a lack of barrels so far
    • He should start seeing better luck in terms of his batting average but is unlikely to hit for enough power to be fantasy-relevant
  • Buy into Jose Miranda
    • Miranda is batting in the middle of Minnesota’s lineup and playing well since rejoining the team
    • He hits the ball extremely hard and is pulling it in the air more than ever before
    • Most importantly, he is making more contact than ever before which should lead to better overall results

Cleveland Guardians

  • Gabriel Arias is on a heater and has seen his playing time increase
    • Still playing in more of a utility role, Arias is showing signs of life after struggling for much of his early career
    • Still just 24, Arias is striking out less than he ever has while also showing a new ability to launch the ball in the air more consistently
    • Arias continues to chase way too much for fantasy managers to buy into this hot streak and his BABIP is bound to come crashing down sooner or later
  • Bo Naylor’s playing time is decreasing
    • With three catchers on the roster, Cleveland seems to be losing their patience with Naylor’s extremely high strikeout rate
    • A high fly ball rate is likely to limit his potential in the batting average department despite solid quality of contact metrics
    • Naylor is still batting sixth in the lineup when playing, but is not worth rostering in fantasy leagues at this point
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