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American League Lineup Analysis 04/06

The first week of baseball is officially behind us. What a fun and exciting ride it has been so far and we are only just getting started. The first edition of the 2024 lineup analysis went up last Sunday featuring notes on the National League. Now, it is time for the American League. The top five hitters in the AL so far have been: Bobby Witt Jr, Yainer Diaz, Steven Kwan, Anthony Volpe, and Jose Altuve. All impactful fantasy bats. Keep reading for the latest news and notes from all 15 teams.

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

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Fantasy Baseball Lineup Takeaways

AL East

New York Yankees

  • Oswaldo Cabrera is off to a fast start to 2024
    • With DJ LeMahieu landing on the IL, Cabrera has been given the first chance to start at third base and appears to be running with the opportunity. He is batting ninth in the lineup most games but has started creeping up to seventh or eighth
    • Hitting the ball hard has been Cabrera’s biggest issue since making it to the Major Leagues. I am skeptical that this is more than just a hot start
    • Jon Berti, who the team acquired just before the season started is stuck behind Cabrera in terms of playing time
  • Hopefully, you bought the dip on Anthony Volpe
    • After struggling for much of his rookie season, Volpe is reminding people why he was ranked by many as one of the game’s top prospects
    • Volpe combines speed, power, and a solid hit tool to form a well-rounded fantasy asset
    • He is currently batting seventh most games for New York which should provide plenty of RBI opportunities behind the Yankees’ big bats. He also has the chance to move up in the lineup if an injury should pop up
  • Alex Verdugo is the team’s everyday left fielder
    • After a wild off-season in the New York outfield, there was speculation about how playing time would shake out
    • Verdugo is locked into the New York lineup and is batting sixth in most games
    • He is off to a slow start this season but is notably lifting and pulling the ball much more than he has throughout his professional career. This could pay dividends with the short porch in Yankee Stadium

Boston Red Sox

  • Ceddanne Rafaela is getting full-time playing time
    • Rafaela had an incredible spring that won him a spot on the Red Sox roster and he is staying in the lineup against right-handed pitchers batting sixth or seventh
    • Rafaela has phenomenal athleticism but is also extremely aggressive at the plate. He is still swinging a ton early on and striking out plenty
    • He is a sell-high candidate for me in keeper/dynasty leagues. Wilyer Abreu is stuck behind Rafaela on the depth chart but could eat into his playing time if Rafaela starts struggling
  • Reese McGuire seems to have the edge in playing time over Connor Wong at catcher
    • The two were splitting time the first few games but McGuire has been getting more of the playing time lately
    • Both players are batting ninth when in the lineup
    • McGuire the lefty has a solid hit tool but lacks the power or speed to make him fantasy relevant. Wong has more upside thanks to his base stealing abilities but his suspect hit tool will result in prolonged slumps
    • I would not be surprised if the Red Sox aggressively pushed Kyle Teel up through their system this year
  • Tyler O’Neill has been on the bench twice with a right-handed pitcher on the mound
    • O’Neill looks great at the plate with two home runs and a stolen base already but his playing time is worth monitoring. There is no real reason he should be on the bench or risk losing playing time
    • When in the lineup, O’Neill is batting second or fifth
    • Wilyer Abreu has been the main person entering the lineup when O’Neill heads to the bench

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Jose Caballero is not platooning
    • Many thought that after the team signed Amed Rosario that the two would split time at shortstop
    • Caballero however is getting regular playing time there batting in the lower third of the lineup
    • If you are looking for stolen bases, Caballero is a target that should be at the top of your list after stealing 26 bases in just 104 games last season
  • With Josh Lowe and Jonny DeLuca both out, Amed Rosario is playing right field
    • Rosario is getting fairly consistent playing time in right batting fifth or sixth in most games
    • Rosario’s biggest issue throughout his professional career has been consistently getting the ball in the air. Although his average launch angle still sits below ten degrees, he is currently sporting a career-high in that category
    • He is worth keeping an eye on and potentially taking a shot on in deeper leagues so long as he continues to play

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Cavan Biggio is the team’s everyday second baseman
    • The speculation was that Davis Schneider would get an opportunity to play after his breakout 2024 season, but he is stuck on the short side of a platoon
    • Biggio meanwhile is playing against both righties and lefties batting at the bottom of the lineup
    • Biggio’s overly patient approach leads to high strikeout rates and caps his fantasy value. That being said, he holds plenty of value in OBP leagues where his walk rate should help him post respectable numbers. He also has multi-positional eligibility which comes in handy
  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa is also getting consistent playing time
    • IKF is mostly playing third base and batting eighth in Toronto’s lineup
    • Although he lacks substantial fantasy upside, he has stolen at least 14 bases in each of the past three seasons
    • If he begins struggling at any point, the team is likely to call upon Addison Barger who is off to a fast start in Triple-A
  • Bo Bichette is off to an especially slow start
    • Bichette landed on my preseason shortstop busts article, but this start is unexpected
    • His launch angle is noticeably up early on, but at this point it remains unclear if this is just a result of a small sample
    • Bichette is obviously at no risk of losing playing time and should start picking things up soon (even if I still think he will disappoint fantasy managers)
  • Kevin Kiermaier was scratched from the lineup on Friday with a back injury
    • If this injury lingers, Davis Schnieder is the most likely candidate to see his playing time increase
    • Daulton Varsho would shift to center field if the injury persists

Baltimore Orioles

  • The Orioles do not seem eager to get Colton Cowser at-bats
    • Most teams will not stash a top prospect with as much potential as Cowser on their Major League bench, but that appears to be exactly what Baltimore is doing
    • Austin Hays and Ryan O’Hearn are clearly ahead of Cowser in the pecking order which makes his long-term outlook very cloudy
    • Cowser is not somebody you have to keep on your rosters for 2024, but as a believer in his talent, I still believe he is a good buy low option in dynasty leagues
  • Ramon Urias is getting run at third base for now…
    • Urias continues to play regularly and bat at the bottom of Baltimore’s lineup but we all know whose spot this will be soon
    • Jackson Holliday is dominating Triple-A early on and should be stashed in 100% of redraft leagues
    • Urias is not worth picking up in any format and is likely to lose his job sooner rather than later
  • Speaking of prospects, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins could find themselves on the hot seat
    • The Norfolk Tides lineup has been the topic of discussion throughout the baseball community with multiple Major League bats ready on top of Cowser and Holliday
    • Hays remains without an extra-base hit this season after batting just .227 in the second half of last year
    • Mullins is off to a very disappointing start after struggling for much of last season
    • With Kyle Stowers, Heston Kjerstad, and Connor Norby all pounding on the door, both players could wind up losing their lineup spot

AL West

Houston Astros

  • Jake Meyers is playing as the team’s everyday center fielder
    • Meyers got inconsistent playing time throughout the 2023 season but is getting his shot this year
    • Still just 27 years old, Meyers has the potential to be a fantasy-relevant player if he can keep his strikeout rate in check
    • The early numbers are good, but his strikeout rate remains high making me skeptical that his success will continue
  • When Yainer Diaz is not catching, he is getting starts at DH
    • The Astros are fully committed to Diaz and he is proving to be a powerful offensive force
    • The team is batting him fifth most nights
    • More importantly, Diaz is showing off an improved hit tool through the first week and a half. He is being more patient while also making contact more frequently. This could take his game to the next level
  • Jeremy Pena has two home runs already
    • Pena was a major disappointment last season hitting just 10 home runs total, but is making up for it quickly in 2024
    • He is hitting the ball a bit harder this year although most of the stats under the hood are similar to last season
    • He is too aggressive and hits the ball on the ground too frequently. He is a sell-high player in my opinion

Los Angeles Angels

  • Aaron Hicks is in fact an everyday player early on for the Angels
    • Hicks seemingly has nothing left to prove in his Major League career, but the team is opting to put him in the lineup over guys like Mickey Moniak and Jo Adell
    • This likely is more of an indictment of the future value of both young players than the praise of Hicks
    • Hicks is past his prime and likely to find himself on the bench more as the season moves along
  • Anthony Rendon is leading off?
    • Rendon has struggled to stay on the field the last two seasons but is in a prime lineup spot for any fantasy managers hoping for a return to glory
    • Now 34, it is fair to wonder how much more Rendon has in the tank. I am not adding him anywhere at this point. Rendon is also still without a hit which feels very notable and a bit comical
  • The team is relying heavily on Logan O’Hoppe
    • How the Angels would split catching duties was the major area of concern for LOH entering the season, but the team appears willing to ride him this year
    • He is yet to hit a home run this year, but those should start coming in bunches
    • O’Hoppe is a prime candidate to acquire if you lost Sean Murphy to injury early on

Texas Rangers

  • Wyatt Langford is getting prime lineup spots
    • Langford has hit as high as second early on and the team is clearly willing to rely on him this season
    • He continues to hit the ball extremely hard while showing off plate discipline that is years past his age
    • Langford is going to be special and could finish as a top-30 fantasy asset this season
  • Josh Jung is out with a fractured wrist
    • Jung was hit by a pitch on Monday and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with the injury
    • The team recalled prospect Justin Foscue in a corresponding move. Foscue is unspectacularly solid and figures to at least get into the lineup against left-handed pitching
    • Josh Smith drew the first start in Jung’s absence, but Ezequiel Duran is my preferred target on the waiver wire
    • Duran has plenty of upside, which he flashed during the first-half of last season, and could be an impactful fantasy asset if Texas gives him more playing time

Oakland Athletics

  • Darell Hernaiz is not playing regularly
    • Hernaiz made the Opening Day roster, but is sitting against most right-handed pitchers
    • While the fantasy upside is not very high, Hernaiz certainly has more upside than the players playing ahead of him
    • He is not worth holding while Oakland figures out whatever it is they are doing
  • Esteury Ruiz was sent down to Triple-A
    • Ruiz was not playing everyday while he was with the Major League squad, but his demotion still comes as bit of a surprise
    • His fantasy value obviously stems from his speed, but this could be a warning sign for other popular speed-focused prospects (Victor Scott/Johan Rojas)
    • With Ruiz gone, JJ Bleday and Lawrence Butler figure to remain as regulars in the Oakland lineup
    • Butler comes with more fantasy upside while Bleday is a more well-rounded player. Neither one is worth targeting at this point
  • J.D. Davis is batting in the middle of the lineup
    • After being let go by San Francisco. Davis quickly found a home in Oakland (soon to be Sacramento) and is flashing the same power upside he has shown off before
    • Davis is swinging and missing a ton and will see his batting average come down, but if you are looking strictly for home runs Davis is widely available
    • He could be a solid replacement for Josh Jung if you rostered him

Seattle Mariners

  • Mitch Garver returned from a brief injury scare and is the team’s primary DH
    • Garver has been a catcher throughout his career, but in an attempt to keep him healthy the team is opting to just DH him this season
    • He is batting fifth in the lineup
    • Garver’s catcher eligibility and the team’s willingness to play him every day make him an intriguing fantasy option in two-catcher leagues
  • Mitch Haniger is batting fourth and seems healthy for Seattle
    • Haniger holds more fantasy value in points leagues where his on-base skills are more beneficial
    • He is unlikely to steal many bases but could still be a valuable fantasy contributor batting behind Julio Rodriguez

AL Central

Detroit Tigers

  • Parker Meadows is leading off against right-handed pitchers
    • Meadows was viewed as many as an underrated fantasy asset heading into the season and his spot in Detroit’s lineup speaks to that
    • He hit 22 home runs with 27 stolen bases last season and gets an even bigger boost in OBP leagues
    • There are strikeout concerns and a bit of a platoon risk, but Meadows could be a valuable pickup for those searching for outfield help early
  • Colt Keith has been on the bench against two straight lefties
    • Keith made the team out of Spring Training but his prospect pedigree has not made him immune to the platoon bug in Detroit
    • Although he is off to a slow start, the underlying metrics look strong and I am still buying Keith as an impactful fantasy asset this season
  • Kerry Carpenter is being platooned
    • A popular late-round target for many, Carpenter is batting in the middle of the lineup against righties but taking a seat against lefties
    • The Tigers have been vocal about their willingness to play the matchups this season and this certainly hurts Carpenter’s fantasy value.
    • He is a career .228 hitter against left-handed pitchers.
    • Matt Vierling and Andy Ibanez both enter the lineup frequently against lefties

Kansas City Royals

  • Maikel Garcia could be the biggest breakout player for 2024
    • The hype started to catch on late in Spring Training and now it is in full effect
    • Garcia is batting leadoff for the Royals and is off to a fast start this season
    • He is hitting the ball hard and most importantly, he is getting it in the air more frequently. If he is somehow still able to be acquired, you should be doing so
  • Kyle Isbel is getting a chance to start and play regularly at the bottom of the lineup
    • Isbel is an excellent fielder with a strong hit tool but has failed to put it all together at the Major League level
    • He is likely to sit against lefties and is not somebody I am looking to pick up at this point

Chicago White Sox

  • The team is starting Martin Maldonado at catcher
    • First Korey Lee was stuck behind Maldonado in Houston and now he is stuck behind him in Chicago
    • Maldonado is a fine veteran catcher but does not hold much of any fantasy appeal
    • Lee has some upside but is unlikely to get consistent playing time with Maldonado healthy. He is not worth rostering at this point
  • Nicky Lopez is playing every day
    • Lopez has struggled offensively throughout his professional career and fantasy managers should not expect anything different this season
    • He is currently batting seventh or eighth in the lineup most games
    • Lopez is not worth picking up in any fantasy format. Surprisingly, he has already been caught stealing twice
  • Eloy Jimenez is injured
    • Stop me if you have heard this before but the team has been without Jimenez since Sunday although he is yet to be placed on the IL
    • Jimenez seems like a player that can never stay healthy and this needs to be baked into his long-term fantasy outlook
    • With Jimenez out of the lineup, Gavin Sheets has seen his playing time increase
  • Luis Robert left the game on Friday with an injury and was subsequently placed on the IL
    • Robbie Grossman or Kevin Pillar (both gross) will see more playing time while  Robert is out

Minnesota Twins

  • Royce Lewis cannot catch a break
    • Lewis hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season but left the game later that day with a quad injury
    • Injuries have become a consistent theme already in Lewis’ young career and he is starting to fit into the category of an injury-prone plaeyr
    • With Lewis out, Willi Castro and recently recalled Austin Martin could get extended playing time
    • Martin turned things on during the second half of last season and could be a sneaky deep league target in keeper/dynasty leagues if his playing time increases
  • Alex Kirilloff is batting second against right-handed pitchers
    • He did not draw a start against the lefty on Opening Day, but Kirilloff is batting in an enviable lineup spot early on this year
    • Health has been the biggest issue for Kirilloff throughout his career but so far he is hitting the ball extremely hard
    • Splitting time at DH could help keep him healthy and increase his fantasy value this season.

Cleveland Guardians

  • Tyler Freeman appears to be getting a chance to prove himself in center field
    • While playing time has been rotating around with everybody on the Guardians, Freeman is batting sixth in most games early on
    • Freeman has never hit for much power in his professional career and profiles as a better real-life player than a fantasy asset
    • He is not worth adding outside of AL-only leagues
  • The top of the Guardians’ lineup is off to a scorching start
    • Not only is Jose Ramirez reminding fantasy managers why he was in first-round consideration, but Andres Gimenez is flashing back to his 2022 season
    • Batting second in the lineup is very beneficial to his run-scoring ability although he is still not hitting the ball very hard
    • Gimenez is more of a sell-high than buy-in kind of player for me
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