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American League Lineup Analysis 04/12

The season continues to move along and there seems to be more news than ever. The high number of injuries is causing chaos in the fantasy baseball landscape and this lineup series is more useful than ever. Last weekend I broke down both the AL and NL which you can check out here on Fantrax HQ. Now, it is time for the American League lineup analysis again. The top five hitters in the AL over the past week have been: Tyler O’Neill, Yordan Alvarez, Mike Trout, MJ Melendez, and Zack Gelof. All impactful fantasy bats including two of the best pure hitters to ever do it. 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.

Fantasy Baseball Lineup Takeaways

AL East

New York Yankees

  • Oswaldo Cabrera is sitting against left-handed pitching
    • Cabrera’s hot start appears to be nothing more than a flash in the pan as he is already losing his everyday status
    • He is without an extra-base hit since leaving Houston and is not worth buying into from a fantasy perspective
    • Jon Berti is entering the lineup against lefties while both figure to move to the bench once DJ LeMahieu returns
  • Anthony Volpe moved up to the top of the lineup on Wednesday
    • Volpe’s 2024 season could not be off to a better start and now he gets to hit in front of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge
    • Volpe has the potential to be a five-category contributor and fantasy managers should be fully buying his fast start
    • As a result, Gleyber Torres moved down to sixth in the lineup
  • Austin Wells is struggling with good peripherals
    • Wells’ slash line leaves plenty to be desired and the team has started to give more playing time back to Jose Trevino
    • Still, Wells is barreling up the ball at a high rate with plus contact numbers and solid strike zone understanding
    • Wells’ talent should win out in this situation making him an intriguing stash option if you have a deep bench. I am not giving up on Wells yet

Boston Red Sox

  • Trevor Story is out for the season
    • The injuries just keep on coming for Story who cannot seem to stay on the field since signing in Boston
    • With Story out, David Hamilton is getting the first chance to earn the everyday shortstop job
    • Hamilton stole 57 bases in Triple-A last season and has plus plate discipline which could make him a sneaky fantasy asset. If you need help at shortstop, he is worth a flier
    • He is likely on the strong side of a platoon as he has sat against both lefties he could have faced. Romy Gonzalez is on the other side of this platoon
  • Tyler O’Neill is making those who drafted him proud
    • O’Neill has struggled to stay healthy but is looking like he is back to the 2021 version of himself
    • The power is legit and playing in Fenway only makes that better. He is also making more contact and walking more than ever before. He is now batting third in the lineup most games
    • O’Neill could easily finish as a top-10 outfielder in fantasy this season
  • Ceddanne Rafaela agreed to an eight-year contract extension
    • While it does not specifically tie to his spot in the lineup, it does give Rafaela an extended leash for his offensive production
    • The team clearly has liked what they have seen despite the slow start to his season
    • Rafaela has plenty of speed, but his strikeout rate and lack of hard contact limit his potential fantasy outlook

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Brandon Lowe is expected to miss some time with an oblique injury
    • Lowe was only starting in the lineup against righties anyway and is not somebody that fantasy managers need to hold onto
    • With Lowe out, Curtis Mead is expected to receive the majority of starts at second base. Mead has been batting sixth in the lineup during his starts
    • Mead has a plus hit tool but lacks in game-power and speed. It is fair to wonder how much fantasy value he will ultimately have
  • Richie Palacios is batting in the middle of the lineup against right-handed pitching
    • Palacios’ slash line leaves plenty to be desired outside of an elite walk rate
    • He is still sitting against left-handed pitching and he is not somebody fantasy managers need to prioritize adding even with a prime lineup spot
  • Jose Siri already has six stolen bases
    • After stealing just 12 last year, Siri is running wild early on making him a very intriguing fantasy asset
    • High strikeout rates are always going to be a part of his game, but he has excellent raw power and runs a high barrel rate
    • If you can withstand a bit of a blow to your batting average, Siri has 25/25 potential in regular playing time
    • He has moved up to seventh in the lineup recently

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Cavan Biggio is up to sixth in the lineup
    • Biggio’s solid start to the year has him moving up and could lead to more RBI opportunities batting behind the middle of the order
    • His overly patient approach gets him in trouble with strikeouts, but his walk rate makes up for that in OBP leagues
    • He has multi-positional eligibility and could be a valuable fantasy asset depending on your scoring settings
  • With Biggio moving up, Kevin Kiermaier is moving down
    • The team started the season with Kiermaier batting sixth/seventh but he has now moved down to the bottom of the lineup
    • His glove keeps him playing every day, but a negative wRC+ so far could put more pressure on him to perform offensively
    • He is not worth rostering in any fantasy format
  • Daulton Varsho continues to struggle and is also moving down the lineup
    • Varsho has not been able to get anything going offensively since leaving Arizona and is yet to hit a home run or steal a base
    • He could start losing playing time if his struggles continue
    • Davis Schneider is the most likely candidate to step into a lineup spot if the team benches Varsho

Baltimore Orioles

  • Jackson Holliday is up!
    • Holliday was promoted to make his Major League debut on Wednesday and will slot directly into the Orioles’ lineup. He hit ninth in his Major League debut Tuesday
    • Holliday has tremendous contact skills and should continue to add more game power. He is a must-add in all formats where he is somehow available
    • The promotion forces Jorge Mateo to the bench
  • Colton Cowser is getting more playing time
    • Austin Hays’ early season struggles may have lost him his starting job as Cowser has been stepping in frequently against right-handed pitchers
    • Cowser is still heading to the bench against lefties but is batting seventh or eighth against righties
    • There are some underlying concerns with the swing-and-miss in Cowser’s game, but he has a much higher ceiling than Hays and is worth adding in 14+ team leagues

AL West

Houston Astros

  • Jose Abreu could be starting to lose playing time against right-handed pitching
    • Abreu’s Houston tenure has been a struggle and the start to this season has been no different
    • He has been on the bench against two of the last four righties and is giving Houston no reason to play him
    • Jon Singleton could step into the strong side of the platoon with Abreu. Neither is worth rostering
    • One other name to know is Joey Loperfido who is already up to five home runs in Triple-A. He can play all over the diamond and could be promoted to take some of the at-bats at first base
  • Jake Meyers has been on the bench in three of the last four games
    • Meyers is barreling the ball up plenty with a bad BABIP the only thing bringing down his slash line
    • Mauricio Dubon has been getting the starts in center field batting toward the bottom of the lineup
    • Meyers is the more talented offensive player and is likely to win this job back as the season moves along

Los Angeles Angels

  • Luis Rengifo is seeing his playing time increase
    • Rengifo surprisingly started the season in a bench role but has been playing more often lately in a utility role
    • He is up to two stolen bases already and could become a 15/15 player if he gets consistent playing time
    • Rengifo is worth adding in deep leagues and placing on your watch list in shallow leagues to see if he starts to play more often
  • Mickey Moniak is moving up in the lineup
    • Trying to get more runners on in front of Mike Trout, Moniak is getting a chance in the two-hole
    • Although his slash line is not very impressive, he is making WAY more contact than he did last season
    • His walk rate is up and with great speed and power upside, Moniak could be a sneaky add
  • Nolan Schanuel has been on the bench against two righties this week
    • Schanuel has been batting in the bottom third of the lineup but sitting against righties is concerning as a left-handed bat
    • His season is off to a very slow start with his wRC+ only salvaged by a strong walk rate
    • Schanuel is not impacting the ball with any force and is hitting too many ground balls. He is not worth rostering in fantasy at this point

Texas Rangers

  • Justin Foscue landed on the IL
    • Foscue was promoted after the injury to Josh Jung but is now out himself
    • There was not much playing time being given to Foscue making his move to the IL partially irrelevant for fantasy managers
  • Josh Smith continues to get most of the playing time with Josh Jung out
    • While the hope of many (including myself) was that Ezequiel Duran would step in, the team feels more comfortable with Smith at third base
    • Smith is batting in the back half of the lineup most games and even moved up to second when giving Corey Seager a breather
    • Smith’s best production comes in terms of his OBP but he lacks the power or speed to turn into a reliable fantasy asset
  • Evan Carter is back in the middle of the lineup
    • Carter’s season got off to a bit of a slow start, but he has picked things up recently
    • His batted-ball quality leaves some to be desired but he is still walking at an elite rate and should see his BABIP come back up

Oakland Athletics

  • Zack Gelof is still striking out a ton
    • The main concern with Gelof coming up from the Minor Leagues was his inconsistent contact skills and those are still very apparent
    • Gelof is striking out over 30% of the time with major whiff concerns
    • The power and speed blend is intriguing, but I am still not buying Gelof in any keeper/dynasty format
  • Brent Rooker was placed on the IL
    • No, this does not mean Esteury Ruiz is coming back as he remains in Triple-A
    • Abraham Toro seems to be stepping into the lineup in a DH/utility role shifting Ryan Noda to the outfield
    • Toro is batting at the top of Oakland’s lineup but is nobody that fantasy mangers should be paying much attention to

Seattle Mariners

  • Ty France is back from the paternity list and moving up in the lineup
    • After starting the season batting in the bottom third of the lineup, France is moving back up into the middle of the order
    • France has yet to hit a home run but has seen his barrel rate and average exit velocity both spike to start this season
    • He went to Driveline this off-season to improve his bat speed and that work could pay big dividends. He is an interesting buy option in fantasy leagues
  • Dominic Canzone is up to three home runs playing on the strong side of a platoon
    • Canzone is batting toward the bottom of the lineup and sitting against lefties
    • He also has a strikeout rate north of 30% and is whiffing a lot
    • However, if you are looking strictly for power and play in a daily format, Canzone could be an option worth picking up
  • Should fantasy managers be worried about Julio Rodriguez
    • The short answer is no
    • With the weather being cold and players being rusty, it can take some time to get things going. Rodriguez is extremely talented and should turn things around soon
    • The whiff rates have not improved though so fantasy managers should continue expecting higher strikeout rates

AL Central

Detroit Tigers

  • The Tigers promoted prospect Wenceel Perez to the Major League roster
    • Perez has played all over the field defensively throughout his Minor League career flashing power and speed upside
    • The move comes as a result of utility infielder Andy Ibanez landing on the IL
    • Perez is unlikely to get significant playing time and is not worth adding to your roster at this point
  • Colt Keith is starting to put things together
    • Keith remains a mainstay in the Tigers’ lineup and is playing against about half of the left-handed pitchers they face
    • He is batting fifth or sixth in most games and is starting to get more comfortable
    • Keith’s contact skills and plate discipline look excellent with the only real issue being a low BABIP so far. If anybody gives up on Keith too quickly in your leagues, you should pick him up
  • Gio Urshela is getting the bulk of starts at third base
    • Urshela is finding himself in the lineup about four times per week and is hitting for an excellent average early on
    • There are no noticeable differences to his batted ball profile and he is unlikely to ever return to the production levels we saw in 2019/2020
    • I am not adding Urshela anywhere at this point

Kansas City Royals

  • MJ Melendez is off to a fast start to 2024
    • He has already hit three home runs and more importantly, is making more contact leading to fewer strikeouts
    • Melendez has always hit the ball extremely hard and is now showing signs of putting everything together
    • Fantasy managers should not expect him to continue batting over .300 this season, but they should be buying this strong start
  • Michael Massey is nearing a return from injury
    • Massey has been rehabbing with Triple-A and could return to the Royals’ lineup soon
    • Adam Frazier has been filling in at second base but is unlikely to retain the job once Massey returns
    • Massey has shown flashes of fantasy relevance in the past, but is not somebody you need to stash ahead of his return

Chicago White Sox

  • The lineup is ROUGH without both Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert
    • For starters, Robbie Grossman is batting leadoff for the team
    • Grossman walks a lot, but that is about it as far as his offensive production
    • Oscar Colas was recalled for one game but then in typical White Sox fashion, was sent back to Triple-A
    • Dominic Fletcher is on the strong side of a platoon in center field
    • Fletcher does not have a ton of upside for fantasy managers but is a fine overall player for those in AL-only leagues looking for at-bats
  • Yoan Moncada is injured
    • Moncada is dealing with an adductor strain which should cause him to miss time
    • With Moncada out, Lenyn Sosa is an option to slide over to third base
    • Whoever his replacement is, is not worth picking up
  • Gavin Sheets is playing well with everyday playing time
    • Rostering anybody on the White Sox right now is not very inspiring, but Sheets is swinging a hot bat and batting in the middle of the lineup
    • His barrel rate is up early on this season and is the biggest stat to monitor moving forward

Minnesota Twins

  • Max Kepler was placed on the IL
    • Kepler’s season has gotten off to a woeful start and most of that could be a result of health
    • With Kepler out, the team could turn to Austin Martin to take over in the outfield if they want to keep Alex Kirilloff at first base
    • Martin has started three in a row batting in the back half of the lineup. He has big-time speed which could turn him into a useful fantasy asset. His playing time is worth keeping an eye on
  • Jose Miranda is back with the team and playing every day
    • Miranda’s career took a turn for the worse last season, but the team is giving him another chance to prove himself
    • He has hit fifth in the lineup in both games since returning which could provide plenty of RBI opportunities
    • Miranda could be worth a flier for those looking for help at third base being that he did post a 117 wRC+ at the Major League level in 2022
  • Matt Wallner could be losing playing time
    • Wallner has been on the strong side of a platoon to start the season but is starting to sit more often against right-handed pitching
    • His early season strikeout rate sits at an astronomical 57% which is sure to land him on the bench
    • Manuel Margot is most likely to get more time in the lineup with Wallner’s struggles but he is not super fantasy relevant outside of deep AL only leagues

Cleveland Guardians

  • Bo Naylor is getting time at both DH and catcher
    • This additional playing time at DH is great for Naylor’s fantasy value as the more at-bats the better
    • Naylor is batting seventh or eighth in the lineup in most games
    • His season is off to a slow start thanks in large part to a strikeout rate up near 40%. Naylor will need to lower his strikeout rate (and average launch angle) if he wants to continue receiving this much playing time
    • He is a player I am keeping my eye on, but the start to the season has not been encouraging
  • Josh Naylor could be one of the biggest fantasy steals from 2024 drafts
    • Naylor quietly hit over .300 with 17 homers and 10 steals last season in just 121 games
    • He looks healthy this season and is continuing to bat over .300 with big home run potential
    • Naylor is batting in the middle of Cleveland’s lineup and should be a reliable first baseman as long as he stays healthy this year
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