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Who has been in a favorable or unfavorable spot in their team’s batting order of late? Who is in a platoon? Let’s get to the Lineup Lowdown.
- A little more than a week removed from an injured list stint, DJ Stewart has worked his way into the middle of the Orioles’ batting order. He’s started in left field and batted third each of the last three games and hit second the game prior to that. Stewart has enough pop and on-base skills to be an asset in deep leagues, but Austin Hays’ (hamstring) return this week could throw a wrench into his playing time.
- Perhaps it will be Ryan Mountcastle, not Stewart, who sees his playing time cut upon Hays’ return. Mountcastle has already been dropped from cleanup to sixth in the O’s lineup and his struggles have only gotten worse, as he’s in the midst of an 0-for-16 drought.
Boston Red Sox
- The presumption going into the season seemed to be that Enrique Hernandez would see most of his playing time at second base, but he’s made just three starts there and 11 in center field. Hernandez has been in the leadoff spot for all 14 of his starts, as manager Alex Cora seems committed to him at the top of the order even as his on-base skills are lacking.
- The biggest beneficiary of second base opening up has been Christian Arroyo, who has started 10 games at the keystone, including five of the last six. A former top prospect, Arroyo has bounced around to four different organizations in four years, although he’ll turn just 26 next month. He’s earned the playing time with an .824 OPS and solid glove, but I’m not sure how much category juice there is here.
- Hernandez settling in mostly in center field has meant Alex Verdugo bouncing around to all three outfield spots and Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero fighting over the rest of the at-bats. Renfroe and Cordero are still playing enough to make a dent in fantasy leagues if they could get going at the plate, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened.
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New York Yankees
- The Jay Bruce at first base experiment is over, with Bruce abruptly announcing his retirement after Sunday’s game. The plan now is for the Yankees to use DJ LeMahieu at first and Rougned Odor at second base until Luke Voit (knee) returns. Odor hit his first homer as a Yankee over the weekend but is just 3-for-24 so far at the plate while donning the pinstripes. Still, with a regular spot in a good lineup (theoretically, anyway) and a good home park (especially for left-handed batters), it’s possible Odor could salvage some fantasy value.
- How long is Clint Frazier’s leash? Frazier has looked completely lost at the plate, striking out at a 35 percent rate and not hitting the ball hard at all when he does make contact with a sub-80 mph exit velocity. He’s really struggled in the field, too. He’s not alone, of course, as the Yankees’ lineup as a whole has been abysmal. However, swapping Brett Gardner in for Frazier is the easiest move manager Aaron Boone could make to shake things up. I don’t think we’re there yet, but Frazier needs to get going.
Tampa Bay Rays
- The Rays wanted Yoshi Tsutsugo to run with the leadoff spot, believing he would adjust in his second year in the majors and blossom at the plate. Instead, he’s been even worse, striking out at a 38.9 percent clip and not providing anything in the way of power. He’s been in-and-out of the lineup over the last week and when he has started has been in the lower half of the order.
- Yandy Diaz has always been a better choice for the leadoff spot than Tsutsugo and that’s where he’s batted each of the last two contests. Diaz has also settled in as the club’s everyday first baseman, although Ji-Man Choi (knee) is due back in a few weeks.
- Mike Brosseau has started each of the last four games (two at second base, two at third), including three against a right-hander. So has Joey Wendle, sliding in at shortstop a couple times to fill in for the slumping Willy Adames. I’m not sure how much Adames’ awful start will factor into the team’s decision as to when to promote Wander Franco, but Franco has already been down long enough to delay his free agency by a year.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Jonathan Davis and Josh Palacios have been regulars in the Blue Jays’ outfield of late with George Springer (oblique, quad) and Teoscar Hernandez (COVID-19) still on the mend. Neither are terribly interesting for fantasy purposes, and Springer and Hernandez are due back soon, anyway.
- Alejandro Kirk has started four of the last five games for the Jays (three at catcher, one at designated hitter), while Danny Jansen has started just twice over that stretch. It could just be manager Charlie Montoyo wanting to get a more potent bat in there since his club has been hit hard by injuries, but either way Kirk has taken advantage with a 1.133 OPS over the five-game span. It’s something to keep an eye on, as Kirk could be one of the better-hitting catchers in the game if he gets the playing time.
Chicago White Sox
- Arguably the biggest early-season surprise in baseball (I’m not sure there’s much of an argument, really), Yermin Mercedes has cemented himself as the White Sox’ everyday designated hitter and is situated in the No. 5 spot in the lineup behind reigning American League MVP Jose Abreu. You don’t need your PhD of Baseball to know that some level of regression is coming. It’s already happened a bit with Mercedes “only” having an .840 OPS over the last week. However, note that Mercedes’ strikeout rate (14 percent) nearly matches his barrel rate (13.3 percent). That’s amazing.
- The guy who not long ago was supposed to be the White Sox’ regular DH, Andrew Vaughn has started four of the last five games in left field, with his only time on the bench being the first game of a doubleheader. Unfortunately, Vaughn still isn’t hitting much. His bat was supposed to be a given, but we should remind ourselves that Vaughn hadn’t played above A-ball previously. He’ll surely be fine over the long haul but could use a reset.
- Amed Rosario has started each of the last five games for the Indians, which is just one fewer start than he made in the club’s first 10 games of the season. He’s even been used a couple times in the leadoff spot during that span. Rosario still hasn’t really gotten going at the plate yet, but it’s a good sign that manager Terry Francona seemingly now trusts him in center field. The former Met still has fantasy potential with speed, some pop and now multi-position eligibility.
- Speaking of former Mets, Andres Gimenez had a nice weekend in Cincinnati in stealing his first two bases of the season and hitting his second home run. He even got a start in the leadoff spot after mostly being stuck in the nine-hole previously. Gimenez is being benched against lefties, which is a bummer, but it would help make up for it if he can seize the leadoff spot versus righties.
- Rule 5 sensation Akil Baddoo has played his way into a regular role, having started 11 of the Tigers’ last 14 games. As impressive as the 22-year-old has been, we’re starting to see some swing-and-miss in Baddoo’s game, as he’s struck out in 12 of his last 19 plate appearances. He’s earned the right to hit his way out of the slump, but fantasy managers might want to keep him benched for the time being.
- Jonathan Schoop has been splitting time between second and first base while Miguel Cabrera (biceps) has been on the shelf, allowing Niko Goodrum to get plenty of starts at second base. It had seemed like Renato Nunez would receive the lion’s share of starts at first while Cabrera was out, but the club thinks so little of his defense that he’s been used more at DH. Nunez seems likely to be phased back out once Cabrera and Nomar Mazara (abdomen) are back.
Kansas City Royals
- The Royals have been committed to Andrew Benintendi in the two-hole both against right- and left-handers, as all 13 of his starts have come in the second spot in the lineup. He’s really struggled with just a .560 OPS, but the good news for Benintendi is the club doesn’t really have any other great options to usurp him, at least not until Adalberto Mondesi (oblique) returns.
- Kyle Isbel started his first game in nearly a week on Sunday and reached base three times. He had been a late scratch from the lineup last Thursday, but the Royals never revealed the nature of his injury (or whether he was, in fact, injured). Isbel is batting .290 but has just a .688 OPS and a 42.4 percent strikeout rate, as he’s been mostly overwhelmed by big league pitching. An alignment of Hunter Dozier in right field and Hanser Alberto at third base makes the most sense right now.
- Luis Arraez has been the club’s regular leadoff hitter against right-handers, with Mitch Garver moving up to the spot versus lefties. That can’t continue unless Garver gets rolling in a hurry. He’s sporting just a .692 OPS, and a lowly .607 OPS against southpaws. Garver has made eight starts at catcher to six starts for Ryan Jeffers, who has been even worse at the dish (.451 OPS).
- Kyle Garlick has started six games in left field against lefties and has either batted second or fourth for all of them. He’s not playing versus righties, but the 29-year-old could be useful for those in deeper leagues with daily lineup moves.
- Andrelton Simmons was batting eighth or ninth before going on the COVID-19 injured list. However, with the way he was swinging the bat (.925 OPS) and others in the Twins’ lineup struggling, manager Rocco Baldelli will surely consider a move up in the lineup once his shortstop returns.
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- The Astros have been without Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez (COVID-19) for their last four games, so we need to go back a few days to look at a true reflection of their batting order. Manager Dusty Baker has mostly been static with his lineups, although he did essentially flip-flop Alvarez and Kyle Tucker after Tucker spent the first few games in the cleanup spot.
- Myles Straw got a couple looks in the leadoff spot after the Astros’ COVID-19 outbreak but has been back down at the bottom of the order the last two games. The Astros like his defense in center field, but it remains to be seen how long they’ll put up with someone who’s so inept offensively. Chas McCormick has experience in center field and a much more interesting bat, but the club seems to view him more as a corner outfielder.
Los Angeles Angels
- There was a collective groan in the fantasy community when Jared Walsh was benched in favor of Albert Pujols for the first two games of the season. Thankfully, Walsh couldn’t be denied and has forced his way into the lineup on an everyday basis. His playing time of late has come in right field after Dexter Fowler (knee) went down with a season-ending injury. However, Pujols still isn’t hitting. Hopefully we’ll see Jo Adell and/or Brandon Marsh in right field soon and Walsh at first base.
- We’ve only gotten 4 2/3 innings on the mound out of Shohei Ohtani because of a blister issue (he’ll pitch Tuesday), but that hasn’t prevented him from everyday DH duties. Ohtani has the hardest-hit ball of any player this season (119 mph) and easily the highest barrel per plate appearance rate (16.7 percent).
- What a bounce-back season it’s been for Jed Lowrie thus far. No one thought much of the A’s bringing the veteran infielder back on a minor league contract, but he won the second base job with a solid spring and has become a staple in the middle of the lineup following a hot start. Lowrie had a streak snapped Sunday of six straight multi-hit games. The 37-year-old is obviously a poor bet to stay healthy over the long haul, but he should be in mixed league lineups right now. The Statcast data says that Lowrie has actually been unlucky.
- There had been some questions this spring about how the A’s would handle the leadoff spot, but Mark Canha has run away with the job. The 32-year-old is in the top-20 in baseball with his 16.2 percent walk rate and he leads the American League with his 18 runs scored. Canha has even chipped in with a couple stolen bases already to go along with three home runs.
- Ty France hit for the Mariners late last season, he hit for them in spring training and all he’s done is keep hitting since the season started. The 26-year-old has staked claim to the No. 2 spot in the Mariners’ batting order and upped his OPS on the season to .925 with his third home run Sunday. France’s 16.7 percent barrel rate is tied for the 12th-best mark in baseball.
- Jose Marmolejos has been thrust into the club’s cleanup spot against right-handers of late. He’s been fine, but it’s surely a temporary situation. Kyle Lewis (knee) is due back any day now, and Jarred Kelenic should be just around the corner.
- Tom Murphy and Luis Torrens have split the catching duties right down the middle so far with eight starts apiece behind the plate (Torrens also has three starts in the DH spot, for some reason). It’s a situation that’s not helpful to fantasy managers, and neither one of them have been hitting, anyway.
- The Rangers called Adolis Garcia up last week and have immediately thrown him into the cleanup spot in hopes that he could provide a spark to a lineup which desperately needs one. Garcia does have a home run, but he’s just 5-for-25 with an 8/0 K/BB ratio overall. The 28-year-old has the power to be useful if he can make enough contact, but this experiment probably won’t last long.
- A better bet to find himself in the middle of the order for the long haul is Willie Calhoun, who returned from a groin injury over the weekend. Calhoun picked up two hits out of the seven spot in the lineup Saturday before coming off the bench Sunday and reaching base a couple times. Still just 26, Calhoun posted an .848 OPS with 21 home runs over just 337 plate appearances in 2019.
- Jose Trevino has been the clear No. 1 catcher for the Rangers, making 11 starts to Jonah Heim’s five starts. Trevino has even been used as high as second and fourth in the batting order, mostly settling in at sixth or seventh. The 28-year-old is batting .341 in the early going, yet somehow hasn’t driven in a single run. That’s hard to do.