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AL Lineup Analysis 04/17

I have already written two articles on National League lineup analysis. You can check out my most recent one here! This article focuses on the American League and gives a brief insight into each team. Hopefully, this helps keep you up to date on the latest happenings around the league. This article was written on Saturday morning so plenty can change in a matter of hours,  but hopefully, this also helps prepare you for your FAAB bids Sunday night!

MLB Lineup Analysis

AL East

New York Yankees

The headline news on Opening Day was that Gleyber Torres was not in the lineup. Fantasy managers began to panic as they thought this signaled the end of Torres as an everyday player. This is not the case and fantasy managers should not be too alarmed. Out of the eight games that the Yankees have played, Torres has started seven of them. He is playing every day for a variety of teammates.

One of the biggest mistakes made during draft season might end up being how low Anthony Rizzo’s ADP was. Rizzo was going outside of the top 180 picks on average and is off to a phenomenal start in 2022. Rizzo looks like the same player that was a consensus top 5 first baseman for years. The only difference is that now he gets to utilize the short porch in Yankee Stadium to his advantage. Rizzo could be in for a monster year and is firmly implanted toward the top of the Yankees lineup.

Boston Red Sox

There are not a whole lot of unknowns with Boston’s lineup. Story missed a couple of games this past week with an illness, but that is behind him. After being a threat to move down the lineup after starting hitless in the first four games, Kike Hernandez has come to life helping reduce concerns. Bobby Dalbec has gotten off to a slow start this year. This is a little bit concerning for managers relying on him because it should not be long before Triston Casas gets promoted to the big leagues. Dalbec struggling will force Boston’s hand to give their top prospect a chance.

Toronto Blue Jays

This is the first team where we have already seen a real shift in playing time away from a projected starter. Biggio started each of the first two games at second base for Toronto but was pinch-hit for by Santiago Espinal. Since then, Espinal has started almost every game. This is a clear indication that Espinal is the new favorite for playing time. Espinal was never a power threat in the minors and only had two home runs in 92 games for Toronto last season. However, reports indicate he added muscle this offseason and according to his Baseball Savant he is hitting the ball harder. The situation is worth monitoring if you need help at middle infield. If he plays every day, I could see a .270/.330/.405 which is not bad but is nothing to be rushing to add to your roster.

The other thing of note is that with Danny Jansen injured, Alejandro Kirk is going to get a chance to play consistently. This is exactly what fantasy managers were hoping for in 2022. Kirk has a potentially elite bat and can provide excellent value at catcher. Kirk has struggled early in the season, but with Jansen set to be sidelined for weeks with an oblique injury, Kirk has plenty of time to establish himself as the primary catcher. Teoscar Hernández also is now on the IL with an oblique injury. This should increase playing time for Raimel Tapia and Bradley Zimmer. If you own Hernandez, I would look elsewhere for help

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays lineup is always fun to try and decipher. Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Josh Lowe, and Wander Franco are the only players firmly cemented into the everyday lineup. Six of the first eight games have been against right-handed pitchers which is when Ji-man Choi gets his chances to play. Choi is off to a red-hot start at the plate and could work his way into more playing time if this continues. Through five games Choi is slashing .526/.640/1.000.

This is not quite the time to panic, but Randy Arozarena is off to a really rough start at the plate. He has managed just five hits through the first 30 at-bats of the season and is yet to walk. He also has one of the worst whiff rates in baseball. His expected stats have been calling for regression since he debuted. While it is still extremely early, this start is at least a yellow caution flag of things that could come this year.

Baltimore Orioles

This team is not good which comes as a surprise to nobody. The biggest bright spot has been Anthony Santander. Santander has posted an above league average xwOBA each of the past three seasons. His biggest issue has been his ability to stay on the field and work walks. An encouraging stat early on in the season has been his chase rate. Santander has been worse than league average in this statistic since debuting, but so far this year the number sits at just 26.4%. Still early in the season, but maybe this is a sign of things to come. Ride the high with Santander while he is healthy, but I have trouble projecting more than 125 games for him.

2021 breakout Cedric Mullins is off to a slow start. His whiff and chase percentage are way up and his contact percentage is way down. The contact has been strong when he has made it, but these rates are still somewhat alarming.

AL West

Houston Astros

Jeremy Peña is doing his best Carlos Correa impression. I drafted him on several teams this year and could not be happier to have him. Through seven games, he is hitting .269/.321/.462. The lack of walks concerns me, but that does not matter in most leagues. He has 25 home run, .280 potential, and should continue to thrive for fantasy managers this season. Yuli Gurriel missed a couple of games on the paternity list, and Yordan Alvarez missed a couple due to an illness.

Jose Siri and Chas McCormick are platooning in center field. Siri has more fantasy upside but is on the short side of the platoon. Neither player has much value currently except in very deep leagues. The frustration with Kyle Tucker’s lineup spot has continued this year. He has batted fourth once, fifth twice, and sixth four times. This is too low for one of the best hitters in the game and you figure Dusty Baker has to realize this eventually. You would think anyway……

Los Angeles Angels

This lineup has been difficult to understand over the first week of the season. Jo Adell made the roster after having an excellent spring only for John Madden to come out and say the starting job is Taylor Ward’s when he returns from injury. To further complicate the matters, the Angels called up Jose Rojas who has now started five games for them while Adell has found himself stuck in a platoon. Although the Spring Training stats were encouraging, under the surface Adell still looks far from a great hitter. He has posted just a 66.7% zone contact rate and has struck out in 12/21 plate appearances. I would still be holding Adell in dynasty and keeper leagues, but his redraft value is plummeting.

On the other side of the outfield, Brandon Marsh looks like he could be a star for the Angels. After posting an excellent sweet spot percentage last season, I was a vocal supporter of Marsh throughout the off-season. So far, Marsh has made hard contact while posting an excellent chase rate. He has even cut down on his whiff % which was his biggest issue last season. Marsh has 20/10 upside and looks to be a real threat in the Angels lineup.

Texas Rangers

Brad Miller is batting leadoff against righties but sitting on the bench against lefties. His value is capped due to the platoon but he has slugged well above league average against righties over the past four seasons. Andy Ibáñez is being given the full opportunity to start at third base. He is an aggressive hitter at the plate who has a strong ability to make contact. I am not sure how much value he has for fantasy purposes, but Texas does not have many options behind him until Josh Jung returns from injury.

Seattle Mariners

The young stars of the Mariners have gotten off to a rough start. Julio Rodriguez has been thrown breaking balls 56.4% of the time and has shown a complete inability to lay off them. Pitchers are going to keep attacking him this way until he adjusts. Rodriguez has a superstar ceiling, but managers need to be patient with the growing pains. Patience appears to be running low with Jared Kelenic. Jon Anderson does amazing work and created his own hitting grade scale. Out of 297 hitters on the scale, Kelenic ranks 291st early in the season. He has posted a 36.7% whiff rate and has struck out in 10/22 at-bats. Kelenic looks lost at the plate and sat against the only lefty they have faced. My concern is growing with him as he has shown no second-year growth.

Abraham Toro figures to be in line to gain at-bats if the regulars are struggling, but he has been just as bad. He has started four of eight games for the Mariners and is hitting just .063/.063/.125. He is not striking out as much as Kelenic or Rodriguez, but the quality of contact has been just as bad. The Mariners are looking for somebody to step up as the only two hitters performing so far are Ty France and J.P. Crawford.

Oakland A’s

Seth Brown is getting a chance to play every day for Oakland. He has started seven of eight games hitting in the middle of the lineup. He could be a sneaky add for anybody looking for upside. Last season he posted strong EV, sweet spot, and barrel rates. He is showing more of the same early in 2022 and could be a bright spot for the Athletics this year. There are not a lot of other fantasy-relevant names on this roster. Sean Murphy is going to play almost every day between catcher and DH. He has strong power upside but has been unable to cut back on the strikeouts in his career. He can help accumulate decent stats just by playing more than most catchers.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

I am officially concerned about Whit Merrifield.  Through seven games he is hitting just .172/.200/.172. He does not have an extra-base hit yet. The silver lining is that he still has managed three stolen bases already this year.

Carlos Santana looks dreadful at the plate. He has started all seven games for the Royals, but it is clear he is just not the same hitter he used to be. M.J. Melendez and Nick Pratto are also off to rough starts in AAA, but one would figure it will not be long until they are given a chance over Santana. Two other players who could steal a lineup spot are Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares. Both former prospects are on the big league roster but have yet to be given a start this season. The Royals will not leave Santana in if he continues to struggle as badly as he is.

Detroit Tigers

Spencer Torkelson looks as good as advertised. There have been some growing pains, but through eight games he has a wRC+ of 167. The average will continue to improve and he has the power to hit 30 home runs in the bigs. I am urging fantasy managers to be patient with Jeimer Candelario. Candelario’s rough start should come to an end soon. Candelario has posted a 22.7% LD rate and an average exit velocity of 92.4mph yet has a .182 BABIP. This will not continue. He is an excellent buy-low candidate if anybody needs third base help.

Chicago White Sox

Anybody who read my xwRC+ series knows that I love Andrew Vaughn this season. He is off to an amazing start to the year, hitting .350/.409/.650 through seven games. The concerning part about Vaughn is that he has only started five of seven games for Chicago. Tony La Russa came out and publicly said that Vaughn is going to play more than last year, but still not every single day. This is extremely frustrating as an owner of Vaughn but I doubt that La Russa will be able to justify benching him for much longer. Vaughn is an elite talent and if you can find a manager in your league scared by TLR’s comments, try and acquire Vaughn before it is too late.

With A.J. Pollock on the IL, Jake Burger has been making the most of his opportunities. He is off to a strong start to the season, but he will have little to no value once Pollock returns from the IL.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins have seen two of their starting outfielders go down with injuries in the past few days. Byron Buxton exited the game on Friday with what the Twins are calling knee soreness. This is horrible news for Buxton and the baseball community as a whole. Buxton is electric on the field but just cannot find a way to stay healthy. Alex Kirilloff also went on the IL with a wrist injury. This is the same wrist that caused him to miss most of the second half of last season. I am very concerned about both players and think that they could miss significant time.

Trevor Larnach is an easy option to take some at-bats for the Twins. Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon are also candidates to see increased playing time. A sneaky option for the Twins is top prospect Jose Miranda. They would need to do some shuffling of their lineup, but if Arraez plays for Kirilloff in left field, that could potentially open some DH at-bats for Miranda. This situation is worth monitoring closely in the next couple of days to see what happens and how long Buxton is out.

Cleveland Guardians

There is a lot to talk about with the Guardians. Initially for Cleveland, the starting infield included Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez. However, early in the season, Giménez has gotten 14 plate appearances compared to Owen Miller who has gotten 25. Miller currently has the highest wRC+ in baseball and looks to have taken over the first base job. That raises the question: What is Owen Miller’s long-term outlook? I am not super confident in Owen Miller sustaining success over a full season. Throughout his minor league career, he was always somebody who made solid contact and possessed slightly below-average power. So far this season Miller has only posted a 4.3-degree average launch angle and is chasing over 41% of the time. I would not be spending a lot of FAAB or a high waiver priority on him.

Elsewhere on the team, Steven Kwan has been the talk of the league. He has batted second in the lineup six out of seven games. There was a Fangraphs article on him that discusses some of the reasons he cannot sustain this level of success. Regardless of this, Kwan is fun and should be a solid player throughout 2022. Oscar Mercado has started six of seven games for the Guardians with solid success. The 28.6 K% paired with a 0 BB% leads me to believe he could see some quick regression and lose playing time quickly.

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