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AL Lineup Analysis 05/01

Following up on my weekly article on National League lineups, here is the report on American League lineups. The top five hitters in the American League over the past week have been Taylor Ward, Anthony Rizzo, Austin Hays, Giancarlo Stanton, and Max Kepler. I detail all 15 American League teams in the article below! Please keep in mind I am writing this article on Saturday morning. As always, I will try to get any late updates into the article before it publishes.

MLB Lineup Analysis

AL East

New York Yankees

This lineup has seemed to settle in and see some consistency over the past week. Aaron Hicks was on the personal list for most of the week. D.J. LeMahieu has settled into the leadoff role with Josh Donaldson moving down to fifth. DJLM should score a lot of runs for the Yankees hitting right in front of Judge and Rizzo. LeMahieu has a career average of .301 so there is no reason to believe the .313 he has right now is unsustainable.

Fantasy owners looking for production from Joey Gallo finally got some over the past week. He hit his first two home runs of the season in back-to-back games. Hopefully, this is a sign of brighter days ahead for Gallo.

Boston Red Sox

After getting off to a slow start this year, the Red Sox have shuffled their lineup around over the past week. Kiké Hernandez who was batting leadoff has moved down to the lower half of the lineup. Trevor Story has moved into the leadoff spot. This obviously hurts Hernandez’s value as he was already struggling to begin with. I still see a lot of red flags with Hernandez’s early stats, but he has hit .278 over the past week. I am holding onto him for another week or two before making a move. In the meantime, he should see fewer run-scoring opportunities hitting in the bottom half.

I think there is an increasing chance we see both Jarren Duran and Triston Casas sooner rather than later. The Red Sox are trying to win. They do not have time to let Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bobby Dalbec continue playing every day. Bradley has a 46wRC+ and Dalbec has a 31 wRC+. Meanwhile, Casas has already hit four home runs in AAA and Duran is hitting .324. Both are names to keep an eye on in your fantasy league. A deeper target might be Franchy Cordero. He was recalled on Friday when Boston DFA’d Travis Shaw. He has the tools to be a good player but has never put it together..

Toronto Blue Jays

Cavan Biggio went on the COVID list this week. As a result, Raimel Tapia has played every game. His value should diminish once Hernandez and Biggio both return. Santiago Espinal is still playing well, so Biggio will continue to have to fight for plate appearances. I do think it ends up being more of a 50/50 split as the season goes on which hurts both players’ value.

I want to talk about Bo Bichette a little bit. During the off-season, I talked about how the lack of walks concerned me. Yes, I know that Bichette is a player that has consistently run high BABIPs, but my thought process was what if for one season he does not. Bichette does not walk which lower’s his floor. Bichette is a player who has always posted a well above average swing rate and chase rate. So far in 2022, his whiff rate is also way above league average and his BABIP is .271. All of this has combined to form the perfect storm and hurt Bichette in 2022. Nothing that fantasy managers can do now, but I am not sure Bichette will be the 20/20 and .285 player that many were projecting.

Last week I said to not be concerned about Zack Collins if you own Alejandro Kirk. Collins has clearly been taking some playing time away from Kirk this week, but I would stick with Kirk as he is the better player and will prove it.

Tampa Bay Rays

Not much has changed for the Rays lineup. I am concerned that Josh Lowe was not quite ready for the bigs. He is still playing every day and even batted fourth on Friday, but he is hitting just .170 on the year. Lowe is striking out just under 40% of the time and he is whiffing well above league average. At a certain point the Rays will likely turn to other options if Lowe cannot get it going at the plate.

The only two hitters performing for Tampa have been Wander Franco and Yandy Díaz. Franco looks like an MVP and every single part of the generational talent he was hyped up to be in the minors. I am fairly confident that Franco is a top 10 player for the rest of the season.

Baltimore Orioles

The lineup has not changed much since last week. Anthony Santander is consistently hitting second for the Orioles due to his hot start to the season. He has looked to change his approach at the plate reducing his chase rate from 32.9% last year to 26% in 2022. This has led to a steep increase in walk rate for Santander. I continue to be concerned about Cedric Mullins. However, he has posted a BABIP well below .300 and should see some brighter days.

As noted above, Austin Hays has had a terrific week. Fantasy managers looking at this should not expect these levels of results to continue. Hays profiles as an average player, but not as a superstar. Jude him accordingly and do not overreact to his hot week.

AL West

Houston Astros

Reports are that José Altuve is scheduled to return to the Astros’ lineup on Monday following a brief rehab stint. Altuve should return to the leadoff spot. Initially, it looked like Jeremy Pena would be given the chance to bat leadoff. However, Peña has primarily been batting in the lower third of the lineup while Chas McCormick and Jose Siri have taken turns batting leadoff. Both players are still platooning, while Jeremy Peña has started to struggle a little bit. Over the past week, Peña has hit just .167/.250/.333. Peña was never somebody who walked in the minor leagues, and then over the first few weeks, he posted a 9.4 BB%. This number has dropped to 5% over the past week which is closer to what I expected. I still think Peña will have a good year, but the early season hype might have gone too far.

Kyle Tucker has officially gotten hot at the plate. Over the past week he is hitting .333/.333/.722. Dusty Baker continues to hit Tucker sixth, but hopefully, that changes with him performing so well. Any chance to buy low on Tucker is likely gone as he seems to have gotten into a groove at the plate.

Los Angeles Angels

Taylor Ward looks like an absolute beast at the plate. His roster percentage is quickly increasing and if he is available anywhere you need to pick him up. While he is not going to hit .404 and slug over .800 forever, he has all of the looks of being an excellent player for the rest of the year. Hitting at the top of the lineup ahead of Ohtani and Trout only further boosts his value.

Brandon Marsh continues to have a great start to 2022. Jo Adell appears to be the fourth outfielder behind Marsh, Trout, and Ward. All three players are giving Joe Madden no option but to keep them in the lineup.

David Fletcher returned to the lineup on Friday after missing time with a hip injury. He figures to play most games over Matt Duffy and Tyler Wade.

Texas Rangers

Last week I wrote about watching Nick Solak. The Rangers have since played a bunch of righties and he has yet to get a start against any of them. I still would continue to watch this, but the Rangers might be unwilling to ever give him a chance. Nathaniel Lowe has been sensational so far hitting .342 across their first 19 games. However, his .421 BABIP is unsustainable and should come down over the next few weeks. I think that it is more likely Lowe hits closer to .260 the rest of the way. Hopefully, he starts elevating the ball more to get more home runs, or else he could end up being a bust for your fantasy team.

Marcus Semien looks completely lost at the plate. The good news is that his contact rates are all relatively close to his career norms. While the barrel percentage is down, he has posted similar sweet spot percentages and max exit velocities. The concerning part has been his swing decisions. He is swinging a lot more and primarily on pitches out of the zone. His whiff percentage is way above his career-high. I would not be surprised if the Rangers consider moving him lower in the lineup until he starts to figure things out.

Seattle Mariners

J.P. Crawford has consistently been batting fifth. I am still a little bit concerned about how hard he hits the ball. His exit velocities are consistently below average, and he has never posted a strong barrel rate. I think the slugging will come back to earth and he will be somebody that slugs closer to .400 than his current .577. However, I do think it is possible for him to hit close to .300. Crawford is worth a spot on your team if you need help with average especially while he is hot.

Julio Rodríguez has nine stolen bases on nine attempts. Even if he is struggling in other areas of the game that alone is enough to provide a huge value to your fantasy team. He is hitting .333 and has only struck out 20% of the time over the last seven games. He is going to be a star in this league. While Rodríguez has been turning it on at the plate, Kelenic has still been struggling. Over the past week, he is still striking out over 50% of the time and hitting just .118. The Mariners are continuing to show patience but with Mitch Haniger returning from the COVID list, Kelenic could find himself on the bench more frequently, especially against lefties. I would not be buying low on him as many analysts suggest.

Oakland A’s

The first four hitters in the lineup are set for Oakland. Tony Kemp, Sheldon Neuse, Sean Murphy, and Stephen Piscotty. Neuse might be the only three-steal player that nobody is talking about. He plays third base, is hitting over .300, and has three stolen bases. Neuse is running a .410 BABIP while posting a 63% ground ball rate. This is unsustainable and I am not sure how much value Neuse will have going forward but he could provide stolen base value at third base which is rare.

Christian Pache started the year hitting ninth for Oakland. He is slowly moving his way up hitting mostly seventh and eighth now. Pache has also been quietly tearing the cover off the ball with an excellent sweet spot percentage and barrel rate. He has dramatically reduced his whiff rate this season and looks like a different hitter. He could be a good add in a deeper league.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

The big news out of Kansas City is that Adalberto Mondesi tore his ACL. This is horrible news for Mondesi and owners looking for a breakout year. No matter what he does, Mondesi just cannot seem to stay healthy. The first game without him saw Kyle Isbel join the starting lineup and Edward Olivares got the second. There is a chance that the Royals give him and Olivares a chance to earn the role by moving Merrifield to the infield. Another option is that the Royals promote one of their top prospects either M.J. Melendez or Nick Pratto. Both players have been struggling so far, but that does not mean the Royals will not give them a chance.

The other lineup note is that Nicky Lopez continues to bat leadoff against righties and moves to ninth against lefties. Bobby Witt Jr. has a seven-game hitting streak currently. This is a sign of optimism for the struggling rookie. The power will come, fantasy managers just need to be patient.

Detroit Tigers

Akil Baddoo has now sat three of the last four games. If you read my AL lineup analysis last week, I said that fantasy managers should be dropping Baddoo. If you held onto him, now you should be dropping him. Derek Hill has taken his starting spot, but this seems to be temporary until Riley Greene returns.

Spencer Torkelson has moved higher up in the lineup. Due to the struggles of some other players, Torkelson is now primarily batting fifth or sixth. The average and power have not fully come, but he is showing a mature approach at the plate and should be a fantasy superstar in the near future. Moving down the lineup is Jeimer Candelario. Pitchers are continuing to throw him more breaking balls which he has a .048 average against this year. I would be moving on from Candelario if I own him. Could even consider picking up Sheldon Neuse over him who I mentioned earlier in this article.

Chicago White Sox

Luis Robert returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing several games with his hamstring injury. Just as Robert returned, Vaughn left after getting hit on the hand. Vaughn was finally getting a chance to play consistently due to injuries and Tony La Russa even came out and said that he earned the chance to hit second in the lineup. Vaughn is set to undergo X-Rays to determine the severity of the injury. Hopefully, he only misses a couple of games.

Minnesota Twins

Alex Kirilloff has been rehabbing at AAA since Tuesday. There is a strong chance that he is back with the Twins at some point this weekend. With Buxton, Kirilloff, and Kepler all healthy this will reduce the playing time for Nick Gordon, Trevor Larnach, and Luis Arráez. The wrist still concerns me with Kirilloff. Especially since this injury dates back to last year I think that this is something that could continue to affect the way he swings the bat.

Miguel Sano and Gary Sanchez were absent from several lineups over the past week. Sanchez returned on Friday and Sano is scheduled to return at some point this weekend. Neither injury was very severe. I have been a loud supporter of Max Kepler and after a slow start to the season he was cut in many leagues. He is still owned in under 75% of leagues despite posting a 92nd percentile xwOBA and excellent numbers to back that up. Kepler has seen his success come over the past week and if he is available you need to pick him up now. I would even be willing to trade high to acquire him. Just back in 2019, Kepler hit 36 home runs and I would not be surprised if he hits 30 this season.

Cleveland Guardians

Steven Kwan has yet to play in a game since injuring his hamstring. The Guardians have not put him on the IL though signaling that they expect him to return soon. Amed Rosario has settled into the second slot in the Guardians’ lineup. I am a little bit confused about why he has such a prominent spot and also why he is owned in 83% of Fantrax leagues. I would expect him to move back down in the lineup once Kwan returns.

Josh Naylor has remained hot at the plate. I expect him to be the full-time first baseman for the Guardians once Owen Miller cools off. He might sit against most lefties but has the upside to be worth a flier in fantasy. He is currently hitting .317/.333/.512 and Cleveland will keep getting his bat into the lineup.

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