Baseball is back! If you are like me you have spent a large amount of time the last few days watching games, checking over box scores and keeping track of your fantasy teams! It is great to be back, but we are at that tricky point in the season. It is easy to overreact to one day, but after spending months of research, my best advice for the first couple of weeks is to be patient with players. Now, by that I do not mean with everyone on your roster, but don’t consider dropping a player you took in round 13, etc. This time of year is tricky because the games matter, but we do not have a large enough sample size to make decisions based off of what we have seen. However, there is one thing we can definitely learn from and that is lineups we have seen so far! There are certainly winners and losers based on the early season lineups, some that you may not have realized, but that’s why I am here! I got you covered.
The regular season is upon us! Don’t worry, there’s still time to add that “one more league!” You can start a league at Fantrax.com 364 days a year.
Batting Order Winners
Yandy Diaz has easily been one of the bigger winners based on lineups. Coming into the year we all knew that Diaz had upside, but we were not sure if he would play every day. Not only has he been in the lineup every day, but he has hit no lower than fifth. Diaz has now hit fifth in three of the Rays games, fourth in one and leadoff in the other. He has seen time at first base, third base, and DH. The playing time concerns really do seem to be nonexistent; Diaz was a name that I searched waiver wires for this weekend and is the top hitter target if he is still available.
Jeff McNeil has certainly been a winner of early season playing time. With no Jed Lowrie, McNeil has seen time in the infield and outfield. He sat on Sunday against Patrick Corbin, but was back in the lineup batting seventh against Caleb Smith, another lefty. He has taken advantage of the time hitting .444 with a .500 OBP to begin the year. He will have to take advantage of this time against lefties, as it becomes easier to sit him when Lowrie returns. Yet, McNeil is a good enough pure hitter to force the Mets hand, as he hit .281 against lefties in 2018.
He is not the only Met to be excited about his spot in the order. Pete Alonso has consistently hit in the two-hole for the Mets, regardless of who they have faced. And they have faced some very tough pitchers in the top Nationals arms. Alonso should be expected to hit second going forward, which obviously leads to more plate appearances. He should be in a great spot to drive in runs all year.
Niko Goodrum was a player I was excited for until the Tigers signed Josh Harrison. With Harrison came some playing time concerns. However, Goodrum has played every game so far for the Tigers, seeing time at second, first, center and DH. He’s hit fifth three times and clean up twice. So far this season he is hitting .308 with a .438 OBP and three of his four hits have gone for extra bases. Goodrum is not going to set the world on fire, but he can be a 15-15 player, as long as he sees the playing time, which seems to be no concern.
Jay Bruce was criminally overlooked in fantasy drafts. Yet, he has played every day and hit either third or forth in each game. And the Mariners have played more game than anyone, so we are working with a slightly larger sample size here. Bruce has hit .182 with a .321 OBP but has belted two homers and six RBI, which is why you want him. Bruce’s 2018 season was derailed by plantar fasciitis. If that is now behind him Bruce can return to hitting 30-plus homers, as we know the playing time will be there. He can be had off waiver wires in many leagues and looking like there is plenty of value to be had.
There is a lot of value in hitting leadoff. In 2018, the leadoff spot scored about 106 runs on average. That number drops to 96 in the two-hole and then there is a steady decrease of about six runs for each slot further down. So far, there are some players who have sneakily added to their value by getting to hit leadoff. Joc Pederson will sit against lefties, but has 16 plate appearances from the leadoff spot, which ranks the fifth most in the MLB. He is a masher, just as long as the Dodgers are not facing multiple lefties as they are this week. Brett Gardner has 15 plate appearances from the leadoff spot, while Leury Garcia has 14, as does Brandon Nimmo. Kole Calhoun and Josh Harrison have 13 a piece, while Brandon Drury, Ian Kinsler, Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman each have 12. If you are searching for runs, those are all options you can potentially look for on the waiver wire.
Batting Order Losers
Garrett Hampson is the face of those who have been lineup losers thus far. Hampson is starting Monday, just his second start of the season. Even with Daniel Murphy out we did not see him on Sunday. The logical thought was Ryan McMahon would slide over to first and Hampson could man second until he returns. I still believe that will be the case, so Hampson is still worth holding on too, but it is difficult to trust him until we see that lineup be used every day. If it wasn’t for Murphy’s injury we may be having a different discussion.
We were told that Jake Lamb would not be a part of a platoon this year. We were lied too. The Diamondbacks have faced two lefties this season and Lamb has sat against both. It makes him difficult to trust, especially for those in weekly lineup leagues and caps his upside. If you have Lamb you have to closely look at the upcoming matchups before starting him.
Speaking of the Diamondbacks, their refusal to slide Lamb back over to third and get more at-bats for Christian Walker is annoying. Walker is currently hitting .541 with two homers, both off of a righty, and a stolen base. When he does start, he has hit fifth both times. But until the DBacks find a way to get him in there every day, it will be difficult to trust. He is a player I would love to add and stash on my bench, if you have the spots.
We were also told that Max Muncy would not be a part of a platoon, but would sit against tough lefties. Well, that seems to be a lie. He sat against Robbie Ray, which you can classify as a tough lefty, but can you do the same with Drew Pomeranz? That is who the Dodgers faced on Monday, and Muncy was not in the lineup. It is especially frustrating because Muncy hit .255 with a .275 ISO against southpaws in 2018. He got off to a slow start, so let’s hope it is more that than a straight platoon.
Just as hitting leadoff helps a hitters value, hitting ninth is a great way to suppress value. So far Dee Gordon leads the league with 17 plate apperances from the nine hole. Yolmer Sanchez is second with 12, while Victor Robles and Billy Hamilton have 11 each. Byron Buxton has 10, while DJ LeMahieu has nine. Continue to monitor their usage, as hitting nine typically leads to a significant drop off in plate appearances and runs scored. Not that you need to bench all these hitters, but hitting ninth is a severe cap on the upside.
All Monday lineups have been included, but all stats used are entering play Monday. If you have any questions, make sure to hit me up on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.
Michael Florio is the winner of the 2018 FSWA Baseball Article of the Year and was a finalist for the 2017 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year. He has hosted video/radio shows, written for a number of print and web publications including the AP, NY Daily News and much more!
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