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Fantasy Baseball Lineup Analysis: AL Hitters to Target

Time to catch up on all the latest news on American League lineups. Just as with the National League, there is plenty to dive into. The five hottest hitters in the American League over the past 10 days have been, Luis Robert, Anthony Santander, Anthony Rendon, Masataka Yoshida, and Leody Taveras. Keep in mind the stats detailed below are through the 8th. I will try to include any last-minute updates that come through from yesterday’s action. Keep reading for notes on all 15 American League lineups.

More great fantasy baseball advice and analysis: Waiver Wire & FAAB Recommendations | Daily MLB Injury Report | MLB DFS Picks | Line-up Analysis | Dynasty Rankings and Strategy | MLB Bullpen Updates | MLB Player Props | Prospect Rankings & Analysis | Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers

AL East

New York Yankees

I am not sure if we can call this version of the Yankees the Bronx Bombers. Where things stand, Willie Calhoun and Jake Bauers are both getting everyday playing time. Calhoun is batting fifth most games and is a fine pick-up in deep leagues if you are looking for consistent at-bats. He does not hit the ball very hard and is unlikely to ever hit for much average, but batting fifth could lead to decent RBI chances. Meanwhile, Jake Bauers is batting seventh most games but is batting .100 with a strikeout rate north of 40% since his promotion. He should not be rostered.

IKF and Aaron Hicks are seeing inconsistent playing time in platoons with Bauers and Oswald Cabrera. None of the players mentioned are worth rostering. Oswald Peraza was placed on the IL with an ankle sprain, creating more playing time for those previously mentioned. Peraza just cannot seem to seize the opportunities in front of him this year.

The biggest bright spot in the Yankees lineup recently has been Harrison Bader. The team received a lot of pushback for trading Jordan Montgomery away last season, but Bader has already hit two home runs in his first five games. Bader has plenty of speed and any increased power would make him a significant fantasy asset. He is batting sixth so far but could move up if he continues to perform.

Boston Red Sox

The middle infield injuries continue to pile up for Boston. Christian Arroyo was placed on the IL last week with a hamstring strain, creating additional playing time for Enmanuel Valdez. Valdez is continuing to sit against lefties but is batting seventh or eighth against right-handed pitchers. He is up to three stolen bases with an average over .300. Proceed with caution here as his .324 average is being carried by a .379 BABIP despite a ground ball rate north of 50%. Valdez will not continue to have success if he does not increase his launch angle.

Jarren Duran is now batting fifth for Boston. Duran is hitting the ball harder than ever while emphasizing getting it in the air more. His average launch angle is up from 7.6 degrees last year to 14.8 degrees this year. His whiff rate is down over five percent from last season and even more impressively, his chase rate is down over eight percent. Duran’s profile has all the looks of a breakout. He is a must-add if he is still available.

Triston Casas has moved into a platoon, sitting against lefties while continuing to bat under .200. The power metrics still look excellent (91.4 avg EV, 11.1% barrel rate, 14.8 degree LA) with the only issue being a .186 BABIP. Now might be the best time to buy low on Casas who is batting sixth or seventh when in the lineup.

Toronto Blue Jays

Vladimir Guerrero Jr appears to have avoided any serious injury. He missed a couple of games over the weekend with wrist soreness but seems good to go now. His missed time allowed Brandon Belt to sneak back into the lineup. He was starting to lose playing time after struggling for most of the first month. His strikeout rate remains above 40% while his .225 average figures to only get worse as his .405 BABIP comes back to earth. Getting both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk into the lineup on a regular basis is the most likely outcome of Belt losing his starting job.

Whit Merrifield has been moving up in the lineup most nights, batting fifth or sixth recently. Merrifield continues to prove me wrong with seven stolen bases and a batting average just under .300. Weak contact continues to be a concern but the higher he moves in the lineup, the more RBI opportunities he will receive.

Also, it appears Daulton Varsho has settled in. He has hit three home runs since the last article while batting .393. Hitting behind Bichette, Chapman, and Guerrero will provide Varsho with tons of RBI chances, and he is a perfect six for six on the base paths.

Tampa Bay Rays

No significant changes to the Rays’ lineup as they continue to win. Harold Ramirez and Josh Lowe continue to play over half the Rays’ games but are frequently rested in favor of Manuel Margot and Luke Raley. Lowe has cooled off some as the strikeout rate has alarmingly risen back up. Pay close attention to his strikeout rate as this was his kryptonite in the past. Ramirez meanwhile continues to play well, but in leagues with weekly lineups, it is more difficult to roster him. He should continue to earn more and more playing time in the middle of the lineup as the season moves along.

Taylor Walls and Isaac Paredes continue to split time around the infield. I am not a believer in the Walls’ power breakout, but the speed seems legit. Meanwhile, Paredes has only hit one home run since April 12. With a lack of power and inconsistent playing time, I am fine dropping Paredes. Walls is only worth adding if you are looking for speed in deep leagues. A barrel rate under four percent cannot sustain an HR/FB% of 18.5% as it has so far.

Baltimore Orioles

Man, oh man has Anthony Santander gotten hot at the plate. One of my favorite points league targets entering 2023 got off to a slow start but is taking over. Santander has hit safely in seven straight with multiple hits in six of those. Over that stretch, he has three home runs while only striking out 20.7% of the time. He is firmly cemented into the clean-up spot in Baltimore’s lineup and is showing no signs of surrendering that position.

James McCann is getting more at-bats recently, splitting time between catcher and DH. His increased playing time is coming at the expense of both Gunnar Henderson and Adam Frazier. McCann is not worth adding to your team. The real thing that this points to is the potential for Jordan Westburg to come up and earn a lineup spot. He has been dominating in Triple-A while Henderson has continued to struggle. Henderson is getting more frequent days off at this point and has even been batting eighth or ninth on some occasions. Henderson’s lineup spot might be safe for now due to Ramon Urias landing on the IL.

Austin Hays was dealing with an injury last week but has since returned to the lineup. Kyle Stowers was receiving some playing time but has struggled in his limited opportunities so far. Stowers will need to string together some successful at-bats if he wants to continue to take time away from Baltimore’s regulars.

AL West

Houston Astros

Chas McCormick is back from the IL and appears to have the upper hand on the starting center field job. Jake Meyers did a solid job of filling in batting .286/.333/.457 since April 15. McCormick was showing flashes of fantasy upside with two home runs and four steals in just 11 games before landing on the IL. This playing time battle is worth keeping an eye on.

Corey Julks and David Hensley continue to platoon at DH. After his hot start, Julks has gone cold at the plate batting just .259/.273/.352 since the 15. His plate discipline metrics always pointed to unsustainable success and now is an appropriate time to drop him. Hensley meanwhile has been abysmal at the plate and both players figure to lose playing time once Jose Altuve returns.

Speaking of Altuve, it will be interesting to see if Mauricio Dubon holds onto his spot in the lineup once Altuve returns. Dubon will no doubt surrender the leadoff spot to Altuve, but he could be the team’s best option at DH and his versatility could allow other players to get off their feet for the day. He still should only be rostered in super-deep leagues since he is unlikely to hit more than five home runs this year.

Los Angeles Angels

Taylor Ward has gotten hot at the plate, propelling him back into the leadoff spot. Zach Neto was getting a chance to bat at the top of the order with Ward slumping, but his time there appears to be short-lived. Ward was one of my “my guys” heading into 2023 and his recent success is nice to see. Neto still looks like a potential buy-low candidate although his move back down limits his value.

Matt Thaiss is getting more consistent playing time at catcher and is worth a look in two-catcher leagues. Thaiss is batting over .300 with increased barrel rates and an average exit velocity of over 91 mph. Thaiss’ biggest issue in the past has been a high strikeout rate. He is striking out only about 22% of the time right now although the whiff rate remains a concern. If you need catching help he is worth an add especially as he moves up the lineup.

Luis Rengifo is getting more playing time at a variety of positions. He has eaten into the playing time of Gio Urshela. Neither player should be rostered at this point.

Texas Rangers

Ezequiel Duran is getting consistent run as the everyday shortstop while Corey Seager continues to rehab. Duran is batting seventh in most games while showing flashes of plus power and speed. He is up to four home runs already but comes with some concerning red flags. His batting average is up over .300, but his chase rate is over 40%. He is whiffing almost 30% of the time which creates a very unstable floor. Seager is on his way back and it will be interesting to see if Duran maintains an everyday lineup spot once he does. One potential move would be shifting Duran to LF and replacing Travis Jankowski who just landed on the IL. Duran is worth a shot in deep leagues but temper your expectations moving forward.

Leody Taveras has taken a stronghold of the center field job and is batting eighth. Taveras has been red hot at the plate batting .352/.426/.537 since April 19. He is showing an increased barrel rate helping to fuel this hot streak. His chase and whiff rates look much improved from last season and he has 96th-percentile sprint speed. He is a strong add and could continue moving up the lineup.

Seattle Mariners

Jarred Kelenic is getting serious run in the third spot in Seattle’s lineup. The issue is that Kelenic has gone ice cold. Since April 26, Kelenic is batting .200/.265/.267. The real concern here is that his strikeout rate has jumped back up to 36.7% over that period. His chase and whiff rate have both gone up. It might not be a coincidence that he has seen way more breaking balls in May. This concerning situation is worth monitoring closely.

JP Crawford had moved up to seventh in the lineup before dealing with some knee soreness. This does not sound like it will require an IL stint, but this is still worth monitoring. Jose Caballero would be the most likely player to see his playing time increase in the case of an extended absence. Taylor Trammell is getting consistent at-bats batting eighth most games. Trammell has shown flashes of serious pop in the past but has never fully put it together. His 31.8% strikeout rate likely indicates that Trammell still is nothing more than a depth outfielder.

Oakland A’s

Some big movement in Oakland’s lineup. Ryan Noda is now batting second and getting a chance to play against some lefties. Noda has big-time power along with strong walk rates that make him valuable in points and OBP leagues. The strikeout rate will continue to lead to lower averages making him less valuable in typical category leagues. He is worth a look if you need first base help. The man batting leadoff in front of him continues to steal an insane number of bases. Esteury Ruiz is up to 17 already and I would not be surprised to see him swipe 60 this year.

After starting the season hot in Triple-A, the A’s called up JJ Bleday and have been batting him fifth against righties. Bleday was drafted fourth overall and has two home runs in his first six games in Oakland. Do not expect the average to stay anywhere near .364, but he is worth a look in points/OBP leagues due to plus power and solid walk rates.

Tony Kemp and Jace Peterson are platooning with Jordan Diaz and Kevin Smith. Diaz holds the most fantasy potential but is not worth a roster spot with his current playing time situation. Late note is that Diaz did hit three home runs last night. Maybe this will earn him more playing time moving forward. Those two platoons are batting seventh and eighth most games while Nick Allen bats ninth. Allen continues to play thanks to his glove but is a drain offensively. I do not expect Oakland to continue giving Allen playing time as the season moves along.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

With Nicky Lopez and Kyle Isbel landing on the IL, the Royals have been able to work a couple of new bats into their lineup. The first is Jackie Bradley Jr. who is definitely not worth rostering. He is batting toward the bottom and will only be a placeholder until Isbel or Drew Waters get healthy. The second is Maikel Garcia who was dominating Triple-A. He is playing third base every day over Hunter Dozier and batting between fourth and ninth. Garcia has plus speed and early signs point to an improved launch angle which could help fuel a power breakout. Garcia is worth a flier and could take off if he continues to hit enough fly balls.

Nick Pratto continues to bat fifth in most games for the Royals. His batting average of .357 comes with an insane BABIP of .560. Pratto has a strong Minor League track record although his whiff rate remains a concern. I am not rushing to pick him up, but he is worth keeping an eye on.

Elsewhere, it is reassuring to see MJ Melendez heating up. Since April 22, Melendez is slashing .283/,321/.547 although this comes with a .353 BABIP and a 28.6% strikeout rate. He is still chasing and whiffing way too much and I am wondering if now might be a good time to sell high.

Detroit Tigers

Although he is listed as a backup on Roster Resource, Eric Hasse is playing every day. He is splitting time between LF, DH, and C while batting anywhere from fourth to ninth in the lineup. Haase bats higher against lefties and lower against righties. He is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak while slashing .349/.417/.535 since April 24. The playing time and current success is nice, but he is running a .464 BABIP during this period. He is worth a look in two-catcher leagues, but do not expect these numbers to continue. Haase’s increased playing time is primarily impacting Akil Baddoo who continues to look overmatched at the Major League level.

Andy Ibanez is another player playing all over the diamond and batting all over the lineup. Ibanez has never had much Major League success, but currently has an average exit velocity of over 95 mph and is running a barrel rate of 13.6%. He has an xBA of .319 and an xSLG of .561. Honestly, everything in his profile looks great until you come to a 39.2% chase rate and realize he is seeing nearly 70% fastballs. If Ibanez continues to swing a hot bat, pitchers will adjust and throw him less fastballs and exploit his chase rate. I am staying away here.

Javier Baez and Riley Greene are both showing significant signs of life recently. The Baez success is particularly interesting. He is now up to three home runs and two stolen bases. The strikeout rate is way down which is supported by a drop in whiff and chase rates. The biggest thing with Baez is that he is a momentum hitter. What I mean is that when things are going well and he is having fun, that is when he performs the best. The Tigers are playing well and Baez is playing well which could be the start of a return to form. Pick Baez up if somebody dropped him earlier this year.

Chicago White Sox

Two more injuries for the White Sox. Jake Burger landed on the IL with an oblique injury and Eloy Jimenez is out with an appendectomy. With both players out, Gavin Sheets moved up into the middle of the lineup. He is unlikely to play much against lefties but is a decent source of power if you are looking for help in that category. Seby Zavala has also started to get more playing time at catcher allowing Yasmani Grandal to DH. Zavala has been batting toward the bottom of the lineup and does not hold much fantasy value.

Surprisingly, the team is giving Hanser Alberto more playing time over Lenyn Sosa. Sosa has never seemed to get his footing at the Major League level and could be headed back to Triple-A soon. Alberto meanwhile has hit two home runs over the past week, but both came in games at Cincinnati. The ball flies out of that park and Alberto is not worth adding.

Minnesota Twins

After his hot start to the season, Trevor Larnach was optioned to Triple-A this past week. Nick Gordon, Donovan Solano, and Alex Kirilloff all appear to be vying for the open spot in the lineup. Kirilloff is healthy again and was batting .316 with three home runs and two stolen bases in Triple-A before being promoted. Although he is not receiving everyday playing time, he is the name of that trio that I would be targeting. Kirilloff was hitting more fly balls in Triple-A which will be the biggest thing to watch from him. Pay close attention here.

Jose Miranda is continuing to play every day but is moving all over the lineup. He is batting anywhere from fifth to eighth as the Twins try to get him going. Miranda has seen his quality of contact take a slight hit, but the biggest issue has been an unlucky BABIP. Miranda hits plenty of line drives and should expect positive regression to his .243 BABIP as the season moves along.

Joey Gallo continues to bat fifth despite a massive slump at the plate. He is batting .071/.278/.179 since April 27th. Gallo is a streaky hitter. He strikes out a lot, but then can hit five home runs in a week once he gets hot. If you want to roster Gallo, you have to be willing to stick out through the ups and downs.

Cleveland Guardians

Overall, most of the Guardians’ lineup has remained consistent. However, a recent slump has resulted in some dramatic changes to keep your eye on. Oscar Gonzalez was optioned to Triple-A and Will Brennan has been struggling at the plate. Gabriel Arias has been starting to see some more playing time but has not been playing well either. In a corresponding move to Gonzalez going to Triple-A, the team called up Tyler Freeman. Freeman was batting .310 with two home runs and ten stolen bases in Triple-A this season. The Guardians could turn to him more and his playing time is worth keeping an eye on.

If the Guardians do not want to play Freeman over Brennan, they could look into playing him over Amed Rosario. Rosario has been dreadful at the plate so far this year slashing .217/.262/.300. His six steals have been a value for fantasy managers, but there is a chance the team could turn to somebody else if Rosario does not pick things up at the plate.

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