Lineup Lowdown: American League

Lineup Lowdown: American League

This article is part of our Lineup Lowdown series.

The goal with Lineup Lowdown is simple: we're looking for trends which could help identify players who might be undervalued or overvalued. Who is playing more/less? Who is moving up/down? We'll be doing a deep dive into one league each week as we navigate the lineup landscape.

Baltimore Orioles

Connor Norby's time in the big league wound up being short-lived. He started just four of eight games and two of the last six contests before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Tuesday's game. On days when Norby wasn't in the lineup, the Orioles slid Jordan Westburg over to second base and used Ramon Urias at the hot corner. However, with Jorge Mateo (concussion) back in tow, he's now in line for regular second base duties while Westburg returns to third base.

Austin Hays' rib injury gave Cedric Mullins a brief reprieve. When Hays missed four straight contests following a painful hit by pitch, Mullins made three starts in a row in center field. Prior to that, he had made only two starts across the previous six tilts, with three of those games on the bench versus right-handed pitching. Mullins can still go get it in center field, but so can Colton Cowser, and with Mullins unable to find traction at that plate, the O's have leaned toward Cowser in center and Hays in left of late, which was the team's setup Tuesday with Hays back in action.

Boston Red Sox

Enmanuel Valdez

The goal with Lineup Lowdown is simple: we're looking for trends which could help identify players who might be undervalued or overvalued. Who is playing more/less? Who is moving up/down? We'll be doing a deep dive into one league each week as we navigate the lineup landscape.

Baltimore Orioles

Connor Norby's time in the big league wound up being short-lived. He started just four of eight games and two of the last six contests before being optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk prior to Tuesday's game. On days when Norby wasn't in the lineup, the Orioles slid Jordan Westburg over to second base and used Ramon Urias at the hot corner. However, with Jorge Mateo (concussion) back in tow, he's now in line for regular second base duties while Westburg returns to third base.

Austin Hays' rib injury gave Cedric Mullins a brief reprieve. When Hays missed four straight contests following a painful hit by pitch, Mullins made three starts in a row in center field. Prior to that, he had made only two starts across the previous six tilts, with three of those games on the bench versus right-handed pitching. Mullins can still go get it in center field, but so can Colton Cowser, and with Mullins unable to find traction at that plate, the O's have leaned toward Cowser in center and Hays in left of late, which was the team's setup Tuesday with Hays back in action.

Boston Red Sox

Enmanuel Valdez has occupied second base in seven straight games against right-handers and had been up in the second spot in the Red Sox's lineup for four straight starts before being dropped to eighth Tuesday. Valdez boasts a 1.143 OPS in the early going in June. Worth noting, though, is that he's been removed mid-game from three different contests and has been on the bench each of the two times the Red Sox have faced a lefty over that stretch. There's no apparent timetable for Vaughn Grissom's (hamstring) return, and he's been so bad when healthy that it's possible Valdez could hit his way into continued playing time even after Grissom is back.

Rob Refsnyder is no longer just a lefty masher. He's been in the lineup for seven straight tilts and 12 of the last 14 games. Nine of those have been versus right-handers, and he's batted either second or third in all but one of those starts (and he hit fifth in the other game). Refsnyder has put up an .865 OPS over the 13-game stretch, which is actually down a bit from the .903 OPS he has on the season. Masataka Yoshida is back, Tyler O'Neill (knee) is due back soon and it sounds like Wilyer Abreu (ankle) shouldn't be too far behind, but it will be hard for the Red Sox to keep Refsnyder out of the lineup.

New York Yankees

Trent Grisham has received a rare string of steady playing time, making five straight starts. The first one was a result of a day off for Alex Verdugo and the following three he was filling in for Juan Soto (forearm), so Grisham's sudden relevance should be short-lived. He has reached base seven times and homered twice during the five-game span. Grisham's only other time this season making even back-to-back starts came in late April/early May when Verdugo was on paternity leave.

Anthony Rizzo received back-to-back days off as he battled through a 1-for-29 slump at the plate since the start of June. Rizzo had a solid April with a .737 OPS and five long balls, but he's slashed an ugly .192/.250/.264 since May 1. The 34-year-old's struggles last season were, I think fairly, tied almost solely to his concussion issues, but he's fallen off even more in 2024 and his batted-ball data has been even worse. Out of his average exit velocity (86.4 mph), hard-hit rate (32.5 percent) and barrel rate (4.5 percent), none of them rank higher than the 17th percentile.

Tampa Bay Rays

Taylor Walls was activated from the 60-day IL this past weekend and immediately handed three straight starts at shortstop and four starts there in his first five contests. Former everyday shortstop Jose Caballero has started three of five games since Walls returned but now would appear destined for a short-side platoon at second base and fill-in starter against righties. It's bad news both for him and for Amed Rosario, as Caballero would seem to be in line to suck up a good number of the at-bats that had gone to Rosario, who has started just one game against a righty this month.

Jonny DeLuca is in a 3-for-49 freefall at the plate. As a result, he's started just five of the previous nine contests. We've also seen the streaky Jose Siri streaking in the other direction, boasting a .942 OPS with three homers and eight RBI across his last 10 contests. Siri had seemingly lost his grip on a regular job there for a while, but he's rebounded with 13 starts over the last 16 games.

Toronto Blue Jays

– It looks like the Blue Jays plan to give Spencer Horwitz a long look. The 26-year-old was summoned from Triple-A Buffalo and given four straight starts at second base against right-handed pitching, batting second twice and leadoff twice. The corresponding move to add Horwitz to the roster was a bit of a surprise, as Cavan Biggio was designated for assignment. Horwitz has primarily been a first baseman, but he had been getting more reps at the keystone at Buffalo and the Jays evidently liked what they saw enough to stick him there with the big club. The fallout with Horwitz at second base means Davis Schneider is likely to play left field most days, at least against righties, with Daulton Varsho seeing more action in center and Kevin Kiermaier losing out on playing time.

Justin Turner went through a stretch where he started only six of 11 contests, but in eight games since then he's been in the lineup six times. His production has also ticked up over that span, as he's reached base 10 times in his last five contests. Turner has played first base a couple times in early June on days Toronto surprisingly gave Vladimir Guerrero starts at third base. However, that doesn't look to be a long-term solution, especially with Isiah Kiner-Falefa actually hitting well of late and slated to focus on the hot corner as Horwitz gets a shot at second base.

Chicago White Sox

– Just as the White Sox got Luis Robert (hip) back in the fold, they lost both Andrew Benintendi (Achilles) and Tommy Pham (ankle). Corey Julks has been an everyday guy since Benintendi and Pham were hurt, although that has actually extended back further with 16 starts in the last 17 contests. He's batted leadoff in each of his past seven starts. Oscar Colas has been in the lineup for four of the last seven tilts but might be sent back down when Benintendi and/or Pham are ready. Both guys have begun rehab assignments.

– At third base, Lenyn Sosa is getting another shot at an extended run, drawing 10 starts in a row. He's off to a nice start at the dish during that time, too, with a .972 OPS, one home run and two stolen bases. Yoan Moncada (thigh) probably isn't going to be back until after the All-Star break, so Sosa should continue to get everyday reps at third base. He could potentially shift over to second base when Moncada returns, too, although that might be dependent on him continuing to hit, something he hasn't shown the ability to do at the big-league level during an extended time.

Cleveland Guardians

– The Guardians have given Daniel Schneemann five starts in seven games since promoting him from Triple-A Columbus. He's already made starts at four different positions (shortstop, second base, center field, right field) and played six different spots (third base, left field). The 27-year-old has reached base 10 times in his first six big-league contests, and while he seems unlikely to ever be a difference-maker for the Guardians or in fantasy, Schneemann looks tailor made to be useful in a utility role.

– Looking for ways to keep his bat in the lineup, the Guardians have been giving David Fry more and more action at catcher, putting him behind the plate for four of his past seven starts. Prior to that, Fry had made just six starts at catcher all season. Whether the team deems Fry's work at catcher good enough to make him a regular at the position remains to be seen, but he's going to be in the lineup somewhere as long as he keeps hitting. Fry's emergence as a viable option at catcher has meant fewer and fewer reps for Bo Naylor, who has started just three of the last 10 and six of the last 16 contests. Granted, Cleveland has faced lots of lefties (eight, not including a lefty opener) over that time, so perhaps Naylor hasn't fallen as out of favor as it may seem on the surface. That said, with a .506 OPS and 35.3-percent strikeout rate, he hasn't done himself any favors. 

Detroit Tigers

– After Spencer Torkelson's shocking (but frankly, warranted) demotion to Triple-A Toledo, the Tigers have made Mark Canha their primary first baseman, starting there in six of seven tilts (Canha started at DH for the other game). While Canha has bounced around to multiple spots this season, he had been used at DH more than anywhere else. Those starts are now going to Justyn-Henry Malloy, who has been in the lineup for each of the Tigers' seven games since his promotion, with six of them coming at DH.

– It had seemed as though Akil Baddoo might be set to receive regular playing time when Kerry Carpenter (back) went down and Canha and Matt Vierling started seeing more action at the infield corners. However, Baddoo has now started just one of the last five contests and Wenceel Perez has also been out of the lineup twice over that stretch. Meanwhile, Gio Urshela's playing time has remained steady with starts in 10 of the last 11 contests and 14 of the last 15 games.

Kansas City Royals

– Much like his production, Nelson Velazquez's playing time has been a little hit-or-miss this season. He's started just five of the last eight contests for the Royals, which had been preceded by a stretch which saw him start 10 games in a row. Velazquez closed out May with six home runs over his last 13 games, but outside of that two-week stretch he's been pretty dreadful this season. However, with Hunter Renfroe fracturing a toe, Velazquez could be given more leash.

Nick Loftin has become the Royals' primary second baseman over the last two weeks, making nine starts there over his team's last 13 contests (he also made one additional start at first base). All but one of those starts have come against right-handed pitching for the right-handed hitting Loftin. While the power has been non-existent, Loftin has gotten on base at a .447 clip over that span. Adam Frazier is still playing a good amount over the same stretch with six starts, but he's split his time between second base and the outfield.

Minnesota Twins

– It's been a precipitous fall for Edouard Julien. After slashing .263/.381/.459 in his rookie season and beginning this year as the Twins' leadoff man versus right-handed pitching, he now finds himself back in the minors. Super utility man Willi Castro has basically become the everyday second baseman since Julien was sent down, although he's still dabbled in the outfield a bit when Kyle Farmer handles the keystone.

Byron Buxton hasn't been sent down, but he is finding himself hitting much lower in the batting order as he struggles to find his footing at the plate. Buxton hit leadoff on Opening Day against a left-hander and didn't hit lower than fifth through May 21. His last four starts, though, have come from the seven spot, as he carries a sickly .633 OPS and 31.2-percent strikeout rate into play Tuesday. Buxton hasn't been unlucky, either, as his awful .280 xWOBA is actually better than his .273 xwOBA.

Houston Astros

– Even with Kyle Tucker (shin) on the injured list, Chas McCormick was out of the lineup for three straight games against right-handed pitching. He has been in the lineup for each of the last three contests versus lefties, but in 20 contests since returning from the IL, McCormick has found his name in the lineup on just 10 occasions. He also hasn't batted higher than eighth in any of those starts.

– On the other end of the spectrum, Jose Abreu has actually played more than this writer anticipated since his return from the minors. The veteran first baseman had been in the lineup for each of the Astros' last six games before sitting Tuesday and in 11 of 15 since rejoining the roster. Abreu has hit his first two home runs of the season over that stretch but still has just a .559 OPS over that time. If the Astros still fancy themselves as World Series contenders, it's getting more difficult by the day to justify running Abreu out there every day.

Los Angeles Angels

– He hasn't been great early on in June, but dating back to April 22, Zach Neto is slashing a healthy .287/.329/.511 with seven home runs over 42 contests. And yet, even with the going-nowhere Angels being decimated by injuries, Neto hasn't been able to escape the bottom third of the lineup. Aside from hitting fifth once over the weekend, Neto has batted seventh or lower for every one of his starts since April 29.

Nolan Schanuel also saw himself dropped down to the seven spot in two straight games after he hadn't made a start outside of the leadoff spot since April 29. It's not difficult to justify that demotion, however, as the young first baseman has been even more dreadful lately, collecting just four hits in 44 at-bats across his last 12 contests. Michael Stefanic – who was just recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake over the weekend – has been thrown into the leadoff spot for the last two tilts.

Oakland Athletics

Daz Cameron received just five starts in the Athletics' first 14 games after he was called up late last month, but since then he's started three of four and even batted cleanup in one of those contests. The playing time has come at the expense of Seth Brown in his last two games. Cameron, 27, was crushing the ball at Triple-A Las Vegas (1.001 OPS), but everyone crushes the ball at Las Vegas. He has not yet shown signs of figuring it out at the major-league level, either during his time with the Tigers (.597 OPS) or early on with the A's (.514 OPS).

Zack Gelof was a boon to fantasy managers during his rookie season, clubbing 14 home runs and stealing 14 bases while posting an .840 OPS over 67 games for Oakland. Things haven't gone nearly as well for him in his sophomore campaign, however. After beginning the season in the two hole for the Athletics, Gelof had been demoted down to the six spot in late April before getting injured. He was then all the way down in the eighth spot in the lineup for six straight games before getting bumped back up to sixth Tuesday. Gelof does have a couple homers and a couple steals early on in June, so hopefully he can get going and eventually find himself in a more opportune position in the batting order.

Seattle Mariners

Ryan Bliss started just four of his first nine games with the Mariners upon his promotion late last month when Jorge Polanco (hamstring) went down, but since then he's seen his name penciled in for each of the last six tilts, occupying the nine spot in the batting order each time. He's picked up a total of just six hits so far, but Bliss does have a homer and has gone 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts. The 24-year-old does still figure to be sent back down when Polanco is ready, and that looks to be in the near future.

Ty France has landed on the IL with a hairline fracture in his right heel and in his place the Mariners summoned Tyler Locklear from Triple-A Tacoma. Locklear started at first base and batted seventh in each of the first two games since his promotion before taking a seat Tuesday. The 23-year-old should continue seeing regular reps at first base while France is out, and at this juncture it's not clear how long the latter's absence will be.

Texas Rangers

– Eight of Wyatt Langford's 11 starts have come in left field since he returned from the IL at the same time Evan Carter (back) went down, which had opened up some DH at-bats for others. However, it's been Travis Jankowski in left field for three of the last five tilts, with Langford occupying the DH slot twice and also getting one day off. Langford is slashing .286/.310/.464 so far in June, which isn't great, but it's good to see him at least taking some baby steps forward.

– Rangers manager Bruce Bochy had Nathaniel Lowe on the bench for three straight games against lefties at the beginning of the month before starting him Tuesday versus a southpaw. The left-handed hitting Lowe hasn't traditionally been a guy who has had notable splits in his career, but that hasn't been the case since the beginning of last season. After collecting just a .642 OPS versus southpaws in 2023, Lowe has a .680 OPS against lefties so far in 2024. Ezequiel Duran handled first base on the days Lowe was benched.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Boyer
Ryan has been writing about fantasy baseball since 2005 for Fanball, Rotoworld, Baseball Prospectus and RotoWire.
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