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April 18, 2013
Early Lineup Movers
Evaluating players based on lineup position is a tricky science. On the one hand, moving up or down in the order can have a dramatic impact on a player’s value. For example: Take a guy batting eighth in a National League lineup, move him up to second, and the result could be as much as a $5 boost. On the other hand, batting lineups are fickle constructs, so sometimes it is best not to take too much stock in where a player is hitting at the moment and focus on his skills instead.
Lineup position also has an obvious compounding effect—that is, players who are already hitting well tend to be the ones that benefit from moving up in the order, and vice versa. Still, if, whether through injury or merit, a player has moved into a more (or less) favorable hitting position, it’s worth reviewing the effects of those changes.
For those unfamiliar with this tremendous resource, Baseball-Reference conveniently shows every team’s lineup from every game on a single page. First, go to a team home page, and under “Other” you’ll find “Batting Orders”. Voila. These pages were obviously tremendously helpful for this article, and I also frequently visit them when making decisions for my fantasy teams. On to the movers:
Jean Segura | MIL | SS | 8th to 2nd
A combination of Segura’s hot start (17-for-41) and a spate of injuries has led to his escape from the dreaded eighth spot in the Brewers’ lineup. For the past four games, Segura has batted out of the two-hole, a position he seems capable of holding for the rest of the season. For a player like Segura, who claims speed as an asset, batting eighth is severely restricting, since no one is stealing second in front of the pitcher. Now in a freer base-running spot, he is well situated to deliver on his preseason potential and finish as a top-10 shortstop.
Emilio Bonifacio | TOR | 2B/OF | 9th to 1st
The primary lineup beneficiary of Jose Reyes’ ankle injury is Bonifacio, who has taken over his role as Toronto’s leadoff hitter. So far, Bonifacio hasn’t done a very good Reyes impression, batting just .200 with only one walk, and that means another rearrangement could be on the way. But, for now, those who took a late-round flier on the nimble utility player will enjoy a nice boost in value.
Zack Cozart | CIN | SS | 7th to 2nd
Ryan Ludwick’s Opening Day injury opened up the two-spot in Cincinnati’s lineup, which initially went to Chris Heisey, but for the last five games have been filled by Cozart. Thus far, Cozart has done well in the power department, blasting four home runs, but those have accounted for nearly all of his production. His near-.200 OBP is far from ideal for a two-hole hitter, and I wonder how long it will be before Todd Frazier usurps that spot.
Mark Reynolds | 3B | CLE | 7th to 5th
Reynolds has kicked off 2013 with a bang, having already launched five homers in the young season. Consequently, he’s been rewarded with a boost from seventh to fifth in the Tribe’s order. Given that Michael Bourn just hit the disabled list and considering Jason Kipnis’ struggles and health concerns, Reynolds might find himself batting third in the near future. Whether he can bat above .230 is another story, but at least the strikeouts have been down this year.
Kelly Johnson | 2B | TBR | 9th to 2nd
The Rays offense has been anemic thus far, prompting plenty of movement within their lineup. After batting ninth in six of the first seven games, Johnson has filled the two-hole for the past couple of contests. It’s noteworthy that he’s hit home runs in each of those two games, because that makes it likely that manager Joe Madden will continue to bat him second for the foreseeable future. Sticking there would provide a solid bump to Jonhson’s value.
Peter Bourjos | OF | LAA | 9th to 1st
The Angels have stumbled out of the gate, compelling Mike Scioscia to tinker with his top-heavy lineup. The loss of Erick Aybar to the disabled list opened up the second slot, resulting in Mike Trout being shifted down, and placing Bourjos atop the order. Moving from ninth to first long-term would provide a huge lift to Bourjos’ value, since he would benefit from more at-bats and run-scoring opportunities. Aybar is expected to return by the end of the month, but Bourjos does have a chance of sticking in this role if he gets hot at the right time.
Andrelton Simmons | SS | ATL | 1st to 8th
I’ve spoken a lot of Simmons’ lineup spot because, like Segura, he’s either batting in a highly envious or detrimental position. So far, he’s outperformed teammate B.J. Upton, but for the past four games—and eight of the last 10—the elder Upton has occupied the leadoff slot. Our expectations for Simmons’ runs and stolen bases are largely a function of whether he’s batting at the head or tail-end of Atlanta’s lineup, so this has major consequences for how we value him going forward. As I already mentioned, Upton hasn’t lived up to the role, leaving the door open for Simmons to reclaim it, and making for a potential buy-low opportunity.
Mike Moustakas | 3B | KCR | 4th to 6th
Moose has picked up where he left off last season—in a slump. The good news is, at least he’s striking out below his career rate, but he’s also hitting infield flies a quarter of the time, so I’m not sure we can clearly call this progress. As a streaky hitter, I’m confident Moustakas will come around eventually, but we don’t know when that will happen. In the meantime, his value has taken an extra hit, since he’s been removed from the cleanup spot and gently nudged down to sixth. Salvador Perez is not much of a cleanup hitter and shouldn’t be too hard to displace once Moose figures things out, though.
Josh Reddick | OF | OAK | 3rd to 6th
In his breakout season last year, Reddick spent 133 of 141 of his games in the three-hole in the A’s lineup. That fortuitous spot helped him reach 85 runs and RBI, totals that fueled his top-100 ranking. An early slump in 2013 has already cost him, as he has ceded the three-spot to Seth Smith or Chris Young in the past four games. Reddick is still likely to bat there part-time, but until Smith cools down and Jed Lowrie succumbs to injury, his value will take a minor hit.