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May 3, 2013

Fantasy Freestyle

Lineup Movers

by Paul Singman

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Evaluating players based on lineup position is a tricky science. On one hand, it can have a dramatic impact on a player’s value. Take a guy batting eighth in an NL lineup, move him second, and it can be as much as a $5 boost. On the other hand, batting lineups are fickle constructs, so sometimes it is best not to put too much stock in where a player is hitting at the moment and focus on skills instead.

Lineup position also has an obvious compounding effect—that is, players who are already hitting well tend to be the ones who benefit from moving up in the order, and vice versa. Still, whether through injury or merit, when a player has moved into a more (or less) favorable hitting position, it’s worth reviewing who has seen their value affected thus far in 2013. 

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”. Viola. These pages were obviously tremendously helpful for this article, and I also frequently visit them when making decisions for my fantasy teams. Onto the movers: 

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Brett Lawrie | Tor| 3B | 6th to 1st

The Jose Reyes injury left a void atop the Blue Jays lineup, one that neither Rajai Davis nor Emilio Bonifacio could sufficiently fill. And so they’ve turned to their reckless third baseman, Lawrie, to bat atop the lineup. He has more power than your typical leadoff hitter, but also has solid speed and should get more active on the basepaths going forward. As long as he can stay healthy, I say he reaches 15 homers and steals. 

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Matt Joyce | TBR | OF | 6th to 2nd

The Rays were calling for someone to step up in their lineup and Joyce responded by connecting for four home runs in the past five games. The Rays rewarded the performance by batting him second the last few contests, but Joyce is still limited by being in a platoon. He gets a small bump in value but likely isn’t worth owning in mixed leagues when the Rays face more than a couple lefties in week. They face three in the next five games. 

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Andrelton Simmons | ATL | SS | 7th to 1st

In what’s been a seesaw all season, the battle between B.J. Upton and Simmons for the Braves leadoff spot has leaned in Simmons’ favor the past week. Simmons still owns an OBP that fails to reach .300, but Upton has been even worse, with a .219 mark. Accordingly, Upton has been batting exclusively seventh lately, opening the top of the lineup for Simmons. In that position he becomes a much more appealing player with higher steal and run potential.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Eric Hosmer | KCR | 1B | 6th to 4th

Here’s the interesting case of a player moving up in the lineup despite playing poorly. In what was viewed as a likely bounce-back season for the 23-year-old first baseman, Hosmer has managed a meager .250 average with zero homers. Not cleanup material by any means. It just shows how disastrous a start Mike Moustakas got off to as the team’s initial cleanup hitter. Moose appears to be getting on track the past week, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him batting fourth before long.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Brian Dozier | MIN | 2B | 8th to 1st

Since receiving the promotion to the top of the Twins order, Dozier has been the league’s most disappointing leadoff man. His .227/.277/.293 slash line leaves much to be desired, but luckily for him the Twins don’t have many better options. One potential option is Eduardo Escobar, who has been fantastic in limited at-bats this year. AL-only leaguers should keep an eye out for a playing time shift here, with Escobar also likely to bat high in the order.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/up_green_arrow.png Seth Smith | OAK | OF | 7th to 3rd

At the start of the season, Smith was seen as potentially the odd man out of the A’s outfield rotation. So far in 2013 though, Smith has been front and center in their lineup, batting third and even drawing starts against a few lefties. It is interesting to note that Smith hasn’t struggled against southpaws this year. In fact, he’s thrived against same-handed pitchers, batting .435 with two of his three homers in 23 at-bats. His career .209/.280./.340 slash line against lefties suggests we should expect otherwise going forward, but the anomaly this year is still interesting. With a healthy A’s outfield, there simply no room for Smith to be an everyday player. But his fortuitous lineup spot and success thus far against lefties makes him a solid option for shallow leagues that otherwise wouldn’t have platoon players be owned. 

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpg Melky Cabrera | TOR  | OF | 2nd to 5th

Melky has struggled to start off his career north of the border. The normally high-average outfielder is batting just .243 in 120 plate appearances without a homer. Concerned about his performance, the Jays bumped him from the second spot in the order down to fifth to try and get him on track. Nothing sticks out as a red flag in his peripheral data as he’s striking out at a fairly normal 15 percent rate and making decent contact. There’s always the question of how much PEDs boosted him last year, but on the surface he seems like a good rebound candidate.

<img alt="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/red_down_arrow.jpg" border="0" height="22" data-cke-saved-src="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/Down.png" src="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/u/images/Down.png" border-width:="" 0px;="" border-style:="" solid;="" width:="" 17px;="" height:="" 22px;"="" width="17"> Ben Revere | PHI | OF | 1st to 7th

The speedy outfielder has been a combination of lousy and injured in his first season with the Phils. Manager Charlie Manuel began the year with Revere as his leadoff man, but quickly found his .204 average and .245 OBP distasteful. Even when healthy, Revere is becoming a must-not-own player in 12 and 14-team mixed leagues given the speed-only nature of his profile.

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