A player's position in his team's batting order is quite significant in terms of identifying his fantasy value. While those positions on the lineup card can change based on opposing pitchers or just due to performance as the year goes on, the early part of the season can reveal how managers actually feel about their charges.
Based on what these dugout leaders have told us over the first few weeks of the 2019 season, fantasy managers need to adjust how they view any players who have been impacted by unexpected lineup positioning, including the following:.
A.J. Pollock (4th or 5th), Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez (platooning at leadoff): The Dodgers prefer to focus on Pollock's power and not his speed -- instead deploying a Pederson/Hernandez pair, depending on the handedness, atop the order. As a result, a 20-steal season from Pollock perhaps will be more difficult to expect. Having Pederson leading off is merely about his on-base ability versus righties and has nothing to do with his being a threat on the basepaths. Hernandez wrestled his way to more work during spring training, and while his .378/.478/.730 slash is merely a hot streak, a 20-plus-homer campaign looks to be well within his sights -- perhaps with a batting average that will set him apart if he enjoys a second straight year with a drop in K% (23.4 in 2017, 16.9 in 2018, 11.9 so far in 2019).
Adam Eaton (leading off), Victor Robles (8th or 9th vs. RHP): Eaton has occupied the top spot in each of Washington's first 10 games. Although he may well end up leading off versus most left-handers as the season goes along -- the team has faced only one LHP thus far -- Robles has resided toward the bottom of the order, jeopardizing his SB potential. Washington should prefer to bat him ninth to keep him in the mix to take a few extra bags. Things could be shuffled again whenever Trea Turner (fractured finger) returns, but that is still looking to be four to six weeks off.
Byron Buxton (9th), Max Kepler (leading off vs. RHP, 5th vs. LHP): Another non-speedster seeing work at No. 1 in the order against righties, Kepler isn't really reaching first base at a super clip yet (.265/.324/.529). Still, he walked in 11.6 percent of his plate appearances last year, and occupying that spot in this secretly thump-heavy Minnesota lineup could help him return to his 80 runs scored in 2018. Perhaps the Twins feel content having a Willie Mays Hayes type going for the fences from the top spot and having Buxton at the bottom, ready to kick-start the top of the lineup with a runner on base who actually is capable of swiping bags. For that reason, fantasy managers should be less concerned about players like Buxton batting ninth, as Minnesota will still let him attempt steals.
Kolten Wong (7th or 8th): The fact that one of the subjects of my recent Hot Starters article has cooled lately (4-for-18 in his past six contests) justifies this move. The St. Louis lineup is difficult to shuffle much toward the top, especially with Paul Goldschmidt now in town, so even if Wong's breakout has merit, it may take injuries for him to find a more productive spot in the order.
Various platoons: Austin Meadows (L) and Yandy Diaz (R) alternate at the leadoff spot and the five-hole, depending on the pitcher's handedness. Ji-Man Choi (L) and infielder Daniel Robertson (R) split the third spot, while Brandon Lowe (L) and Avisail Garcia (R) share at-bats at cleanup. It's certainly a pain for leagues where you can only make weekly lineup changes, but using one of these pairs wisely in deeper daily leagues could make a huge difference.
Teoscar Hernandez (lower than 5th once) and Randal Grichuk (lower than 5th twice): Toronto's trade of Kevin Pillar confirmed that Hernandez would get an extended audition, and he's often slid into the lineup at No. 2 or No. 3. He's yet to leave the yard, but makes loud contact and has untapped pop. His reverse-split success against RHP also works in his favor, preventing him from being pigeonholed into a bottom-side role as a right-handed batter. Grichuk, who recently signed a contract extension, has taken cuts as mostly the No. 2 or No. 5 batter. The swing-and-miss slugger looks to be part of the long-term plans in Toronto as a primary run-producer.
Cesar Hernandez (7th): While this spot limits Hernandez's run-scoring upside, Philadelphia's lineup is deep enough that Hernandez might actually make up some of the difference in fantasy value in the RBI department. Also, as I pointed out in my preseason primer on stolen bases, the No. 7 spot was actually the fourth-most productive spot in the batting order from which to steal in 2018. If you were able to land Hernandez on the cheap, due to fears of the impact of Bryce Harper's arrival, his speed still may be able to help you.
Christian Walker (4th or 5th in six straight games): Following Jake Lamb's quadriceps injury, Walker has been a middle-of-the-order fixture in Arizona's lineup. He's made noise with his lumber so far, averaging 96.5 mph on his contact, which places him ninth in Statcast's rankings. The 28-year-old flashes hints of power that could make up for the loss of Goldschmidt in the long term, though he's far from even sniffing the departed first baseman's superior plate discipline.
Dansby Swanson (moving up to 6th): As I mentioned in my lineup tips for Wednesday, Swanson is apparently building on the success he found last summer after a tweak of his batting stance. Atlanta moved him up to No. 6 in their order Tuesday, and he promptly homered at Coors Field. Ozzie Albies may continue occupying a lower-third spot against righties, despite his leadoff honor against southpaws.
Jake Bauers (3rd versus RHP, for now): Francisco Lindor's absence (calf/ankle) allows the left-handed lumber-swinger to wield a powerful lineup spot against the majority of pitchers. That said, Bauers may only have a few more weeks to stake a claim to remain in the middle of the Cleveland lineup. After all, Lindor continues to work his way back to full strength. The rest of the Indians lineup offers little help, but the 23-year-old did homer on Tuesday and he can at least be used as a matchup play versus right-handers.
Raimel Tapia (2nd against RHP): Thanks to David Dahl's oblique injury, which could sideline him for at least a few weeks, Tapia now has an opportunity to cross the plate frequently for as long as he's needed to occupy this productive place in this lineup. The hype from his prospect days has died down -- especially since the Rockies have stalled both his and Dahl's arrivals in favor of veterans. Still, at the age of 25, he has time left to recapture some of the intrigue from his 2017 MLB stint -- a .288/.329/.425 slash with five steals in 70 games.
Christin Stewart (locked into the heart of the order): This prospect, who boasts prodigious power, is getting thrown into the deep end in his rookie season, playing for a team desperate for both middle and bottom lineup depth. While it will be tough for him to find work higher up on the card, the 25-year-old has walked in 10-plus percent of his plate appearances in each of his final three minor-league campaigns. He also has a 13 percent walk rate in his tiny 28-game big-league sample size. Although his batting average might remain a weakness, he's giving himself chances to contribute in other fantasy ways.
Steven Duggar (leading off): Someone in San Francisco has to bat first, right? It might as well be this speedy, glove-competent center fielder, who has set the table against both righties and lefties. Unfortunately, waiting out the chance for double-digit steals will probably be too painful to stomach in most mixed formats.
Others to watch vs. RHP
Others to watch vs. LHP