By Steve Schwarz
It’s not just a change of venue that can alter a hitter’s fantasy value, his spot in the order can also be a huge factor in his production.
Just as playing in a better hitter’s park, like Coors Field, can help a fantasy owner’s totals, or batting half the season in Petco Park can hinder it, moving up or down in the lineup can have a big effect on a hitter’s fantasy production.
Hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera, for instance, is usually a lot more productive than hitting eighth in the Tigers’ lineup in front of Jose Iglesias. No matter how well Iglesias is hitting the ball, a hitter will see better pitches with the fear of having to face the two-time AL MVP on deck.
The reverse is also true.
In addition, the opportunities for scoring and knocking in runs vary with each part of the lineup. Hitting in the middle of a team’s best sluggers is better than hitting at the bottom of the lineup, because runs and RBI are team dependent totals.
Finally, it can be as simple as getting more at bats at the top of the lineup. More chances usually equals higher totals.
Below are eight players who, at least in the first week of the season, are batting in a different spot in the lineup than in past years.
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati – Votto has always been in the heart of the Reds order, but it appears the plan is to bat him No. 2 this season. It fits, because he’s such a patient hitter, who has led the league in walks three times, but the downside is he won’t see the same number of RBI opportunities.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets – Like Votto, Wright has moved into the No. 2 hole. In 2014 all but one of Wright’s 585 plate appearances were in the No. 3 position in the order. And like Votto, this move is likely to help their runs scored total at the expense of their RBI total. Plan for it and adjust your lineup accordingly.
Ben Zobrist, OF, Oakland – Zobrist was always a top-of-the-order guy in Tampa Bay, batting primarily in the first or second spot in the order. He’ll bat No. 3 in Oakland and could add RBIs to his resume in 2015. Of course, he’ll have to deal with the pitcher-friendly confines of O.co Coliseum so his batting average may suffer.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Detroit – Cespedes has spent most of his career batting either No. 4 or No. 5 (1,466 of 1,759 plate appearances). He’ll bat primarily sixth in Detroit which is likely to cost him RBIs. He’s not a high average hitter to begin with, so the loss of RBIs is going to play a significant role in reducing his fantasy value.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas – If permanent, it’s perhaps the biggest change in 2015, Andrus is batting seventh on Thursday. Andrus is valuable in only two categories – runs scored and stolen bases. If he’s batting seventh that’s a lot less at-bats, thus less opportunities to steal. He’ll also have less efficient hitters behind him to knock him in. No longer will it be Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder. Instead it would be Rougned Odor and Carlos Corporan.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay – For most of his career, he’s been the Rays leadoff hitter, but in 2015 he’s been batting fifth or sixth. The change is going to take a huge bite out of his runs scored total in part due to the large drop in at-bats per game, while giving him an opportunity to knock in more runs. However, he’s just a career .251 hitter with runners in scoring position.
Angel Pagan, OF, San Francisco – Like Jennings, Pagan is a career leadoff hitter who has been moved down in the lineup. But for Pagan, it’s to the No. 3 hole which means he’ll still get up in the first inning. His plate appearances per game shouldn’t drop too far, plus that’s a nice spot in front of cleanup hitter Buster Posey.
Wil Myers, OF, San Diego – In his short career, Myers has made 734 plate appearances, but only 25 as a leadoff hitter and 14 of those have come in 2015. In his first two seasons he batted 2-for-11 (.182) at the top of the lineup. It remains to be seen if this experiment will be successful. He is a solid run producer with a .287 batting average and .846 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Steve Schwarz is a MLB Fantasy Analyst at SportsNetwork.com