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Lineup Takeaways - An Early Look at Spring Training Trends

As many of you know, tracking lineups is what I am all in on this 2021 season and with it comes an influx of data and information right away.

Going forward, a weekly article will occur - especially as we get into more tangible information and data. However, I wanted to get ahead of the curve before we actually see trends being established.

Some of the info below is direct quotes from managers and clubs and other info is from personal observations.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!



We are far from the start of the season but let this article serve as an idea of what I am trying to bring to you this year. The format may change in the future but this is a warm-up. In Spring Training, writers need a few reps as well!

As this piece moves forward, included will be:

  1. Hot/Cold players who might gain/lose positioning in lineups
  2. Any news in regards to lineups and changes to lineups
  3. Notable trends in lineups (players moving up/down, losing/gaining playing time, etc)
  4. Highlighting platoon splits and any entering or exiting one

It is an ongoing and growing concept that I am excited to introduce this season and hope you all enjoy it. Well, enough said, let’s get to it.


What We Know

You may be thinking it is WAY too early to say we know anything. However, that is not necessarily true. Some managers have already been vocal about their lineups.

San Francisco Giants

In game two of the first three games, we saw Tommy La Stella and Mike Yastrzemski set the table for the team batting at the top of the order. They have only shown us this lineup once so far but manager Gabe Kapler already suggests that’s the way it could be

“It was really exciting to see those two hitters hit back-to-back,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “You can tell what a hard grind those two hitters will give opposing pitchers.”

Even La Stella chimed in: “I do like leadoff, but I feel comfortable pretty much throughout the lineup,” La Stella said. “I think maybe my skill set might lend itself to that spot in the order, so I’m good with how it lines up.”

Chicago Cubs

Ian Happ missed the first game but it appeared to be a routine day off and people overreacted to his absence and questioned if he is leading off and such. Well manager David Ross put that to rest.

"Ian gets the opportunity to continue that role," Ross said before his team's 1-0 win over the Padres. "That was a guy that had a phenomenal year for the abbreviated season. He continues to grow and find out his strengths and weaknesses. I can see him continuing to get better."

"We're going to put [Happ] at the top of the lineup to get on base in front of some horses," Ross said. "As long as everybody stays healthy, we'll be working from him backward."

St. Louis Cardinals

Early on, the Cardinals may have somewhat shown their hand (we will revisit this). One thing they have made known early on, they want to get Matt Carpenter involved often and early in the lineup. In the first two games, we have seen Carpenter in there twice and batting 2nd in game one and leading off in game two and playing second with Tommy Edman getting the day off.

If the DH does not come to the NL, which seems less likely every day, we could see Carpenter eat into Edman’s playing time. In spring we should expect to see a bit of Carpenter.

Carpenter noted: “I’m going to get plenty of reps,” Carpenter said. “It's just a matter of, every day, going out there and just trying to get a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable.”

Although this does not guarantee playing time, it does suggest they still really value Carpenter’s bat and if the DH comes to the NL after all, Dylan Carlson could find himself batting at the bottom half of the lineup as we saw in game one with what appeared to be their full lineup. This is still all a big “IF” but worth monitoring.

New York Mets

Brandon Nimmo has the confidence of Rojas to lead off, even against LHP. This will lead to more reps in spring training against them as well and it could further lead to it sticking as a full-time leadoff role.

Rojas has acknowledged Nimmo as the leadoff hitter with multiple statements:

"One of the reasons we're gonna do it. ... is his ability to get on base," Rojas said. "Also when lefties start, we're thinking of getting Brandon back in there as leadoff so he can see more lefties."

"He's gonna be mainly hitting up there either leadoff or second," Rojas said. "We'll keep him up there."

We will see if he sticks to his guns on this one but it is definitely encouraging and Nimmo now finds himself as a deep league value yet again, especially in any format favoring OBP.

Houston Astros

This one is well known by now, but the Astros are actually following through. It has been said the Astros will be letting Myles Straw leadoff. Astros manager Dusty Baker said himself Straw is a candidate for the job.

It doesn’t hurt when he essentially describes Myles Straw when he is discussing replacing Springer at the top of the lineup:

“It’s going to hard to replace [Springer's] power in that spot, but we’re looking for guys that are going to get on base,” Baker said. “That’s No. 1. You’ve got to put the pitcher in the stretch. Hopefully somebody who’s a threat to steal and have the rest of the guys hitting behind him get more fastballs.

Prior to the shortened 2020 season, Straw only stuck out more than 20% once and that was in 2016 in his Rookie Ball campaign. He would often boast OBP rates in the high 300’s and low 400’s while stealing double digits at just about every stop. His career-best mark in steals came in 2018 when he stole 72 (yes 72) across three stops. The on base ability is there (A.K.A) putting people in the stretch) and the speed is there. Not to mention, he typically walks at a double-digit clip. All of this plays into his favor. Dusty is a man of his word as he has had Straw leading off twice in three games ,both against a LHP and RHP so there is a chance this sticks into the regular season.

Minnesota Twins

This one is a bit more ominous, but I guess it is open to interpretation. However, it all but says Byron Buxton won’t bat ninth. Last year they did move him around the lineup and it sounds as though he might do the same but this also opens up the opportunity to hit higher than we excerpt as well.

"We started to move him around a little bit more last year, and I would see him continuing to move around," Baldelli said. "Maybe in a similar fashion as last year, but potentially in other spots, too. He’s been a good player for a long time. But he has the ability to do pretty much anything in this game, so I would not want to hold him back or limit him in any way."

Buxton has hit second and fifth in his two Spring Training appearances. However, that was without Nelson Cruz or Josh Donaldson. We did see Buxton hit top two in four of the final eight games of 2020 and in one of the games he did not, he managed to hit fifth. If Buxton can move up in the order from the start, we might be getting some unforeseen added value in drafts.

Toronto Blue Jays

Today we saw the first lineup with Cavan Biggio, Marcus Semien and George Springer together, all of which have been acknowledged as possible leadoff hitters given their experience. However, Biggio was the first name to fall as he hit in the 6-spot in the order and this was a lineup without Teoscar Hernandez in it as well. It is too early to say he is the odd man out but it does appear that way for the moment and this does not help the skepticism:

Following the game on Tuesday, manager Charlie Montoyo said Tuesday could be “a hint” of things to come. Montoya further spoke on Springer leading off:

“I like when he leads off like we did today. I like that,” Montoyo said. “But we’ll see.”

Again, not ideal for Biggio but I am still holding onto hope we see him earn the two-hole given the on-base ability he offers. A positive note is Biggio successfully stole a base today so at least it is encouraging that the attempts should still come no matter the placement.

New York Yankees

According to a report today, Aaron Boone envisions Aaron Hicks as the three-hole hitter. This is likely helped in part by being a switch-hitter and the lefty bat in the middle of all those right-handers will be helpful.

Here is the report:

Aaron Hicks is projected to begin the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 hitter, according to Boone, who likes Hicks’ switch-hitting ability, on-base skills and ability to keep the ball off the ground. Hicks has said that he feels fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that he underwent following the 2019 season, and Boone said that the center fielder appears to be in “great shape.”

Here are a few words from manager Aaron Boone:

“I’ve loved his live ABs,” Boone said. “A couple of walks out of the chute, which is very Aaron Hicks, but his defensive work has been really good, and I’ve loved his competitiveness in some of our live BPs. I’m excited about where Aaron is right now.”

Aaron Hicks is another player who will likely move up draft boards with this news. Rightfully so. This is one of, if not, the most potent lineup in baseball and batting third creates such an opportunity for fantasy production. Although, as with many of the Bronx Bombers, be wary of the injury bug with Hicks. Expect solid production while healthy and fingers crossed he can remain healthy.

We do have to keep in mind with Hicks slotting into the three-spot, we can see one of or both Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit fall a little bit. We could see one of the batting sixth and Clint Frazier now is back into the lower half of the lineup as well batting seventh more than likely. This is just an embarrassment of riches. Now if we throw Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela into the mix, we really have no idea how things will fall. This is a lineup to watch closely as we near the season.


Any Early Takeaways?

Again, it feels very early, however, some teams have shown things we should expect. Below I will discuss a few trends that I could see easily carrying into the season if it were to start tomorrow. It will also give you a heads up as to what I am noticing and monitoring right out the gates. Keep an eye on some of this.

A few quick-hitting notes:

American League

  • Kepler should be leading off against RHP. He has done so in two games already and has a long track record of doing so at this point.
  • Robbie Grossman has started two games and led off both. Should remain atop the lineup.
  • Orioles have a battle for the CF gig between Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays and both hit leadoff on their respective days. No clarity here yet.
  • Indians appear to have a top-four set in Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez, Eddie Rosario and Franmil Reyes. Beyond that, five through nine appear wide open.
  • Royals have shown a top five that also seems realistic. The only question is: does Adalberto Mondesi slot into this or behind it when he returns to action?

Royals - Sunday 2/28
1 W.Merrifield 2B
2 A. Benintendi LF
3 C. Santana 1B
4 Salvador Perez C
5 Jorge Soler RF
  • Ramon Laureano appears in-line to hit either first or second this season. Elvis Andrus did hit second one of the days. That could be interesting to see if that sticks.
  • Jared Walsh has yet to hit below the cleanup spot but we also haven't seen him in a lineup with the big names either to see how he fits into the puzzle.
  • Lastly, the Mariners really appeared to show their hand on the first lineup of the season. Everything about this seems possible. Haniger was the two-hole hitter prior to injuries. Crawford led off plenty in 2020 and the middle of the order even was something we saw in 2020. With Kelenic all but surely starting in the minors, this could be our Opening Day starting lineup pending injury.

Mariners - Sunday 2/28
1 J.P. Crawford SS
2 Mitch Haniger RF
3 Kyle Lewis CF
4 Kyle Seager 3B
5 Ty France DH
6 Dylan Moore 2B
7 Evan White 1B
8 Tom Murphy C
9 Jake Fraley LF


National League

  • The Marlins almost appear to have what I call an “A squad” and B squad” so far. In game two of Spring Training, we saw what looked very close to a lineup they trotted out in 2020 and that would be something close to what I expect the current starting lineup might look like if games started tomorrow. With the exception of  2B being very much up in the air at the moment.

Marlins - Monday 3/1
1 C. Dickerson LF
2 Starling Marte CF
3 Jesus Aguilar 1B
4 Adam Duvall DH
5 B. Anderson 3B
6 Miguel Rojas SS
7 Isan Diaz 2B
8 Jorge Alfaro C
9 L. Brinson RF
  • Trea Turner did bat third and Victor Robles led off with Soto sandwiched in the middle. This could mean a big-time RBI boost for Turner while upping Robles' current value in the process. Again, we are monitoring.
  • Sticking with the Nationals, Castro could hit sixth behind what is a bunch of solid on-base types and could be a sneaky, solid middle infield type or fallback option at 2B given the chance to hit a ton of RBI from the six hole.
  • We mentioned Nimmo leading off, but Fransisco Lindor could find himself hitting second and Jeff McNeil could also find himself dropping in the order if Nimmo and Lindor hold these spots.
  • The Cardinals were another team that showed their hand a bit in the first game. If the NL gets the DH late, watch out for Dylan Carlson falling. Although, no DH could open up that prime two-spot for him. Time will tell.

T. Edman 2B
M. Carpenter DH
P. Goldschmidt 1B
N. Arenado 3B
Paul DeJong SS
Yadier Molina C
D. Carlson RF
T. O'Neill LF
H. Bader CF
  • Brewers may have their top five set. When Lorenzo Cain returns, he could hit second and that would make it a one-through-five featuring Kolten Wong, Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura and Avisail Garcia. Beyond the top five, it is a mess right now.
  • The Pirates have shown us a consistent one-through-three of Kevin Newman, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds. This is, however, with Adam Frazier out of the lineup tending to a groin injury.
  • Reds are another team that appear to have the middle of the order locked in. We have seen these four names hitting two-through-five in two lineups already. Also is something we saw at time s in 2020. So the core is there, it is all about what is surrounding it.

Joey Votto 1B
N. Castellanos RF
E. Suarez 3B
Mike Moustakas 2B
  • The Padres have allowed Trent Grisham a chance to lead off against LHP for now. In two appearances so far, Grisham has led off against two LHP starters. This is a great to see. Let's see how he fares and if it continues but definitely a reason for optimism.
  • Brendan Rodgers getting the early opportunity to take and run with the second base job. The Rockies have played two games and in both, he is hitting sixth and eighth but playing second base.
  • Garrett Hampson may be pushing for the starting CF job. With Blackmon out, this opened up a corner outfield spot the first couple of games. Instead of Hampson getting reps in the corner outfield spot, Hampson played both games at CF with Hilliard bouncing to LF for one and RF for the other. There might still be hope yet for Hampson to earn a starting spot.

That is going to do it for the first lineup article of the 2021 season. If you would like to follow along with all my notes, all the lineups and more, please check out this tool I have created. This link will take you to this chart that is updated daily for all things Spring Training lineups. Bookmark it!

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