We are only one week away from regular season action. With Spring Training coming to a close, we have a pretty good understanding of which players have a chance to earn lineup spots and which players are dealing with injuries and will not be ready for Opening Day. Roster Resource does an excellent job of providing fantasy baseball managers with a breakdown of what we can expect lineups to look like when the season starts. However, there are always some twists that we cannot see coming. Trying to predict those surprises is a fun exercise that is almost impossible to do. This article looks at 14 teams I expect to have surprises within their Opening Day lineup. These lineup surprises could have significant fantasy baseball implications for this season.
Opening Day Lineup Surprises
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. San Francisco (Logan Webb RHP)
The headline of this lineup starts right at the top. Anthony Volpe is forcing the Yankees’ hand this Spring Training and is going to make the Major League team. The front office has already made comments about stepping in if they feel the need to and Volpe is giving them a reason. Many feel that Volpe’s spot on the roster would come at the expense of Oswald Peraza, but this is not what I see happening. The Yankees want to see what Peraza brings to the table and both he and Volpe will be in the lineup.
The Harrison Bader injury is the opening that Volpe needed. With Bader out, Aaron Judge is likely to take over center field and instead of putting Oswaldo Cabrera in the lineup, Giancarlo Stanton will play right field. Cabrera is a useful Major League player but is best suited in a utility role. For Opening Day, Volpe gets the start and Cabrera is on the bench.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Tampa Bay (Shane McClanahan LHP)
The Tigers acquired both Nick Maton and Matt Vierling from the Phillies this past off-season. According to Roster Resource, both are going to platoon for the Tigers, but this is not going to happen. Vierling has had an excellent Spring Training while Akil Baddoo is struggling again. Vierling is not only going to be in the Opening Day lineup but is going to bat at the top of the lineup. In addition, despite facing a lefty in Shane McClanahan, Maton will be in the lineup. He is going to be the team’s everyday third baseman with the versatility to play all over the infield.
For his final season, should there even be any doubts that Miguel Cabrera will get a chance to be in the Opening Day lineup? His inclusion is not keeping a top prospect or key part of the Tigers’ future out of the lineup and the organization will want to do right by their longtime franchise player.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Minnesota (Sonny Gray RHP)
The Royals are quietly one of the hardest teams to predict an Opening Day lineup for. With a plethora of young talent, there are many ways this lineup could turn out. The team currently has a shortage of true outfielders. With Drew Waters hurt, those three positions are wide open and will likely come down to Spring Training performances. With Nick Eaton and Franmil Reyes swinging hot bats, the Royals will be inclined to give them a chance to start. Reyes is not on the 40-man roster but was one of the top home run hitters in baseball just a couple of years ago.
This will push MJ Melendez to the outfield where he has continued to get more comfortable and also keep Edward Olivares on the bench. One other odd man out is Nick Pratto. Pratto seems to be the forgotten man, but a rough Spring Training with a high strikeout rate sends him back to Triple-A.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Kansas City (Brady Singer RHP)
Injuries galore in Minnesota. Although there is speculation that Alex Kirilloff will return in time for Opening Day, the Twins will start the season without him and Jorge Polanco. Surprisingly, Joey Gallo will be the one to shift to first base while Trevor Larnach draws the start in the outfield. The team has been adamant about wanting to keep Buxton off his feet and this allows them to do this. Donovan Solano is believed to have the inside edge on the first base job, but he has struggled this spring. The team has already been playing Gallo at first and with a righty on the mound, Larnach draws the start.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Chicago (AL) (Lance Lynn RHP)
Things changed for Houston when Jose Altuve suffered a broken thumb in the World Baseball Classic. This instantly creates an opening at second base. Mauricio Dubón is the veteran but has been struggling in Spring Training and has never looked like an everyday player. For Opening Day, the Astros are going to surprise people and play David Hensley. Hensley posted a .298/.420/.478 slash in Triple-A last season and hit .345 in 26 Major League games. With Altuve out, many project Kyle Tucker to move up to the second spot in the lineup, but Dusty Baker has consistently left him batting fifth. Tucker hit second one-time last year and that is not going to change. José Abreu will move up in the lineup due to Altuve’s injury.
Yordan Alvarez will be healthy in time for Opening Day, but the surprise addition to this lineup is Yainer Diaz. Diaz’s bat is flat-out fantastic and he is outperforming Jake Meyers in Spring Training so far. The team has an opening in left field and whether it is Alvarez out there or Diaz, the Astros are getting Diaz’s bat into the Opening Day lineup.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Oakland (Paul Blackburn RHP)
The top of this Angels’ lineup is loaded. We talk about this yearly, and the team is never able to make the playoffs, but if they can stay healthy watch out. The biggest surprise for this lineup is Gio Urshela’s inclusion. Many are forecasting Luis Rengifo or David Fletcher to be the team’s starting shortstop, but Urshela gets the Opening Day start. Fletcher’s bat has not shown any signs of life this spring and Rengifo is a liability defensively. Urshela was targeted as an acquisition this off-season and has played a lot of shortstop this spring. He bats ahead of Logan O’Hoppe in the first lineup of the season.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Los Angeles Anaheim (Shohei Ohtani RHP)
When a team is expected to struggle as badly as Oakland is in 2023, there are numerous lineup questions to answer. The first is that the team is going to get both Esteury Ruiz and Cristian Pache into the lineup on Opening Day. These were the two prize acquisitions for fan favorites Sean Murphy and Matt Olson. Pache has had a strong Spring Training and his glove will keep him in the lineup.
The other notable switch is Aledmys Díaz’s inclusion in the lineup. A team like Oakland does not just go out and spend money for no reason. They prioritized Diaz and are paying him a lot (in comparison to the rest of the team) to play. He has been excellent this spring and will be an everyday player this year for Oakland.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Miami (Sandy Alcantara RHP)
The big surprise for the Mets’ lineup is Brett Baty. I have already written about Baty once this off-season and expect big things from the young third baseman. Eduardo Escobar is the veteran and had a strong end to 2022, but Baty is coming for the spot. Prior to getting injured, Baty had taken the starting spot away from Escobar and should be expected to do the same in 2023. Baty is having an excellent spring and the Mets are going to want him in the Opening Day lineup.
Less of a surprise, but Francisco Álvarez is not going to make the Mets’ Opening Day roster. The Mets need to have Álvarez work on his defense and have a capable catcher in Omar Narváez. Expect to see Alvarez this year, but not on Opening Day.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Atlanta (Max Fried LHP)
The first surprise for the Nationals’ Opening Day lineup is how high CJ Abrams is batting. The Nationals hold Abrams in high regard and there are not many better options to bat toward the top of Washington’s lineup. People may be surprised to see Alex Call’s name in the lineup, and this is more than just a platoon situation. Call was dominant in Triple-A for both Cleveland and Washington last season. Although the numbers are not eye-popping he was 13% better than the league average during his 47-game sample last season. He looks like the best offensive outfielder on Washington’s roster and will be playing every day.
Stone Garrett’s inclusion in the lineup is part of a projected platoon. He gets the first start at DH over Dominic Smith due to Max Fried being the opposing pitcher. Luis Garcia will be in the lineup even against a lefty as the team will want to get as many looks at his potential as possible. Ildemaro Vargas will not be in a platoon with him to start the season.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Chicago (NL) (Marcus Stroman RHP)
Garrett Mitchell will be healthy enough to start Opening Day in center field. Many are speculating and calling for Sal Frelick to make the team, but Brian Anderson has been a man on a mission so far this spring. Anderson looks healthy after a lost 2022 and will get the start with Frelick being optioned back to Triple-A. Brice Turang on the other hand is clearly the Brewers’ best option at second base. The team gives their young prospect a chance with an Opening Day lineup spot. Turang’s glove adds value to his .303 Spring Training slash line.
One surprise might be Luis Urías’ lineup spot. Urias finished strong last season and will bat above Winker and Anderson in the lineup. Urias hit 5th 14 games last season and will find himself batting there on Opening Day.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Toronto (Kevin Gausman RHP)
St. Louis has been one of the most followed teams by fantasy baseball players this off-season. They have a team filled with veterans and tons of young talent trying to break into the Opening Day lineup. Jordan Walker is going to force his way into it thanks to his excellent spring. The Cardinals cannot justify keeping him in the Minor Leagues and will give him the left field job. This forces Dylan Carlson to the bench.
Nolan Gorman has had a strong spring and is pushing for the second base job, but Brendan Donovan has done nothing to lose the job. O’Neill slides down to the bottom half of the lineup with Donovan swinging a hot bat. Gorman meanwhile will enter the lineup as the designated hitter. Yepez has struggled and with a righty on the mound, the Cardinals will give Gorman a chance over Carlson.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. San Diego (Yu Darvish RHP)
The Rockies lineup got a little more interesting now that Jurickson Profar is in the mix. Since he did not sign until March 19th, he will likely open the season on the IL and will not factor into the Opening Day lineup. Ryan McMahon has looked good this spring and him batting leadoff might come as a surprise to many. He will stay at third base as NRI Harold Castro has forced his way into the lineup as the second baseman.
The Rockies are going to make the smart decision and give Elehuris Montero a chance to start. Nolan Jones was terrible this spring and lost his chance at the lineup spot. Mike Moustakas might be expected to start, but the team will keep its eyes on the future and let Montero start on Opening Day.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. New York (AL) (Gerrit Cole RHP)
Casey Schmitt’s inclusion in the Opening Day lineup is something that I have been extremely vocal about throughout the off-season. Predicting it is still a stretch, but Schmitt has been excellent all spring. He has the ability to become an instant Gold Glove finalist in the field and is proving his bat is ready for the show. David Villar has been abysmal this spring and struggles in the field. The team does not want to rely on J.D. Davis or Wilmer Flores to be their everyday third baseman. Schmitt gets the first shot in 2023.
The rest of the lineup consists of many platoon bats. Wade and Pederson get the Opening Day nods with a lefty on the mound. Despite his struggles this spring, Yastrzemski will still bat leadoff for the team unless these struggles carry into the regular season.
Projected Opening Day Lineup vs. Los Angeles (NL) (Clayton Kershaw LHP)
Everybody is just blindly assuming Arizona is going to hand Jake McCarthy an everyday job. They were aggressive this offseason in acquiring multiple outfielders to provide additional depth. McCarthy is going to be platooned and with a lefty on the mound, he will not be in the Opening Day lineup. Kyle Lewis has looked fully healthy and ready to return to his Rookie of the Year form. He gets the start in right field with McCarthy on the bench. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will be in left field shifting Corbin Carroll to center field.
With Carroll in center and Longoria at DH, Alek Thomas will not be in the Opening Day lineup. Thomas has value defensively but is unlikely to play against lefties. Despite facing a lefty, Josh Rojas will be in the lineup at third base, but profiles to be a utility man throughout the season. The team has been experimenting with keeping Carroll lower in the lineup against lefties and this is exactly what will happen on Opening Day. Marte at the top, and Carroll back in the second half.
Adapted by: Chris Corr (@Chris_Studios on Twitter)