Will Michael Young hit sixth in lineup? 

February, 25, 2011
At this point in spring training, I keep a close eye on each team's potential batting order, because let's face it, where a fellow hits in a lineup can affect his statistical production, and thus his draft and trade value. ESPNDallas.com colleague Richard Durrett wrote Friday about the possibility of the Texas Rangers putting their two starting middle infielders in the top two spots in that mighty lineup. He could be correct, in which case I wouldn't like Michael Young in fantasy quite as much as I've been professing.

Young led all big leaguers in at-bats and hits from the No. 2 lineup spot a year ago, and while much of the attention on the veteran this winter has been about position changes and trade requests, the fact is Young remains productive. He's a career .300 hitter who still provides 20-plus home runs and a healthy number of doubles, RBIs and runs scored. Move him down in the order, after Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz (the proposed 3-4-5 hitters) and he would likely knock in a few more runs, but also score fewer. Plus, he'd bat fewer times. That I don't like. If a guy is going to hit .300, I want the most at-bats possible so it has the largest impact. Moving from the No. 2 slot to sixth costs, on average, more than 100 at-bats over the course of an entire season. Would you rather have Ichiro Suzuki hit sixth? I sure wouldn't.

[+] EnlargeMichael Young
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireMichael Young has already lost his position; now he could lose his lineup slot, too.
Plus, Young is so much better offensively than Elvis Andrus that I fail to see why the Rangers would hamstring their lineup in this manner. Yes, Andrus took more walks and is obviously a base-stealing threat, but he delivered a lame 18 extra-base hits in 2010. That's it. Young hit 36 doubles, the same number of triples as Andrus (3) and 21 home runs. Young's OPS was 131 points higher, and while I do expect Andrus to improve his number Young is also capable of more. In 2009, Young's OPS was .892, a number only 17 hitters reached in 2010. The Rangers don't need to fall into the trap of simply placing their fastest players at the top of the lineup. Look at the Boston Red Sox, likely planning to hit Jacoby Ellsbury last in the order. The Rangers can do that with Andrus.