Mining the Lineups & News (4/30/21) by Jeff Zimmerman May 1, 2021 Everyone liked last week’s new format, so I’ll keep it going into the season. American League Angels • Consistent. • David Fletcher has led off every game this year. • For the time being, Chris Rodriguez will remain in the bullpen. With his success in long relief, it’s fair to wonder if it would make sense to move Rodriguez to the rotation at some point this season. But considering Rodriguez entered the season having thrown just 9 1/3 innings in the Minors since 2017 due of back issues, the Angels would rather keep him in the bullpen to monitor his innings. Maddon, however, wouldn’t rule out a move to the rotation in the future. “He can do either thing, but right now, we’re set at the back end [of the rotation],” Maddon said. “Making him a starter right now would be difficult. He hasn’t pitched a lot of innings. It’s almost like you’d have to build him up three years somehow. Astros • With everyone returning from the COVID-IL, the lineup was settling. Then Yordan Alvarez got hurt and it’s been shuffled. • Chas McCormick has started two straight with Alvarez out. • Once Framber Valdez can throw five innings, he can rejoin the team. Strom estimated that Valdez would need two or three outings in which he faces hitters in West Palm Beach to build up his arm strength and pitch count. He said if Valdez can throw five innings in Florida, that could set him up to rejoin the Astros shortly afterwards. Athletics • While the lineup gets mixed up quite a bit, it’s the same players every night. • Stephen Piscotty (vs LHP) and Seth Brown (vs RHP) are still in an outfield platoon. • Matt Chapman has been unlearning some bad habits while he was hurt last year. Matt Chapman said a few weeks ago that he’s been trying to unlearn a few harmful habits at the plate, ones that he developed last season while he was battling a hip injury. “Subconsciously, I started using some of my bigger muscles and trying to muscle the ball to get bat speed instead of taking a direct, quick swing and use my back side,” he said on April 10. Chapman acknowledged that correcting these tweaks was always going to be a process, and more than two weeks later, it appears he’s still trying to get back to his normal self. Chapman’s strikeout numbers have been high — after a two-strikeout game on Sunday, his 30 strikeouts rank highest on the A’s thus far — and he’s slashing .158/.275/.342. This decline should not have been a surprise since it was known that Chapman played through an injury and hitters who do, likely underperform. Blue Jays • George Springer has returned to his leadoff spot. The Jays could use the help. Marcus Semien and Cavan Biggio have combined to hit .200/.282/.344 from the top spot. • Joe Panik (.627 OPS) has started four of the last five games at third base. It’s possible Cavan Biggio (.641 OPS) moves back there once Teoscar Hernández (.517 OPS) returns from the IL. Indians • Jordan Luplow (.204/.338/.593) has started eight of the last nine games hitting in the top two spots. He has more value in points or on-base leagues with a high walk rate (15%) and a low AVG (.204, .230 for his career). • Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario are only playing two-thirds of the time. • Yu Chang (.433 OPS) and Jake Bauers (.493 OPS) are sort of in a first base platoon. Sometimes Josh Naylor (.637 OPS), who has started seven of the last eight, steals time from them. Mariners • Besides, days off here and there, steady. • Sam Haggerty (.650 OPS, 3 SB) has started six of seven and had led off two games. • Dylan Moore (.459 OPS) has only started three of the last six games. • Since returning from the IL, Kyle Lewis is batting fourth. • Evan White (.446 OPS) has started 13 of 14 with no signs of heating up (.317 OPS over the last week). • José Marmolejos (.668 OPS) has become sort of a utility bat playing in the outfield and first base. He’s started three straight. Orioles • Austin Hays (.701 OPS) is moving up in the order with DJ Stewart (.578 OPS) moving down. • With Freddy Galvis out with a groin injury, Pat Valaika has been starting at short. • Ryan Mountcastle (.493 OPS) has been a nightmare so far. He has heated up though with a .564 OPS over the past week. • Maikel Franco (.242/.308/.400) has hit cleanup in nine of the last 11 games. Rangers • The team is using platoon lineups. Eli White (vs LHP) and David Dahl (vs RHP) are in an outfield platoon. Charlie Culberson (vs LHP) and Brock Holt (vs RHP) are in a third base platoon. • Nick Solak (.947 OPS) has hit second for three straight games. • Adolis Garcia either bats fourth or fifth. Rays • Since returning from the IL, Kevin Kiermaier has started 10 of 11 games while hitting .256/.310/.333. • It’s tough to roster any Ray with three “regulars” on the bench every game. • Both catchers, Mike Zunino (.885 OPS) and Francisco Mejía (.817), continue to hit. • Luis Patiño will be used as a follower going forward. Right-hander Luis Patiño remained on the Rays’ roster Monday after making his Tampa Bay debut in the team’s 1-0 loss to Toronto on Sunday afternoon. Patiño pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings as a multi-inning opener, working once through the Blue Jays’ lineup before giving way to lefty bulk-inning pitcher Josh Fleming. Cash said the Rays will look to utilize the 21-year-old in a similar role moving forward, making him available to pitch out of the bullpen if needed. He might have a better chance for a Win, but this role really limits his value. • In Rich Hill’s last game, when he went six innings and allowed only one run, he threw his cutter a career-high 19% of the time. The deal is that his cutter has been useless (3% SwStr%, his fastball at 6%). His curveball has been his only decent pitch (12% SwStr%, 66% GB%). Red Sox • Steady with little to no changes. • Christian Arroyo (.771 OPS) has only started in four of the last 11 games. Royals • About 80% of the lineup is set and not changing. The change has been with Hanser Alberto (career .812 OPS vs LHP) always starting against lefty starters. The player who sits is very random. • Josh Staumont knows that he can be used in other innings besides the ninth. “Coming out with a number next to the save column doesn’t change a single thing,” Staumont said. “I personally take away that it’s awesome and super cool, but I think as this game’s changing, we’re seeing that the seventh or eighth inning might be the most important inning. And we’re just trying to knock these guys down in the line. As this comes along, you see our bullpen already just navigating, working together, fitting like a puzzle. Tigers • They have not used the same lineup twice but it’s mostly the same players. • Akil Baddoo (vs RHP) and JaCoby Jones (vs LHP) are in an outfield platoon. • Willi Castro (.541 OPS) has sat against two of the last three lefties the team has faced. • Expect Miguel Cabrera to continue to get days off. Miguel Cabrera returned to the Tigers’ lineup as expected in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Royals. In his first game since April 10, he played first base and batted third (0-for-4). But as the Tigers get ready for another three-city road trip beginning Tuesday, Hinch is making plans to get Cabrera some scheduled days off to watch his wear and tear as the 38-year-old gets back into his swing following a left bicep strain. Twins • Andrelton Simmons (.701 OPS) is off the IL and started three games. During that time, Jorge Polanco (.523 OPS) and Luis Arraez (.723) have sat once. Fantasy managers will need to closely monitor this playing time situation. • Of the last 24 games, Willians Astudillo (.669 OPS) has started 21 games. • Brent Rooker (vs LHP) and Jake Cave (vs RHP) have been in an outfield platoon. Both may lose time to Luis Arraez. • Byron Buxton has been dealing with patellar tendinitis all season. The Twins were without Byron Buxton in their starting lineup on Monday due to a slight worsening of patellar tendinitis that he has been playing through all season, Baldelli said. • Josh Donaldson should be expected to play every day. Now that the Twins are through their early-season stretch of playing mostly day games in colder weather, Baldelli says that Donaldson’s usage will be similar to that of other players, with the hope that he’ll be able to settle into a rhythm. “I think we got to the point where he’s going to be in the lineup a lot,” Baldelli said. “We’re just going to put him out there, he’s going play, he’s going to get a ton of at-bats. … I think we should expect to see him out in the lineup going forward and then probably being treated like everybody else here as far as days off.” • Alex Colome is still working on his cutter. But Baldelli noted that the Twins have continued to tweak Colomé’s signature cutter, and Johnson expressed excitement about how his pitches looked in Tuesday’s bullpen session. White Sox • The top half is as steady as they come. The bottom half looks like it was set by some old drunk guy. • It’s tough to consider Andrew Vaughn’s (.771 OPS) fantasy relevant when he’s only started six of the last 10 games. • Leury García (.470 OPS), Jake Lamb (.485 OPS), and Billy Hamilton (.494 OPS) are each seeing time. In the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader, all three were in the lineup. Yankees • What a mess with so many players coming and going from the IL. • Rougned Odor has started seven of the last eight games while hitting .250/.357/.500 over that time frame. • Kyle Higashioka (1.122 OPS) has started four of the last eight games at catcher. • Clint Frazier (.542 OPS) has started eight of the last nine games. And why? National League Braves • No changes and steady. • Guillermo Heredia has started 11 straight games and is hitting .300/.429/.575. • Cristian Pache was demoted to get everyday at-bats. “We’re just going to give him some consistent at-bats again,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He wasn’t swinging the bat well here. Hopefully, he can get down there, play some consistent games, back out of the fray a little bit and just get himself going.” With Pache at the alternate site and Ender Inciarte still on the injured list, Guillermo Heredia will continue serving as Atlanta’s center fielder. Heredia entered Saturday having hit .286 with two homers and a 1.111 OPS. Brewers • I’d not consider Keston Hiura as a lineup option with his struggles (.567 OPS). He has sat the last two games with Daniel Vogelbach starting at first. • Tyrone Taylor (1.087) has started five of the last six games since being called up. • Luis Urías has heated up (.314/.429/.543) and started six of the last seven games. Cardinals • Steady. • Tyler O’Neill has hit (.273/.304/.682) since returning from the IL and has been climbing the lineup. • Nolan Arenado is hitting (.247/.305/.433) like his Steamer projections estimated (.265/.342/.485). Cubs • Matt Duffy (.746 OPS) has started three straight while hitting third. • Ian Happ has been moved off the leadoff spot and sat the last two games. • Nico Hoerner (1.004 OPS) has started seven straight. • The Cubs have been tweaking Nico Horner’s stance in order for him to get more lift. The additional mass was clear to whoever was watching. Hoerner had always hit the ball hard, something both amateur scouts and the research and development department noticed and focused on when they decided to select him with their first-round pick in 2018. Some very small tweaks were made during his short time in the minors to help him get the ball in the air more and the additional strength would help him in the power department without costing him much speed or his special defense. But the inadvertent closing off was a problem. Hoerner was putting the ball on the ground at a 55.3 percent rate and making soft contact at a 23.3 percent rate, both in the top 20 for players with at least 100 plate appearances in 2020. “Those body positions directly translate to why the ball was on the ground so much,” Valaika said. “He’s fighting around himself, the bat gets flatter and the results is groundballs and low line drives. With his innate contact ability, we didn’t want to lose any of that. We just wanted to get him space so he could finish his move, his turn so he could let the ball get in the air a little cleaner.” Diamondbacks • Injuries have really hit the time with what seems like a new band-aid every day. There is almost no way to figure out the team’s plan. • Pavin Smith (.744 OPS) has hit in one of the top 2 lineup spots over the 10 games. • Josh Rojas has heated up hitting .333/.438/.630 over the past two weeks (started five of last seven). Dodgers • Steady where healthy. • Sheldon Neuse (vs LHP) and Luke Raley (vs RHP) are in a platoon with Chris Taylor switching from the infield to outfield. Giants • In 25 games, 25 different batting orders (even removing the pitcher). Adding Mike Tauchman and losing Mike Yastrzemski to the IL adds to the confusion. • Uses platoon lineups. Wilmer Flores sits against lefties. • Buster Posey (.286/.444/.429) has moved into the top half of the lineup. Marlins • Steady. • In nine of the last 10 games, Miguel Rojas (.250/.348/.338, 3 SB) has hit in the top two spots. • With Brian Anderson out, Jon Berti (.231/.323/.462, 0 SB) has started eight games at third base. Mets • Consistent but punchless lineup. Nationals • Fairly set. • Thirty-three-year-old Yadiel Hernandez (.924) has hit second in three of the last four games. • Victor Robles (.587 OPS) is stuck at the lineup’s bottom. Padres • Healthy and set. • Tommy Pham (.509 OPS) and Ha-seong Kim 김하성 (.591 OPS) have not been getting regular at-bats since Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trent Grisham returned from the IL. • Blake Snell should be limited to around 90 pitches per start. Snell had thrown just 87 pitches and retired Max Muncy for the first out of the sixth inning when Tingler emerged from the visitor’s dugout. Afterward, Tingler said Snell was on a limit of around 90 pitches. The Padres have indicated they’ll be cautious with the lefty’s workload this season — sensible enough considering Snell only once eclipsed 130 innings during his tenure in Tampa Bay. Phillies • Andrew McCutchen (.575 OPS) sat for two games. • Odúbel Herrera (.000 OPS) has started four straight games in center field. • Nick Maton (.867 OPS) has started 10 straight games while hitting at the back of the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see how the second base and third base playing time situations play out when Jean Segura returns from the IL. • The Phillies are fast-tracking Howard to be a starter again. The about-face on Howard’s immediate future is just as telling. When asked on March 27 whether the club viewed Howard as a starter in 2021, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, “No.” He acknowledged it was a complicated situation. But the Phillies valued six months of Howard over more innings in a condensed period. Howard, 24, has only so many innings to throw this year because the Phillies are protective of his right arm. So, after he threw 44 pitches Sunday as a mop-up man, they decided to scrap this “hybrid” role they had envisioned. Howard, in a few weeks, will be in play for a rotation spot. Pirates • Steady. • Gregory Polanco (vs RHP) and Wilmer Difo (vs LHP) are in a platoon. • Kevin Newman has been struggling at the plate (.470 OPS) and is likely headed to the bench when Ke’Bryan Hayes returns. Reds • Injuries and underperformers have the lineup in flux. • Nick Senzel (.635 OPS) has sat in three of the last five games. Rockies • Yonathan Daza (.693 OPS) has started eight of the last nine games. • Garrett Hampson (.259/.316/.459) has hit leadoff or second in four of the last five games. • Charlie Blackmon (.637 OPS) has been bumped down to the seventh spot.