The past week in lineups has featured some interesting developments, including a couple of bottom-of-the-order hitters being highly productive and the outfield mixes for the Padres and Giants shifting a bit. I’m breaking the lineups down, team-by-team, starting…now.
With Jake Lamb (quad) out for at least five more weeks, first base appears to belong to Christian Walker, as he had started every game since Lamb went on the IL up until Thursday night’s game against the Padres. Jarrod Dyson has started six of the seven games with a right-handed starter, all in center field. That hasn’t resulted in a reduced role for Ketel Marte, as he has started every game so far, playing second base when Dyson is in center field. It’s Wilmer Flores who has gotten squeezed out of playing time, starting only seven of the team’s 13 games.
Caleb Joseph was called up on Wednesday. When Alex Avila (quad) went on the IL, it looked as if Carson Kelly or John Ryan Murphy might have a chance at a minor playing time windfall, but that’s not to be.
The Braves’ lineup is about as steady and predictable as they come. The only non-regular (outside of the battery) to get a start is Johan Camargo, and he has made only four starts.
Daniel Descalso and David Bote are locked in as the Cubs’ platoon second basemen. The Cubs have faced six straight righty starters, so Descalso is on a nice run of regular playing time. Barring a change in the arrangement, look for Descalso to play virtually every day when they are facing division opponents, as no other NL Central team currently has a single southpaw in their rotation.
During their recent righty-heavy stretch, Ben Zobrist has made four starts, Albert Almora Jr. has started twice, and Jason Heyward has played every day. Zobrist has continued to hit leadoff when he is in the lineup, but Descalso has taken over that spot the last two times that Zobrist sat.
Prior to Thursday’s game against the Marlins, former Fish Derek Dietrich had started four straight games — three at second base and one at first base. Maybe he went back to the bench because it was a day game after a night game, or maybe it’s because he went hitless in his last two games. Or it could have just been a random day off. Dietrich’s surge in playing time has come mostly at the expense of Jose Iglesias, who has been out of the lineup for three of the Reds’ last nine games.
With Yasiel Puig having returned from his two-game suspension on Thursday, it was Scott Schebler’s turn to come out of the outfield rotation. Prior to Puig’s suspension, it was Matt Kemp who was getting left out of the lineup most frequently, having started only three of the six games immediately before Puig’s absence.
Tucker Barnhart has started nine of 11 total games, but even so, he has only 33 plate appearances and has yet to drive in a run.
The Rockies faced a righty (Julio Teheran) and a lefty (Max Fried) in their recent series with the Braves, and Josh Fuentes started both games at first base over Mark Reynolds. However, Reynolds was back in the lineup for Thursday night’s game against Jeff Samardzija and the Giants.
Raimel Tapia has received all three starts in left field in place of the injured David Dahl (abdomen), batting second each time. Garrett Hampson has now started eight of the Rockies’ last nine games, and this string of games began before Ryan McMahon (elbow) went on the IL. Tony Wolters appears to have gained the upper hand in playing time over Chris Iannetta, starting five of the last seven games behind the plate.
Just as it seemed that Enrique Hernandez was settling in as an everyday second baseman, his playing time is now somewhat in question. The Dodgers have gone up against a right-handed starter in six straight games, and Hernandez has been out of the starting lineup for two of those. Both times, he made way for Alex Verdugo, who displaced Cody Bellinger from right field to first base and moved Max Muncy from first base to second base. Muncy left Thursday’s game against the Cardinals with a hand injury, so if he has to miss extensive time, Hernandez may be getting fewer days off going forward.
Rosell Herrera may have fallen out of the Marlins’ outfield rotation. His only start in the last six games came when they were faced by lefty Sean Newcomb, and Curtis Granderson headed to the bench. The shortstop platoon may be over as well. Miguel Rojas has now made back-to-back starts against righties, relegating J.T. Riddle to the bench.
The struggling Jesus Aguilar (4 for 36 with no extra-base hits) has been forced out of the lineup in two of the last four games. One of those games was Wednesday’s series finale at the Angels, in which the Brewers had room for an extra hitter due to having the DH spot. Craig Counsell opted to use Christian Yelich at DH, Ben Gamel in right field and Eric Thames at first base for that game.
The Brewers have faced a left-handed starter only twice so far this season, and Hernan Perez has gotten the nod at second base both times. With Travis Shaw day-to-day with a bruised right hand and Julio Urias the scheduled starter for the series opener with the Dodgers, it seems likely that we will see Perez get the start at second base with Mike Moustakas shifting over to third base.
Juan Lagares is getting his first start in five games on Thursday night at the Braves, as Brandon Nimmo and Keon Broxton have recently picked up the slack in center field. Lagares’ inclusion means J.D. Davis will sit for the first time in five games, with Nimmo sliding over left field and Jeff McNeil slotting in at third base. Davis, Nimmo and McNeil have been playing fairly regularly against righties. Despite striking out in 21 of his 45 plate appearances heading into Thursday night’s game, Nimmo has led off in every game in which he has been in the starting lineup.
The Mets have encountered a left-handed starter only once in the last eight games, and in that contest, McNeil was the odd man out. Over the total of three games in which the Mets have faced a lefty starter, J.D. Davis has hit in the cleanup spot.
We are now two weeks into the season, and this is the complete list of aberrations in Gabe Kapler’s starting lineups (aside from pitchers): Andrew Knapp caught in place of J.T. Realmuto on April 6, and Scott Kingery gave Cesar Hernandez a breather at second base on April 8.
Kapler’s batting orders are nearly as predictable. Maikel Franco has batted eighth in every game to date, and he leads all eight-hole hitters in plate appearances (47), home runs (4), RBIs (12) and walks (10). He has already hit in the eighth spot as many times as he did in all of 2018 (11).
The only position where playing time appears to be up for grabs is left field. Clint Hurdle has employed four different starting left fielders since Corey Dickerson (shoulder) went on the IL. Pablo Reyes has received two starts there, and they were the only games in which the Pirates faced a lefty starter. Though JB Shuck and Colin Moran have also received starts, it looks like Jason Martin may be settling in as the primary option against righties. He has made the last three starts in games in which the Pirates opposed a right-handed starter.
Francisco Cervelli has batted third in every game since Dickerson’s injury. He has driven in one run this season, and that came on the solo homer he hit off Yu Darvish on Wednesday. In the games where he has batted third, Cervelli is 6 for 21 (.286).
Even with Franchy Cordero (elbow) on the IL, playing time has been coming less frequently for Franmil Reyes, who had started two of the five games prior to Thursday night’s contest in Arizona. In the first four games since Cordero has been out of the outfield mix, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe started every game, and Wil Myers has only been left out of the lineup once.
Since his callup on Monday, Luis Urias has started twice — once at second base and once at shortstop.
With the acquisitions of Kevin Pillar and Tyler Austin, the Giants’ outfield has taken on a new look in the past week. Pillar and Steven Duggar have been virtually everyday players, and Gerardo Parra and Austin (who has needed to re-acclimate to playing the outfield) look primed to form a left field platoon.
Entering Thursday’s game with the Dodgers, Mike Shildt had cut loose with his lineups only slightly more than Kapler, giving only four starts to bench players (three to Jose Martinez and one to Tyler O’Neill). On Thursday, both Martinez and O’Neill started, and Jedd Gyorko and Matt Wieters got penciled into the starting lineup for the first time this season.
The lineup has been steady, even in the absence of Trea Turner (finger). Over the seven games without Turner in the lineup, catching duties have been split as evenly as possible (four starts for Yan Gomes, three for Kurt Suzuki), and Matt Adams and Howie Kendrick have just one start apiece. Adam Eaton has been in the leadoff spot for every game — even the one time they faced a lefty starter — and Victor Robles has hit ninth in every lineup. Robles is the Franco of the ninth spot, leading the majors in plate appearances (44), home runs (3) and runs (11) from that position in the batting order.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.