We are now three full weeks into the season, and managers are starting to respond to players’ hot and cold starts. That gives the fantasy owners of players like Brian Dozier, Kyle Schwarber, and Ender Inciarte something more to think about, and owners of Yasmani Grandal and Manuel Margot something to feel good about.
Here are the lineup and batting order trends of note for each of the 15 teams in the senior circuit.
Ketel Marte continues to start in center field against lefties and at second base against righties (Thursday’s game at Atlanta being an exception), which effectively puts Jarrod Dyson and Wilmer Flores in a platoon. However, Flores has started five of the last seven games, including three against a right-handed starter, as Torey Lovullo seems to be trying to find him some additional playing time. When Flores does play, he is typically near the top of the order. He has batted second or third in 10 of the 11 games he has started.
Adam Jones has hit in the cleanup spot each time he has started against a right-handed pitcher. However, his RBI potential is limited, as he has been taking over the leadoff spot from Dyson when the Diamondbacks have been facing lefty starters. Nonetheless, among Arizona hitters, only Ketel Marte (14 RBIs) has driven in more runs than Jones (12 RBIs).
Inciarte — he of the .274 OBP — has been moved out the leadoff spot. Ozzie Albies has now started five games in a row hitting first in the batting order, including three times against a right-handed starter. Dansby Swanson has moved up to fill the No. 6 spot formerly occupied by Albies, and Inciarte has now batted eighth in three straight games.
Johan Camargo started only once in the Braves’ first seven games, but he has now been in the starting lineup for five of the team’s last seven contests. He has seen time at third base, shortstop, left field and right field.
Even though the Cubs have faced only one left-handed starter in their last 11 games, Joe Maddon has been finding some playing time for Albert Almora Jr. and David Bote. Almora has been splitting starts with Ben Zobrist against righties, and Bote recently started three straight games at third base against right-handed pitchers. For two of those games, Kris Bryant supplanted Schwarber in left field. Mark Zagunis, however, has yet to make a start against a right-handed pitcher.
Schwarber, who had been batting fifth, has batted eighth in two of his last three starts, while hitting in the seventh spot in the other of those starts.
At the very least, it’s safe to say that Derek Dietrich has become the Reds’ regular second baseman against righties. He has started seven of the last 10 games, and one of the games where he was on the bench featured a left-handed opposing starter. All but one of Dietrich’s starts during this stretch have been at second base, and Jose Peraza has started just four games out of the last 10 at second base. Peraza has also made three starts at shortstop during this period.
Scott Schebler, who had the steadiest playing time in the outfield rotation early on, has now started only three of the last six games.
Joey Votto has led off for the Reds in their last two games. He had previously hit leadoff only once in his entire career. In both games, Jesse Winker moved down to the third spot. If David Bell sticks with this batting order, it should have a dampening effect on Votto’s RBI production, but should help Winker out in that regard.
A string of five straight games with an opposing lefty starter has meant little playing time for Raimel Tapia, as Yonathan Daza, Garrett Hampson and Noel Cuevas (now on the IL) have all recently received starts in left field. With David Dahl (abdomen) having been activated from the IL on Thursday, Tapia is likely set to remain on the bench in the best-case scenario.
Hampson and Mark Reynolds have been playing regularly of late, but Ryan McMahon (elbow) was also activated on Thursday, so both players could lose some playing time in the near future. Hampson’s versatility may help him to stay in the lineup, and so could his bat. He is currently enjoying a seven-game hitting streak that has produced a .310/.355/.517 slash line as well as five runs (he has batted second for five straight games).
Not surprisingly, the Dodgers have not used any given lineup more than twice so far this season. Daily changes to the lineup have persisted, even as they have gone 12 consecutive games with facing a right-handed starter. Dave Roberts has seen fit to give Chris Taylor six starts during that stretch, including four starts in the last five games — and each of those four coming at a different position. David Freese, on other hand, has made only three starts over the last dozen games.
J.T. Riddle had been losing playing time to Miguel Rojas, and now the shortstop job belongs entirely to Rojas. The Marlins demoted Riddle to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday. Also, Isaac Galloway appears to be inheriting the right-handed side of a platoon with Curtis Granderson. In 39 major league appearances against lefties, Galloway is 8 for 32 with three home runs, one double and six walks. However, with New Orleans last season, his slash line against southpaws was just .227/.237/.400.
Even as Jesus Aguilar’s struggles continues, he is seeing close to regular playing time. He has started all but four of the Brewers’ 19 games and has been in the starting lineup for five of the last six games. Ben Gamel has made five starts out of the last six games in which the Brewers have faced a righty starter. Three of those starts were in place of Ryan Braun in left field, though Braun was used as a designated hitter in one of those games.
Grandal, who has been swinging a hot bat for more than two weeks, has been playing nearly every day, starting eight of the last nine games. In each of his last five starts, Grandal has hit no lower than fifth in the Brewers’ batting order.
The Mets seemed to be getting settled on the idea of Brandon Nimmo as their regular center fielder (at least versus righties), and that has allowed both Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis to play regularly. Nimmo missed Wednesday’s game at the Phillies due to a stiff neck, but he could return for this weekend’s series at the Cardinals. Whether Nimmo returns or not, both McNeil and Davis should remain as fixtures in the Mets’ lineup for the time being.
After putting out nearly identical lineups for each one of the Phillies’ first 13 games, Gabe Kapler is suddenly finding ways to put Scott Kingery on his lineup card. Kingery has started three of the last four games, giving Maikel Franco a one-day breather, and then filling in for Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura, who were both dealing with injuries. Hoskins has already returned, but Segura will need to miss at least two more games. Kingery will likely remain in the lineup for now, and if he continues to stay hot at the plate, he just may work his way into more of a super-utility role.
Odubel Herrera went on the IL for a right hamstring strain on Thursday afternoon, and Roman Quinn was recalled to take his place. Presumably, Quinn will see regular playing time in center field, but this is a situation owners should track over the weekend.
Melky Cabrera has started eight of the last ten games in right field, while Jason Martin and Pablo Reyes have settled into a platoon in left field. Both situations could be shaken up soon. Gregory Polanco (shoulder) should be joining the Pirates soon from his rehab stint. Corey Dickerson (shoulder) is still probably at least two weeks away, so Cabrera should remain in the lineup for awhile longer.
Despite batting .161 with one home run, Francisco Cervelli has logged 10 starts batting in the third spot. On Wednesday night at the Tigers, he dropped to the sixth spot with Colin Moran filling in at the No. 3 spot. It is not yet clear if Cervelli will return to his previous spot.
The Padres’ outfield situation just might be getting clearer. With Franchy Cordero (elbow) on the IL, Margot is by far the most viable center field option, and he has started nine of the last 10 games. Franmil Reyes has started six straight games in right field. That leaves left field, which has been split by Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe. Because Myers can occasionally play first base and center field, he can still get in the lineup on a near-daily basis.
Second base would seem to be there for the taking for Luis Urias, as Ian Kinsler is batting just .148. Urias has gone just 2 for 20, but even so, he and Kinsler have split the last six starts evenly. Kinsler has already lost his grip on the leadoff spot, which Margot has held for six of the last seven games.
Since making some roster tweaks early in the season, the Giants have settled into a steady lineup and batting order. The everyday outfield appears to be Gerardo Parra, Kevin Pillar and Steven Duggar. Maybe Tyler Austin will get some starts against lefties, though Parra got the call in left field when the Giants went up against Kyle Freeland on Saturday.
The Cardinals are another team whose lineup has been remarkably steady, though that changed with both Harrison Bader (hamstring) and Tyler O’Neill (elbow) getting placed on the IL. For the last two games, Dexter Fowler has shifted to center field, and Jose Martinez has replaced him in right field. Martinez had been used sparingly, but he should be in the lineup nearly every game as long as both Bader and O’Neill are out.
Two struggling hitters appear to be losing their grip on starting roles. Ryan Zimmerman had given way to Matt Adams in three of the six games prior to Thursday’s finale against the Giants, and Dozier had sat in favor of Howie Kendrick in three of the previous four games. Both Zimmerman and Dozier started on Thursday, though we shouldn’t read too much into it, as it was a day game right after a night game. It’s also worth mentioning that Dozier missed Wednesday night’s game because of a sore foot.
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.