The fog seems to be clearing from the Padres’ outfield situation, but even with Matt Kemp out, it’s not apparent whether or not the Reds have a timeshare in center field. Also, the playing time situations for Colin Moran, Alex Verdugo and Raimel Tapia bear watching. Details are just below.
Blake Swihart has filled in for Adam Jones (hand) in right field for two straight games, but Jones is expected to return for the Diamondbacks’ weekend series against the Cubs. As of Thursday, the team had faced right-handed starters in nine consecutive games, and Wilmer Flores had started in five of them, with four of those starts coming at second base. Jarrod Dyson has made room for Flores in three of those games, getting benched in favor of either Ketel Marte or Tim Locastro.
Since Brian McCann was activated from the IL on April 17, he and Tyler Flowers had been alternating starts at catcher. McCann did get the nod for Thursday night’s game at Cincinnati, giving him his first back-to-back starts since returning. Otherwise, the Braves’ lineup has been steady. It’s not even clear that Johan Camargo will crack the lineup all that often in a super-utility role. He recently underwent a stretch of nine games during which he started six times, but Camargo did not start any of the Braves’ three games preceding Thursday night’s contest.
Ben Zobrist is not quite a regular against righties, having started six of the Cubs’ last nine games with a right-handed starter. Yet when he does start against righties, he almost always leads off. There has been only one exception to this trend — a game against the Angels’ Chris Stratton where Zobrist batted second and Daniel Descalso led off. Normally, when Zobrist is in the lineup, Descalso bats seventh.
Through the season’s first 14 games, David Bell had typically used a batting order than began with Jesse Winker, Joey Votto, Yasiel Puig and Eugenio Suarez, in that order. Each of those games featured a right-handed starter, but now that the Reds have had to face a few lefties, the lineup has been a little more varied. Votto, Suarez and Winker appear to be settled in as the 1-2-3 hitters against righties, and now that Kemp (rib) is on the IL, Puig looks to be settling in as the cleanup hitter versus right-handed starters. It remains to be seen how Bell will write the lineups versus lefties, though Jose Peraza has led off the last two games in which the Reds faced a lefty starter.
In the three games since Kemp has been out, Scott Schebler has started twice in right field, and Phillip Ervin started once. Winker and Puig had been playing steadily even before Kemp’s injury, but it’s not yet clear if Schebler will see more playing time in his absence.
It still looks as if Derek Dietrich has taken over the second base job for games where the Reds face a righty starter. Thursday night’s game will mark the fifth time in the last six games against a righty that Dietrich has been in the starting lineup.
David Dahl and Daniel Murphy are back, and that is likely to mean less playing time for Ian Desmond and Garrett Hampson going forward. Desmond has already been sat in favor of Tapia in three of the Rockies’ last seven games. Hampson had appeared to have lost his starting job prior to Murphy’s return on Wednesday, having sat for two games while Ryan McMahon got pushed to second base with Mark Reynolds starting at first base.
Verdugo’s start on Thursday against Jon Lester and the Cubs was his first this season against a lefty. He may be beginning to get some traction in making starts against righties, as Dave Roberts has penciled him into the starting lineup in four of the last six games against a right-handed starter. Then again, some of the windfall in playing time came as a result of Justin Turner sitting a couple of games as a result of ankle and hamstring injuries last week (and other players getting shifted around defensively). With Verdugo batting .352 with four homers heading into Thursday’s game, we may continue to see his name in the lineup more frequently.
Austin Barnes was rested for Thursday’s day game, but prior to that, he had started 10 of 12 games.
The Marlins have been shaking things up. They demoted Austin Dean back to Triple-A New Orleans last Saturday, and Lewis Brinson has started only two of the last seven games. Dean has been supplanted in the outfield by Brian Anderson, who in turn has made way for Jon Berti and Martin Prado at third base. For the time being, Isaac Galloway looks to be the Marlins’ new regular center fielder.
These moves could ultimately have some deeper-league impact. Galloway has already stolen two bases in just six games. It’s not yet clear whether Berti or Prado will get more time at third base, but the former also has some stolen base potential, and he showed good plate discipline in the minors.
Jesus Aguilar has been out of the starting lineup for each of the Brewers’ last three games. Eric Thames drew two of those starts at first base, and Yasmani Grandal drew the other. Grandal had previously made 38 career starts at first base, including 33 with the Padres in 2014. Craig Counsell suggested that this wasn’t going to be a one-time event, saying that starting Grandal at first base will be “something that we do a little bit more over the next couple of weeks.” This could be a bad development for both Aguilar and Thames, though it could open up more playing time for Manny Pina.
Grandal has also been gradually moving up the batting order, and he has hit in the third spot for each of the last three games.
So much for Todd Frazier getting eased back into action. He was inserted into the Mets’ lineup upon activation on Monday, and he has started all three games the team has played this week at third base. That has put an end to J.D. Davis‘ run of regular playing time.
Assuming his oblique injury isn’t too serious, Brandon Nimmo figures to see fairly steady playing time in center field, and occasionally knock Jeff McNeil out of the lineup by shifting over to left field.
Gabe Kapler has been loathe to tinker with his lineups so far this season, but because of injuries, shortstop and center field have become something of a revolving door. The replacements for Jean Segura and Odubel Herrera — Scott Kingery and Roman Quinn, respectively — have gone on the IL themselves. It is not yet clear whether Dylan Cozens and Aaron Altherr will platoon in the absence of Herrera and Quinn, or if one will emerge as a regular. Shortstop could be stabilized soon, as Segura may return as soon as Saturday.
J.T. Realmuto has also helped to fill the void left by Segura, as he has batted second for each of the Phillies’ last four games. That has allowed Maikel Franco to move up from the eighth to the fifth spot. Batting in front of the pitcher, Franco had already drawn seven intentional walks this season — as many as he had for all of 2018. However, he has not been walked intentionally since May 12, so a potential move back to the eighth spot may not portend a sustained spike in his walk rate or OBP.
The return of Gregory Polanco has not necessarily put an end to playing time for Bryan Reynolds. The 24-year-old rookie was called up to replace Starling Marte (abdomen), but he remained in the lineup for Monday’s and Tuesday’s games against the Diamondbacks. Jason Martin started in center field for the last two games, so he could wind up splitting playing time with Reynolds until Marte returns, which could happen next week.
After playing sparingly for the first three weeks of the season, Moran appears to be transitioning into a super-utility role. He has now started five straight games (all against right-handed starters), with two games at second base, two at third base and one in left field.
Moran got the start at second for Thursday’s game, and with Adam Frazier out of the lineup, Cole Tucker hit leadoff. Frazier appears to be the default leadoff hitter for the Pirates, but since Tucker was called up, he has hit at the top of the order for every game in which Frazier was on the bench. Otherwise, Clint Hurdle has had Tucker bat eighth.
If any Padres outfielder has cemented his position as a regular, it’s Franmil Reyes, who has started 11 of the last 12 games. Wil Myers and Manuel Margot have not started quite as steadily, but Hunter Renfroe is clearly the fourth outfielder, with only four starts in the last eight games.
The Giants have had a very steady lineup lately, but then again, they have faced only one left-handed starter over their last nine games. In that one game, Tyler Austin filled in for Brandon Belt at first base, with Belt getting the start in place of Gerardo Parra in left field. Yangervis Solarte started in place of Joe Panik at second base.
At least against righties, Parra and Panik have essentially swapped spots in the batting order. Over the last four games, Parra has hit in the second spot, while Panik has batted either eighth or ninth (the latter occurring in two games at Toronto for which the Giants used a DH).
Harrison Bader was activated on Wednesday, but he did not start in the Cardinals’ 5-2 win over the Brewers. We can presume he will get back to patrolling center field for this weekend’s series against the Reds. What is still not clear is whether Jose Martinez will return to a bench role, or if he will supplant or share time with Dexter Fowler in right field.
The only uncertainty around the Nationals’ lineup is whether Anthony Rendon (elbow) and Ryan Zimmerman (heel) will feel well enough to play this weekend against the Padres. For however long they are out (if they miss any more time at all), Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams would be the obvious defensive replacements. While Rendon has been out, Victor Robles has moved up from the ninth spot in the order to bat second.
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.