You’ve been waiting for it…Gabe Kapler finally made a change to his lineup, and it’s not one of those one-and-done types of changes. That — and some changes impacting catchers — are among the more notable developments in National League lineups this week.
There are no major changes here. With Wilmer Flores (foot) going on the IL, there is an opportunity for Ildemaro Vargas to get some starts against left-handed starters. Perhaps Ketel Marte will play a little more often at second base, giving Jarrod Dyson a slight boost in playing time in center field. Maybe Dyson’s start against left-handed Matt Strahm on Tuesday was more than just a random occurrence.
The Braves’ lineup has been mostly steady since Austin Riley arrived last week. Playing time hasn’t been an issue for Riley, as he has started all nine games since his promotion. He has batted sixth in six of those contests, and hit out of the fifth spot in the two games where he has started in place of Josh Donaldson at third base. Riley also hit fifth on Thursday with Nick Markakis getting a day off. It was a little curious that Donaldson sat on Wednesday, just three days after Riley gave him a breather on Sunday.
David Bote’s run of regular playing time is moving farther back in the rear view mirror. Since starting off May in an 8 for 44 (.182) slump, Bote has started just three of the last eight games. All three of those starts were made at third base, allowing Kris Bryant to shift over to right field for the first two of those games. Daniel Descalso has reclaimed most of the starts at second base, though some of that trend is due to the Cubs seeing only one left-handed starter in their last 12 games. Addison Russell will likely play more often once they have more lefties on the schedule, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. The next left-handed projected starter is Wade Miley, who is set to take on the Cubs next Wednesday.
Kyle Schwarber appears to be sticking as the Cubs’ new leadoff hitter. He has now occupied that spot for eight straight games, including Wednesday’s contest against the Phillies with lefty Cole Irvin on the mound. Prior to Thursday’s series finale, Schwarber compiled a .231/.333/.462 slash line since moving to the top of the order.
Derek Dietrich is still getting the starts at second base against righties, but the Reds have had a lefty-heavy schedule lately. Against the last four left-handed starters, Jose Peraza and Kyle Farmer have made two starts apiece at second base. In the two games started by Farmer, Peraza has filled in for Jesse Winker in left field.
Yasiel Puig is day-to-day with his shoulder injury, so he could return soon. In the event that he doesn’t, it’s worth noting that Josh VanMeter took his spot in the Reds’ outfield (well, technically it was Winker’s spot in left field) against a righty starter on Wednesday, while Phillip Ervin played in his place against a lefty on Tuesday.
Brendan Rodgers started at second base and batted seventh against the Pirates on Thursday afternoon, giving him four starts out of the last six games. Ryan McMahon sat for each of Rodgers’ first three starts, but he made the start at first base in place of Daniel Murphy against righty Jordan Lyles on Thursday. Rodgers isn’t quite as locked into playing time as Riley is with the Braves, but Bud Black appears to be looking for ways to keep him in the lineup with some regularity.
While Charlie Blackmon continues to be an everyday presence, Black may now be trying to squeeze David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond into two outfield spots. In each of the last three games, a different member of the trio has sat out against a right-handed starter. This could all change if the calf injury that Blackmon sustained on Thursday results in an extended absence.
Tony Wolters has started 15 of the Rockies’ last 22 games at catcher, and over that span, he has compiled a .308/.333/.462 slash line.
The Dodgers’ lineup has been unusually steady due to a string of 10 games that have featured only one opposing lefty starter. Playing time for Chris Taylor and David Freese will continue to be scarce in the short term, as Steven Brault is the only lefty projected to start against the Dodgers until Tuesday.
The outfield, which has been in flux all season, is starting to get settled. Garrett Cooper has started nine straight games in right field, and Harold Ramirez has started seven of nine games since getting called up. Austin Dean was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday and has started and led off back-to-back games. Both starts came against lefties, so it remains to be seen if he and Curtis Granderson will settle into a platoon.
Cooper and Brian Anderson have become a familiar presence near the top of the batting order, as they have batted second and third, respectively, in each of the last six games.
Throughout his protracted struggles, Jesus Aguilar has managed to get the bulk of the starts at first base, but that may be changing. He has sat in favor of Eric Thames in each of the last three games. Aguilar has three singles and five walks in his last 23 plate appearances, but Thames has also flailed at the plate, slashing .180/.379/.240 over his last 66 plate appearances.
Since getting his promotion, Keston Hiura has struck out 13 times in 36 plate appearances, but he has still managed a .273/.333/.455 slash line. He has started every one of the Brewers’ eight games since his May 14 callup, and he should continue to play regularly in the short term. Travis Shaw began a rehab assignment at Triple-A San Antonio on Wednesday, and his return could spell an end to Hiura’s time as a regular. It also may not. This is a situation that owners of both players need to watch closely.
With the Mets suddenly decimated by injuries, their Thursday lineup against the Nationals provides a likely preview of what’s to come for the time being. We should see a lot of Adeiny Hechavarria at second base, and an outfield of J.D. Davis, Juan Lagares and Carlos Gomez. Amed Rosario has hit leadoff in the last two games, so he may holding down that spot until Jeff McNeil (hamstring) comes back.
At last, Kapler made a change to his regular lineup that wasn’t forced upon him by injury. Scott Kingery has started four of the last five games in center field, with Odubel Herrera having replaced him on Monday against Yu Darvish and the Cubs. That is also the only game during this period in which the Phillies faced a right-handed starter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Kapler has a center field platoon going. That was a planned day off for Kingery, who was only one day removed from getting activated from a stay on the IL for a strained hamstring.
Oddly enough, Herrera was in the starting lineup on Thursday against lefty Jon Lester. Kingery moved over to second base to give Cesar Hernandez a day off. Herrera batted seventh with Kingery moving up a spot to bat sixth.
Bryan Reynolds got a rare day off on Thursday against the Rockies, breaking a string of six straight starts and 10 starts in 12 games. He was spelled by Melky Cabrera in left field, who has clearly been relegated to being a fourth outfielder. Kevin Newman also started on Thursday, marking the fourth time in seven games that he got the nod over Cole Tucker.
Elias Diaz has started six of the last seven games over Francisco Cervelli, though the last two absences for Cervelli have been due to a contusion resulting from a foul tip to the chest sustained on Tuesday.
Just as it looked as if Greg Garcia might earn a close-to-everyday role, he is now acting as a fill-in for Ian Kinsler and Ty France. Still, when Garcia does start, Andy Green is using him as his leadoff hitter. His playing time figures to decrease even more when Fernando Tatis Jr. (hamstring) returns, but that won’t happen for at least another week.
Playing time for Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe continues to ebb and flow. Myers is on the upswing now, having started six of the last seven games, while Renfroe has been out of the starting lineup for three of those seven games.
Pablo Sandoval and Stephen Vogt may be both be due for some additional playing time, though probably not enough to make a difference in mixed leagues. Sandoval has started three times in the last nine games over Evan Longoria, though Longoria had a stomach bug for one of those games. Vogt got a start in left field on Tuesday versus the Braves — his first start in the outfield since 2014. If those were to start occurring a couple of times per week, that plus a couple of games each week at catcher could give him some value. It seems doubtful that it will play out that way, but it’s something to watch for.
Harrison Bader finally got a chance to make some starts last weekend, when the Cardinals played the Rangers in Arlington and had the DH spot available. He started all three games and went 7 for 12 with a home run and two doubles. That may help him take some playing time away from Jose Martinez and Dexter Fowler. Bader started in place of Martinez in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Royals, but he exited after getting hit by a Brad Keller pitch. He did not return for the second game, but X-rays on his elbow came back negative.
Matt Adams came off the IL on Wednesday and got in the starting lineup immediately to face Jacob deGrom and the Mets. However, he gave way to Howie Kendrick in Thursday’s series finale, with lefty Steven Matz getting the start. This could be a signal that Adams and Kendrick are now in a first base platoon. It could also be a day off for Adams in order to not tax his shoulder or a way to keep Kendrick’s bat in the lineup. Time will tell.
Since getting activated last Friday, Trea Turner has been the Nationals’ leadoff hitter. Adam Eaton, who had been leading off, has moved down a spot in the order, displacing Victor Robles. Since getting bumped out of the second spot, Robles has not batted any higher than sixth.
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.