The Pirates’ outfield situation is not evolving as many envisioned, but could the Padres’ outfield logjam finally be near a resolution? All this and more awaits in this week’s set of lineup analyses.
The Diamondbacks did not send Kevin Cron back to the minors after last weekend’s series in Toronto was over, and he has started two of the last five games at first base (including on Friday night at the Nationals). He won’t likely play enough to have fantasy value, but he just might take enough playing time away from Christian Walker to curtail his value. Walker’s role could be further limited when Jake Lamb (quad) returns, which could occur in the next week or two. That would also likely mean the end of regular playing time for Ildemaro Vargas, with Lamb making some starts at third base and Eduardo Escobar moving over to second base.
With Alex Avila (calf) going on the IL on Friday, Carson Kelly could see at least a slight bump in playing time, with the just-recalled Caleb Joseph also picking up some of the slack.
The steady playing time for each of the Braves’ (non-battery) starters has meant little action for their reserves. Johan Camargo has not started since June 2, and Charlie Culberson’s last start was on May 23.
David Bote’s up-and-down season is back on the upswing. He has started eight of the Cubs’ last nine games with five of those games coming at second base and three coming at third base. Bote is on a mild hot streak, too, going 5 for his last 16 (.313) with a home run and a double.
Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward continue to play nearly everyday in the outfield, while Albert Almora Jr. and Carlos Gonzalez (along with Kris Bryant) have been filling out the third spot — or giving Schwarber or Heyward the occasional day off.
The Reds had faced six straight right-handed starters going into Friday night’s series opener against the Rangers, so David Bell hasn’t done much tinkering with the lineup. An exception was giving Jose Peraza and Josh VanMeter a start apiece afforded by the DH spot in the lineup for the recent two-game series in Cleveland. The biggest change has been Derek Dietrich taking over the cleanup spot from Jesse Winker against righties. For the most part, Winker has moved down just a spot to fifth, though he has led off and hit sixth one time each in his last six games.
Bud Black has handled the Rockies’ recent run of games against left-handed starters a little differently than he had previously. He had been starting Brendan Rodgers against southpaws, but across the last three games — all against left-handers — he started Rodgers just once and Ryan McMahon twice. Also, the slumping Raimel Tapia has apparently lost his status as an everyday left fielder, as David Dahl has started each of the last three games there, with Ian Desmond playing center field.
With all of the Dodgers’ moving parts, there have been only two near-constants: Cody Bellinger in right field and Corey Seager at shortstop. Now that Seager is on the IL with a left hamstring strain, we’re down to Bellinger. Given that Chris Taylor is the only other Dodger to start at shortstop this year, he figures to play there every day now.
Though he isn’t likely to stick at a single position, Enrique Hernandez has once again found himself in the starting lineup on a regular basis. He has started each of the last six games, which have been evenly split between righty and lefty starters. Then again, given that Hernandez is batting .158 in June, this trend may not necessarily last long.
Nothing much of impact here. J.T. Riddle had been settling in as the center fielder against righties, but he did not start either on Tuesday or Wednesday against the Cardinals. I am assuming the change is performance-related, since he had gone just 4 for 22 since getting called up on May 31. His absence made room in the lineup for Rosell Herrera on Tuesday and Martin Prado on Wednesday (at third base, with Brian Anderson in right field and Harold Ramirez in center field). Riddle is out of the lineup again for Friday’s series opener with the Pirates. With Prado (hamstring) now on the IL and lefty Steven Brault on the mound, Anderson is once again in right field and Yadiel Rivera is starting at third base.
Jesus Aguilar has received a bit more play of late, starting three of the last six games, though Eric Thames was able to start one of those games as a DH in Houston. In his last four games, Thames has three two-hit games, and going back to May 22, he has a .300/.386/.600 slash line. With Aguilar continuing to struggle (.513 OPS in June), it’s hard to imagine him posing a serious challenge to Thames’ playing time.
During Robinson Cano’s first IL stint for a strained left quad, Adeiny Hechavarria did the bulk of the fill-in work at second base. For Cano’s current stay on the IL, it’s been Jeff McNeil getting most of the starts at second base, with Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis taking over in left field. With both Cano and Brandon Nimmo (back, whiplash) on rehab assignments and possibly close to returning, playing time could get scarce for both Smith and Davis. Both players have options remaining, so their roster spots could be in jeopardy. This is probably more true for Smith, who would be a fifth outfielder and backup first baseman once Nimmo is back.
Todd Frazier continues to move up in the batting order. Over the last four games, he has hit cleanup twice and batted fifth twice.
The Phillies called Nick Williams up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace the injured Adam Haseley on June 8, but he did not make a start until June 12, when Bryce Harper missed just his second start of the season. Jay Bruce and Scott Kingery have become fixtures in left and center field. With Kingery handling center field duties, Maikel Franco has started five of the last six games at third base, though he is being sat in favor of Sean Rodriguez on Friday night against the Braves. Franco is still struggling at the plate, collecting only two singles and a walk in 17 plate appearances during that six-game stretch.
Corey Dickerson was activated last Saturday, but Bryan Reynolds is still very much part of the Pirates’ outfield mix. Including Friday night’s series opener in Miami, Dickerson has made four starts in the last seven games, all in left field, and Reynolds has started five times (three times in left field and twice in right field). Gregory Polanco is still not back to being an everyday player, starting only four times over the last seven games. Essentially, Starling Marte is the only regular outfielder, and Dickerson, Reynolds and Polanco are rotating in the corner spots.
Not only is Reynolds holding his ground as an integral part of that rotation, but he is settling in as the Pirates’ No. 2 hitter. Marte has moved down a spot to become the No. 3 hitter, and Polanco has been dropped down to the sixth spot.
With Francisco Cervelli (concussion) out, Elias Diaz has been getting a disproportionate share of the starts at catcher, but it hasn’t been hurting him at the plate. Over his last 15 games, Diaz has gone 17 for 50 (.340) with one home run and five doubles.
Even though he is mired in a 4 for 23 slump, Franmil Reyes continues to be the Padres outfielder who sits the least. However, he has been dropped in the batting order. Reyes had been hitting second, but he has batted fifth in five of his last six starts. Hunter Renfroe’s playing time has been on the wane, as he has started four of the last eight games, though he did miss one start due to a stiff neck.
The Padres’ outfield logjam has been something that owners have had to track all season so far, but the situation could change in the coming weeks. According to a report from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, just about any hitter on the Padres’ roster, short of Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer or Fernando Tatis Jr., could be moved in a trade.
A recent run of four left-handed starters over seven games gave Tyler Austin a chance to increase his playing time. He also started on Tuesday against Padres righty Chris Paddack in place of Kevin Pillar. However, in going 2 for 17 over this stretch, Austin has not really made a case to expand his role.
Matt Carpenter has yet to bust out this season, and now he is starting to sit a little more frequently. He missed a start on June 7 due to a shin bruise, but he has also been out of the starting lineup three other times over the last 13 games. Carpenter has been serving as the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter when he does start.
Jose Martinez had not played much from the middle of May through the first week of June, but he has started three times in right field in place of Dexter Fowler over the last six games. Neither Martinez nor Fowler is hitting much lately, as they have combined to go 8 for 46 (.174) in June.
Friday night’s game against the Diamondbacks marks the third straight game without Matt Adams in the lineup. Adams strained his oblique against the White Sox on Monday, but he is not expected to need an IL stint. In the interim, Howie Kendrick and Gerardo Parra have been handling first base duties.
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.