Some weekend IL moves could disturb the tranquility in the Rockies’ and Pirates’ outfields, while the Cubs have already made a notable shift there. Here’s the weekly NL lineup breakdown.
Christian Walker has started seven games in a row, so even with Kevin Cron back up from the minors, there is no apparent first base controversy. Cron could fill the DH slot for this weekend’s series in Toronto, and it would not be surprising if he got sent down afterwards.
Ildemaro Vargas has started six of the last eight games at second base. Ketel Marte continues to get most of his playing time in center field, but he started at shortstop against the Dodgers on Monday to give Jarrod Dyson a start in center.
The Diamondbacks don’t exactly have a strict platoon going on at catcher, but Alex Avila is getting the bulk of the starts against righties and Carson Kelly has received four of the last five starts against lefties. Given that Avila has an .836 OPS against right-handers and Kelly has a 1.202 OPS versus left-handers, this arrangement figures to have some legs. With the Diamondbacks facing Steven Matz on Sunday for Merrill Kelly’s most recent start, the team had an all-Kelly battery for only the second time this season. They are going to repeat the feat on Friday evening against the Blue Jays.
Aside from Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann sharing the catcher position, Brian Snitker has used a nearly-identical lineup for each of the Braves’ last 11 games. Johan Camargo started once in place of Nick Markakis. That’s it.
Since getting called up, Carlos Gonzalez has started four out of five games. Albert Almora Jr., who has started only two of those games, appears to be the Cubs’ new fourth outfielder. Second base looks to be mostly a time-share situation between Addison Russell and David Bote, who have each started four games there over the Cubs’ last nine contests.
It’s been pretty much the status quo for the Reds this past week, but with Kyle Farmer as Derek Dietrich’s platoon partner at second base for the last two games started by lefties. Jose Peraza filled in for Jesse Winker in left field for those same two games. While Winker remains a fixture for games started by righties, he is no longer settled in as the team’s cleanup hitter. Over his last eight games, he has batted fourth only once, while occupying the second, fifth, sixth or seventh spots in the other contests.
With Charlie Blackmon (calf) out, the Rockies had a stable outfield alignment of Raimel Tapia, Ian Desmond and David Dahl. Both Tapia and Desmond have been light on production over the past week, so it remains to be seen whether one or both of them will lose playing time, now that Blackmon was activated on Friday.
Brendan Rodgers‘ playing time continues to shrink, as he has made only two starts at second base and one start at shortstop over the last seven games.
Matt Beaty had started five of six games at first base against righties, but the last two starts there against righties have gone to David Freese and Max Muncy. With Enrique Hernandez hitting better of late and Justin Turner back from his hamstring injury, it looks as if Beaty’s brief run of regular playing time may be over.
Corey Seager has heated up with a 15 for 45 run with four home runs and seven doubles, so maybe it will be awhile before we see him batting sixth or seventh again. He did bat sixth on Saturday against the Phillies, but aside from that, he has either batted fifth or filled in for Turner in the third spot.
Neil Walker’s quad strain has not meant more playing for Martin Prado, but rather for J.T. Riddle, who took Walker’s place on the active roster when he went on the IL. For the last three games against right-handed starters, Riddle has gotten the nod in center field, moving Harold Ramirez over to right field and Garrett Cooper to first base. Prado is still getting the starts at first base against left-handers.
Based on the first three games since Keston Hiura’s demotion, Mike Moustakas is going back to playing second base against righties and third base against lefties, with Travis Shaw starting at third base versus righties. Essentially, Hiura is being replaced by a platoon of Shaw and Hernan Perez. Eric Thames continues to get close to everyday play at first base, having started 12 of the last 15 games.
Robinson Cano’s aggravated quad injury has caused him to be out of the lineup both on Thursday against the Giants and Friday versus the Rockies, and he was replaced at second by Adeiny Hechavarria and Jeff McNeil, respectively, in those games. According to multiple reports, Cano took ground balls on Friday afternoon, but it is not yet known when he will be able to return to the starting lineup. McNeil figures to split his time between second base and left field, with Hechavarria, Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis picking up playing time wherever McNeil isn’t playing. That arrangement may not last long, though, as Cano may be used off the bench on Friday night.
McNeil’s return from the IL has meant that Amed Rosario has been moved out of the leadoff spot and into seventh spot in the batting order.
Carlos Gomez has settled in as the primary center fielder, and he could remain in that role until Brandon Nimmo completes his rehab assignment. Nimmo made his first rehab appearance with the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League on Thursday, going 2 for 4 with a triple as the designated hitter.
The Phillies have responded to Andrew McCutchen’s season-ending torn ACL by calling up Adam Haseley and starting him in center field on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Padres. Newly-acquired Jay Bruce started in left field for both of those games. Conceivably, Scott Kingery could still be in the outfield mix, but he has started three games in a row at third base. So for now, it appears that Bruce, Haseley and Kingery have full-time roles and Maikel Franco is the odd man out.
With McCutchen out, Cesar Hernandez has moved up from his customary No. 7 spot in the batting order to hit leadoff. Bryce Harper and Jean Segura have flipped spots for the last two games, with Harper batting second and Segura hitting third.
Kevin Newman has wrested the starting shortstop job from Cole Tucker, making six of the last eight starts there. He has also taken over the leadoff position in the batting order from Adam Frazier, having started each of the last seven games there.
The outfield alignment has been fairly steady, aside from Gregory Polanco typically sitting every third or fourth game. That arrangement is likely to end soon, with Corey Dickerson (shoulder) getting activated on Saturday. It’s hard to imagine Polanco playing even less or Starling Marte not being an everyday center fielder, so despite riding high on an 18 for 44 (.409) streak, Bryan Reynolds figures to lose playing time, if not his spot on the major league roster.
With Thursday’s activation of Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado moved back to third base from shortstop. Greg Garcia, who had made three of the previous five starts at third base did not start at second base. However, with left-handed Patrick Corbin on the mound for the Nationals, Andy Green may have preferred a right-handed hitter, which may be why Ian Kinsler started.
Josh Naylor did not get sent down after the Padres were through with a pair of series in American League parks, so Green has been juggling five outfielders over the past week. Naylor has received only three starts in the last seven games, and Manuel Margot started only once, so Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers and Franmil Reyes have secure playing time, even with five outfielders on the roster.
There have been no major developments in the Giants’ lineup over the past week, other than Buster Posey being placed on the IL with a strained hamstring. Stephen Vogt has started four of the last five games at catcher.
The Cardinals’ lineup has been steady, even at catcher, where Matt Wieters has started seven of eight games with Yadier Molina (thumb) out. Matt Carpenter sat on Friday against the Cubs due to an apparently minor shin issue. Unless this turns into something more serious, we should expect Carpenter to resume being the regular third baseman and leadoff hitter.
Second base is the only non-catcher position where there currently is not a regular in place. Matt Adams has started six of seven games at first base, so Howie Kendrick is now vying with Brian Dozier for playing time at the keystone. He has started three of the last seven games there, though his most recent start (Wednesday versus the White Sox) was necessary due to Dozier being out with a forearm bruise.
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.