Now that the All-Star break is behind us, it’s time to check in once again on lineup trends in the National League. The Dodgers have made a bevy of lineup moves over the break, and the Cubs may have a position battle on their hands. The details on these and other situations are just below.
It appears that Christian Walker will lose the most playing time as a result of Jake Lamb’s activation, being relegated to the lesser side of a first base platoon. Jarrod Dyson sat when Walker made starts against a pair of lefties (Drew Pomeranz and Madison Bumgarner) on June 29 and 30, but that’s been fairly close to the status quo. Even prior to Lamb’s activation, Dyson would frequently sit against left-handed starters in order to accommodate Ildemaro Vargas (with Ketel Marte playing center field) or Tim Locastro.
However, with David Peralta on the IL with a inflammation in his right shoulder, Walker has reclaimed starts at first base against righties. Walker has also settled into the cleanup spot, which has been most often occupied by either Peralta or Adam Jones.
The Cubs ended the first half on a string of 10 straight games with a right-handed opposing starter. With the Pirates and Reds up next for them, the streak is almost certain to continue for another week. That should mean continued steady playing for Jason Heyward.
Addison Russell has looked close to claiming the second base job, starting eight of the last 12 games there. However, his two most recent absences came in the Cubs’ final three games of the first half, and rookie Robel Garcia got the nod both times. Garcia also served as the DH for Saturday’s game against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. He responded to those three starts by going 4 for 10 with two home runs and a triple. There could be a playing time battle brewing here.
David Bell’s response to the return of Scooter Gennett appears to be the institution of an outfield rotation. Gennett’s first two games of the season came against lefties, so as one would expect, neither Jesse Winker nor Derek Dietrich started, as Phillip Ervin handled left field. However, his next three starts all came against righties, and Dietrich started in left field for two of those games, with Ervin getting the other start. Winker also got two starts — one in center field and one in right field. With Gennett out of the starting lineup for the final three games of the first half due to a new groin injury, Winker temporarily reclaimed his left field job, while Dietrich made two starts at second base.
Gennett could return this weekend, so in all likelihood, the outfield rotation will be back in operation. It’s worth noting, though, that Dietrich continues to slump, as he is now 8 for his last 65 (.123) with one home run (but nine hit-by-pitches). He could lose playing time, and even if he doesn’t, Dietrich does not look like a threat to bump Gennett from the cleanup spot, where he batted in each of his last three starts.
With the Rockies set to face at least five right-handed starters over their next seven games, we have an opportunity to see how playing time will shake out between Ian Desmond and Raimel Tapia. While Desmond has received steady starts against lefties, he has started just once in the last six games against a right-handed starter. However, Tapia has compiled a .680 OPS going back to June 9, possibly opening up a chance for more playing time for Desmond.
Dave Roberts got into a lineup-writing groove while Corey Seager and David Freese were out, but now with both players getting activated over the break, the Dodgers’ skipper could go back to mixing and matching. Matt Beaty had captured the larger part of a left field platoon with Kyle Garlick, but both hitters have been optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. That could mean that Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor could replace them as left field platoon partners, and that could mean more playing time for Enrique Hernandez (with Max Muncy shifting from second to first base).
Even before Brian Anderson sustained an elbow contusion on July 2 against the Nationals, Neil Walker was getting starts at third base. With Garrett Cooper having made nine straight starts at first base, the arrangement could continue into the second half, even when Anderson rejoins the lineup. The third base and/or right field situation could soon be in flux, as Walker is one of several veteran players who could get dealt before the July 31 trade deadline. For the time being, Harold Ramirez and J.T. Riddle figure to get the bulk of the starts in left field and center field, respectively.
The Brewers recalled Tyler Saladino on June 28, and over the 10 games they have played since then, he has been out of the starting lineup for only three of them. He is splitting time with Orlando Arcia at shortstop, but he also spelled Ryan Braun for two games while he was day-to-day with a sore right knee. Saladino has gone 3 for 27 over that stretch, so there is no urgency in any mixed league to pick him up.
The Mets’ lineup was stable over the final two weeks of the first half. Michael Conforto received nine of 12 starts in center field, and Jeff McNeil started all but one of those games in right field. Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis have established a platoon in left field.
Now that Maikel Franco is once again getting virtually everyday starts at third base, the Phillies’ lineup is rarely changing from game to game.
Since July 1, Adam Frazier has led off each one of the six games in which the Pirates faced a right-handed starter. He has taken the opportunity and run with it. Well, not literally, as he has just one stolen base during that stretch, but Frazier has gone 18 for 30 with a home run and seven doubles since being put back in the leadoff spot. He has supplanted Kevin Newman, who led off in the one game that featured an opposing lefty starter, but has hit seventh five times during that stretch.
The outfield alignment has stabilized, with Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Bryan Reynolds playing regularly. Melky Cabrera did knock Dickerson and Reynolds out of the starting lineup twice each over the last 11 games.
The Padres’ outfield situation is not quite stable, but they headed into the break with Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Franmil Reyes getting the steadiest playing time. Second base has been shared by Greg Garcia and Ian Kinsler, but it can’t be long before Luis Urias gets the call to take over the job, can it?
Yet another team with an outfield situation that just won’t settle. Kevin Pillar is set in center field, and left field appears to be a platoon with Alex Dickerson and Tyler Austin. Right field looks close to a platoon situation, with Mike Yastrzemski starting against righties and Austin Slater starting versus lefties, but Yastrzemski has stared only two of the last four games against right-handed starters.
Donovan Solano has started five of the last seven games at shortstop, including two of four games with a right-handed starter. Solano is 14 for his last 43 (.326), and if he keeps hitting, Brandon Crawford may find playing time to be scarce early in the second half. The former Marlin and Yankee has also started to hit leadoff against lefties, with Brandon Belt batting atop the order against righties. Joe Panik has fallen all the way from the leadoff spot to the eighth spot, where he has hit in eight of his last 10 starts.
Harrison Bader may be falling out of favor again. Since a string of 21 straight starts, he has been out of the starting lineup seven times in the last 16 games. His playing time situation may be worse than that makes it sound, as three of those starts came in a series in Seattle, where Jose Martinez got in the lineup via the DH slot. In two of the three games in San Francisco last weekend, Mike Shildt penciled in a starting outfield of Tyler O’Neill, Dexter Fowler and Martinez.
In Matt Carpenter’s (back) absence, Yairo Munoz has started five of the last seven games at third base. However, Tommy Edman has managed to find playing time, filling in for Kolten Wong for three of those games, and taking over third base duties for the two games where Munoz sat. Edman has also led off in each of the last eight games he has started. Martinez has batted second in his last eight starts, as opposed to his customary fifth spot in the batting order. The Cardinals activated Carpenter on Thursday, so his owners, as well as those of Edman and Munoz, should monitor his playing time this weekend.
Ryan Zimmerman returned from the IL when the Nationals were playing in Detroit on June 28-30, so there were spots for both him and Howie Kendrick in the lineup. Both hitters started the first two games, with Matt Adams sitting, but since that series, Kendrick has started just two games out of six, and both were at second base. Adams and Zimmerman split the time at first base with three starts apiece.
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.