The first full week of the second half is just about in the books. Let’s see which NL teams have lineups with different looks.
The continued absence of David Peralta (shoulder) has meant there has been room for both Jake Lamb and Christian Walker in the lineup, even though the Diamondbacks have faced 11 consecutive right-handed starters. Peralta started swinging a bat this week, but he is not on the verge of returning. When Peralta comes back, assuming he is not traded shortly thereafter, Torey Lovullo will have a dilemma on his hands. Lamb has posted a .958 OPS in July, while Walker has an 1.133 OPS with four home runs in 35 plate appearances this month.
Jarrod Dyson is day-to-day with a right hamstring cramp. Should this injury linger longer than expected, Tim Locastro (8 for 8 in stolen bases in 50 games) would likely pick up most of Dyson’s playing time, as well as fill in for him as the leadoff hitter.
Austin Riley’s whiff-happy, flyball-prone ways are catching up with him, as he has batted .207 since the beginning of June. He is also paying a price in the form of a lower spot in the batting order. After batting sixth for most of the season, he has hit either seventh or eighth in each of the Braves’ last five games. The Braves activated Ender Inciarte on Thursday, and he is starting in center field, with Ronald Acuna moving to left field in place Riley, for Thursday night’s game against the Nationals. If any of the current starting outfielders were to lose playing time over the longer term to accommodate Inciarte, Riley would seem to be the most likely candidate.
The Cubs placed Willson Contreras on the 10-day IL, retroactive to July 14, with a right foot strain. They also acquired Martin Maldonado, who will split catching duties with Victor Caratini while Contreras is out. When Caratini gets the start, we can probably count on him to hit in the middle of the order. He has batted fifth in five of his last six starts. The team has yet to make a determination as to whether they will carry all three catchers when Contreras is activated, which could happen before the end of the month.
Robel Garcia and Addison Russell have alternated the last six starts at second base. Kris Bryant has seen his playing time in the outfield picking up lately, and that has given David Bote the opportunity to start six of the last 10 games at third base. His last 26 plate appearances have produced two singles, five walks and a hit-by-pitch, so this arrangement may not last much longer.
Joe Maddon has tinkered slightly with his batting order over the past 10 games. Javier Baez has batted second in each of those contests after being a fixture in the cleanup spot. Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have moved down a spot each, to third and fourth, respectively.
Since returning from an illness, Scooter Gennett has started three of four games at second base, and he is in the lineup again for Thursday night’s game against the Cardinals. Having been bounced as the regular at the keystone, Derek Dietrich is still finding regular playing time. He has started nine of the Reds’ last 11 games, with four starts apiece in left field and at second base and one start at first base. However, the slumping Dietrich’s (10 for his last 80) playing time may have been padded by Gennett and Jesse Winker missing some games with minor health issues.
Both Dietrich (knee) and Nick Senzel (hamstring) were out of the Reds’ lineup for Thursday night’s game due to injuries sustained on Wednesday. Both are considered day-to-day.
When I last wrote this column a week ago, I had noted that the Rockies’ upcoming string of games with a right-handed starter would provide a good test of how Bud Black was going to split playing time between Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond. A week later, it appears there is no clear winner or loser. Six of the Rockies’ seven games since the All-Star break have featured a right-handed opposing starter. Tapia started four times in those games, and Desmond started three times. The split wasn’t even, as both Tapia and Desmond started on Sunday against Tyler Mahle and the Reds, with David Dahl playing in right field in place of Charlie Blackmon.
The Dodgers have played seven games since A.J. Pollock and Corey Seager returned over the break, and Enrique Hernandez has started more games (six) than Alex Verdugo has (five). Then again, one of the games in which Verdugo was out of the starting lineup had him sitting for Chris Taylor, who is now out for four-to-six weeks with a fractured forearm. Verdugo’s playing time shouldn’t be threatened over the long term. He figures to start regularly against lefties now that Taylor is on the IL, and Pollock and Hernandez could sit often enough to ensure playing time for him against righties.
The Marlins activated Martin Prado from the IL on Thursday, but he was not in the lineup against Dinelson Lamet and the Padres. The most apparent role for him in the short term would be to serve as Neil Walker’s platoon partner at third base. In a corresponding move, J.T. Riddle went on the IL with a forearm strain. That should cement playing time for Cesar Puello, who has started four straight games in center field.
On Thursday, Miguel Rojas started his 24th straight game in the leadoff spot. Prior to Thursday’s series finale against the Padres, he had been batting .337 over that stretch.
Jesus Aguilar has started five of the last nine games at first base in place of Eric Thames, but only one of those starts was against a right-handed pitcher. In July, Aguilar is batting .367 with three home runs, while Thames is hitting .235 with one homer. There could be an opportunity for Aguilar to further encroach on Thames’ playing time, even against righties.
Lorenzo Cain has reclaimed the leadoff spot from Yasmani Grandal, having made seven straight starts there. Going back to July 5, Cain is 12 for 42 (.286), so he appears to have snapped a month-long slump. Between June 4 and July 3, he batted .217 with a .579 OPS.
The only real change for the Mets has been in the upper half of their batting order. Michael Conforto has hit second for each of the last three games against a right-handed starter, and J.D. Davis hit in that spot for the two games against a lefty. Peter Alonso slid down a spot to third, while four different batters (Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos, Dominic Smith and Robinson Cano) have hit cleanup over the last six games.
Jean Segura (heel) and Maikel Franco (groin) returned to the Phillies’ lineup on Thursday afternoon against the Dodgers. Jay Bruce, who was placed on the 10-day IL with a strained right oblique on Wednesday, was the only regular who was absent from the lineup. Adam Haseley got the start in left field, and he figures to get the bulk of the starts there until Bruce returns.
The Pirates’ lineup is locked into a steady pattern. Clint Hurdle has no fewer than three platoons going, with Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman sharing second base (with Jung Ho Kang filling in for Newman at shortstop versus lefties), Colin Moran and Jose Osuna splitting third base duties and Corey Dickerson and Melky Cabrera dividing up an outfield spot.
The catching duties are also being split in a predictable pattern. The last time Jacob Stallings caught for a starting pitcher other than Chris Archer or Joe Musgrove was on June 2, when he caught Jordan Lyles.
The Padres’ lineups in the first week after the break closely resemble their pre-break lineups. Wil Myers is still nowhere to be found. He last started on July 4 and has been in the starting lineup only twice since June 23. Francisco Mejia started the first four games out of the break, but Austin Hedges started behind the plate on both Wednesday and Thursday.
Luis Urias Watch is back on, as he may be in the lineup for Triple-A El Paso on Thursday night after missing six games with a left shoulder injury.
Alex Dickerson continues to hit well, going 8 for his last 11, but Bruce Bochy has been cautious with him since his return from back tightness. Austin Slater started for him in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader in Colorado, as well for Wednesday’s series finale.
Jose Martinez appeared to have fallen out of favor, but he started on Wednesday and was back in the lineup again for Thursday night’s opener against the Reds. Harrison Bader was out of the lineup for both games, while Tyler O’Neill and Dexter Fowler continue to get regular playing time.
Since Matt Carpenter went on the IL on Tuesday with a right foot contusion, Tommy Edman has started and led off all three games. Two of those were at third base, and in the other game, he gave Kolten Wong a breather at second base.
There is not much new happening in the Nationals’ lineup. Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman are splitting time at first base, and Brian Dozier has started all but two of the last 18 games at second base. Howie Kendrick has started only two of the last 11 games, and one of those was as the Nationals’ DH for Wednesday’s game in Baltimore.
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.