With the trade deadline behind us, player movement has slowed to a crawl, but as in any other week, injuries and slumps are causing managers to tweak their lineups. Here are this week’s most notable changes in the National League.
Just as it appeared that Christian Walker was losing playing time against righties, he has gained it back. Walker has started five straight games, including three against right-handed starters. Instead, it’s Adam Jones who is losing playing time, as he has been out of the starting lineup for three of the last five games with a right-handed starter
Dansby Swanson (foot) still does not have a timetable for activation from the IL, but it’s not clear who will be the primary playing time beneficiary. Johan Camargo had started the first 12 games at shortstop in Swanson’s absence, but he hit only .116 over that stretch. Charlie Culberson has made the last four starts there, and he may have earned himself at least another start or two with his four-hit performance against the Twins on Wednesday. Even without that big game, Culberson may get an extended shot to start, as the Braves had been considering sending Camargo to Triple-A.
The addition of Nicholas Castellanos has actually stabilized the outfield, as he and Jason Heyward have been playing every day, while Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. have been operating as a strict platoon. Second base continues to be a free-for-all, with Ian Happ, David Bote and Tony Kemp all getting starts in the last six games. Happ may have the upper hand, having started each of the last three games.
The Cubs signed Jonathan Lucroy on Wednesday, as they look to fortify their catching situation in the aftermath of Willson Contreras‘ hamstring strain. Lucroy started on Thursday night, but Victor Caratini, who had made the four previous starts, was back in the lineup for Friday night’s game in Cincinnati. Even if playing time is split fairly equally, Caratini (.826 OPS) is worth owning in two-catcher formats.
Second base is unsettled in Cincinnati, too. José Peraza continues to monopolize starts against lefties, but he, Josh VanMeter and Derek Dietrich have all made starts over the last four games featuring an opposing righty. Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino are getting steady play in center field and right field, respectively, and left field is a platoon. It’s not a straightforward one, though, as VanMeter and Jesse Winker are both getting starts against righties. Phillip Ervin appears to be locked in against lefties. Aquino’s hot hitting (9 for 21 with three home runs) had earned him the cleanup spot for three straight games, but he is batting fifth for Friday night’s contest against the Cubs.
There is not much new with the Rockies’ lineup, aside from David Dahl’s absence due to a high ankle sprain. His injury has not created more playing time for Raimel Tapia or Ian Desmond, as Bud Black has opted to create a rotation in left and center field that also includes Garrett Hampson and Yonathan Daza.
As discussed in last week’s NL lineup analysis column, Cody Bellinger has made the shift to first base, but he is not playing there exclusively. One of his last four starts came in center field. With Alex Verdugo on the IL with a right oblique strain, Matt Beaty has made three straight starts in left field. A.J. Pollock is expected to make his return on Friday night after starting once in the last six games due to a groin injury, so that could cut into the recent run of playing time for Beaty and/or Kristopher Negrón.
Oddly enough, the one position that does not appear to have a steady starter now is catcher, where Jorge Alfaro has already racked up 90 starts. Friday night’s game against the Braves will mark his first time making consecutive starts since July 30 and 31, as he has been alternating with Bryan Holaday. The 31-year-old veteran is slashing .303/.384/.474 and showing improved plate discipline and increased exit velocity.
Recent callups Isan Díaz and Lewis Brinson are settling in as regulars at second base and center field, and Jon Berti has replaced the injured Miguel Rojas (hamstring) both at shortstop and in the leadoff spot. Berti strikes out more often than Rojas, but he has more power and has stolen four bases in 30 games. He holds similar appeal to the player he is filling in for, which is to say he is a deep-league source of a potentially high batting average and runs.
Christian Yelich‘s back woes and Lorenzo Cain’s bruised knee have provided some recent playing time for Ryan Braun and Ben Gamel, but fantasy owners should not expect that to continue once both players return. Trent Grisham appears to be the Brewers’ regular left fielder against righties, and with Yelich out on Tuesday against the Pirates, Grisham also got a start against lefty Steven Brault. Cain is in the lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the Rangers, so the window could already be closed for Gamel.
Eric Thames and Yasmani Grandal have been in a strict platoon at first base for the last seven games. With Travis Shaw getting demoted to Triple-A San Antonio on Friday, that arrangement should continue.
The Mets signed Joe Panik on Friday, and he was immediately inserted into the lineup for Friday night’s game against the Nationals. With Robinson Canó possibly out for the year with a torn hamstring, Panik should get steady playing time for the foreseeable future. Canó’s absence from the cleanup spot has led to Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso moving down a spot to third and fourth in the order, and the surging Amed Rosario (.877 OPS since June 17) has hit second in four of the last five games.
With Sunday’s demotion of Maikel Franco to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, the Phillies’ infield situation looks set, but Jay Bruce’s activation on Thursday will lead to a shift in the outfield alignment. The Phillies made room for Bruce by optioning Adam Haseley back to Lehigh Valley, which opens up playing for both Bruce and Corey Dickerson. Both figure to start against righties, with Dickerson in center field. Bruce started on Thursday night against the Giants with Madison Bumgarner on the mound, so that may be a signal that he will play every day, or close to it. Roman Quinn has started four of the last seven games, and while the return of Bruce should mean a decrease in playing time, he should start in center field against lefties.
After having spent most of the season in the second spot in the batting order, Jean Segura has batted fifth for three of the last four games. Rhys Hoskins has moved up from the cleanup spot to second, while J.T. Realmuto moved from fifth to fourth.
Josh Bell’s two-game hiatus from the starting lineup ends on Friday night, but his temporary benching gave José Osuna an opportunity to make a couple of starts at first base. He had made six starts over the nine games prior to that, and Osuna was back in the lineup in left field on Friday night in St. Louis. He also started at third base and in left field over this stretch, so Clint Hurdle is making an effort to give Osuna something close to regular playing time. The versatile 26-year-old already has a .321/.374/.651 slash line, so all he needed was steadier play to be worth owning in mixed leagues with at least 14 teams.
Nothing seems to stay stable in the Padres’ outfield for long. Not long ago, Manuel Margot had started 16 straight games, but he has been out of the starting lineup for three of the last six games. Josh Naylor filled the void in the lineup for each of those games, plus he got an additional start as the designated hitter on Tuesday in Seattle. Wil Myers, who has played steadily for the last two weeks, has moved up to the second spot in the batting order for five of the last six games.
Stephen Vogt and Steven Duggar had taken over Austin Slater’s spot in the outfield for the last four games, but now Duggar is on the 10-day IL with a sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder. Vogt should continue to get starts, but he may split time with Slater or the just-recalled Joey Rickard. Outfield prospect Jaylin Davis, acquired from the Twins in the Sam Dyson trade, is off to a 10 for 20 start with two home runs at Triple-A Sacramento, but he has yet to be added to the Giants’ 40-man roster.
Matt Carpenter has started all five games since his return from the IL, but that has not meant the end of playing time for Tommy Edman. He started three of those games in right field, essentially working his way into a job-sharing situation with José Martinez. Edman also started at second base on Tuesday against the Dodgers. However, he is no longer batting in the leadoff spot when he starts. Dexter Fowler has taken over that role for the last three games.
As expected, Marcell Ozuna has started each of the six games the Cardinals have played since he was activated last Saturday.
The Nationals’ lineup is highly predictable, but that could change with their recent signing of Asdrúbal Cabrera. Not only is he versatile enough to fill in at several positions, but the organization is having him learn a new position: first base. Since signing on Monday, Cabrera has started one game, filling in for Brian Dozier at second base on Wednesday.
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.