There is a hitter who has recently worked his way into regular playing time for the Diamondbacks who has a 1.236 OPS over the last 30 days…and he’s owned in fewer than 12 percent of the leagues on ESPN, Yahoo and CBS. Read about this mystery player, as well as other National League hitters seeing changes in playing time just below.
Wilmer Flores has emerged as the regular at second base, as he has started six of the last eight games there. That has pushed Eduardo Escobar back making third base his full-time position and Ketel Marte into more starts in center field. Jake Lamb has been the biggest playing time loser, but it has also meant a slight reduction in playing time for Jarrod Dyson and Adam Jones, who are now vying for starts in right field. Flores has earned the more prominent role, as he has gone 24 for 59 (.407) with six home runs since Aug. 14.
This hot streak has largely escaped the attention of the fantasy community, as Flores is not among the most-added second basemen on ESPN, Yahoo or CBS. From here on out, the Diamondbacks play only three more games on the road (all at San Diego), and Flores has a .321/.390/.538 slash line at home this season. At the very least, it seems like he could help owners in 15-team mixed leagues.
Josh Rojas has cooled off recently, going 3 for his last 21 heading into Thursday’s game at the Mets, but he continues to draw walks. Perhaps that’s why he has batted second in six of the Diamondbacks’ last 13 games and in three of the last five.
The Braves’ lineups for the past week largely resemble those from the previous week. Austin Riley’s return did not mean a decrease in playing time for Rafael Ortega, as the rookie has made only one start against a righty so far. Johan Camargo did get the start in left field over Ortega on Wednesday against the Phillies, but he left the game early with a right shin contusion.
With Javier Báez (thumb) out for the regular season and Addison Russell (nose) out indefinitely, Ben Zobrist and recent callup Nico Hoerner have inherited substantial roles. Zobrist has been out of the starting lineup for the Cubs’ last two games due to a bruised knee, but prior to that, he had made six consecutive starts against righties. David Bote, who started on Saturday against the Brewers and Gio Gonzalez, figures to be his platoon partner. Hoerner made his major league debut on Monday and has started each of the three games the Cubs have played since then.
Zobrist led off for each of his last six starts, while Jason Heyward has moved down to the sixth spot or lower in each of his last eight starts. Kyle Schwarber has batted second or third in each of his last five starts.
A slew of opposing lefty starters — five in the last six games — has meant more playing time for Curt Casali, Alex Blandino, José Peraza and Phillip Ervin, but all should remain in platoon roles going forward, with the exception of Casali. The Reds have faced two right-handed starters over the seven games that Nick Senzel has missed with a sore right shoulder, and Brian O’Grady has started both of them in center field. With the Reds slated to hit against three right-handed starters in their upcoming weekend series against the Diamondbacks, and with Senzel still lacking a timetable to return, O’Grady should see some playing time in the short term.
Since returning from the IL on Sept. 3, Raimel Tapia had started only one of four games against left-handed starters. He is also absent from the Rockies’ lineup against right-handed Miles Mikolas on Thursday, as he is dealing with the aftermath of fouling a ball of his knee in Wednesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Aside from Charlie Blackmon in right field, the outfield spots are largely up for grabs between Tapia, Ian Desmond, Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson and Yonathan Daza, though Hilliard has started exclusively against righties so far.
Now that the Dodgers have clinched the NL West, they will have little incentive to push hitters battling injuries into playing everyday. That may mean occasional days off for Justin Turner (ankle) and Max Muncy (wrist) when they return. It could also provide an opportunity to give A.J. Pollock, who has missed time with elbow and groin injuries, some days off. Even so, having Turner and Muncy back could conceivably cut into the playing time of Matt Beaty and Gavin Lux.
Garrett Cooper has been splitting first base duties with Neil Walker, but he is still starting nearly every game, as he is playing right field when Walker plays first base. That has shifted Harold Ramirez into a job-sharing arrangement with Austin Dean in left field. Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra and Jon Berti have been splitting time in center field. Berti is also getting occasional starts at third base and shortstop, so while he is no longer an everyday player, he has started seven of the Marlins’ last 11 contests.
With Christian Yelich out for the season due to a fractured kneecap, Trent Grisham figures to see steadier playing time, but we should not count on him to play every day. He did start in center field in place of Lorenzo Cain on Wednesday, but he appeared only as a pinch hitter on Thursday, with Ben Gamel starting in right field. The Brewers activated Keston Hiura (hamstring) from the IL on Wednesday, but he did not start in either Wednesday’s or Thursday’s games against the Marlins. However, he should play a more prominent role by sometime next week.
Travis Shaw and Hernán Pérez platooned at third base in Mike Moustakas‘ absence, but he is now back from the injury to his palm and wrist. Moustakas started each of the last two games and went a combined 4 for 7 with two home runs.
As expected, Jeff McNeil is taking a roughly equal share of starts away from Robinson Canó, Todd Frazier and J.D. Davis. Brandon Nimmo has a strict platoon in center field with Juan Lagares, whose only starts over the last seven games have come against the three left-handed starters the Mets have faced. Nimmo, however, did get in the lineup against lefty Robbie Ray on Wednesday in right field, as he gave Michael Conforto a breather. Since returning, Nimmo has gone 5 for 19 (.263) with two home runs.
Since getting moved into the cleanup spot on Aug. 31, Wilson Ramos is 12 for 37 (.324) with one home run, five doubles and three strikeouts. No hitter with at least 200 plate appearances since July 1 has a lower strikeout rate than the 8.3 percent mark Ramos has compiled over that period.
Adam Haseley was out of the starting lineup for Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games against the Braves with lefties Max Fried and Dallas Keuchel toeing the slab for the visiting team. Scott Kingery started in center field for both games, with Sean Rodríguez taking over at third base for Kingery. For Thursday night’s series finale, Kingery remained in center field with Haseley getting the start in left field, as Corey Dickerson is sidelined with a sore left foot.
As long as Haseley is healthy, he should continue to be a presence in the Phillies’ outfield, even though he has just a .721 OPS. He has the sixth-highest total of defensive runs above average among outfielders in the second half.
The Pirates’ lineup has been steady, except for the recent absence of Starling Marte, who is day to day with a sprained wrist. Bryan Reynolds has shifted from left to center field to fill the void, while Kevin Kramer and Pablo Reyes have platooned in left field. Jacob Stallings has been settled in as the primary catcher since early August, and he has now started seven of the last 10 games. He has thrived away from PNC Park, boasting a .313/.382/.513 slash line on the road. However, once the Pirates’ series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field concludes this weekend, they have only one more road series, at Milwaukee from Sept. 20-22.
In the latest episode of As the Padres’ Outfield Turns, Nick Martini and Wil Myers are getting regular play, while Hunter Renfroe has been out with an ankle injury. Martini has started 11 of the last 12 games, while Myers has been in the starting lineup for seven games running. Josh Naylor and Manuel Margot, meanwhile, have been in a platoon. Entering Thursday’s game against the Cubs, Martini was 14 for his last 39 (.359), while during the same period, Myers has been 16 for 34 (.471) with three home runs and only six strikeouts. With Renfroe not expected to return soon, both Martini and Myers should continue to find a place in the lineup.
Even though he is 3 for 21 with no extra-base hits to begin his major league career, Jaylin Davis appears to be locked in as a regular outfielder alongside Mike Yastrzemski and Kevin Pillar. Davis has started five games in a row.
Steven Vogt has started five of the last 10 games at catcher, and he has hit in the cleanup spot for each of those starts. In 124 second-half plate appearances, Vogt has a .284/.323/.552 slash line.
The Cardinals’ lineup has been incredibly steady, only to be punctuated every third day with a Matt Carpenter start at third base. Carpenter made one of those starts against the Rockies on Thursday, but Tommy Edman did not shift to the outfield or second base, as he typically does. He was out of the starting lineup for only the second time in the last 21 games.
Ryan Zimmerman and Asdrúbal Cabrera have both started four of the last six games at first and second base, respectively, including Thursday night’s game in Minnesota. Playing the last three games with a designated hitter has helped to promote that relative stability, as Howie Kendrick has served as the DH for each of those contests. On Thursday night, Yan Gomes will make his sixth consecutive start at catcher, as Kurt Suzuki is still out with right elbow inflammation.
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.