All That Jazz

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Ryan Boyer
·13 min read
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Who has been in a favorable or unfavorable spot in their team’s batting order of late? Who is in a platoon? Let’s get to the Lineup Lowdown.

Atlanta Braves

- Even with Ender Inciarte (hamstring) sidelined, the Braves elected to send Cristian Pache to their alternate site rather than re-add him to the active roster once he recovered from his groin injury. They’ve kept Ronald Acuna Jr. in right field and installed Guillermo Heredia as the everyday center fielder for now. Heredia is fine defensively, but most of his offensive production has come in one random two-homer game and he’s stuck at the bottom of the batting order. There’s no fantasy value there.

- Ozzie Albies was dropped from the two to the five spot after a rough start to the season but has now been at cleanup for his last three games even though he’s still not really getting results at the plate. He’s actually posting the best batted ball data of his career, so Albies should get hot any day now. The 24-year-old has the second-largest gap of anyone in baseball between his xBA (.310) and actual average (.164).

Miami Marlins

- The Marlins have been hit hard by injuries lately, losing leadoff hitter Starling Marte (rib) and No. 5 hitter Brian Anderson (oblique) along with Jorge Alfaro (hamstring). It’s resulted in plenty of shuffling around of the batting order, with the most notable move being Jazz Chisholm going from the six spot up to leadoff. Unfortunately, his bat has started to cool off a bit since being elevated to the top of the order, as he’s put up a .524 OPS and 48 percent strikeout rate in five games. Chisholm is hitting lasers when he makes contact, most notably posting an elite 22.5 percent barrel rate. He’s going to have lulls, though, with his swing-and-miss tendencies.

- Also getting a much more favorable spot in the lineup has been Miguel Rojas, who has gone from mostly batting seventh all the way up to the two hole. Rojas’ on-base percentage since the beginning of last season is .387, as he’s significantly upped his walk rate to go along with his always-microscopic strikeout rate. It should result in plenty of runs scored while he’s hitting second, but power just isn’t a part of his game. Rojas does have three steals already, but with a below-average sprint speed, that looks like a mirage.

- Garrett Cooper has hit cleanup in the team’s last three contests even as his season-long slump has continued. His strikeout rate is up this season at 33.3 percent, but he’s hitting the ball harder than ever with a 91.4 mph exit velocity. I like Cooper to start producing, especially if he keeps batting cleanup. I don’t know that the latter will happen, though, since putting Cooper in right field means playing Adam Duvall in center or benching Duvall or Corey Dickerson.

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New York Mets

- J.D. Davis’ defense at third base has been hard to watch sometimes, but no one has been hotter at the plate over the last week. He got his first start of the season in the cleanup spot against lefty Patrick Corbin on Sunday and responded with a home run among his three hits. Davis figures to move back down to the six spot versus righties, but the Mets appear willing to live with the poor defense at the hot corner if it means having his bat in the lineup.

- The Mets have only faced three lefties so far, so it’s hard to say how often the club plans to bench Dominic Smith against southpaws (he’s started one of those three games). Against righties Smith has been a staple in left field and in the three spot in the lineup even as he has posted a .448 OPS across his last eight games.

Philadelphia Phillies

- Alec Bohm has gotten off to a rotten start and as a result has been flip-flopped with Didi Gregorius in the 5-6 spots the last few games. Gregorius hasn’t been hitting much, either, particularly of late. The Statcast data says that Bohm has been unlucky, although he is striking out at a much higher than expected rate of 27.1 percent.

- The unexplained absence of Adam Haseley has led to Mickey Moniak getting some extended run in center field. Moniak is one of the least-hyped former No. 1 overall picks in recent memory, and he hasn’t done anything to change that perception with a 3-for-25 start to this season.

- Jean Segura’s quad injury has opened up some playing time at second base. Brad Miller got the first start at the keystone after Segura went down and batted fifth in the lineup. However, Miller has dealt with a stiff neck, leading to rookie Nick Maton getting a shot. Both Miller and Maton have been ripping the cover off the ball in limited samples so far. Noticeably absent from the mix has been Scott Kingery, who was recalled nearly a week ago but has yet to start a game.

Washington Nationals

- A huge hole was left in the Nationals’ lineup with Juan Soto (shoulder) going down. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear he’ll be out long. Andrew Stevenson got the call in right field in the first three games without Soto, but in the last two it’s been Yadiel Hernandez in right and in the two hole in the lineup. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity by reaching base six times and driving in a couple runs. Hernandez put up a monster season at Triple-A in 2019. Granted, he was 31 at the time, but it’s possible there’s short-term value there.

- The Victor Robles at leadoff trial run didn’t last long and he has now settled into the eight spot in the lineup. Robles’ batted ball data has always been underwhelming and continues to be, so his improved plate discipline hasn’t mattered all that much. He’s also attempted just two stolen bases (getting caught once). His fantasy appeal has nosedived.

Chicago Cubs

- With Joc Pederson (wrist) injured, Cubs skipper David Ross has elected to move Kris Bryant to left field and install David Bote and Matt Duffy at third base. Bote has started hitting lately and even found himself batting second on Sunday, although that likely was only the case because Willson Contreras had the day off. The 28-year-old has greatly improved his strikeout rate this season, but he’s not hitting the ball nearly as hard and is also hitting a ton of grounders.

- After a surprising demotion before Opening Day, Nico Hoerner was finally recalled when Pederson got hurt and has received three straight starts, reaching base eight times during that span. He’ll probably be stuck in the bottom third of the lineup, but Hoerner should be the second baseman for the remainder of the season. The Cubs know what they have (or don’t have) in Eric Sogard.

Cincinnati Reds

- Tyler Naquin has predictably cooled off and has been in the lineup just once in the last four games. Nick Senzel has gotten on base a good amount the last few days, but he has just one extra-base hit over his last 14 games and has been caught stealing on two of three attempts. It still seems too early to give up on him. The Statcast data looks pretty good.

- Eugenio Suarez batted fifth on Sunday, the lowest spot he’s been in so far this season. He’s looked completely lost at the plate lately, going 3-for-43 with a 21/2 K/BB ratio over his last 10 games. Suarez’s strikeout rate was up significantly the previous two seasons and it’s been even more worrisome this year at 38.5 percent.

Milwaukee Brewers

- Speaking of worrisome strikeout rates, Keston Hiura continues to struggle to make contact. After mostly batting second the first couple weeks of the season, he’s been in either the five or six spot in his last six starts.

- On the opposite end of the spectrum, Omar Narvaez has shaken off last year’s disappointment with a blazing-hot start to 2021. He’s assumed Hiura’s old spot in the lineup as the two-hole hitter in the Brewers’ last two games.

- Billy McKinney has taken over regular left field duties with Christian Yelich (back) on the shelf. The 26-year-old had a recent stretch when he homered in three of four games, but he only had one other hit in his last six games otherwise and has fanned at a 40 percent rate during that span.

Pittsburgh Pirates

- After discarding Anthony Alford and Dustin Fowler, the Pirates for the time being have shifted Bryan Reynolds to center field, moved Phillip Evans to left field and installed Erik Gonzalez at third base. It sounds like Ka’ai Tom will get a shot in center field soon, though, once he completes intake testing. Gonzalez figures to be the odd man out at that point, with Evans shifting back to the hot corner. Evans has tailed off majorly after a scorching start with just a .435 OPS and 33 percent strikeout rate in his last 11 contests. He’s keeping the seat warm for Ke’Bryan Hayes (wrist).

- Gregory Polanco hasn’t hit higher than sixth so far this season but might be due for a move up in the lineup. He belted his third home run on Sunday and boasts a .937 OPS with three dingers and two stolen bases over his last nine games.

St. Louis Cardinals

- Dylan Carlson has been stuck in the lower third of the Cardinals’ batting order for most of this season, but he was moved up to the No. 2 spot this past weekend and responded by getting on base eight times in three games. One troublesome trend from a fantasy perspective in regards to Carlson is the lack of stolen bases. Often pegged as a potential 20-20 threat, Carlson has yet to attempt a stolen base this season after attempting just two last year.

- The Cards gave Matt Carpenter some regular run at second base for a while, with Tommy Edman moving out to right field. That’s changed a bit over the past week, though, with Carpenter starting just two of the last five games. Tyler O’Neill returned from the injured list and homered twice Sunday and the club seems likely to go with him and Justin Williams at the outfield corners for now, at least until Harrison Bader (forearm) is ready.

Arizona Diamondbacks

- With Ketel Marte (hamstring) and Tim Locastro (finger) sidelined, leadoff duties have fallen to Pavin Smith over the last week. He’s taken well to the role, putting up a 1.007 OPS with one home run and seven runs scored in six games. A natural first baseman, Smith has mostly played right field this season but has started three of the last four contests in center field. Statcast says that Smith has actually been unlucky, with there being a 50-point gap between his xwOBA (.401) and wOBA (.351).

- Carson Kelly batted second in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, which is just the second time he’s hit higher than fifth (he’s hit seventh more than anywhere else). The catcher earned the move up in the lineup, of course. He’s slugged five homers over his last nine games and has posted elite walk (22.6 percent) and barrel (17.1 percent) rates. It’s shaping up to be a big bounce-back season for the 26-year-old.

Colorado Rockies

- Yonathan Daza has started each of the last five games and been in the No. 6 spot in the lineup each contest. The 27-year-old consistently hit for a high average throughout the minors due in no small part to his elite contact rate. He has no power to speak of, though, and while he ran a good amount in the minors, hasn’t done so much at all at the big league level.

- With Daza taking over as the primary center fielder, Garrett Hampson has mostly stuck to second base of late. He’s been productive of late with an .883 OPS, two homers and one steal in his previous nine contests. Hampson continues to strike out way too much for a guy without much power, though, and he could see his playing time cut into when Brendan Rodgers (hamstring) returns.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

- Mookie Betts has been getting regular starts in center field since Cody Bellinger (leg) went down, which has opened up right field for others. Zach McKinstry (oblique) initially was the main beneficiary but is now injured himself. Luke Raley has started in right three of the last four games but hasn’t done much at the plate to this point.

- Sheldon Neuse has seen regular starts against lefties of late and popped a couple home runs this past week. He could be headed back to the bench or the alternate site soon, though, with Gavin Lux’s (wrist) return imminent.

- Will Smith has made 13 starts at catcher to Austin Barnes’ nine starts, so Smith is currently on pace for a few more than the 90 starts that manager Dave Roberts projected in spring training. It remains less than an ideal setup, but Smith has certainly proven capable of being a fantasy asset even without playing every day.

San Diego Padres

- It will be interesting to see how the playing time breaks down at catcher with Austin Nola (finger) due back this week. Victor Caratini has carried a pretty heavy workload with 15 starts and has drawn rave reviews from the Padres’ pitching staff. He hasn’t hit much, though, and has struck out in nearly half of his plate appearances over his last nine games. Nola figures to take on the lion’s share of starts at some point, but perhaps not right away.

- The Padres flip-flopped Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trent Grisham in the 1-2 spots in the batting order ahead of the series against the Dodgers. Both players were ultra-productive as the Friars took three of four, so the setup figures to continue.

- Things haven’t gone well for Tommy Pham. He doesn’t have a single multi-hit game this season, has just one extra-base hit (a double) and has been on the bench for four of the last 11 games. On top of that, he exited Sunday’s game with a calf injury.

San Francisco Giants

- Austin Slater is stretched defensively in center field, but that hasn’t stopped the Giants from starting him there each of the last four games and nine of the last 11 contests. He’s also batted leadoff regularly against left-handers. Slater has been up and down offensively and is striking out a lot, but he has some power and underrated speed.

- Tommy La Stella had been sitting regularly against left-handers, but he’s been an everyday player since Donovan Solano (calf) went down and bats leadoff versus right-handers. There’s no speed and the power is mediocre, but La Stella could score a bunch of runs. He’s worth scooping up if he was dropped in your league.