Lineup Lowdown: National League

Lineup Lowdown: National League

This article is part of our Lineup Lowdown series.

The goal with Lineup Lowdown is simple: we're looking for trends which could help identify players who might be undervalued or overvalued. Who is playing more/less? Who is moving up/down? We'll be doing a deep dive into one league each week as we navigate the lineup landscape.

Atlanta Braves

– Less than three weeks after losing Ronald Acuna to a season-ending ACL tear, the Braves suffered another major injury to their outfield when Michael Harris landed on the injured list with a strained hamstring. Harris' injury isn't as serious as Acuna's, of course, but he does have a Grade 2 strain so the assumption is he will be sidelined for several weeks. In his absence, Atlanta has elevated Jarred Kelenic to the leadoff spot for each of their two games versus right-handers. Kelenic hadn't previously hit higher than seventh all season. Filling Harris' spot in the outfield was Ramon Laureano for the first two games, as he played right field while Adam Duvall shifted to left. However, in the next two contests it was Forrest Wall starting in left, with Duvall moving back to right. It figures to be a fluid situation as Atlanta attempts to piece things together.

– In a season-long slump, Austin Riley was moved down to the fifth spot in the batting order prior to Harris getting hurt and he's remained there since the injury. Perhaps he's received the message, because the third baseman homered three games in a row and then doubled twice Monday. His

The goal with Lineup Lowdown is simple: we're looking for trends which could help identify players who might be undervalued or overvalued. Who is playing more/less? Who is moving up/down? We'll be doing a deep dive into one league each week as we navigate the lineup landscape.

Atlanta Braves

– Less than three weeks after losing Ronald Acuna to a season-ending ACL tear, the Braves suffered another major injury to their outfield when Michael Harris landed on the injured list with a strained hamstring. Harris' injury isn't as serious as Acuna's, of course, but he does have a Grade 2 strain so the assumption is he will be sidelined for several weeks. In his absence, Atlanta has elevated Jarred Kelenic to the leadoff spot for each of their two games versus right-handers. Kelenic hadn't previously hit higher than seventh all season. Filling Harris' spot in the outfield was Ramon Laureano for the first two games, as he played right field while Adam Duvall shifted to left. However, in the next two contests it was Forrest Wall starting in left, with Duvall moving back to right. It figures to be a fluid situation as Atlanta attempts to piece things together.

– In a season-long slump, Austin Riley was moved down to the fifth spot in the batting order prior to Harris getting hurt and he's remained there since the injury. Perhaps he's received the message, because the third baseman homered three games in a row and then doubled twice Monday. His demotion in the lineup shouldn't last long.

Miami Marlins

– Until this past weekend, Jesus Sanchez hadn't made a single start against a left-hander all season. Then he started back-to-back games versus southpaws and was in the fifth spot in the batting order. Unfortunately, Sanchez went just 1-for-7 in those two contests and is just 3-for-33 on the year against lefties. I wouldn't count on Sanchez becoming an everyday guy, but the Marlins did release Avisail Garcia and Dane Myers hasn't done much against left-handers, either (.690 OPS).

– The Marlins gave Tim Anderson a random start in the leadoff spot this past weekend after a mini hot streak when he had four straight multi-hit games. It was the first time he's batted higher than sixth since early May. As a response, he wore the golden sombrero in that game. All nine of Anderson's hits during the aforementioned four-game span were singles and his three hits since then were singles. Somewhat amazingly, none of the 30-year-old's average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage has even reached .300 since April 17.

New York Mets

– The Mets moved J.D. Martinez up to the third spot in their batting order last week and have promptly reeled off six straight wins. He wasn't the sole reason for the hot streak, of course, but Martinez has gone 10-for-22 with three home runs over that span and he's been easily the club's best hitter this season after joining them in late April with an .872 OPS.

– The Mets got Francisco Alvarez back from his fractured thumb last week and have batted him eighth four times and seventh once. Prior to his mid-April injury, he had spent most of his time hitting sixth (eight times) or fourth (four times). There's undoubtedly room for him to move up in the batting order, but it could take time.

Philadelphia Phillies

– In an injury that seemingly came out of nowhere (although, it turns out he had been dealing with it for a while), the Phillies announced last week that J.T. Realmuto needed meniscus surgery. He's likely to be out through the All-Star break. In eight games since then, Garrett Stubbs has garnered five starts and Rafael Marchan three. Stubbs is a pretty good athlete for a catcher and did hit well for the Phillies in 2022 (.812 OPS), but outside of that he's been dreadful offensively. Even in a good lineup and now seeing regular reps, he's probably not someone fantasy managers want to count on.

– The Phillies have, at least temporarily, pulled the plug on Johan Rojas in center field, optioning him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Brandon Marsh got the first start in center Monday before Cristian Pache played there Tuesday. Both games were against righties, but the expectation is Marsh will mostly handle center versus righties and Pache against lefties. David Dahl and Whit Merrifield are poised to platoon in left. The Phillies have also discussed using Edmundo Sosa some in the outfield since Trea Turner is back, although it's not clear how serious that consideration is. Sosa has never started a game in the outfield since entering pro ball.

Washington Nationals

Joey Meneses was on the bench for three straight contests earlier this month, but then Joey Gallo went down with a significant hamstring strain. It's meant Meneses becoming the everyday first baseman since then rather than splitting time between first base and DH, and he's suddenly heated up at the dish with a 1.191 OPS in his last six games. The 32-year-old had seemed like a candidate for a demotion, but with Gallo out Meneses is unlikely to go anywhere.

Jesse Winker suffered a knee injury this past weekend but managed to return to action after just a one-game absence. When Winker was out Sunday, Luis Garcia received his first start against a lefty since late April. Garcia has slowed to a .563 OPS in June and hasn't homered since May 24.

Chicago Cubs

Christopher Morel and Seiya Suzuki were recently flip-flopped in the batting order, with Morel moving to the two hole and Suzuki to cleanup, after the two had spent most of the season in the other spots. The decision by manager Craig Counsell seems less a tactical plan and more an effort to shake up a moribund offense. Whatever the case, it hasn't worked so far, as the two have combined for six hits (five from Suzuki) and the Cubs have scored a total of just 14 runs over the stretch.

Michael Busch had seen his playing time dip for a bit at the beginning of the month, but he's now seen his name penciled into the Cubs' lineup 10 times over the last 11 contests. Three of those starts came at second base while Nico Hoerner was banged up, which were Busch's first three appearances at the keystone this season. Hoerner has since returned to action, but Busch should be the primary first baseman again with Cody Bellinger needing to play right field to cover for Mike Tauchman (groin).

Cincinnati Reds

Jacob Hurtubise had a stretch of six straight starts against right-handed pitching but that has been followed by four straight games on the bench, with three of them being against either a righty starter or righty primary pitcher. Meanwhile, Nick Martini started all three of those contests versus righties after returning to the majors this past weekend. It could be a moot point soon, as Noelvi Marte is due back from his PED suspension next week and should be the regular third baseman, shifting Jeimer Candelario to first base and Spencer Steer back to the outfield.

– If Steer does indeed move back to the outfield upon Marte's return, it will create a playing-time squeeze, with Jake Fraley and Will Benson seemingly vulnerable (assuming TJ Friedl's hamstring injury is indeed minor). Both guys are sitting on just a .693 OPS and Benson in particular has struggled lately, putting up a .537 OPS and 44.7 percent strikeout rate in June.

Milwaukee Brewers

Sal Frelick was the Brewers' primary leadoff man against right-handed pitching at the beginning of the season, hitting there 19 times in 29 games in such situations. He hasn't batted higher than fifth since then, though, and in their last two contests heading into Tuesday has been down in the No. 7 spot. Also, remember when Frelick was supposed to play third base? The Garrett Mitchell injury initially scuttled those plans and Joey Ortiz's emergence at third base has nipped them in the bud. Frelick has played four innings at the hot corner this season and those all came back in April.

– Speaking of Milwaukee's outfield, would you have guessed before the season that, out of Frelick, Jackson Chourio and Blake Perkins that Perkins would have seen the most playing time out of all of them? Entering Tuesday, Frelick and Perkins both have 57 starts (Chourio has 55), but Perkins has played 30 more innings in the outfield. Since May 1, Perkins has started 36 games, Frelick has started 32 and Chourio has started 29.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Nick Gonzales has emerged as a key figure in the Pirates' lineup. Since being promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis on May 10, Gonzales has started all but two games, and over the last five contests he's batted third twice and fourth three times. The first-round pick is slashing .302/.331/.492 and his batted-ball data has improved greatly across the board from 2023, with his average exit velocity going from 85.5 mph to 90.1 mph, his hard-hit rate from 26.8 percent to 45.5 percent and his barrel rate from 3.7 percent to 11.1 percent. All the while, Gonzales has cut his strikeout rate from 28.1 percent to 22.6 percent.

Jack Suwinski is getting another opportunity, having started 10 of 14 since being recalled, including nine of 11 versus right-handed pitching. Suwinski has just a .653 OPS over that span, although he has gone deep a couple times. Michael Taylor has made just six starts for Pittsburgh since Suwinski rejoined the big club, as the latter is clearly being prioritized over the former, especially against righties.

St. Louis Cardinals

– Initially, when the Cardinals introduced Masyn Winn to the leadoff spot it was only against left-handed pitching. However, he's now the club's full-time leadoff man, having started in the spot for each of its last 11 contests. It's quite an uptick in responsibility for Winn, who had previously spent most of his time in the bottom third of the Cardinals' batting order. Unfortunately, he hasn't experienced much success from the leadoff spot yet, having produced a .636 OPS and 24:2 K:BB over 82 plate appearances.

– Winn has basically flipped lineup spots with Brendan Donovan. Donovan still easily leads St. Louis with 46 starts at leadoff this season, but he had not hit higher than sixth since the aforementioned 11-game stretch with Winn at leadoff until Winn was a late scratch Tuesday with an illness. The 27-year-old remains one of the most difficult players in the game to strike out, with just a 13.4 percent rate, but he hasn't been drawing walks this year. That rate sits at just 6.9 percent after he came into the year with a career walk rate of 11.1 percent.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Geraldo Perdomo is back from knee surgery and has started six of seven contests at shortstop. Both Kevin Newman and Blaze Alexander remain on the Diamondbacks' roster, though, and the plan is to give Alexander more reps at third base as Eugenio Suarez battles season-long struggles at the dish. Alexander has started two of the last six games at the hot corner and made three starts overall across the past six contests, mixing in a game at DH. The 25-year-old has had a productive rookie season, but nearly all of his power (all three home runs, five of seven doubles) came in April.

– I'm interested to see how the Diamondbacks handle their outfield situation when Alek Thomas (hamstring) returns, which is expected to be soon. Jake McCarthy came into the season a clear fourth in the pecking order behind Corbin Carroll, Lourdes Gurriel and Thomas, but he's been easily their most productive hitter and in June sports a .900 OPS. Gurriel (.815 OPS) and Carroll (.757 OPS) have also been better this month, although the power has remained non-existent for Carroll. The four could rotate in and out of the lineup when Thomas is ready, with everyone seeing a day or two off per week.

Colorado Rockies

Michael Toglia has played his way into an everyday role, having started all 12 games since being recalled earlier this month. He's slashed .290/.349/.447 with one home run and one steal over that stretch, splitting time between first base (five starts) and right field (seven starts). Strikeouts remain a major problem for Toglia, as he's still fanning at a 30.2 percent rate this month and a 35.9 percent clip for the season. He's hitting the ball hard, though, with a 91.1 mph average exit velocity, 49.1 percent hard-hit rate and 13.2 percent barrel rate.

Elias Diaz (calf) is on the shelf and the Rockies have elected not to add another catcher to the roster, instead using Hunter Goodman as their backup there. He's started each of the last four games (two at catcher, two at DH) and homered three times. Goodman did catch a decent amount in the minors, so the position isn't foreign to him. What fantasy managers want to keep an eye on is if he gains eligibility there and continues seeing regular starts.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Mookie Betts suffered a fractured left wrist this past weekend and is expected to be on the shelf at least until late July. Miguel Rojas received the first two starts at shortstop for the Dodgers after Betts went down and the plan is for him to be the primary guy there. Rojas typically has started against left-handers this season, with Betts sliding over to second base those days.

Shohei Ohtani has moved up one spot to leadoff in the absence of Betts. Occupying the two hole now is Will Smith, who goes from cleanup to the two spot to break up the left-handed hitting Ohtani and Freddie Freeman. Teoscar Hernandez has inched up to the cleanup spot. It remains a terrific top four in the Dodgers' batting order, but the lineup was already top-heavy and is now even more so without Betts.

San Diego Padres

Donovan Solano has started 10 of the last 11 contests for the Padres. They did face five lefties over that span, but he also was needed at third base for seven straight games, first as Manny Machado sat out with a hip injury and then when Machado was eased back into things at DH. Meanwhile, with a string of lefties on the schedule and Machado needing some DH time, David Peralta has had his name penciled onto the lineup card just twice in the last eight tilts.

Kyle Higashioka has started four of the last seven games at catcher and he and Luis Campusano have basically split starts down the middle so far this month (nine for Campusano, eight for Higashioka). Higashioka has four home runs this month, while Campusano has hit four all season and none since May 20. Many were predicting a potential breakout season for the latter, but it hasn't come to fruition.

San Francisco Giants

– It's been quite a stretch for Heliot Ramos as he re-establishes himself in the Giants' organization after a couple years of stalled progress. Ramos has started every game since May 10 and has been on an absurd run in June with a 1.233 OPS and seven home runs over 16 contests. He's been cemented into the No. 2 spot in the batting order, making eight straight starts there. The strikeout rate remains high at 28.8 percent, but so does the average exit velocity (93.5 mph), hard-hit rate (58.1 percent) and barrel rate (18.3 percent).

Nick Ahmed (wrist) returned from the injured list last week, but he's been on the bench for two of five games since then, including both contests versus right-handers. Those starts at shortstop have gone to Brett Wisely, who has started every game against a righty since May 25. He's slashed .297/.318/.469 over that span. The situation will likely be fluid, but for now it looks like these two will platoon at short.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Boyer
Ryan has been writing about fantasy baseball since 2005 for Fanball, Rotoworld, Baseball Prospectus and RotoWire.
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