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Fantasy Baseball Lineup Analysis: NL 04/15

Back at it with National League lineups. There is plenty to catch up on from the last 10 days of baseball. The five hottest hitters in the National League over that time period have been: Luis Arraez, Elias Diaz, Pete Alonso, Max Muncy, and Josh Rojas. Disclaimer; this article is written the day before publishing. Some of the statistics might change from games the night prior to reading this. I will do my best to update any important news or notes that come through at the last second. Keep reading to stay up to date on the latest trends from all 15 National League teams.

More great fantasy baseball advice and analysis: Waiver Wire & FAAB Recommendations | Daily MLB Injury Report | MLB DFS Picks | Line-up Analysis | Dynasty Rankings and Strategy | MLB Bullpen Updates | MLB Player Props | Prospect Rankings & Analysis | Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers

National League Lineup News

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies suffered another significant blow to their lineup this past week losing Darick Hall to a thumb injury. Hall is expected to be out for at least two months. In a corresponding move, Kody Clemens was recalled from Triple-A and appears to be on a strong side of a platoon with Edmundo Sosa. Clemens offers no fantasy value. Sosa’s fantasy value is contingent on playing time. The Phillies seem resistant to giving him everyday at-bats but his quality of contact looks much improved early on. I am stashing him in deep leagues.

Bryson Stott is off to an incredible start and is moving up in the lineup when righties are on the mound. He is batting leadoff against righties and is demonstrating elite contact skills. There is not much power here, but batting ahead of Turner, Schwarber, and Realmuto with plus speed provides Stott with plenty of fantasy value.

Brandon Marsh is still sitting against most lefties but has been moving up to sixth in the lineup when he is in it. He even hit fifth on Friday. Marsh’s plate discipline has improved by leaps and bounds. He looks like a completely different hitter at the plate and there is no reason to believe his strong start cannot continue. Pick up Marsh anywhere he is available. I doubt the Phillies continue playing Christian Pache over him against lefties.

Late Note: JT Realmuto was already down to fifth in the lineup earlier this week. In Friday’s lineup he is batting sixth. His whiff rate is way up and his average exit velocity is way down. Too soon to panic yet, but this is something to monitor.

Atlanta Braves

Right after the previous NL lineup article, the Braves lost both Michael Harris II and Travid d’Arnaud to the IL. This is the perfect chance for a plug to fellow Fantrax writer Dave Funnell. Dave has a daily article that comes out to keep you up to date on every injury in baseball. d’Arnaud is not expected to be sidelined with a concussion for long and should rejoin the Braves in the next week or so. d’Arnaud’s playing time was coming at the expense of Sean Murphy. Murphy has been excellent in regular playing time since the injury and there is no way the Braves will start benching Murphy. I do still expect d’Arnaud to receive regular playing time, but Marcell Ozuna is the most likely to lose his spot in the lineup. There was some hope in an Ozuna bounce back but he has just three hits all season.

Orlando Arcia was hit by a pitch on the wrist and initially believed he could avoid a trip to the IL. He has since been diagnosed with a fracture and landed on the IL. Pick up Vaughn Grissom ASAP. Grissom was drafted in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts before losing the job in Spring Training. He has a chance to make an immediate impact for your fantasy teams.

Sam Hilliard is playing most days with Michael Harris on the IL batting ninth. His speed creates significant fantasy upside, but do not fall for his hot start. He is striking out over 40% of the time with a BABIP of .700. Ozzie Albies is also moving down slightly in the lineup. He is batting sixth most games now as a result of his early struggles. Albies is yet to attempt a steal which is alarming. He is in no danger of losing his lineup spot, but there is a chance Albies is not fully healthy.

Washington Nationals

Alex Call has cemented himself in the Nationals’ lineup as their leadoff hitter. Call is a deep league target for OBP leagues but has limited fantasy value outside of that. Behind Call, Jeimer Candelario has become the go-to two-hole hitter for Washington. I am skeptical of this lasting very long as Candelario is struggling at the plate. Lane Thomas has hit toward the top of the lineup previously and could move back up if the Nationals decide to move Candelario down.

Luis Garcia was dealing with an injury earlier this week but has since returned to the lineup. Garcia has looked lost at the plate so far and is not worth rostering in any format. Jeter Downs recently was recalled from Triple-A and the Nationals might want to give him a look in the lineup. With just one stolen base so far, I am not sure there is any fantasy value in holding CJ Abrams. Abrams’ quality of contact and approach at the plate is still abysmal and if he is not giving you any speed then he does not deserve a spot on your fantasy team.

Stone Garrett is with the big-league club but is not being given the chance to start consistently. There is big-time power with fantasy upside in his profile. I am monitoring his playing time closely. If he sneaks his way into the lineup, then he could be worth adding in deep leagues.

Miami Marlins

Bryan De La Cruz is no longer splitting time with Jesus Sanchez. De La Cruz has taken hold of the starting LF job and is batting .321/.394/.464 since April 3. The raw tools in Cruz’s profile create plenty of upside, but I am not sold on this breakout. He has a whiff rate over 35% while chasing way above the league average. Pitchers are attacking him with more breaking balls which he has struggled to hit throughout his professional career. Nonetheless, the playing time is refreshing to see.

With Avisail Garcia and Garrett Cooper dealing with injuries, Yuli Gurriel has seen his playing time increase. If you need help with average, Gurriel is worth a look. With Joey Wendle still on the IL, Jon Berti is playing shortstop every day and batting ninth. He has three stolen bases since April 9 and is definitely worth adding if you need help in steals. Even after Wendle returns, Berti should receive semi-regular at-bats in his utility role.

Does Luis Arraez have a legitimate chance to bat .400? Probably not, but his start is impressive regardless. He is batting third for Miami and has not missed a beat since the trade to South Beach.

New York Mets

There have not been any real changes to the Mets’ lineup over the past 10 days. Eduardo Escobar continues to play third base and bat toward the bottom of the lineup. Escobar is showing no signs of turning things around at the plate placing an emphasis on the importance of stashing Brett Baty. Baty is dominating Triple-A and should find himself in New York any day now.

Another top prospect, Francisco Alvarez, is with the Mets thanks to the Omar Narvaez injury. Alvarez has game-changing upside from the catcher position but is not receiving any sort of regular playing time. The Mets seem content to rely on their veteran catcher Thomas Nido for the time being. I still think you should stash Alvarez, but if you need immediate catching help you should move on.

After a somewhat slow start at the plate for both Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso, they have turned it on over the last few games. The Mets’ offense goes as their three and four hitters get going and it appears to be happening. Both players should continue to be elite fantasy options at their positions.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

After criticizing Cody Bellinger last week, I am changing my tune. He is still batting fourth for the Cubs with notable improvements in his strikeout rate. Bellinger is whiffing over seven percent less than in previous seasons and it gets even more encouraging when you look at his contact skills against non-fastballs. Bellinger has had a history of doing damage on fastballs and struggling to make consistent contact on everything else. This season his whiff rates are way down on breaking balls and off-speed pitches. Bellinger is a bit of a mixed bag early on as the quality of his contact has taken a step back, but maybe I was too harsh in the previous NL Lineup article. Hold onto Bellinger and see if he can put it all together.

Eric Hosmer continues to bat sixth or seventh against righties while sitting against lefties. Those anticipating a Matt Mervis promotion should temper their expectations. Although Hosmer is not filling up the stat sheet, he is not doing anything to warrant a demotion to the bench. He plays solid defense and has been close to league average at the plate.

Nick Madrigal and Miles Mastrobuoni continue to split time at the bottom of the Cubs lineup. Neither one warrants a spot on your fantasy team with the current playing time situation. Now that Seiya Suzuki is back and healthy, neither figures to have a consistent lineup spot. Suzuki homered in his first game back and could be in for a big season.

St. Louis Cardinals

The big news is that Lars Nootbaar is expected to return from the IL this weekend. His return is likely to force Alec Burleson back into a bench role although there are other ways for Burleson to remain in the lineup. He has looked good at the plate with a 135 wRC+ and underlying metrics that strongly support his success. I might be buying Burleson while others are selling.

If I am buying Burleson, then who am I selling? The answer is Tyler O’Neill. The Cardinals made it clear they were upset with “the lack” of hustle shown by O’Neill on the base paths during a game last week and benched him for one game as a result. There is already tension here and O’Neill has been inconsistent at the plate so far. He could wind up on the short side of a platoon with Burleson when Nootbaar returns.

Nolan Gorman remains in a platoon situation with Juan Yepez. Gorman is batting sixth when in the lineup and continues to perform well. He is now up to four home runs while managing to keep his strikeout levels in check. The results may feel inconsistent over the past week, but Gorman has just a .077 BABIP since 04/07. The underlying metrics continue to support this breakout and you should not have any concerns. As for Yepez, he has looked great in limited at-bats so far this year. The St. Louis lineup is just too crowded for him to ever have any real fantasy value. Buy Yepez in dynasty while his stock is low and bank on a trade when the Cardinals decide they need pitching help.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers’ lineup has remained fairly consistent over the past ten days. The only significant change has been Jesse Winker dealing with an illness. This has gotten the combination of Luke Voit and Mike Brosseau into the lineup a little bit more over the past few days. Winker is expected to return to the team in the coming days.

After an alarmingly slow start at the plate, Rowdy Tellez has picked things up recently. He is likely to continue sitting against most lefties but remains a consistent power threat. Voit has been replacing him with a lefty on the mound but has struggled to get going. His struggles should result in less of a platoon for Tellez as the season moves along.

Earlier this week I wrote an article discussing some of the biggest surprises through the first two weeks of the season. I outlined in that article why Brian Anderson’s start does not appear to be sustainable. After his hot start, Anderson is just three for his last 24. He will remain in the lineup on a consistent basis, but I would be trying to sell high if you can.

Garrett Mitchell is batting fifth now and continuing to have success, but there are some red flags. His strikeout rate has crept back up to above 34% with a whiff rate over 36%. His batting average is starting to drop, and he is yet to attempt a stolen base. If Mitchell wants to continue his hot start, he is going to need to start making more contact at the plate.

Cincinnati Reds

Popular off-season breakout pick Will Benson has been optioned to Triple-A. Benson looked lost at the Major League level and was the odd man out with the return of Nick Senzel. Senzel is yet to put things together at the Major League level, but the Reds want to give him a look and see if there is anything there. He is a deep-league flier if available. He should get fairly consistent playing time in center field for the time being.

Last article I mentioned that Spencer Steer was a must-add. Since then, he has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. With plus power and a solid hit tool, Steer has a chance to be a significant fantasy asset for this season.

Jose Barrero continues to bat ninth and play every day for the Reds. At first glance, the strikeout rate looks much improved from previous seasons. Do not let this fool you though as his whiff and chase rate are still well worse than the league average.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The comments last week on Ke’Bryan Hayes’ launch angle remaining low appear to have been premature. His launch angle is up over 16 degrees, signaling potential significant improvements to his swing path. I am buying low on a potential breakout but am still skeptical after a back-and-forth with Chad Young on Twitter discussing his lack of pulled fly balls. He is moving up in the lineup slightly against righties with Oneil Cruz out for an extended period of time.

The Cruz injury has pushed Ji Hwan Bae to the top of the lineup against righties and opened up a starting job for Rodolfo Castro. Bae’s two home runs and three steals are appealing but he does not hit the ball very hard and is chasing over 40% of the time. I am skeptical of the long-term value here. Castro is off to a strong start at the plate and has some deep league appeal as long as he is playing. He has sneaky raw power and could help you if you are need of a middle infielder.

Connor Joe was originally platooning with Jack Suwinski. He is starting to earn more playing time thanks to an impressive start at the plate. He is batting well over .300 with a home run and stolen base already. Meanwhile, Suwinski looks lost at the plate. Do not be surprised if Joe continues to earn more playing time over Suwinski.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

James Outman no longer appears to be in a platoon. Outman has been awesome for the Dodgers with three home runs, two steals, and a walk rate pushing 20%. A 43% whiff rate is a concern, but everyday playing time on one of the best teams in baseball makes Outman a big-time fantasy asset. Outman has started the last two games against lefties and it appears the Dodgers are willing to see if he can handle them.

There is still an outfield platoon with David Peralta and Trayce Thompson. Peralta is on the strong side of the platoon for now but has a 14 wRC+ early on this year. If Peralta keeps struggling, Thompson or even Jason Heyward could find themselves in the lineup more often.

Max Muncy has been on a tear recently. He has four home runs since April 10, his barrel rate is at almost 30%, and his BABIP is still down at .211. Muncy could be in for a monster season.

Fun note: Miguel Vargas is walking over 30% of the time, posting a double-digit barrel rate, and has a zone contract rate of 84.3%. If you have the chance to buy low on Vargas do it now before it is too late. He is batting between fifth and seventh in the Dodgers’ lineup recently.

San Diego Padres

We are under a week away from the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. He is dominating Triple-A (as should be expected) and looks fully ready to transition to Major League pitching. Tatis is expected to take over leadoff duties upon his return. With Tatis returning, Trent Grisham is likely to move down to the bottom of the lineup. Grisham has four home runs already with an 88th-percentile exit velocity and an 89th-percentile barrel rate. The average will never be very good but there is sneaky pop and good on-base skills in Grisham’s profile. Rougned Odor will lose his spot in the lineup with Tatis’ return.

With two home runs and one stolen base already, Ha-Seong Kim is an interesting add. Kim is showing improved plate discipline and better quality of contact metrics. Although he was a professional in Korea, Kim is still relatively new to the Major Leagues. Last season was his first taste of regular playing time and it is realistic to believe Kim will continue improving this year.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Josh Rojas continues to be the primary leadoff hitter for Arizona. Despite pedestrian quality of contact metrics, he is batting over .400 with two stolen bases. Arizona kept him in the lineup against the last two lefties and there is a chance he is moving out of his platoon role. He will not provide much power but can be helpful if you need speed and batting average.

Jake McCarthy is up to sixth in the lineup but is still batting under .200 with zero home runs. With Kyle Lewis on the IL, his lineup spot is likely safe for now but I am concerned moving forward.

Geraldo Perdomo has been one of the hottest waiver wire adds recently. He now finds himself on the strong side of a platoon batting toward the bottom of the Diamondbacks’ lineup. Perdomo is batting over .400, but all of his metrics look the same as in previous seasons. The only difference is a .571 BABIP which is bound to regress. I am not rushing to add Perdomo at this point.

San Francisco Giants

Platoons, platoons, and more platoons! There are three clear platoon situations. LaMonte Wade, Brett Sabol, and Joc Pederson. Pederson is the most notable as the Giants are showing no signs of letting him play against lefties. Darin Ruf is back with the Giants to soak up some of the playing time against lefties along with Heliot Ramos and JD Davis. Davis has the most fantasy upside, but none of the three are worth rostering right now.

Joey Bart has taken over the primary catching responsibilities from Christian Vasquez who landed on the IL. Bart is swinging a hot bat to start his season but is demonstrating the same porous plate discipline and contact skills as before. He is also unlikely to see regular playing time against righties and is not worth adding anywhere.

The biggest mover in the Giants’ lineup has been David Villar. He is batting anywhere between third and sixth in the lineup but is already starting to slow down at the plate. Since April 6, he is batting just .190 with one home run. Villar has big-time power paired with serious contact issues.

Late News: Joc Pederson is a candidate to land on the IL with a right wrist injury. If Pederson misses time, Heliot Ramos is a candidate for increased playing time.

Colorado Rockies

Mike Moustakas has been receiving more playing time as of late but not because of his performance. Early in the week, CJ Cron was dealing with an illness and now Elehuris Montero is out with a thumb injury. Moustakas is struggling at the plate and now the Rockies called up Nolan Jones. Jones has struggled to gain traction in the Major Leagues, but has put up big Minor League numbers in his professional career.

After starting the season toward the bottom of the lineup, Elias Diaz is starting to bat higher for Colorado. Diaz is batting over .300 with two home runs. There is nothing in the underlying stats indicating a significant change in Diaz’s profile. I am not buying the Diaz breakout but if you need help in two catcher leagues, his lineup spot seems safe.

I am officially concerned with Ezequiel Tovar. He is struggling to make any sort of hard contact and is yet to attempt a steal. There is a chance the Rockies opt to send him back to Triple-A for more seasoning.

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