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Lineup Analysis 09/22

Time for another week of lineup analysis! The playoffs are right around the corner as some teams have already started clinching playoff spots. This always means that teams are starting to rest some of their starters. I dive into all the potential consequences of that below! The five hottest hitters in the league over the past week have been Aaron Judge, Willy Adames, Yordan Alvarez, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Isaac Paredes. Check out the rest of the article for news and notes from lineups around the league!

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

Nick Castellanos remains out for the Phillies this week. According to manager Rob Thompson, he has a chance to begin a rehab assignment this weekend and return to the team next week. In addition to Castellanos, the Phillies outfield got more bad news this week. Brandon Marsh left the game early on Tuesday after crashing into the wall. The Phillies are unsure how long he will be out. Nick Maton and Matt Vierling should see most of the additional time in the lineup with both players out. Dalton Guthrie was having a nice season in AAA and could also play some against lefties. He is not worth adding.

J.T. Realmuto continues to be one of if not the best catchers in baseball. He has a 171 wRC+ since the start of August and continues to bat right behind Bryce Harper in the lineup. This should provide him plenty of RBI opportunities and he should keep performing at an elite level.

Atlanta Braves

Heartbreaking news for Ozzie Albies. He returned for one game over the weekend against the Phillies but broke his finger and is now out for the remainder of the regular season. With Albies out, this allows Vaughn Grissom to continue playing every day at second base. He has been batting at the bottom of the lineup for Atlanta. Grissom still profiles as a useful fantasy asset, but the .352 BABIP is due for regression. Since the start of September, he has seen his strikeouts increase and he will likely need to make some adjustments to big league pitching.

The Braves seem to be moving past playing Eddie Rosario and Robbie Grossman. The two of them appear to be in a platoon with Marcell Ozuna playing on occasion. Instead, the Braves are prioritizing getting both William Contreras and Travis d’Arnaud into the lineup. The two catchers are the best bat and both can be useful fantasy catchers if playing. Since the start of September, Contreras is batting .303/.324/.515. At the same time, d’Arnaud is batting .333/.404/.667. Both players should be on your playoff roster as they continue to be in Atlanta’s lineup.

*Thursday News*: Ronald Acuna Jr. was scratched from the lineup with back tightness. With a playoff spot locked up, the Braves will likely be cautious with their star outfielder.

New York Mets

The Mets have clinched a playoff spot. The concern is that some of the Mets’ regulars could see less time in the lineup as they get ready for October. However, with the Braves hot on their tail for the division lead so I expect the regulars to all continue playing. Buck Showalter did come out and say he is toying with the idea of getting some players off their feet more often, so this is just something to monitor. Starling Marte said on Wednesday that he expects to return by September 30th. His return could be a big boost to playoff rosters. I expect Marte to slide back into the top of the lineup. Since the start of September, Mark Canha is batting .203/.329/.297. His ownership of 84% is too high and he should not be rostered at this point.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals seem to have settled on the top two hitters in their lineup. Lane Thomas has been getting a chance to leadoff, while Alex Call has been batting second. Since being moved into the leadoff spot-on September 1st, Thomas is batting .324/.403/.515. Thomas has shown flashes of being a useful fantasy asset at times this season, but I am skeptical of his long-term value. Over this period of success, he has a .385 BABIP which is completely unsustainable. Alex Call is 27 years old getting his first chance in the big leagues. I do not think he is worth adding currently. Meanwhile, Joey Meneses just keeps hitting. He is up to ten home runs in under 200 plate appearances. His BABIP is over .370 and I am skeptical of his value for future seasons. Ride out the hot streak but proceed with caution in keeper leagues.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

Most notably, the Cardinals sent down rookie second baseman Nolan Gorman to AAA. In a corresponding move, Juan Yepez is back with the team. Gorman had fallen out of favor in St. Louis with a middle infield consisting of Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, and Brendan Donovan. With Corey Dickerson continuing to swing the bat well, and the Cardinals wanting to get Alec Burleson into the lineup, Donovan was forced back to the infield and Gorman was the odd man out. Since August 20th, Gorman was batting just .150 with a strikeout rate near 40%. Over that period, Gorman was a little bit unlucky posting just a .242 BABIP. However, it is clear that he will need to work on reducing his strikeouts and improving his defense if he wants to be a part of the Opening Day lineup in 2023.

Juan Yepez figures to get into the lineup on occasion against lefties. I do not expect him to get regular at bats and do not think he is worth adding at this time. Alec Burleson could be a sneaky addition to your team. He was dominating AAA this year and although the surface numbers do not look great right now, he has been unlucky. Despite posting strong exit velocity numbers and a good line drive rate, Burleson has just a .182 BABIP. He is only striking out 7.7% of the time right now and should see his batted ball luck improve. With Tyler O’Neil still not near a return, Burleson could keep getting consistent lineup time and help your fantasy team!

NL West

San Diego Padres

Brandon Drury is healthy again for the Padres. Since returning, he has been batting cleanup in their lineup. Josh Bell continues to struggle and has just three home runs since joining the Padres. He has moved back to sixth in the lineup. Even with the Padres facing several right-handed pitchers this week, Trent Grisham has found himself on the bench. Jose Azocar appears to have taken hold of the platoon with Wil Myers. Grisham should not be rostered anywhere, and Azocar provides little fantasy upside as well. In deep leagues, Azocar has five stolen bases in just 189 plate appearances if you are desperate for help in that category.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Unlike the Mets, the Dodgers have not only clinched a playoff spot, but have clinched the division and a first-round bye. As a result, they have already started giving some of their regulars more days off. Will Smith and Max Muncy have been out of lineup for multiple games in the past week as the Dodgers make sure they are healthy for the stretch run. I expect this to continue for the rest of the regular season. If you are relying on players like Smith or Muncy, make sure you have a backup plan for days they do not play. Miguel Vargas, Chris Taylor, and Austin Barnes have been seeing their playing time increase with the regulars out of the lineup.

AL East

New York Yankees

As Aaron Judge continues to chase the home run record, the Yankees are intent on getting him as many at bats as possible. He has been batting leadoff for New York consistently now. Anthony Rizzo is now back healthy again and batting right behind Judge. D.J. LeMahieu is close to returning, so the possibility remains that he could be inserted back at the top of the lineup. LeMahieu’s return could reduce the playing time for either Isaiah Kiner-Falefa or Gleyber Torres. Harrison Bader made his long-awaited Yankees debut this week. He should be their primary center fielder and bat toward the bottom of the lineup. This will make playing time even harder to come by for Aaron Hicks who continues to struggle. Bader had 15 stolen bases on the year before being traded, but it remains to be seen how much his foot injury impacts his ability to run.

Boston Red Sox

 The Red Sox DFA’d Kevin Plawecki this week. This opens the door for Reese McGuire to be the every day catcher. McGuire is batting .278 on the season and will bat toward the bottom of the lineup. He has never profiled as useful fantasy asset and more playing time does not change that. Meanwhile, Triston Casas continues to platoon. He is in the lineup against righties and sits against lefties. He does not have a hit off of left-handed pitching and is batting just .079 on the season as a whole. Casas was never my favorite prospect in the minor leagues and it is clear that he has some adjustments to make. Bobby Dalbec was recalled by Boston on Thursday and could eat into Casas’ playing time.

Toronto Blue Jays

Although he has often been overshadowed by some of his other teammates, Matt Chapman is having a very nice season for Toronto. He has been moving up to either fourth or fifth in the lineup and is approaching the 30-home run mark. He has a 137 wRC+ on the season and should continue to be a reliable source of home runs and RBIs in fantasy. Alejandro Kirk has cooled off and is starting to lose some playing time to Danny Jansen. With Toronto battling for playoff seeding, they are opting to ride the hot bat. Since September 9th, Jansen is batting .429/.487/.743 while Kirk is batting just.258/.378/.290.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is expected to return to the lineup on Thursday. His return will undoubtedly take playing time away from Raimel Tapia. Tapia has been playing almost every day for Toronto, but Gurriel should take that spot back. Gurriel will likely slide into the back half of the Toronto lineup. Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal continue to split time at second base. I expect this to continue for the rest of the season.

Baltimore Orioles

Terrin Vavra is quietly finding himself in the lineup more often. He has been in every game against right-handed pitchers and is batting in the middle of the lineup. As I have mentioned before, Vavra has quality contact skills, but the lack of power removes most of his fantasy value. Kyle Stowers is also getting more playing time against righties. If he can put it together, I think that he could be a useful fantasy asset. The biggest thing to watch for him is if he can keep his strikeout numbers down. His increased playing time comes at the expense of Austin Hays who has found himself on the bench twice in the past week.

Gunnar Henderson has also moved up in the lineup. He has been batting all over the top of the lineup but seems to be settling into the third spot. He is a budding star and somebody that will produce for years to come.

AL West

Seattle Mariners

The past week or so has been a battle for Julio Rodriguez. He missed several games to start the week with a back injury. Rodriguez then returned to the lineup for two games before being removed from Thursday’s game. He was visibly frustrated upon exiting and fantasy managers can only hope for the best. With Rodriguez out of the lineup, J.P. Crawford has been handling the leadoff duties. Even with the move up in the lineup, I do not think Crawford is a useful fantasy asset.

Taking Rodriguez’s spot in the lineup most nights has been Sam Haggerty. However, Haggerty is batting just .147 since the start of September. The Mariners recalled Jarred Kelenic again from AAA. He should be in the lineup most nights if Rodriguez is forced to miss extended time. Kelenic’s success at AAA and prospect pedigree warrant adding him to your team in the event he finally puts it all together.

Houston Astros

The Astros are another team that has clinched the playoffs. Christian Vazquez appears to be rotating in more frequently. Catchers are typically the position that gets rested the most before the playoffs, so Vazquez and Maldonado could be in a timeshare for the rest of the way. However, the player I am most concerned about getting additional time off is Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez has been battling injuries for most of the season and is clearly one of the most talented hitters in baseball. The Astros could give him additional time off to keep him healthy down the stretch. This is just something to keep an eye on.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals

The Royals lineup welcomed back Edward Olivares this week. In a corresponding move, they optioned Nick Pratto back to AAA. Pratto was struggling at the big-league level, but this was still unexpected. I expect Pratto to be given another chance next year but is not worth rostering in any redraft leagues. Hunter Dozier has also seen his lineup time decrease. Even when he is in the lineup, he is batting toward the bottom of the order. Michael Massey continues to be a player that is intriguing to me. He has strong barrel rates and has been getting a chance to bat in the middle of the lineup consistently. He has taken the starting job away from Nicky Lopez. Despite his defensive talent, Lopez is not good enough offensively to be in the lineup on a regular basis.

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