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NL Lineup Analysis 04/15

After a full week of baseball there is a lot to talk about. I don’t know about you, but I spent as much time as possible this past week watching baseball. The game is simple and has not changed much, but there is a sense of beauty to it that is unrivaled by other games. As often as possible I am going to try and do weekly NL and AL lineup analysis to give the readers more insight into each team. I hope to release my first AL lineup analysis in a few days, but for now here is more insight on the National League!

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

The top five hitters in the lineup are essentially set in stone unless one of them receives a day off. Schwarber, Realmuto, Harper, Castellanos, and Hoskins are a daunting first five hitters to face. I wrote a lot about Hoskins this offseason and he is off to a hot start. Hitting .278/.381/.556 Hoskins is in a great spot to drive in 100 runs this year. Fantasy managers are probably unwilling to trade him at this point, but I would at least still be giving it a try.

Initially, I believed it would be a three-way battle for two positions on the left side of the infield between Gregorious, Stott, and Bohm. Turns out Girardi is making it a four-way rotation adding Johan Camargo to the mix. Through seven games the starts are as follows:

  • Gregorious:6
  • Stott: 5
  • Camargo: 4
  • Bohm: 2

Girardi seems insistent on playing Camargo against right-handed pitching and Stott has yet to face a lefty. Bohm seemingly has very little fantasy value for 2022 with Girardi leaning toward Stott and Camargo more frequently. Stott has already gotten starts at third, short, and second so he could gain extra eligibility to boost his value. Girardi tends to lean on veterans which hurts any upside Stott and Bohm have for 2022.

*Late note* Jean Segura left the game on Wednesday after a hit by pitch. The team says he will be okay, but he could be out of the lineup for a couple of games.

New York Mets

All signs point to the Mets giving Robinson Cano some serious run this year. Through seven games he has started four of them. Dom Smith has three starts and J.D. Davis has two (Smith against righties and Davis against lefties). Luis Guillorme has even gotten multiple starts this season, so the Mets do not seem pressed to get Smith or Davis into the lineup consistently. Smith’s great Spring Training got some attention from analysts in the industry, but I am not sure if there is much value there the way things are trending.

Jeff McNeil is getting significant playing time and is worth rostering if he is available in any leagues. He is currently owned in 88% of Fantrax leagues so it is unlikely he is available, but if he is in a shallower league, he is worth an add. So far in 2022, McNeil has started six of seven games for the Mets and hit over .300 in 2019 and 2020. He is off to a strong start this year posting just a 9.4% chase rate through the first six games.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves have a platoon going on between Alex Dickerson and Orlando Arcia. Neither player was really on any fantasy manager’s radar before the season and both will lose their side of the platoon once Ronald Acuna Jr. returns.

Through 25 at-bats, Dansby Swanson is hitting in the bottom third of the lineup and has 13 strikeouts. That is bad especially since he was going around Willy Adames in draft season. Swanson has had below-average contact rates each of the past two seasons and it might finally be catching up with him. After posting a K% of 22.5% in his first four seasons, he saw that number jump to 26% in the last two and the issue might be getting worse. Obviously not rushing to drop him after one week, but I would be preparing a backup plan for him if he is on your roster.

Washington Nationals

All the Spring Training Lane Thomas hype has come to a screeching halt. Through seven games, Thomas has only started four of them; the same amount of games as Yadiel Hernandez. Across 112 games last season, Hernandez hit .273 and slugged .413. The big knock on Hernandez has been his ability to make contact consistently. If he continues to show improvements and see regular playing time he could be worth a flier in deep leagues.

There have only been seven games played, but Josh Bell has a launch angle of 12.8 degrees. His previous career-high was 13 when he hit 37 home runs back in 2019. If Bell can go back to hitting the ball in the air more consistently he could have a huge season. He has always posted excellent exit velocity and shown solid plate discipline. If the launch angle comes back Bell could find himself as a top-five first baseman.

Miami Marlins

If you read my last article, you know that I said to watch Joey Wendle. He has started all three games the Marlins have had against a right-handed pitcher. Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson have gotten off to rough starts at the plate. If Wendle keeps producing, he could find himself in the lineup even more and at that point could garner a waiver wire claim. I am still not ready to buy into Chisholm for this year yet. He has hit a couple of home runs, but he looks like the same player as last year. I am rooting for him to be good, but I am still skeptical that his approach will result in him busting in 2022.

I am a little bit nervous that the Marlins are running out of patience with their roster. They have gotten off to a rough start and called up Bryan de la Cruz to start on Tuesday. He will be coming into the lineup for one of Aguilar or Cooper which would hurt both of their values. Even though the results have not been there the first week, I am a fan of Cooper and am hoping the Marlins stick with him even after a slow start.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Clint Frazier seems to be on the short side of a platoon with Rafael Ortega. Frazier will have to produce to fight his way into consistent at-bats. When facing a lefty, Ian Happ dropped down toward the bottom of the lineup. He has struggled in the past against lefties, but from August 1 forward last year he hit .283/.370/.457. Happ was excellent after switching to a lighter bat during the second half and should move his way back up the lineup. He only has nine batted balls, but Nico Hoerner has an average EV of 98.7MPH. I am not sure if it will translate to anything, but it is at least worth monitoring. Known as a pure contact hitter, if he can develop some power that could significantly boost his value.

Milwaukee Brewers

There is a true platoon going on at 1B. Keston Hiura has started both games against lefties and Tellez has gotten all four starts against righties. If you drafted Tellez, I would not be dropping him yet. He is the better player and I think he will continue to prove that and eventually take some lefty at-bats away from Hiura. With Kolten Wong getting the night off, Tellez received a start against lefty John Means this week and went 1/1 with a double. The first sign of many that the Brewers want to see what Tellez can do against both righties and lefties.

There is a platoon going on in the outfield, just not where I anticipated it. I thought Taylor would platoon with McCutchen, but he is platooning with Cain. The move comes as a bit of a surprise as Cain is a career .301 hitter against lefties, but Taylor has gotten all three starts. This might just be a way for the Brewers to try and keep Cain healthy for an entire season. McCutchen should start to lose at-bats against righties as the season goes on. He is only 3/15 against them so far this year and I think it is possible Taylor starts to eat into some of those at-bats. Cutch has great value where the Brewers are positioning him in the lineup (leadoff vs. L, cleanup vs. R), but I am skeptical he remains an everyday player throughout the season.

St. Louis Cardinals

There is not a whole lot to note about this lineup. Albert Pujols and Corey Dickerson are platooning, but neither one will likely hold any fantasy value. Their success will make it hard for the Cardinals to justify calling up either one of Juan Yepez or Nolan Gorman this season. Both prospects figure to benefit from an injury or the combination of Pujols and Dickerson struggling.

Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman are both off to excellent starts this year. Carlson started the season batting leadoff and does not look like he plans to give up that position. This boosts his value as he will score a lot of runs. Edman has been hitting ninth against righties but moved up in the lineup against a lefty.

Cincinnati Reds

Last week I wrote about how Aquino could have a chance to take an everyday role away from Tyler Naquin. This has not happened as the Reds have only faced one lefty and Naquin has started every game against a righty, hitting .389/.450/.722. Two other outfielders, Tommy Pham and Nick Senzel have struggled early. Aquino got a start earlier this week over Pham against a righty. Either option could provide another path for Aquino to start. Both Senzel and Pham have sat each of the last two games for Cincinnati. Senzel just looks overmatched by the big league fastball. So far, he is hitting just .091 off it and pitchers are throwing it over 56% of the time. An adjustment needs to be made if Senzel ever stands a chance to reach his potential. If you took a shot on Senzel during drafts I would be considering moving on already.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Opening Day injury scare for Ke’Bryan Hayes turned out to be nothing. He has started every game for the Pirates. Diego Castillo has started three of the five games for the Pirates. He is off to a hot start hitting .385 and slugging .462. I am not sure how much longer his success will continue, but he is at least worth keeping an eye on.

Kevin Newman is hitting just .211 so far. He has been provided the opportunity to start all five games, but I am not sure how much longer the Pirates can keep up this charade. Oneil Cruz should be getting the call to the bigs any day now and Newman’s struggles are only making his case stronger. One deeper name that I am keeping an eye on is Mason Martin. The 22 year-old first baseman is the Pirates 38th ranked prospect according to Fangraphs. He hit 25 homeruns across AA and AAA in 2021 and is off to a hot start in 2022. Yoshi Tsutsugo is not off to the best start and if Martin continues to perform, he could also find himself in Pittsburgh this season.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

There is not a whole lot to make note of in Arizona. Seth Beer is playing against righties but sat the only game against a lefty. Pretty much every bat on this team has gotten off to an extremely slow start. This could pave the way for a fast promotion of top prospect Alek Thomas. If you have a deep bench in a redraft league, he could be worth a stash if available. I was skeptical of the buzz surrounding Daulton Varsho coming into the season and I stand by that. I wrote about it in my xwRC+ bust article and Varsho has struggled early. Through five games Varsho is hitting just .125 and will need to show improvements if he wants to keep hitting leadoff. Lucky for him there are not many other threats on this team.

Los Angeles Dodgers

LUX IS FREE! The Dodgers have started Lux in five of six games this season and he has performed well so far. Although it is early, he could find himself moving up the lineup ahead of Cody Bellinger at least if his struggles continue. The former top prospect is showing signs of why he generated so much hype in the minors. Lux is averaging a 92.7mph EV early in 2022 and I would be prepared for the home runs to start coming in bunches for the young middle infielder.

I was out on Cody Bellinger headed into the season and he has done nothing to lead me to change my mind. He has an average exit velocity of 83.8mph and seven strikeouts in 22 plate appearances. I really do not see how the Dodgers can leave him in the lineup much longer. Hold him as long as he is playing based on upside, but I would be ready to move on at the first sign of the Dodgers benching him. I am not sure if he will ever be the player he was and seems likely to only provide negative fantasy value to your team.

San Diego Padres

After batting ninth and concerning me some in the Opening Day lineup, Grisham has primarily found himself hitting leadoff. Although the results have not been there, he is firmly planted in the Padres Lineup. Anybody looking for value out of Ha-Seong Kim has been disappointed with his playing time. He is in a platoon with C.J. Abrams which hurts both of their values. Abrams has long-term dynasty appeal, but Kim’s value has taken a big hit as he seems to be losing out on playing time yet again.

Matt Beaty has played two out of four games with a righty on the mound, but he has struggled. Eric Hosmer figured to lose some playing time against lefties, but so far that has not been the case. Hosmer has been the Padres’ best hitter early on, but I would be wary of buying in. There are no noticeable changes in his average launch angle and his chase rate is well above league average. The hot start for Hosmer should be taken with a grain of salt.

Colorado Rockies

The early breakout hype around Connor Joe seems warranted. He is playing every day and has been batting leadoff against lefties. He has been excellent over the first week of the season. Joe has posted a 40% sweet spot, he has walked as much as he has struck out, made above league average contact, and posted a better than league average chase rate. If he is still available, you might want to consider adding him to your fantasy teams.

Anybody who took a late shot for speed on Garrett Hampson should probably be looking to cut ties. He has only started two of five games for Colorado and is likely reliant on an injury to get into the lineup.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants and Gabe Kapler love to use platoons. A pleasant surprise is that Darin Ruf does not appear to be a part of that. He has started all six games so far for them. Coming off a career season Ruf could be useful in fantasy if he produces like that again.

One player that might be flying under the radar is Thairo Estrada. Last season, Estrada was better than league average in barrel %, sweet spot %, K%, chase rate, and contact %. He does not do any one thing amazing, but he could be a solid player around the board if you are desperate for middle infield. He has posted a .278 average early in the season and is playing every game for San Francisco.

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