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NL Lineup Analysis 06/09

The MLB season is flying. By now, you probably have a good idea of where your fantasy team sits and might even be exploring some trades. This article takes a look at the latest trends and news from around the National League. Over the past week the five hottest hitters in the NL have been Jack Suwinski, Bryce Harper, Garrett Cooper, Bryson Stott, and Kyle Schwarber. As you can see the Phillies have gotten hot since firing Girardi. Check out the rest of the article for news and notes on all 15 National League lineups!

National League Lineup Analysis

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

The injuries have continued to pile up in the Phillies infield. Nick Maton and Johan Camargo joined Jean Segura on the IL. However, Didi Gregorious has returned from the IL and will likely play every day at shortstop. In addition, the Phillies called up Scott Kingery. He has never found his footing again after his strong 2019. I would not be rushing to add Gregorious or Kingery. Bryson Stott has started receiving regular playing time and has looked a lot more comfortable as of late. Stott is worth adding in fantasy leagues.

Under new manager Rob Thompson, the lineup has been rather consistent. Schwarber is batting leadoff, followed by Hoskins, Harper, Castellanos, Realmuto, Gregorious, and Bohm. Bohm crushed a home run off Josh Hader in the game on Tuesday night. Bohm is a great buy-low candidate right now. He has been struggling, but his underlying contact numbers look better than they did before. Since May 15, he is batting just .207 but has an xBA of .288. He has a 41% hard hit rate and has increased his average launch angle to 13-degrees.

New York Mets

Both Starling Marte and Pete Alonso left the game on Tuesday with injuries. Neither player has been in the lineup since. X-Rays were negative on Pete Alonso’s hand so hopefully, he will avoid an IL trip. J.D. Davis and Luis Guillorme figure to both continue seeing their playing time increase if either player is forced to miss time. Dominic Smith could also be called back up, but I do not see him starting very often. Guillorme has been a popular add recently but has struggled over the past week. I am not sure he will remain an everyday player in the Mets’ lineup.

Atlanta Braves

William Contreras continues to solidify himself as an everyday player. He has been primarily batting sixth or seventh recently and since April 29 is batting .320/.400/.720. Contreras absolutely demolishes baseballs and is in a prime spot to get a lot of RBIs in the Atlanta lineup. The only red flag is his whiff rate on pitches other than fastballs. His whiff rate on breaking balls is 46.9% and 42.9% on off-speed pitches. Although it is still early in June, you can see the change in pitch mix that Contreras has seen recently in the image below. Pitchers are daring Contreras to hit breaking balls and it will be interesting to see if he can adjust.

Marcell Ozuna continues to struggle this season and has moved down to sixth in the lineup. Sixth is still a fine spot to hit in runs, but the struggles have been concerning this year. Ozuna looks closer to the 29 and .241 player he was in 2019 than the 18 .338 player he was in 2020. Ozzie Albies has also started to move down in the lineup. He has not hit a home run since April 23. Albies saw his BABIP drop to .278 last season and while many people believed that to be a fluke, his BABIP sits at .271 this year. His barrel rate and average exit velocity are both down and I am starting to get concerned about his outlook.

Washington Nationals

Lane Thomas should be added in most leagues. After losing his spot in the lineup early in the season, he has reclaimed it recently. Thomas has started the last six games for the Nationals and has been batting second. He has collected multiple hits in five out of six games including a three-home run game on June 3. Thomas is posting a better than league average chase rate, barrel rate, whiff percentage, contact percentage, and sweet spot percentage. Although he has only stolen one base so far this year, he stole six in 77 games last season. Thomas is a great add right now.

Victor Robles has been the main player impacted by Thomas’ hot streak. He has struggled and is not worth owning in any format. Luis Garcia has been batting toward the bottom of the Nationals’ lineup and has looked great, He has a .391 average with one home run since being recalled. Garcia seems to have picked up right where he left off in AAA and should be added if you need help at middle infield.

*Late Thursday News*: Nelson Cruz was scratched Thursday night with back tightness. The severity of this issue is unkown.

Miami Marlins

Jesus Sanchez left the game on Tuesday with back tightness. Sanchez returned to the lineup on Thursday and should be fine moving forward. Nick Fortes was recalled from AAA. The Marlins have struggled to find consistent production from their catchers this season, and Fortes has come up and hit well. Through his first five games, he has two home runs and is batting .467. Fortes does not have a strong minor league track record and is still splitting time with Jacob Stallings, but he is worth keeping an eye on in deeper leagues.

I mentioned in the article last week that Jon Berti should be somebody to consider picking up. He has had a strong week and has a hit in seven of the past eight games. Since returning from the IL, Berti has six stolen bases. He has primarily been batting either leadoff or seventh depending on the matchups. Berti will likely end up around a league-average bat, but he is playing every day with Anderson and Wendle injured. He should be picked up everywhere he is available.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Over the past week, the Cubs have made it clear who the club’s starters are. Madrigal, Ortega, and Heyward have all been playing every day. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons and Clint Frazier have been on the bench. Playing Heyward over Frazier is upsetting as Frazier has much more upside at this point. Unless the Cubs find a team willing to trade for Heyward, Frazier has no fantasy value.

Ian Happ, one of “my guys” going into the season has been excellent recently. Early in the season, Happ was playing well but was mostly just getting lucky. Over the past couple of weeks, Happ has gotten back to what made me so excited for his 2022. He has increased his line drive rate, flyball percentage, pull percentage, and hard-hit rate. Happ has a chance to be a real difference maker this season and I am still all in on him. Christopher Morel is another player I have bought into. He has shown an excellent ability to barrel up the ball and hit it extremely hard. The only concern is the whiff rate, but even if his average declines he still has a rare blend of speed and power to be an extremely useful fantasy asset.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers welcomed back both Willy Adames and Hunter Renfroe this week. The return of Renfroe creates a bit of a logjam in the outfield. The Brewers now have Taylor, Yelich, Cain, and Renfroe all healthy. Lorenzo Cain figures to be the odd man out on most nights since he is batting just .169 on the season. McCutchen could also see his playing time take a hit, but he has been playing better lately and appears to be breaking out of his slump.

St. Louis Cardinals

Tyler O’Neill is back with the Cardinals. He has been batting in the middle of the lineup since returning. Nolan Gorman appears to be on the strong side of a platoon. He sat in both games against lefties over the past week but is batting second against righties. The numbers should start coming back to earth for Gorman as the early season luck wears off. Despite the return of O’Neill, Brendan Donavan has remained in the lineup every day. I expect Donovan to move into more of a platoon role with Dylan Carlson returning. Carlson, Juan Yepez has really struggled since May 20 batting just .200 with one home run. He appears to be in the biggest danger of losing playing time as the Cardinals get healthy. There is a lot to monitor with the Cardinals’ lineup over the next week as this all unfolds.

Harrison Bader has hit safely in 15of his last 17 games. He has been one of the biggest surprises this fantasy season and is already up to 14 stolen bases this year. I am concerned though as his quality of contact numbers are worse than his career norms. His barrel rate is down at 3.8% while posting an EV below 84mph. Bader will likely see regression at the plate, but the stole bases are real so he will continue to have fantasy value for 2022.

Cincinnati Reds

The biggest news in Cincinnati is Jonathan India is on a rehab assignment. He should return to the Reds soon and figures to bat leadoff in the Reds lineup once he does. Nick Senzel was scratched on Wednesday with an injury. He was previously batting leadoff and starting to turn it on at the plate. Hopefully this is nothing significant for him. Mike Moustakas was placed on the COVID IL. When healthy this season, Moustakas has struggled and could be in danger of losing playing time once India returns. Brandon Drury and Kyle Farmer have been too good to place one on the bench so far this season. Drury especially has been great batting .303 with four home runs since May 19th. The power breakout for Drury appears to be real and I do not expect him to be going away anytime soon.

Thursday note: Tyler Stephenson left the game on Thursday with a thumb injury. He just cannot stay healthy this year. He is expected to miss four to six weeks with the injury.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The most notable change in the Pirates lineup is Jack Suwinski is now batting third. Suwinski has been on fire and fantasy managers should be paying more attention to him. He is up to eight home runs on the season and has been batting .350/.409/.650 since May 22nd. Suwinski hit 19 home runs in the minor leagues last season and is a threat to hit 20 this season for the Pirates. Looking at his profile, Suwinski has a 12.3%-barrel rate on the season. He is worth a look in deeper leagues. I am concerned that he could move into a platoon role once the Pirates get healthy again. He is batting just .152 against lefties this season.

Daniel Vogelbach returned from the IL this week for the Pirates. He will likely slot back into the middle of the lineup. There are rumors that Oneil Cruz is on his way up to the big leagues soon. Since May 15th, he is batting .313 with six home runs and is proving there is nothing left for him to accomplish in AAA. Diego Castillo and Michael Chavis have been dreadful lately for the Pirates and Cruz would be an instant upgrade. Cruz is worth adding and stashing anywhere he is available.

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NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

There have not been a lot of changes in the Diamondback’s lineup over the past week. Daulton Varsho was on the bench two times in four games during this past week. Varsho has been in a bit of a slump at the plate collecting just four hits in his last 37 plate appearances. Over the course of his slump, Varsho has posted just an 83.8 average exit velocity. I had reservations about Varsho going into the season, but hopefully, this is just a slump that he breaks out of soon.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Max Muncy returned from the IL on Thursday. I am concerned that the injuries are going to continue to linger for Muncy this season. Eddy Alvarez was playing every day for the Dodgers, but he will now return to a bench role. Justin Turner continues to struggle, and I do not think it is a crazy idea that the Dodgers could eventually turn to Miguel Vargas in AAA if Turner does not pick it up. Vargas is my 12th-ranked MLB prospect currently and has been playing well so far this season.

I have talked a lot about my love for Will Smith and he is starting to break out of his early-season slump. He has two home runs over the past week and has walked as much as he has struck out. I still project Smith to finish as the best catcher in fantasy for 2022. Here are Cody Bellinger’s rankings amongst outfielders since his two-home run game on April 24th:

  • 44th in RBIs
  • 39th in Runs
  • 41st in HR
  • 20th in Steals
  • 58th (last) in Average

The argument can be made that Cody Bellinger is hurting the fantasy teams that he is on. I know it is hard to let go, but it might be time to cut Bellinger or at least move him to your bench, especially in shallow leagues.

San Diego Padres

Everybody benefitting from the Jake Cronenworth hot streak can thank me. As soon as I threw in the towel and was ready to label Cronenworth as a bust, he has found his swing. Over his past six games, Cronenworth is batting .391/.481/.870 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. The average exit velocity is up to 92mph during this stretch and fantasy managers owning Cronenworth can breathe a sigh of relief.

Nomar Mazara has started five games over the past week in RF since being called up. Mazara is a former top prospect who just could never put it together at the big-league level. Mazara is not worth adding just yet, but he is a name to keep an eye on. With Wil Myers likely out for an extended period, Mazara will have a chance to showcase whether he has made any improvements in the Padres system.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies called up prospect Elehuris Montero this week. He has been in the lineup against lefties so far. I thought that Montero had a chance to be a great sleeper pick this season before the Rockies signed Kris Bryant. Montero has done nothing but hit since being traded for Nolan Arenado. This season, Montero was batting .314 with 11 home runs in AAA. He should be added in all dynasty formats. I am not sure how long of a leash he will have in 2022, but I am a big believer in the long-term talent.

Last week I talked about how Connor Joe might be losing his grip on the leadoff spot in the lineup. He has responded by going 7/21 with a home run, seven walks, and a steal. Joe has re-cemented himself as the Rockies’ leadoff hitter moving forward.

San Francisco Giants

I mentioned that Curt Casali seemed to be taking playing time away from Joey Bart last week. The Giants optioned Bart to AAA this week leaving little competition for Casali as the everyday catcher. Casali could be worth a look in deeper leagues if you are desperate for catching help.

Tommy La Stella was given the chance to bat leadoff in the lineup against righties since he returned from the IL. That opportunity might have passed as Luis Gonzalez moved up to the leadoff spot Wednesday. La Stella moved down to sixth. Gonzalez has cooled off some over the past week but is still batting .322 on the season. Gabe Kapler seems very resistant to playing Evan Longoria every day. I am not sure if this is a matchup thing or a tactic to keep Longoria healthy, but either way he is not worth a roster spot the way his playing time is right now.

Brandon Crawford is dealing with a quad issue currently. He has missed two games so far this week with the injury and the situation is worth monitoring.

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