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 whio 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

– Somewhat surprisingly, it's basically been a timeshare at catcher for Atlanta after Sean Murphy (oblique) went down on Opening Day, with Travis d'Arnaud drawing five starts and Chadwick Tromp three. It's a tad disappointing for those rostering d'Arnaud as a direct Murphy replacement. Murphy, at last check, wasn't swinging a bat yet, so it could still be a little while before he rejoins the Braves' lineup.

– Few, if any, hitters looked more lost during spring training than Jarred Kelenic, but a late-spring adjustment with his hands in the box has paid tremendous early-season dividends, with the 24-year-old going a ridiculous 11-for-22 at the plate in his first nine contests. All seven of his starts have been against righties, with Adam Duvall serving on the short side of a left-field platoon versus southpaws. Kelenic has also yet to bat higher than eighth, and given how loaded Atlanta's lineup is it's difficult to see him moving up anytime soon even if he keeps hitting. Still, it's nonetheless been a very encouraging start after many wrote him off this spring.

Miami Marlins

– It's been a strict platoon in right field, with Jesus Sanchez receiving all five starts against right-handers and

The goal with Lineup Lowdown is simple: we're looking for trends which could help identify players whio 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

– Somewhat surprisingly, it's basically been a timeshare at catcher for Atlanta after Sean Murphy (oblique) went down on Opening Day, with Travis d'Arnaud drawing five starts and Chadwick Tromp three. It's a tad disappointing for those rostering d'Arnaud as a direct Murphy replacement. Murphy, at last check, wasn't swinging a bat yet, so it could still be a little while before he rejoins the Braves' lineup.

– Few, if any, hitters looked more lost during spring training than Jarred Kelenic, but a late-spring adjustment with his hands in the box has paid tremendous early-season dividends, with the 24-year-old going a ridiculous 11-for-22 at the plate in his first nine contests. All seven of his starts have been against righties, with Adam Duvall serving on the short side of a left-field platoon versus southpaws. Kelenic has also yet to bat higher than eighth, and given how loaded Atlanta's lineup is it's difficult to see him moving up anytime soon even if he keeps hitting. Still, it's nonetheless been a very encouraging start after many wrote him off this spring.

Miami Marlins

– It's been a strict platoon in right field, with Jesus Sanchez receiving all five starts against right-handers and Avisail Garcia getting the call all seven times the Marlins have gone up against southpaws. Both guys have struggled mightily in the early going at the plate, much like the Marlins as a whole, but manager Skip Schumaker figures to ride it out with these two in a similar fashion for a while longer.

– Left field has also been a platoon for Miami, although not as direct as it's been in right. Nick Gordon has occupied left in all five contests versus right-handers, with Bryan De La Cruz handling the position against the southpaws. De La Cruz, though, has started all 12 games, shifting to designated hitter versus righties. Schumaker is using Josh Bell (five starts) and Jake Burger (two starts) at DH against lefties, with Burger sliding across the diamond to first base on the days Bell is at DH. Recent acquisition Emmanuel Rivera appears poised to be the primary third baseman against left-handers.

New York Mets

Brett Baty has quickly been elevated to a more prime position in the Mets' batting order. He hit eighth on Opening Day against a right-hander and was absent from the lineup in the second game versus a lefty. Over the last seven games, however, Baty has not hit lower than fifth, which included a stretch of three straight contests in the cleanup spot. He also started on Sunday in the five spot against a southpaw. It's a miniscule sample size, but Baty is 3-for-8 versus lefties so far this season and his lone home run came off a lefty. The 24-year-old is off to a nice .333/.385/.417 start and his arrow is definitely pointing up.

– We've also seen Francisco Alvarez inching his way up in the batting order. He hit seventh in each of the first two games of the season and sixth in the third contest, but since then he's batted cleanup four times and third once. Both Baty and Alvarez do figure to get bumped down a spot when J.D. Martinez is ready, although Martinez's return has been pushed back a bit due to soreness. DJ Stewart is looking like a good bet to be sent down at that point, although he did finally pick up his first hit and homer Monday.

Philadelphia Phillies

– The Phillies have more or less stuck with Johan Rojas as their everyday center fielder in spite of a brutal start at the plate. He's started nine of 11 contests, with Cristian Pache and Brandon Marsh each drawing one start apiece there. Rojas is just 4-for-26 with a 6:2 K:BB, although three of those hits came Monday. This is after he had just a .478 OPS during spring training. Rojas' defense is so good that he doesn't have to hit much, but this might be pushing it. If Philadelphia does eventually send him down, it would shift Marsh over to center field most days, with Whit Merrifield seeing an uptick in starts in left field. Thus far, Merrifield has made five starts (three in left).

– Another guy who hasn't exactly been trying to force his way into a more favorable spot in the batting order is Nick Castellanos, who is just 4-for-35 with zero extra-base hits in his first 10 contests. He has batted as high as fifth just once and has been down in the seventh spot on three occasions. Castellanos is known for being inconsistent, of course, and surely will get going eventually. Then again, there is his 2022 season to consider.

Washington Nationals

– It might not be the case if Stone Garrett (ankle) were healthy, but Jesse Winker has been an everyday player thus far. The only game he's missed was due to illness, and he has started all six contests versus left-handers. Coming into play Tuesday, however, Winker had a 1.079 OPS against right-handers and .396 OPS versus southpaws. While it's not that extreme, his track record says it's not a fluke. Expect manager Dave Martinez to begin platooning Winker sooner rather than later. Winker has the potential to have a bounce-back year against righties, though, if he can stay healthy (yes, it's a big "if").

– Similarly, Joey Gallo has also been an everyday guy for the Nats. Like Winker, he's started all but one game, and in the last three contests versus lefties he hasn't batted lower than cleanup. Gallo had a dreadful first series of the season in Cincinnati, but entered play Tuesday with a 1.114 OPS across his last six games. He has an .881 OPS against righties and a .634 OPS versus lefties, but, unlike Winker, Gallo doesn't have drastic career splits.

Chicago Cubs

– He's basically splitting time between third base (seven starts) and DH (four starts), but the most important thing is Christopher Morel has been an everyday player for the Cubs and has also been parked in the cleanup spot all season. Not only is he sporting an .858 OPS with a couple homers in the early going, but he's also struck out just five times in his first 42 plate appearances (11.9 percent strikeout rate). There are still sure to be peaks and valleys, but Morel boasts enormous breakout potential.

– One of the biggest lineup changes from former manager David Ross to current skipper Craig Counsell has involved Nico Hoerner. Under Ross, Hoerner batted either first or second in every one of his starts last season. This year, though, he's been down in the seven spot all nine times the Cubs have gone up against a right-hander. Hoerner has hit leadoff in the team's two contests versus lefties, but it's a big hit to his runs scored outlook. The second baseman has also gotten off to a dreadful start, sporting a .560 OPS with zero RBI and zero steals coming into action Tuesday.

Cincinnati Reds

– Manager David Bell had indicated during spring training that he was leaning toward batting Elly De La Cruz second, but the season began and EDLC has been down in the six spot for all 11 contests. His production had been lagging a bit, but after a two-homer (one of the inside-the-park variety), four-run, one-steal game Monday, De La Cruz is suddenly slashing .297/.366/.595. Stolen bases (he has six of them already) are probably going to be the only consistent part of De La Cruz's game, but he'll probably be a fantasy monster, anyway.

– The benefactor from De La Cruz batting lower in the order has been Will Benson, who has been in the two hole all six times the Reds have faced a right-hander. He's even started four of five tilts against lefties, as well, although he's batted either eighth or ninth for those contests. In an extremely small sample size, Benson has reached base six times in 12 plate appearances versus southpaws, banging out a home run and a couple doubles.

Milwaukee Brewers

– The plan before Garrett Mitchell fractured a finger was to use Sal Frelick often, if not regularly, at third base. Mitchell's injury created more of a need in the outfield, though, and that's where Frelick has been for all nine of his starts to this point. Also, after hitting leadoff each of the first three times the Brewers faced a righty, Frelick has done so just once in six contests since then, dropping down to the 5-to-7 range for the other games.

– In the aforementioned five recent games that Frelick was not at the top of the batting order, the Brew Crew used Jackson Chourio there twice and Oliver Dunn three times. It's been a big boost to Chourio's outlook at least in the immediate term, as he was initially batting ninth versus right-handers. Meanwhile, Dunn has thrust himself onto deep-league radars with a nice .296/.367/.481 start at the plate, adding one homer and a couple steals. The 26-year-old has started eight of nine games against righties.

Pittsburgh Pirates

– In a weird schedule quirk, the Pirates faced five left-handers to begin the season before following that with seven straight righties. Connor Joe occupied the leadoff spot in each of those first five contests, and he's started four of seven games versus righties, too. The 31-year-old has started games in both corner outfield spots, first base and DH already, as it appears he'll be operating in a super utility role. Oneil Cruz hit either sixth or seventh versus the lefties but moved up to the leadoff spot in the first six games against right-handers before getting a day off in the seventh tilt.

– No one sees their fortunes change based on the handedness of the opposing pitcher more than Jack Suwinski. He's been out of the lineup for three of five games against lefties and batted ninth in one of them he started. Against right-handers, though, Suwinski has been in there all seven times and also batted cleanup each time.

St. Louis Cardinals

– All 11 of Brendan Donovan's starts have come from the leadoff spot, and the one game he missed was due to lingering soreness following a hit-by-pitch the day before. With Lars Nootbaar (ribs) out, all but one of Donovan's starts have been in left field, as the Cardinals have made Nolan Gorman the everyday second baseman and Alec Burleson the everyday DH. Burleson, though, might be running out of time, as he's really struggled to start the season and Nootbaar is due back later this week.

– Gorman hit third in each of the first five games of the season, got a day off and then batted fifth in five of the next six contests. It seems like the club prefers to sandwich the left-handed hitter in the three spot in between righties Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, which could be a fruitful spot to be for fantasy. Gorman, though, has struggled. He had a two-homer game over the weekend but in his other 10 tilts he's gone 6-for-37 (.162) with a 46 percent strikeout rate. The 23-year-old will probably always be inconsistent and should be riding a hot streak eventually, but with Willson Contreras back from a hand injury and Nootbaar's return pending, Gorman might bat lower in the order for a while.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Alek Thomas lasted just four games before going down with a strained hamstring. Corbin Carroll has shifted over to center field for six of eight games since Thomas went down, which has freed up playing time in right field. It's been the left-handed hitting Jake McCarthy in that spot four times, including twice in the five times the Diamondbacks have gone up against a left-hander. Arizona also got Randal Grichuk back from the IL over the weekend and has given him three starts in right and another in the DH spot (three against lefties). Jorge Barrosa has also drawn a couple starts in center, with Carroll staying in right for one of those contests and getting a day off in the other. It wasn't that long ago when many fantasy managers were high on McCarthy, but he's coming off just a .644 OPS in 2023. McCarthy did still go 26-for-30 on stolen base attempts in just 99 games, and he's always going to be a base-stealing threat as long as he's getting regular at-bats.

– The Diamondbacks are also having to cover for an injury at shortstop, as well, with Geraldo Perdomo needing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. Blaze Alexander has led the way with three starts, while Jace Peterson and Kevin Newman have drawn one start apiece. One guy who unfortunately won't be an option at shortstop is Jordan Lawlar, as he's out until June following thumb surgery.

Colorado Rockies

– Seven of Ezequiel Tovar's first eight starts of the season versus right-handers came from down in the seventh spot in the Rockies' lineup. However, in the last three contests against righties he's been up in the two hole. In the first four games of the Rockies' first homestand of the season, Tovar has reached base eight times, homering once and adding a stolen base. Meanwhile, former No. 2 hitter Kris Bryant is 4-for-32 with a 37 percent strikeout rate to start the season. Bryant has hit fifth for the last two games.

Elehuris Montero received five straight starts to begin the season (three at DH, two at first base), but his regular role already appears to be slipping away. He's been in the lineup for just three of the past seven tilts and is just 4-for-25 (all singles) thus far. Michael Toglia has been the biggest beneficiary, as he's seen his name written on the lineup card in four of the last seven games. Sean Bouchard currently boasts a 1.103 OPS at Triple-A Albuquerque so you've got to wonder if the Rockies will give him a look before long.

Los Angeles Dodgers

– As manager Dave Roberts promised, Mookie Betts has indeed been a full-time infielder this season, making 10 starts at shortstop and another four starts at second base. The 10 at shortstop is relevant because it means he'll have picked up eligibility at the position on most sites, adding it to second base and outfield. Roberts might have been tempted to use Betts some in right field after Jason Heyward (back) went down, but instead he just shifted Teoscar Hernandez over to right most days and installed Chris Taylor in left.

– It's been a strict platoon at second base, with Gavin Lux starting all nine games against right-handers but just one of five versus lefties. Betts moves over to the keystone these days, while Miguel Rojas enters the lineup at shortstop. Lux entered play Tuesday slashing just .167/.211/.194 so far this season, and you've got to wonder how patient the Dodgers will be with him given his shaky defense, particularly from a throwing perspective.

San Diego Padres

– Manager Mike Shildt hasn't done much lineup tinkering other than at third base while Manny Machado remains limited to DH duties. Tyler Wade leads the team with nine starts at the hot corner, while Graham Pauley has been there three times and Eguy Rosario twice. It's a bit surprising that Wade has been the preferred option over Pauley, who won an Opening Day roster spot with a strong camp, skipping over the Triple-A level. Pauley is not known for his defense, though, and that appears to be the deciding factor for Shildt. Machado returning to third base does not appear imminent, however.

Jurickson Profar has started every game in left field thus far, and he's made Shildt look smart in sporting a .913 OPS and 8:7 K:BB. He even moved up from sixth to the fifth spot in the batting order for the last two games, flip-flopping with the slumping Ha-Seong Kim. Profar had just a .693 OPS over the previous three seasons, so the hot start is unlikely to last, at which point the Padres will need to figure something else out for left field. They were reportedly in talks with Tommy Pham in spring training, but nothing came of it, at least not yet.

San Francisco Giants

Michael Conforto began the season batting either sixth or seventh for the first five games of the season. However, his red-hot start (1.117 OPS, three home runs, 10 RBI) has earned him six straight looks in the cleanup spot. Being a left-handed hitter at Oracle Park doesn't do him any favors, but Conforto is still relatively young, having just turned 31 last month. Perhaps a bounce-back season could be in the offing for a guy who was basically ignored during draft season.

– He has benefited from the Giants' early-season schedule, which has featured just one left-hander, but Lamonte Wade has started 10 of 12 contests and hasn't batted lower than third in any of them. The 30-year-old came into play Tuesday sporting a nice .333/.429/.433 batting line but somehow had yet to drive in a run in spite of his lofty spot in the batting order. Wade will yield to Wilmer Flores at first base when San Francisco finally faces some lefties.

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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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