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Fantasy Baseball Lineup Analysis: NL 04/05

Lineup analysis is back for the 2023 season. After last season, I am excited to continue this article series this year. We are now almost through a full week of the season. Lineups are still being set and these starts could set the tone for the rest of the season. From top prospects making their debut, to surprise starters, and even a few early injuries there is plenty to break down. I will be writing these National League articles every 10 days starting with the fifth of the month (5th, 15th, 25th). On the flip side, the American League will be the 10th, 20th, and 30th of each month. The five hottest hitters to start the year in the NL have been: Adam Duvall, Nolan Gorman, Brice Turang, Brian Anderson, and Dansby Swanson. Keep reading to stay up to date with the latest trends from all 15 teams.

Fantasy Baseball Lineup Analysis

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

The season has not gotten off to the best start for the defending NL Champs. Bryce Harper’s offseason surgery and Rhys Hoskins’ Spring Training injury have opened up holes in this previously deep lineup. The team traded for Christian Pache the day before the season started. He has been a part of one lineup with a lefty on the mound. He figures to be on the short side of a platoon with Jake Cave. Neither player is worth rostering.

Bryson Stott is batting sixth in the lineup against righties and has started both games against lefties. He has looked very comfortable at the plate and could be a nice source of average and RBIs with his lineup placement. Edmundo Sosa appears to be on the short side of a platoon to start the year. He had an excellent spring with tons of eligibility. He is a name I am keeping an eye on to see if he can take over an everyday lineup spot.

Although the strikeouts have still been high, Nick Castellanos is demonstrating a new approach at the plate. Previously known as one of the league’s most aggressive hitters, Castellanos has only swung at 40.3% of pitches so far this year, leading to more walks and solid contact. It’s early, but I am buying into a bounce-back season.

Atlanta Braves

The biggest surprise in the Braves’ lineup came before the season when Orlando Arcia was named the starting shortstop over Vaughn Grissom. Arcia has been batting ninth and will be adding shortstop eligibility to his fantasy profile. He already has second base and outfield in most formats and is a solid deep league add. Marcell Ozuna has been playing against both lefties and righties. He has been batting anywhere from sixth to eighth. The results have not been there through the first few games, but he is making solid contact in a loaded lineup that warrants attention. If you need outfield help, his lineup spot seems secure for now.

Brian Snitker seems to be favoring Travis d’Arnaud during lineup construction. Murphy has been on the bench twice and was batting eighth another time. Murphy is more talented and should get more at-bats as the season moves along. Last season the Braves rode the hot hand between d’Arnaud and Contreras. I assumed they would move past this with Murphy in 2023, but this still might be the case which would significantly impact Murphy’s fantasy value.

Ozzie Albies and Michael Harris III were always going to be a part of the regular lineup, but we were unsure where they would hit. Albies has been batting fourth while Harris is batting fifth versus righties and seventh versus lefties. Early returns have been positive on both players and Harris’ strikeout rate is especially encouraging early on.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have plenty of players they want to get a look at this season. Alex Call is the first name to stick out from early lineup construction. Call initially seemed to be stuck on the small side of a platoon with Corey Dickerson. Dickerson drew the first start of the year against a righty but has since been put on the IL. Even though the Nationals called up Stone Garrett, Call should receive most of the playing time in LF. He has posted strong walk rates throughout his Minor League career and is somebody to keep an eye on in OBP leagues.

Between two young middle infielders on the roster, Luis Garcia appears to be the favorite to move up in the lineup against right-handed pitchers. Abrams has been batting toward the bottom of the lineup in each start, while Garcia has hit leadoff against righties. This boosts his value slightly although the lack of walks and plate discipline are still a concern. Neither Abrams nor Garcia are off to the best start in 2023, but the Nationals figure to be patient with both.

Keibert Ruiz is off to a red-hot start. Ruiz was a former top prospect in the Dodgers system before coming over to Washington in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner blockbuster. Entering this season, it seems like many had written off any upside in Ruiz’s bat and he went virtually unnoticed in drafts. Although it is early, Ruiz is pulling the ball more, getting it in the air, and making harder contact than ever before. He is still just 24 years old and this could be the beginning of a breakout season. If Ruiz is still available go pick him up. He will continue to bat in the middle of Washington’s lineup throughout the season.

Miami Marlins

There are a few positions in the Marlins lineup that are locked in. Luis Arraez is batting leadoff and playing second base. Garrett Cooper is the team’s primary first baseman and has been hitting third with Jazz Chisholm batting fourth. Cooper is widely underrated and has been excellent since 2020. The biggest issue with Cooper is health, but he could be a useful fantasy asset for the time being. Hitting behind Arraez and one of Segura and Soler could lead to plenty of RBI opportunities. Speaking of Soler and Segura, Segura started the season in the two-hole but has since moved down while Soler has taken over that spot in the lineup.

Joey Wendle was placed on the IL with an oblique injury Tuesday. Jose Iglesias (yes, he is still around) was called up to take his spot on the roster. Jon Berti figures to be the one to see his playing time increase the most with this injury. After stealing 41 bases in 102 games last season, Berti profiles as an intriguing short-term pickup if you need speed.

Bryan De La Cruz was given the chance to start on Opening Day but is splitting time with Jesus Sanchez. De La Cruz has four starts compared to Sanchez’s two. De La Cruz appears to have a slight advantage in playing time early on. Another option if neither player proves themselves ready for a full-time job is, playing Soler in the outfield and moving Gurriel into the lineup as a DH. Gurriel has shown the same hit tool that was on display for years in Houston. None of these three players are worth rostering currently.

New York Mets

There have not been any real surprises in the New York lineup so far. Jeff McNeil has been batting fifth which sets him up for excellent RBI opportunities. Starling Marte looks healthy and is off to a fast start this season. He has two stolen bases already and could be a big beneficiary of these new rules. His stolen base total at the end of the season will rely heavily on how healthy he can stay. Marte has not played over 120 games since 2019. A hot start could be an opportunity to sell high.

The catching situation appears to be a true platoon. Narvaez has received all three starts against right-handed pitchers with Nido entering the lineup against lefties. The same can be said for the Mets’ designated hitter. Vogelbach is on the strong side against righties with Pham getting playing time against lefties.

I have been vocal about stashing Brett Baty. Eduardo Escobar is the team’s starting third baseman but has just one hit in 16 plate appearances so far. Baty already has two home runs in Triple-A while demonstrating a strong ability to elevate the baseball. He left the game on Tuesday with a thumb injury but hopefully will be okay moving forward.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs had one of the biggest Opening Day lineup surprises starting Miles Mastrobuoni in right field. Mastrobuoni hit 16 home runs with 23 stolen bases in 129 games for Tampa Bay’s Triple-A team last year. High ground ball rates have capped his upside, but he has a history of strong contact skills and plus speed. He has only started once since Opening Day and should not be added in any fantasy format at this point.

With Christopher Morel down in Triple-A, Nick Madrigal has seen his playing time increase. Since riding the bench on Opening Day in favor of Mastrobuoni, Madrigal has started multiple games at third base batting ninth. There is not much fantasy appeal to Madrigal’s profile with little to no power or speed.

Speaking of little fantasy appeal, many were buying into the idea of a Cody Bellinger bounce-back in Chicago. So far, he seems like the same Bellinger with high strikeout rates and poor contact skills. You might want to wait another week or so before moving on, but I do not have much confidence in him at this point. With Trey Mancini also struggling, the only Cubs acquisition that has looked the part so far is Dansby Swanson who is scorching hot to start the year.

St. Louis Cardinals

Injuries have impacted the Cardinals’ lineups early on this season. Popular breakout candidate Lars Nootbaar jammed his thumb on Opening Day and has since landed on the IL. The injury does not seem serious but is still something to monitor. With Nootbaar out, it has been Alec Burleson and not Dylan Carlson getting the starts in left field. This puts to rest any idea that Carlson will still receive regular playing time with Jordan Walker up. Drop Carlson from your teams. Burleson can be a suitable short-term fill-in for deep leagues, but unlikely to contribute for the full season.

Everybody was so excited to see Jordan Walker in the lineup on Opening Day, but he has taken a back seat to some other Cardinals breakout candidates. Nolan Gorman is one of the hottest names in fantasy right now. He has started four of five games at DH and has looked excellent at the plate. The raw power is obvious and early signs are pointing to more patience at the plate. He was on the bench Tuesday against a lefty in favor of Yepez, but he is a must-add in all formats.

Brendan Donovan is another popular breakout candidate. He is batting leadoff for the Cardinals and already has two home runs thanks to a new career-high max exit velocity. A power breakout would take Donovan’s fantasy value to new heights. Walker meanwhile is batting toward the bottom of the lineup. He has looked solid, but a high ground ball rate remains concerning.

Milwaukee Brewers

The youth movement is in full swing out in Milwaukee. In their home opener on Monday, the team started three rookies. Garrett Mitchell and Brice Turang made the team out of Spring Training and Joey Wiemer got promoted after a Luis Urias injury. Turang and Mitchell have been in the lineup against righties while taking a seat with a lefty on the mound. This figures to be the case in most matchups. Both have great speed and Mitchell comes with exciting power. They both have looked great early on and profile to be useful fantasy assets. Wiemer has been starting and batting ninth since his promotion. He is a must-add in all formats with Urias projected to be out up to eight weeks.

Brian Anderson was originally going to play right field but has shifted back to his primary position of third base since the Urias injury. Injuries played a large role in his struggles over the past two seasons, but Anderson looks healthy and locked into regular playing time. He should have both third base and outfield eligibility and is a solid add in points leagues especially. Jesse Winker is another off-season acquisition who is off to a strong start. He is batting second against righties and is one season removed from hitting .305 with 24 home runs. Winker is showing early signs of a bounce-back season.

Cincinnati Reds

There have been two constants in the Reds’ lineup early on. Jonathan India is batting leadoff and Tyler Stephenson is batting fourth. The rest, not so much. There are a plethora of platoons to break down, so let’s start with the outfield. Jake Fraley and Will Benson appear to be on the strong side of a platoon with Stuart Fairchild and a rotating cast of fill-ins. Benson was a popular breakout candidate but has looked lost at the plate. He is 0/8 with six strikeouts. I am moving on.

The Reds seem intent on figuring out if Jose Barrero holds any value. After starting the first two games of the year at shortstop, Barrero drew a start on Monday in centerfield. He is dealing with a minor hamstring injury right now, but it does not seem serious. His contact skills look the same as they have the past two seasons and there is not any value in rostering him right now.

The most exciting and noteworthy player right now is Spencer Steer. Steer is off to a hot start at the plate demonstrating excellent plate discipline and good contact skills. Steer has everything but speed in his profile and can be a legitimate fantasy asset. He is only owned in 56% of Fantrax leagues which needs to change immediately. He is batting second against righties and playing in Great American Ballpark only boosts his value. Steer is a must-add.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The top half of Pittsburgh’s lineup is set. Oneil Cruz, Bryan Reynolds, Andrew McCutchen, and Carlos Santana. Cruz moved down against a lefty, but for the most part, those four appear to be locked into their lineup spot. Speaking of Cruz, the breakout might officially be here. He is off to a hot start at the plate and is currently striking out under 20% of the time. The underlying metrics are still concerning with a high chase rate. His whiff rate is down from last year, but still worse than league average. These are important things to monitor over the next couple of weeks.

Ke’Bryan Hayes has been batting sixth most nights and moved up to leadoff against a lefty. The issue with Hayes has never been his ability to square the ball up, but rather get it in the air consistently. Early on he is still running extremely high ground ball rates with a low launch angle. Maybe it is premature, but I am out on him showing significant improvement this year.

Ji-Hwan Bae has drawn starts at both second base and center field while batting toward the bottom of the lineup. Bae has plenty of speed, but with limited power and suspect contact skills, I would be looking elsewhere on the waiver wire. There is a strong chance he loses his starting job if he continues to bat .200 with a strikeout rate over 30%. Austin Hedges has been batting ninth as the primary catcher. He is hitless on the year and it seems as though it is just a matter of time before Endy Rodriguez gets promoted. Stash Rodriguez now before it is too late.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

The top of the Dodgers’ lineup is as lethal as ever. Betts is leading off followed by Freeman, Smith, Muncy, and Martinez. Muncy was dealing with a minor injury earlier this week but returned to the lineup after missing only one game. Martinez is currently striking out over 40% of the time which is a minor red flag after his struggles during the second half of last year. That being said, he is hitting the ball hard, doing damage on fastballs, and is in a prime RBI position.

Prospect James Outman appears to be on the strong side of a platoon but has still started four of the Dodgers’ first five games. He has looked very strong at the plate with plus power and speed. A high strikeout rate has been his flaw throughout the Minor Leagues and he is still striking out over 30% of the time with a 44% whiff rate. Outman could have a big fantasy season, but I might be looking to sell high while the hype is growing.

Chris Taylor is in a super-utility role receiving regular playing time at all different positions. He struggled last year, looked bad in Spring Training, and has struggled early on again this year. He should not be rostered. Trayce Thompson was originally on the short side of Outman’s platoon. He then came in and hit three home runs in one game. Thompson figures to play against all lefties and occasionally enters the lineup against righties, but is not worth picking up based on his strong first game. He could see additional lineup opportunities in place of David Peralta although Peralta is off to a strong start at the plate.

San Diego Padres

The Padres’ lineup is not totally set at this point. We are still waiting for Fernando Tatis Jr. to return from his suspension. He will likely bat leadoff upon his return. For now, that responsibility lies on Trent Grisham against righties and Xander Bogaerts against lefties. Grisham is a prime candidate to see his BABIP rise with the shift ban and is an underrated fantasy asset for OBP leagues. With Tatis out of the lineup, right field has been a rotation of David Dahl, Jose Azocar, and Rougned Odor. None of the three has any fantasy relevance.

The Padres essentially signed two of the same players this year in Matt Carpenter and Nelson Cruz. Both are veteran bat-first profiles who have no business playing the field. Carpenter is batting sixth against righties while Cruz is batting cleanup against lefties. Cruz does not justify a roster spot on the short side of a platoon. Carpenter holds value in deeper points leagues.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona has plenty to break down in this article. Let’s start with the righties. Kyle Lewis, Evan Longoria, and Nick Ahmed are drawing the starts against left-handed pitchers. Arizona has faced three lefties so far which has skewed the early season playing time. All three figure to be on the short side of a platoon moving forward. Kyle Lewis has the most appeal and bats leadoff in his starts although seven strikeouts in 13 at-bats is not how you earn more playing time.

On the flip side of those three hitters are three lefties. Josh Rojas, Alek Thomas, and Geraldo Perdomo are all projected to be on the strong side of the platoon. Josh Rojas has been batting leadoff with Thomas and Perdomo making up the last two spots in the lineup. Rojas’ versatility could result in more playing time opportunities for him as the season moves along. He is an early drop candidate and could be a nice addition off the waiver wire if you need more speed. Perdomo is the only one of the three having any current success at the plate although this comes with an 80 mph average EV and a .667 BABIP.

Jake McCarthy has been hitting toward the bottom of the lineup and up to this point my off-season concerns are justified. He has one hit in 14 plate appearances with poor quality of contact. Luckily for McCarthy, Lewis and Thomas are also struggling to produce keeping his spot in the lineup secure for the time being.

San Francisco Giants

Everybody’s favorite lineups to discuss! The Giants’ early schedule has prevented us from seeing how Gabe Kapler plans to utilize his platoons. They have yet to face a lefty and do not project to face one until Sunday against Kansas City. This has meant plenty of playing time for LaMonte Wade Jr. and Blake Sabol as the lineup is yet to change outside of a breather for a couple of players. Wade has gotten the chance to lead off and he projects to have sneaky value in OBP leagues this year. He has always worked strong walk rates with sneaky pop and at least average speed.

The rest of the lineup runs:

Conforto, Estrada, Pederson, Yastrzemski, Villar, Crawford, Sabol, Perez

I am not sure we expected Roberto Perez to catch as much as he has so far, but the Giants clearly appreciate his defense and veteran presence behind the plate. He is not much of a threat offensively and not worth adding to your roster. Entering the season Mike Yastrzemski was a candidate to be a primary beneficiary of the shift ban. So far he is batting .357 with a .500 BABIP. Neither rate is sustainable, but after hitting .219 the past two seasons there is optimism his average will be a little bit better this year.

After a slow spring, David Villar has cranked two home runs (both coming in the same game) and is looking more comfortable at the plate. Chase and whiff rates north of 30% point to concerns in his profile, but as long as he is in the lineup he is a threat to go deep. The longer he keeps producing the longer we will have to wait to see Casey Schmitt at the Major League level.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies lineup received a boost with the addition of Jurickson Profar. After missing the first two games, he has been playing left field and batting leadoff for the team. Previously, Yonathan Daza was batting leadoff but has since shifted to seventh in the lineup. Profar is worth adding if he is still available.

The rest of the lineup has remained fairly consistent. Elehuris Montero is being given a chance to prove he can handle being an everyday third baseman. He has plenty of power, but a 50% strikeout rate is a serious red flag. He will need to show more patience at the plate if he wants to keep an everyday lineup spot. Mike Moustakas has been on the bench most days, but figures to enter the lineup more frequently as the season goes on against righties to give other players a day off. He should not be rostered, but his playing time could impact Montero’s fantasy value.

CJ Cron has gotten off to a torrid start so far. Many were projecting a major falloff for the veteran first baseman, but he looks locked in and could be a big-time draft-day steal at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Ezequiel Tovar has been a disappointment early on. He is batting ninth and has yet to work a walk and is struggling to make contact. Tovar is touted as having a strong hit tool with suspect power. If the hit tool is not showing up, Tovar could be headed back to Triple-A for more seasoning.

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