Recently the Braves changed their lineup dramatically for the first time this season. They have altered a few different pieces here and there at times throughout the first few months, but now they have moved Jason Heyward to the fifth spot, Justin Upton to sixth, and inserted Tommy La Stella in the leadoff spot.
La Stella becomes a much more attractive fantasy player in the leadoff spot. I mentioned before his call up that I was not terribly excited about him from a fantasy perspective because he doesn’t hit for power and he doesn’t steal bases. He does get on base though and hits for a high average. La Stella has struggled of late, specifically since being moved into the leadoff spot, but he still is hitting .302 with a .368 on base percentage and a rather sustainable .333 BABIP given his batted ball skills. He should be in line for a lot of runs if he remains in the leadoff spot, so if you need a very cheap alternative and a Matt Carpenter-lite, La Stella can certainly be that guy.
The big difference with Heyward in this scenario will be an increase in RBI opportunities and a decrease in runs. It stinks if you are an owner of Heyward that his overall times at the plate will hit a pretty sharp decrease, but given his history he should produce more power over the course of the season than he has so far and when he does that he should be able to help a good deal with RBI. I am certainly concerned that his stolen base output will decrease along with his run total. Again, he will be getting to the plate less frequently and may not be in as many stolen base situations as he was earlier in the year. I was hoping for a 20-20 season, but with his early season power struggles and now his movement in the lineup, I think expecting something like 17-17 is more reasonable.
Justin Upton has a 134 wRC+ and his brother BJ has a 68 wRC+, but BJ is the one batting second while Justin bats sixth. I am not sure how long that will last, but if it does that is certainly not good news for Upton who has regularly been a cleanup or at worst a fifth hitter this year. Justin is one of the more inconsistent players in the league, and for the second straight year he’s hitting a pretty big slump after a very strong start. His walk rate is down and his strikeout rate is up, and he was able to score 94 runs last year while hitting primarily in the top four spots in the lineup. His run output will likely take a nice dip in the sixth spot, which was one of the main draws in acquiring him during the draft. He’s not a bad guy to look to move at this point, but keep focused on whether the Braves move him up into the second spot because in that position he becomes much more attractive.
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