With reports that the designated hitter will be included in the National League during a potential shorted 2020 season, we’re evaluating each team’s options at DH.
Baseball is reportedly close to returning for a shortened 2020 season but there are some changes happening this season to better suit the current state of the league. One of those changes is the designated hitter coming to the National League, creating an interesting situation for all 15 teams who now have an extra DH bat to play with on their lineup cards.
For teams like the Nationals or the Dodgers, who had tons of depth, finding another bat to slide into the lineup shouldn’t be a problem. The same can be said for a team like the Cubs who have a guy like Kyle Schwarber, who many have pegged as a DH candidate before he even made his MLB debut.
But then there are teams like the Pirates or the Giants who don’t have a player currently on their roster that fits the typical designated hitter mold.
Regardless, the designated hitter coming to the National League is a good thing for all teams, but let’s take a look at the options each team has at the DH spot in their lineup.
Potential DH options: Ryan Braun or maybe Ryon Healy?
The Brewers have plenty of bats right now which should allow them to play around with their lineups, but most likely is moving slugger Ryan Braun, who can play left field and first base, into the DH spot with defensive upgrades in Justin Smoak and Avisail Garcia at each of those positions. But first baseman Ryon Healy may end up making the Milwaukee roster now with the designated hitter coming to the NL. Still only 28-years-old, Healy, despite having hip surgery in 2019, did hit 24 and 25 home runs in 2017 and 2018 with the Athletics and Mariners.
St. Louis Cardinals
Potential DH options: Tyler O’Neil/Matt Carpenter
St. Louis is a team that doesn’t have an obvious fit for the designated hitter spot. Had outfielder Marcell Ozuna re-signed with the Cardinals he would have been a clear choice, but he signed with Atlanta this offseason. The best options might be a platoon setup between the veteran lefty Matt Carpenter and the right-handed power bat of Tyler O’Neil, but neither are excellent fits as the everyday DH for the Cardinals. If the 24-year-old O’Neil can find the power he had in the minors during 2018 where he mashed 26 home runs it would completely change this Cardinals offense, something to watch for in 2020.
DH Options: Kyle Schwarber
The former fourth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Kyle Schwarber has been seen as a future DH since before he became a Chicago Cub. However, despite coming through the Cubs system as a catcher, Schwarber has turned himself into a reliable defender in left field with an especially impressive arm from the corner outfield spot.
The Cubs do have a few other bats they could slip into the designated hitter spot like new outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who is healthy this season and looked to have a roster spot secured before spring training ended. Another option would be switch-hitting catcher Victor Caratini, who showed last season in Willson Contreras’s absence that he is more than just a back-up catcher with a .794 OPS in 94 games.
DH Options: Josh Bell, maybe?
The Pirates are a team that has no desire to be good in 2020 as they start the process of rebuilding with new general manager Ben Cherington. Their best bet for the DH spot would probably be switching hitting power bat Josh Bell, but there isn’t a better option than Bell at first base at the moment. They do have a few outfielders like Erik Gonzalez and Guillermo Heredia who are expected to split time who could be put in the DH spot, but at the moment, the Pirates don’t have a clear-cut DH option.
DH options: Aristides Aquino
The Reds have a few players who could fit as a DH with the signings of Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos this offseason, but the player who might benefit the most from the DH would be outfielder Aristides Aquino. The 26-year-old hit 19 home runs in just 54 games with the Reds after hitting 28 home runs in the minors last season. His strikeout numbers are a concern as his strikeout percentage has never really dipped below 26 percent in the minors or majors, but with the power he provides while playing half his games in Great American Ballpark makes him a worthy DH option (assuming teams will play in their home parks).