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DH in the NL: What it means for the Marlins

@JoeFrisaro
June 24, 2020

MIAMI -- When camp begins on July 1, Marlins pitchers won’t have to worry about practicing hitting or bunting. That's because pitchers will not bat in 2020. As part of the health and safety protocols approved on Tuesday, National League teams will be using the designated hitter for the truncated

MIAMI -- When camp begins on July 1, Marlins pitchers won’t have to worry about practicing hitting or bunting. That's because pitchers will not bat in 2020.

As part of the health and safety protocols approved on Tuesday, National League teams will be using the designated hitter for the truncated 60-game regular season. Previously, NL clubs only used the DH at American League parks in Interleague Play and in the World Series.

Marlins FAQ: Details on the upcoming season | Here's how every NL team's DH options stack up

In their history, the Marlins have had some pitchers who were exciting to watch hit. Dontrelle Willis was a .234 career hitter with eight home runs, by far the most of any pitcher in club history. Chris Hammond, Alex Fernández and A.J. Burnett each belted three home runs.

The late José Fernández hit two, with his first one creating some commotion. Former Braves catcher Brian McCann took exception to Fernández's bat flip and his slow jog around the bases, causing the benches to empty and both teams to gather around home plate.

In 2020, though, the DH creates an opportunity for a position player who hasn't secured a defensive spot to play regularly. The two players who will likely be most impacted by this are the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce and the right-handed-hitting Garrett Cooper.

Before MLB halted Spring Training in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, manager Don Mattingly was on record saying that Joyce projected to start in the outfield about three or four times a week. Right field is the likely spot, since Corey Dickerson projects in left field, with Jonathan Villar in center.

If Joyce does play right field, Cooper, who primarily plays first base and corner outfield, could become the most commonly used DH. Joyce could also DH when not starting in the field. Jesús Aguilar is the projected starting first baseman.

Right field remained the most open position battle during Spring Training. Joining Joyce and Cooper in the mix are Harold Ramirez and Lewis Brinson.

Another DH possibility is Matt Kemp, a non-roster invitee who struggled in Spring Training. With rosters expected to start off at 30, Kemp, an established veteran with a track record, could become a DH option. However, if he doesn’t look sharp during summer camp, he might not make the club.

Without an obvious candidate, the Marlins' DH situation could also be fluid based on who is hot or who provides the best matchup. The club could mix things up as well.

For instance, Villar, a switch-hitter, is expected to play mostly center field. But he’s a natural middle infielder. If he struggles in the outfield, he could be a DH candidate, with perhaps Brinson or Jon Berti playing center.

Or if second baseman Isan Díaz is hitting but scuffling in the field, perhaps he could DH. That could mean Villar would play some second base.

Even first baseman Aguilar could DH at times, with Cooper taking his place in the field. Or, for more speed, Berti or Brinson could DH.

All those possibilities will be sorted out once the Marlins return to the field.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.