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Assessing every NL club’s DH situation for 2020

@paul_casella
June 25, 2020

With Major League Baseball implementing a universal designated hitter for the first time in 2020, MLB.com's beat reporters broke down the potential DH options for each of the 15 National League clubs. • FAQ: All you need to know about 2020 season Below is a brief look at the situation

With Major League Baseball implementing a universal designated hitter for the first time in 2020, MLB.com's beat reporters broke down the potential DH options for each of the 15 National League clubs.

FAQ: All you need to know about 2020 season

Below is a brief look at the situation for every NL team, with links to in-depth analysis for each club:

NL East

Braves
The Braves are saying they feel good about the many different options they have to use as the DH, but their best option might be to use Marcell Ozuna, whose defense has become a concern over the past couple seasons. If Ozuna is used as the DH on an everyday basis, Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall could platoon in left field. Manager Brian Snitker could also attempt to get young slugger Austin Riley some plate appearances in the DH role. More >

Marlins
Manager Don Mattingly can mix and match when it comes to using the DH. The primary candidates are outfielder/first baseman Garrett Cooper (a right-handed hitter) and left-handed-hitting outfielder Matt Joyce. Mattingly said in Spring Training that Joyce would play the outfield three or four times a week -- but does his role change to more of a DH, meaning less time in the outfield? Cooper, meanwhile, hit 15 home runs and drove in 50 runs in 107 games last season. He could still be used in right field or at first base, but DH may be the first option. More >

Mets
Regardless of whether Yoenis Céspedes can take the field on a daily basis, the Mets feature one of the best DH situations in the NL. If Céspedes is a full go, it will allow the Mets to insert his bat in the lineup without worrying about how his surgically repaired heels or broken right ankle will stand up to the grind of regular outfield play. Even if Céspedes isn’t ready to DH every day, the Mets can use the spot as a way to get Dominic Smith, who posted an .881 OPS last year but is blocked long term by Pete Alonso at first base, into the lineup. The team can also insert J.D. Davis at DH from time to time, giving it three viable options at the position. More >

Nationals
The Nationals found a clutch DH last year in postseason hero Howie Kendrick. He's returned to the defending World Series champions for his 15th Major League season as a backup infielder, and he is a prime candidate to fill the DH role. Kendrick, who turns 37 in July, slashed .344/.395/.572 with 17 homers and 62 RBIs over 370 plate appearances in 2019. His .966 OPS ranked second on the team. More >

Phillies
The Phillies are unlikely to have one player serve as their primary DH, but Jay Bruce and eventually top prospect Alec Bohm could take most of the plate appearances. Bruce seemed to be blocked at the corner outfield spots by Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, but his left-handed power bat would seem to fit against right-handed pitchers. As for Bohm, the 23-year-old looks ready to hit big league pitching. He could find time at DH, but also give breaks to Jean Segura at third base and even Rhys Hoskins at first base. If it isn’t Bruce or Bohm, the DH spot could be used to get Harper, Hoskins, McCutchen and even J.T. Realmuto off their feet. More >

Ranking the NL DH options

NL Central

Brewers
The designated hitter has real implications for Brewers mainstay Ryan Braun this year. Perhaps in 2021, too. Before the coronavirus pandemic forced a suspension of Spring Training in mid-March, Braun was pondering whether 2020 might be his final season. Now, that calculus has changed. While Braun has reveled in playing dad to Carter James, born May 31, the combination of the DH being implemented for 2020 and the prospect of playing this season in empty stadiums has him thinking more and more about '21. More >

Cardinals
Manager Mike Shildt can rotate different players through the DH spot depending on the day. A simple solution would be to move Matt Carpenter, a proven hitter, to DH and have Tommy Edman, a versatile defender, be the starting third baseman. Rangel Ravelo, a first baseman/outfielder, could also get extra at-bats at DH. Another simple solution would be to rotate through the regulars, giving Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Dexter Fowler a day off their feet while not taking their bats out of the lineup. Shildt can also rotate through the big group of young outfielders: Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Austin Dean, Justin Williams and top prospect Dylan Carlson. More >

Cubs
The easy answer would be to install slugger Kyle Schwarber as the full-time DH -- a role many evaluators predicted for his future in MLB. Schwarber, however, has turned himself into an average defender in left field and a more likely scenario would be manager David Ross rotating players through the DH slot. Outfielder Steven Souza Jr. could be an option, given that he missed all of 2019 due to a serious left knee injury. Outfielder Ian Happ could also see time at DH to keep Albert Almora Jr.’s glove in center. More >

Pirates
As manager Derek Shelton said last month, the Pirates aren’t going to “David Ortiz it or Travis Hafner it” with their DH spot. They’ll rotate players in and out of that spot, and which route they take likely depends on the composition of their roster, who’s healthy, which pitcher they’re facing, who is a better fit in the field and so on. They could also use the spot to keep bat-first regulars (Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco, perhaps) in the lineup while upgrading their defense. Their most exciting move would be calling up third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes (the club's No. 2 prospect), likely shifting Colin Moran to the DH spot. More >

Reds
Perhaps more than any other NL club, Cincinnati has an abundance of strong offensive options. Nick Castellanos is a below-average defensive right fielder, but hit 27 homers and a Major League-best 58 doubles last season. Another option could be Jesse Winker, a lefty hitter and a favorite of the sabermetric crowd, who has a career .909 OPS vs. right-handed pitchers, but a minus-14 Outs Above Average. He hit all 16 of his homers in 2019 against right-handers. Then there's Aristides Aquino, who batted .320 with 14 home runs and 1.160 OPS in his first month following his Aug. 1 promotion from Triple-A Louisville before struggling down the stretch. Phillip Ervin, Mike Moustakas, Derek Dietrich and Joey Votto are also possibilities to get DH time. More >

NL West

D-backs
Look for manager Torey Lovullo to mix and match with the newly created DH spot. Lovullo has used the DH during Interleague Play as a way of giving some of his regulars a “partial” day off. Jake Lamb could see a lot of time at DH with Christian Walker entrenched at first and Eduardo Escobar at third. Lovullo could also use Ketel Marte in that spot from time to time as a way to limit the wear and tear on his body while still keeping him in the lineup. More >

Dodgers
With a loaded roster, the Dodgers won’t have a “designated” designated hitter. Instead, they likely will use it as a method for players like Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to bat while getting a rest from playing defense. In 10 Interleague road games last year, six Dodgers served as DH (Turner, Beaty, Pederson, Will Smith, A.J. Pollock and David Freese, who retired after last season). More >

Giants
The Giants have several candidates for the DH spot, including Hunter Pence and Alex Dickerson, who were expected to form a platoon in left field. Given their recent injury histories, Pence and Dickerson should both benefit from the universal DH and could have an easier time staying healthy with more breaks from playing the field. With Evan Longoria expected to draw the majority of starts at third base, Pablo Sandoval could also make appearances at DH. Another option would be non-roster invitee Darin Ruf, who emerged as a standout during Spring Training but didn’t have a clear path to the Opening Day roster with Brandon Belt already at first base. More >

Padres
Had they known they’d need a DH in 2020, the Padres might not have traded Franmil Reyes last July. But there are still plenty of bat-first options available in San Diego. Josh Naylor and Francisco Mejía come with defensive question marks, but they both have serious upside at the plate and have yet to receive everyday playing time. Similarly, corner infielder Ty France had his path to regular at-bats blocked by Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer last season. France might be the presumed starter at DH against left-handed pitching. Expect the Padres to mix and match from among those three hitters, while giving Tommy Pham some time at DH if his right elbow barks. More >

Rockies
Having the DH gives the Rockies the opportunity to take some mileage off right fielder Charlie Blackmon. It also provides playing-time options for left-handed-hitting outfielders Raimel Tapia and Sam Hilliard, who entered the year competing with veteran Ian Desmond for regular playing time in left field. More >

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.