MIAMI -- MLB’s decision to implement the designated hitter in the National League gives Marlins manager Don Mattingly more options to consider when filling out his lineup.
For the Marlins, who gets the DH nod could depend upon matchups and who is hot.
In constructing its 2020 roster, the Marlins’ front office wasn’t considering the possibility of pitchers not hitting.
That changed, of course, due to MLB shutting down for three months because of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of relaunching the season, the universal DH was added for the scheduled 60-game season.
In putting together their 2020 roster, the Marlins loaded up on players who have more of a line drive, gap approach. They also can play multiple positions.
The Marlins don’t have a prototypical power hitter who is limited in the field. Mattingly noted there is no David Ortiz-type sluggers on the roster.
“For us, we’re not built to have one guy,” Mattingly said. “We don’t have Big Papi sitting there who is going to DH every day.”
Outfielder Harold Ramirez is another strong hitter who could DH.
“I think we have an idea of who will DH the most,” Mattingly said. “But I do look at it as using a rotation, where guys get a little bit of a breather, but also stay in the lineup.”
Cooper may be the choice to be used as the DH most often. In 2019, he hit .281/.344/.791 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs in 107 games.
Aguilar was considered the favorite at first base. That’s where he played entirely in Spring Training, as well as hit cleanup.
The Marlins are counting on a bounce-back season from Aguilar, who had a down year in 2019 while playing for the Brewers and Rays. His slash line was .236/.325/.714 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 131 games.
In 2018, Aguilar was an All-Star in Milwaukee, posting an .890 OPS, with 35 home runs and 108 RBIs.
Villar, the projected leadoff hitter, may also get some chances to DH. Last season with the Orioles, he hit .274 with 24 home runs, 73 RBIs, 111 runs and 40 stolen bases.
The Marlins moved him to center field, a position he hasn’t played much in his career, during Spring Training. To keep his bat in the lineup and his legs fresh, DH is an option.
“I think for us, obviously, it enables us to put one of the better players in the lineup,” Mattingly said. “It puts another hitter in the lineup, and it will enable us to probably mix and match a little bit more with our lineup.”
Generating more offense was a top offseason priority for the Marlins after they finished 29th in runs scored (615) in 2019.
The Marlins made upgrades, adding Villar, Aguilar, Joyce and left fielder Corey Dickerson in the offseason. And they’re banking on core players from the past few seasons improving as they approach their primes.
Whoever gets the call to DH -- or even to be in the lineup -- Mattingly noted there is an urgency to produce.
With just 60 games, the Marlins are calling the season a “sprint,” and they anticipate being in the postseason race.
“The environment is going to be a little bit more of a playoff environment, a pennant race environment,” Mattingly said. “So the decision-making process, where maybe two years ago, I'm going to let a pitcher go an extra inning, or try to get out of a jam, or try to get out of this situation.”
Marlins pitchers will be given a quicker hook if they struggle. The same goes for the hitters, who may have stayed in the lineup to get more at-bats the past two years.
“I think there is going to be less of that [patience] and more of, ‘This is our best lineup. This gives us our best chance to win today,’" Mattingly said. “It's not a development situation. It will be more of, in my mind, at least, until somebody tells me differently, I'm going to manage in a way to win every game.
“In a sprint, it’s really important to keep that hammer down, knowing every game is a big game for us.”