Major League Baseball is back and it is bringing some significant rule changes for 2020. The players and owners have agreed to terms on playing a 2020 season, with spring training starting July 1st and the regular season starting July 23rd or 24th. The most notable change, beyond this being a 60-game season is the inclusion of a universal Designated Hitter. The much-debated DH is coming to the National League for this season!
NL teams will need to figure out their designated hitter, but who will they be and are they going to be any good? No matter what, the new rule swill give some NL players a boost in playing time and fantasy upside.
Projecting who will see the biggest increase in work will be a big part of fantasy baseball for this shortened season. We’ll take a look at who might see those extra at-bats. Good young players should also benefit, as they will have more opportunities even if they aren’t designated their team’s designated hitter.
I took a look at some of the hitters that will benefit from the new rule, but now let’s figure out who might be the DH for each NL team. Some teams will end up spreading the DH out to multiple players while also platooning the slot, so it will be tough to get a full read until we have a bit more information. But, for now, these guys below are set up for at least a good chunk of DH at bats.
Riley had an up and down debut last season, but showed the power that will make him a home run threat for a long time. In spring training part 1, Riley looked like he wouldn’t make the starting lineup, at least to start the season. Now that the DH is in play, Riley should get plenty of at bats in a strong lineup with players like Ronald Acuña Jr, Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and Marcel Ozuna.
The Marlins don’t have an obvious DH, but do have some talent that doesn’t have defined roles of yet. Cooper is my choice, as he started out strong last season, but faded and is currently behind Jesus Aguilar at first base. If he can win the DH job, he’ll see close to full-time at bats and has enough power to be a useful source for home runs and RBIs.
This pick depends on Cespedes’ health of course, but if he’s ready to go, he will get first shot at DH. Ankle injuries kept him out all last season and only played in 119 games the two previous seasons. Keeping him off the field on defense would be a boon to his health and we know is upside is great when healthy. If he can’t go, the job should go to Dominic Smith.
Bruce is easily the frontrunner for the DH role and still has power when given at bats. He’s not going to hit for average, so all we’re hoping for here are power numbers. After a poor 2019, he should be able to focus more on hitting instead of his bad defense and give fantasy players decent home run numbers for cheap. He could end up platooning with Alec Bohm if rosters are expanded, but I’m still on the Bruce side of the equation.
Kendrick had a resurgent season last year at 35 years of age. It would be difficult for him to repeat his .966 OPS and 17 home runs in 121 games played, but he is set up well for at bats this year. Kendrick’s defense isn’t great at 36 years of age and he showed well at DH in the World Series. The rest that comes with not playing defense will help him as well.
Schwarber seems like the obvious choice for DH in Chicago, but it’s not that easy. Schwarber has improved his defense and has made it clear he rather play defense. But, there is no doubt that he isn’t a great defender and has done well as the DH in inter-league games in the past. Getting Steven Souza at bats without the defensive stress could be the answer as he returns from injury while Ian Happ and David Bote have decent claims for DH at bats as well.
Aquino is in no way a lock for the Reds’ DH slot, but he has a ton of upside after hitting 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 205 at bats last season. His lack of experience could keep him on the bench while Josh VanMeter and Phillip Ervin platoon at DH instead, but if Aquino can get the job, it could be fun to watch as MLB starts up in the heat of summer.
Braun could end up playing first base while Justin Smoak takes DH, but to save Braun from hurting his back more, he will likely get the job. Braun can still hit despite his age and injury history and being the DH should help him find many more at bats this season.
Bell is a stud, hitting 37 home runs and 116 RBIs last season, but his defense is lacking. Bringing in someone like Will Craig to play first base would be a huge help to the Pirates’ defense while keeping Bell’s bat in the lineup. Something like this will likely happen, but there are other options which could split DH time up between multiple players.
It would be nice to see rookie Dylan Carlson get time at DH to help him see more at bats, but there’s a good chance Carpenter ends up seeing a big portion of the DH at bats. Carpenter is getting long in the tooth and dealt with injuries last season on his way to his worst hitting season of his career. Getting time to focus on hitting would be good for him to bounce back this year.
Cron is the most-likely to grab the DH spot this year for Arizona. As a first baseman, he is behind Christian Walker and doesn’t have a real shot at playing time without landing the DH job. Cron hit 39 home runs in Triple A last season and six more on 78 at bats in the big leagues, but did have trouble with a .211 batting average. His power should take precedence though.
The Rockies have many options for DH and will likely spread the position over a few different players. Blackmon will see time there, as he is a great hitter and not so great fielder. Sam Hilliard, who hit 35 home runs and stole 22 bases in 559 at bats in Triple-A and Garret Hampson, both should get some extra playing time and could win more with the DH available.
The Dodgers have plenty of strong DH options going into this season, which makes picking just one tough. If you wanted to switch a NL team to the AL without much trouble, it would be the Dodgers. Hernández gets the nod here, but there truly could be no designated DH with so many strong choices, including Matt Beaty, Gavin Lux, Joc Pederson, A.J. Pollock, Edwin Ríos, and Chris Taylor.
Meyers has good fantasy upside with a full time job, but before the DH, it looked like he would be a part time player. He won’t be a good source for average, but he has power and speed are enough to be a consistent fantasy play with a good chance of a 20-20 season pace.
Pence still has a little charge left in his battery, but injuries continue to slow him down. He made the All Star game last season as the Texas Rangers DH, but injuries hurt his second half. The Giants brought him back this season, but don’t really have a spot in the outfield for him to get regular at bats. The DH would be a boon for Pence in keeping healthy in a shortened season and seeing more at bats this year.