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Ranking how every NL team would benefit from a universal DH: No. 15-11

Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies signs autographs for fans before taking on the St Louis Cardinals during Players Weekend at Coors Field on August 25, 2018. Photo by Jennifer Linnea Photography via Flickr.

With the proposition of the universal designated hitter for the 2020 season, it leads to one natural question: Which teams in the National League will benefit the most? Well, let’s rank them!

No. 15: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates are, too put it lightly, not a very good baseball team. They finished last season 69-93 and dead last in the NL Central. With the other four teams in the division looking like they can compete if and when a 2020 season happens, the Pirates just don’t have much to look forward to. Why? It’s simple. There’s a severe lack of talent on their roster. Of the hitters (because we are talking about a DH), there’s Josh Bell and Bryan Reynolds who might compete for All-Star spots, and then there’s a harsh drop-off. So, whoever they trot out there three to five times a night to take some hacks probably will not be very productive — otherwise they’d already be in the lineup. The leading candidate is probably Jose Osuna, who split 285 at-bats in 2019 mainly between first base, right field and a little bit of third base. He hit .264/.310/.465 with 10 homers in those at-bats, and despite that earning him a WAR of minus 0.1, it was due to his below-average fielding. Being a DH solves that problem, and maybe not having to play the field will have a positive effect on him at the plate. 

No. 14: Miami Marlins
The Marlins are in a similar situation to the Pirates in that they’re just pretty devoid of talent — though you could probably tell that by them being the only 100 game loser in the NL last year (105 to be exact). Not only that, but the other four teams in their division look like they are able to compete, so frankly, it doesn’t really matter who might be able to get some extra at-bats at DH. Who are their options at DH? Well, they claimed first baseman Jesus Aguilar off waivers in December, who is coming off probably the worst season in his professional career where he hit .236/.325/.389 in 94 games with the Brewers and 37 games with the Rays. The Marlins also still have Garrett Cooper, who hit a very solid .281/.344/.446 last season splitting time between first base and right field at about a 2-to-1 ratio. Sure, he could play more in the outfield after with Aguilar now on the team, but that would displace two of their best hitters in Corey Dickerson and Brian Anderson. Luckily for Lewis Brinson, who just hasn’t been able to do anything at the plate through about 700 big league at-bats (he had an OPS of .457 in 2019), Dickerson and Anderson don’t really play center field. The DH solves that problem, they can keep Cooper at first full-time and put Aguilar at DH. Still, they rank No. 14 because realistically, no one mentioned here besides probably Dickerson and Anderson would have a starting job on a contender. The Marlins aren’t that, so realistically, preventing Aguilar and Cooper from splitting time isn’t going to have a significant effect on anything.

No. 13: San Francisco Giants
The Giants were better than the Pirates and Marlins last season, winning 77 games and probably overperforming. This year though, they’re going to drop into that next tier. I’m not going to go over it in depth, but they’re just so old. Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Hunter Pence, Johnny Cueto and  Jeff Samardzija are all 32-plus. They have one, just one, player on their roster who is under 25-years-old, and that’s starting pitcher Logan Webb who threw 39.2 innings with a 5.22 ERA. The veterans will probably show flashes every once in a while to win them some games, but there’s no way it will be sustainable. As for who can start at DH, there are a couple of options. The leading candidate in my opinion is probably Wilmer Flores, who joined the Giants this offseason. He’s never been a great fielder but has always been able to hit. Last season with the Diamondbacks he hit .317/.361/.487 in 265 at-bats, putting up an OPS over 50 points higher than his previous career-high. There’s also the opportunity to potentially get catcher and top prospect Joey Bart some at-bats while not taking away from franchise icon Buster Posey, though he’s likely still a year away. Pablo Sandoval, Austin Slater and Donovan Solano are also all players who could see more at-bats.

No. 12: Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are in a weird situation. They’re not going to compete, that’s pretty obvious at this point. After going 71-91 last season and making no significant improvements to their roster, they’re due for another disappointing season. However, they do have some talent, particularly in the lineup like Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl. However, first and foremost is Nolan Arenado, a bonafide superstar both at the plate and in the field. What does this have to do with a DH you ask? Well, they’re one of the non-contenders who might benefit more, considering their breadth of talent in the hitting department. One of the options is Ian Desmond, who had a .788 OPS last season, his best since 2012. However, entering his age-34 season, it might be more advantageous is giving more at-bats to some of their younger guys. Garrett Hampson has just a .700 career OPS but that’s through only 375 plate appearances, and has shown flashes at times of being a productive hitter. Ryan McMahon hit 24 homers last season with an OPS of .779, and while he did play a good amount he would still be in line to get probably at least 50-75 more plate appearances. Sam Hilliard also shined in a ~very~ limited time, putting up an OPS a couple of points over 1.000 in 81 plate appearances. Give him regular playing time and maybe he blossoms into a very solid everyday player. They could also mess around in the outfield and put someone like Backmon, who isn’t the greatest in the field, at DH and put someone who’s better with the glove out there. Is it going to affect anything league wise? Almost certainly no, but it gives them an opportunity to see more of their young talent.

No. 11: San Diego Padres
Sure, the Padres may have finished fifth in the division last year, but there’s a chance for them to make some noise in 2020. With bats like Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Tommy Pham in their lineup and some solid up-and-coming pitching, threatening to compete might not be crazy. Do I think they will? Probably not, I think they’re still a year or two away, but I also wouldn’t be overly shocked. For them, I think there’s a pretty obvious answer of who would be their DH, and that’s Wil Myers. He’s a defensive liability and doesn’t really have a position, with Eric Hosmer occupying first and him being an adventure in the outfield. His bat has dropped off from his prime so he’s not going to wow anyone, but they’re paying him too much money to not use him (about $22 million a year). That opens up a starting spot for Franchy Cordero in the outfield who has a career OPS of .737 but through just 273 plate appearances. In those trips to the plate he has 10 homers, so he could turn into a 20-plus home run guy with regular playing time. They could also go the route of putting fielding specialist and offseason acquisition Juan Lagares in center, though last season did seem to see a drop off in the field from the former Gold Glover. Either way though, Myers should be the DH, and it opens up a lot of options for them in the outfield. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, the new Padres uniforms and color schemes are amazing, and no one can convince me otherwise.

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