I’m back with installment No. 3, this time breaking down the top-five teams in the National League that will benefit from a DH. Each division is represented, but three of them hail from what I think is the strongest in the MLB, the NL East. However, none of them take the top spot. Which team does? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!
No. 5: Atlanta Braves
Right now the Braves have three quality outfielders for two positions: Marcel Ozuna, Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall. In center they’ve got young superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., so the other three had to figure out how to split the time in the corners — that is, without a DH. With a designated hitter, the Braves can get all three in the lineup at once. By putting Ozuna in left, Markakis in right and Duvall at DH, the Braves can start three legitimately good outfielders and one great one (Acuna, obviously) at the same time. That makes Ender Inciarte the fifth outfielder, which is probably about as good of a fifth outfielder as a team could get. They have other solid options for DH as well, like Austin Riley, who showed some potential last season when he hit 18 home runs last season in 297 plate appearances. There’s Adeiny Hechavarria, who after joining the Braves last season towards the end of the year hit .328/.400/.639 in 70 plate appearances. Simply, put, the Braves have options, good ones too.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) May 23, 2020
No. 4: Washington Nationals
The defending champion Washington Nationals come in at No. 4 on my list, and like the division rival Atlanta Braves, they have a ton of options to choose from. The best of which is probably postseason hero Howie Kendrick, who hit a stunning .344/.395/.966 in 370 plate appearances last season. He’s also probably a net-negative in the field, so DH is a perfect option. The Nationals also have two first basemen — franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman and slugger Eric Thames. At this point in their careers, Thames is clearly the better player, as his OPS last season was over 100 points better than Zimmerman’s. However, Zimmerman has been in the Nationals organization since 2005, and when healthy, is by no means enough of a liability to remove from the lineup completely. Zimmerman and Thames could split the duties at first while also each grabbing some at-bats at DH. There’s also Asdrubal Cabrera, who signed with the Nationals in August of last season after getting released by the Rangers and hit .323/.404/.565 in 146 plate appearances for Washington. They have a bunch of choices for who can get more at-bats, and the DH will help their offense not fall off too much after losing Anthony Rendon in free agency.
The World Series champion Washington Nationals have agreed to a 1-year deal with 1B Eric Thames.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) January 8, 2020
No. 3: Cincinnati Reds
I know you might be surprised to see a team that won 75 games last season not only be in the top-three but also ahead of the reigning champs, but I’m all aboard the Reds hype train. They signed numerous high-profile free agents this offseason to bolster their lineup to compete in the NL Central including Mike Moustakas, Nicholas Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama. While Moustakas is locked into his spot in the infield, Castellanos and Akiyama join an outfield that already had three quality starters. Jesse Winker is in right and had an OPS of .830 last season in 384 plate appearances. Former No. 2 overall pick Nick Senzel made his debut last season and played alright, ending up with an OPS of .742 through 375 at-bats, so he’ll also likely be in line for more at-bats. That leaves Castellanos, Akiyama and Aristides Aquino to fight over one position when realistically all three of them would be starters on most teams in the league. Castellanos is the most obvious answer for who will be the DH, seeing as he’s a famous liability in the field but his bat is too good to not have out there. They also gave him a 4-year, $64 million deal this offseason (rightfully so), so you know he’s going to get at-bats. Aquino took the league by storm last season when he got the call-up, hitting 11 home runs in his first 16 games, and finished the season with a very solid .259/.316/.576 slash and 19 homers. Then there’s Akiyama, a 32-year-old outfielder who has spent his entire career in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). He’s a career .301/.376/.471 hitter and hit .309/.392/.471 last season for the Saitama Seibu Lions. The Reds gave him a three-year, $21 million contract this offseason, which could prove to be a steal if his talent translates to the MLB. They just have a lot of good options, which will be a huge help in a division that in my opinion is wide open. Yes, there are four teams that can compete for a playoff spot, but there’s by no means one team that is head and shoulders above another.
Aristides Aquino hit the hardest HR of 2019 on a change up lmaoooooo pic.twitter.com/8TSRgKOCZj
— Fuzzy (@fuzzyfromyt) May 25, 2020
No. 2: New York Mets
The Mets look like an American League ball club based on the way they’re built. They have multiple players who are best fit to be a DH either based on their age or simply their ineptitude in the field. Their bats are just too good to leave out of the lineup, so defense is generally sacrificed. I’ll break it down into three options. Option No. 1 revolves around Robinson Cano. At age 37, Cano had what was easily the worst season of his career last year when he hit .256/.307/.428, but he still has four years left on his deal-making $24 million per, so he’s going to be in the lineup. He doesn’t have much range at second anymore, so the Mets could move him to DH to try to maximize his value, move Jeff McNeil from third base to second and then put J.D. Davis at third. Option No. 2 revolves around Yoenis Cespedes. This one is a little trickier, seeing as Cespedes hasn’t touched the field since July of 2018 and has been on a media rollercoaster ever since, but if he’s healthy, his bat is too good to not have in the lineup. But, in order to try to minimize injury, DH would be the perfect spot for him. Yes, in a perfect world his cannon of an arm is in the outfield, but with his injury history, the best option is to minimize risk. This would then open up a spot in left field for Davis, Dom Smith or even Jake Marisnick by moving Brandon Nimmo to left and putting Marisnick in center. Option No. 3 revolves around Pete Alonso. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year established himself as the face of the Mets last season, but one of his weak spots was in the field. Sure, he’s getting better, but backup first baseman Dom Smith is frankly just better defensively and carries a solid bat of his own (.881 OPS in 197 plate appearances last season). They could get both bats in the lineup while having a surer glove at first. The No. 4 and final option revolves around J.D. Davis. I’ve mentioned him a couple of times already, and I’m planning on writing a separate article on why he needs to be an everyday player, but I’ll keep it short. He had an OPS last season of .895 and it was noticeably higher when he started getting regular playing time. But he has no position, he’s flat out bad in the field. He ~can~ play left and third, but that doesn’t mean he’s good at it. Using him at DH would be great, but Cano and Cespedes will probably be afforded that opportunity first.
We talk so much about the chemistry of this @Mets team. Why does it actually matter though? JD Davis’s answer is simple, yet interesting.
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) May 8, 2020
No. 1: Los Angeles Dodgers
Who let the Dodgers get this good? I’m serious. As a baseball community, how did we let the Dodgers become this much of a powerhouse? Not only do they have a top-end rotation, but their lineup is easily the best in the National League and maybe the MLB. They just have so many quality bats that don’t have a starting spot in the lineup which gives them so many options. What if I told you Joc Pederson hit 36 home runs last season and might not have a full-time starting gig next season? Well, they already have Cody Bellinger, they traded for Mookie Betts this offseason and A.J. Pollock is making eight-figures for at least the next two years, maybe four. All four of them should be in the lineup every day, and with a DH they can make that happen. However, as many know, Pollock has an extraordinarily hard time staying healthy, so what will the Dodgers do if he goes down? Good thing they’ve got Chris Taylor, who hit .262/.333/.462 last season. They could also go with the man who can play anywhere, Kike Hernandez, who despite having a bit of a down year last season has proven he can be a productive hitter. I’m not joking when I say he can pretty much play anywhere, in 2019 he got time at first, second, third, short, left, center and right. He even threw a third of an inning on the mound in 2018. Or they could go with Matt Beaty, who had an OPS of .775 in 2019, his rookie season. So yeah, they have options on options on options, and as the best team in the league, the DH naturally helps them the most.
Quick reminder that Joc Pederson is a platoon player who hit 36 homers last season👀 pic.twitter.com/qCEKDQiOyI
— serg (@dodgerserg) March 20, 2020