Significant changes will be part of the landscape if and when big league baseball returns in 2020.
Beyond creating three geography-based 10-team leagues, a schedule split in half by the global pandemic, and an expanded playoff schedule to recoup lost revenue from games played without fans, the most big change concerns the universal application of the designated hitter.
Used only by American League clubs in regular season home games since its inception in 1973, DH has been banned by tradition-conscious National League owners. But with the 2020 schedules eradicating traditional league lines, the rule is almost certain to extend to the senior circuit from the start of the mini-season.
That’s two years ahead of schedule, according to baseball insiders who anticipated the new base deal, which will be negotiated and implemented when the current one expires after the 2021 season, would have brought DH to the league anyway. national.
Since AL teams have been playing with the rule for almost half a century, they are way ahead of their NL counterparts, who until now have only used DH during spring training. – to get extra strikes for non-lineup positional players – or in AL home games.
There is no doubt that the designated hitter escaped his reputation as a “half-player”. In 2019, two of them (Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines) were entered simultaneously for the first time in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two others, Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor, are already there.
Additionally, two active designated hitters (Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees and JD Martinez of the Boston Red Sox) have salaries that earn them more than $ 23 million each, which places them among the top 10 highest paid players in the world. game, according to Sportrac. Another DH, Shin Soo-Choo of the Texas Rangers, is right behind them.
None of the designated hitters likely to be deployed by National League clubs will come close to matching those achievements. Not yet anyway. But the league will not be short of candidates who would like to turn their new roles into more lucrative future contracts.
With the shortened season likely to kick off around Independence Day, here’s how the first wave of NL Designated Hitters ranks:
1. Rockies – Too bad Daniel Murphy spent his entire 11-year career in the National League. The perfect DH is a left-handed hitter with a career average of .298 who has twice led the NL in doubles and has shown a penchant for producing long balls in pressure situations. Never a fan of the field, he played mainly on the right side of the infield but never stood out there.
2. Diamondbacks – After posting career highs in batting, homers and RBIs with the 2019 Pirates, Starling Marte could be even better if he was strictly deployed as a DH. In fact, the 26-year-old slugger displayed a 30/30 potential, judging by his 23 home runs and 25 interceptions last year. Unlike Ketel Marte, who would play center if Starling doesn’t, he’s much better in attack than in defense – and a perfect candidate to become a full-time DH. Budget-conscious hackers traded him in because his salary ($ 11.5 million this year) was too rich for their blood.
3. Dodgers – With Mookie Betts sneaking into an already crowded outfield, Joc Pederson (36 homers) is the favorite to become the first DH Dodger – possibly in a left-right peloton with Kike Hernandez, who has played everywhere except pitcher and catcher last season but still managed to hit three home runs in a game.
4. Bear cubs –Another good hitter without a field, Kyle Schwarber smacked a career-high 38 home runs, mostly while stationed in left field, last year. A big left-handed hitter, who carries 235 pounds on a six-foot frame, he can fill in behind the plate or at first base, but is best deployed as a DH who can focus only on the offensive phase of the game.
5. Reds – Before being traded to the Cubs last year, Nick Castellanos was Detroit DH 11 times. For a man who is far from gifted with an outfielder’s glove, he will often fill that role in Cincinnati, where the Great American Ballpark bandbox makes a formidable target for his right-handed swing. At 28, he should have around 30 home season seasons in his future (when full seasons will be played).
6. Food – After missing most of the last two seasons, Yoenis Cespedes accepted a voluntary pay cut ($ 29 million to $ 6 million) and set out to prove this spring that he can still punch. The advent of the DH era in the NL is perfect for the defensive Cuban defector, who had two 30-homer seasons but then suffered heel and ankle injuries. If he’s healthy, he and reigning Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso could form a devastating 1-2 punch. Another option for the Mets is Robinson Cano, who also fades on the pitch as he ages but remains dangerous with a bat. Using Cano as a DH would allow Jeff McNeil to return to second place, where he’s best suited, and JD Davis to play third base rather than jump over the diamond.
7. Padres – With an overloaded outfield in San Diego, newcomer Tommy Pham fits right into the DH slot. He was a 20/20 man two years in a row. There’s also a chance that first-year manager Jayce Tingler will do a DH from Wil Myers, who played five different positions last season. Myers and Pham both beat to the right.
8. Brewers – Milwaukee’s acquisition of rifle-armed right-hander Avisail Garcia means Ryan Braun becomes DH at age 36. A former National League MVP, Braun is no longer the 100 RBI machine he once was, but is still capable of two dozen home runs. But his prorated $ 17 million salary for this season only exceeds Matt Carpenter’s $ 18.5 million among the National League designated hitters.
9. Philly – Cured of his torn ACL, former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen is hoping to reclaim the top spot he won last year, his first with the Phils. With Bryce Harper, another former MVP, striking behind him, McCutchen is looking to reach 100 points scored for the first time in an 11-year career. If he delivers, he will be worth his pro-rated salary of $ 16.66 million in 2020.
10. Courageous – Austin Riley, with 18 homers in 80 games as a rookie in 2019, has the power of a light tower but needs to refine his judgment on the strike zone. Used mainly at third base and left field last year, it can’t match Johan Camargo’s glove in the hot corner, where the Braves must replace free agent defector Josh Donaldson. If Riley can’t handle the job, manager Brian Snitker will likely resort to a left-right squad of Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall, although newcomer Marcell Ozuna is also a candidate if his shoulder issues prevent him from succeeding. throw from left field.
11. Nationals – After winning the 2019 NL Championship Series MVP title and hitting a decisive home run in World Series Game 7, Howie Kendrick hopes he will continue his late career rebirth by becoming the first regular DH in history of the Washington Nationals. The 36-year-old right-handed hitter, an infielder by trade, made 41 appearances as a pinch hitter last year but would get many more batting appearances as DH.
12. Marlins – An All-Star in 2018, when he smashed 35 home runs while anchoring first base for Milwaukee, Jesus Aguilar fell so fast last year that the Fish found him on the hang-wire. At just 30, he suffers from weight issues (250 pounds on a 6’3 “frame) but hits the ball a mile and a half when he logs on. The budget-conscious Marlins figured they didn’t. ‘had nothing to lose by claiming it.
13. Pirates – Until he regains the full strength of his surgically repaired shoulder, Gregory Polanco will be the first DH for rookie manager Derek Shelton. A lanky southpaw hitter whose six-year stay has been plagued with injuries, he’s only 28 and dying to show what he can do when he’s healthy. He played over 145 games in a single season.
14. Cardinals – Aging infielder Matt Carpenter, whose nine-year career has been spent in St. Louis, still swings a bat powerful enough to serve as a designated hitter. Often used as a leading player, the 34-year-old left-hander hammered 36 home runs just two years ago. With Paul Goldschmidt at the start and Tommy Edman at the third, Carpenter would be pinched without the unexpected premature arrival of DH.
15. Giants – Pablo Sandoval, the portly third baseman who won the World Series MVP title while playing for San Francisco in 2012, led the majors with 19 hits last year but struggled with elbow that led to Tommy John surgery at the end of the season. If he’s on the squad at 33, he’s more likely to DH than oust outgoing third baseman Evan Longoria, who hit 20 home runs last year. The Giants could also do a DH with wide receiver Buster Posey, a former All-Star pushed by first-rate rookie slugger Joey Bart.