National League DH: A Look at the NL West

The universal DH is here. Here's what to expect from teams in the NLW.

The DH being implemented in the National League will give lots of team added flexibility. This will be part three of a three-part series. We will be using Depth Charts, as well as some of my own thoughts and speculation, to project each team’s DH. Let’s take a look at every team in the NL East, who their prime DH candidate is, and how each team may take advantage of the new position.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Best Option: Kevin Cron

Kevin Cron finished 2019 with monster numbers at Triple-A. In 377 PA, Cron slashed .331/.449/.777 with 38 home runs and 20 doubles. He posted a 182 wRC+, along with a 16.2% walk rate and an impressive 20.4% strikeout rate. These are big-time numbers for the 27-year-old first basemen, even if they came in the offense-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Cron spent a little over a month’s time in the big leagues last season, stepping to the plate 78 times. His numbers weren’t nearly as good, as he posted a roughly league-average 96 wRC+, but he still slugged six homers and four doubles–good for a .521 slugging percentage. His shortcomings were a result of a .211 batting average and significant regressions in walk rate (5.1%) and strikeout rate (35.9%). But that’s ok! Even if his 2019 minor league walk rate is an outlier, his power numbers are not. Cron has turned in five straight minor league seasons of 22 or more home runs across the span of High-A to Triple-A. His pop is steady and provides him with great value as an NL DH.

 

Other Options

The other option the Dbacks have is veteran left-handed hitter Jake Lamb. Lamb had two solid offensive years in 2015 and 2016, but has since failed to hit at the same pace since then. Although his playing time has been limited over the past two seasons due to injury, he also severely struggled versus left-handed pitchers. Even if he does get playing time as the DH, it will be strictly against right-handers.

 

Projected Lineups

VS. RHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1CF2Starling MarteR
22B4Ketel MarteS
33B5Eduardo EscobarS
4LF6David PeraltaL
5DH32Kevin CronR
61B53Christian WalkerR
7RF56Kole CalhounL
8SS13Nick AhmedR
9C18Carson KellyR

 

VS. LHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1CF2Starling MarteR
22B4Ketel MarteS
33B5Eduardo EscobarS
4LF6David PeraltaL
5DH32Kevin CronR
61B53Christian WalkerR
7RF56Kole CalhounL
8SS13Nick AhmedR
9C18Carson KellyR

 

Colorado Rockies

 

Best Option: Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy has been anything short of excellent since he arrived in Colorado, but given his shortcomings as a defender, he’s best suited as the DH for the Rockies. Last season, he hit .279/.328/.452 with a .328 wOBA and 86 wRC+. He walked at just a 6.7% rate and hit only 13 home runs. There’s always a chance that Murphy is a source for high batting average, with a career average of .298, but he hasn’t shown the same 25-homer power that he displayed during his time in Washington. At age-35, Murphy probably won’t find more power, but if he can hit .300 with consistent at bats, he should be a serviceable source for batting average.

 

Other Options

Other options for Colorado include: Ian Desmond, Sam Hilliard, and Garrett Hampson. Desmond offers 20-home run power and maybe some speed, but not much else. In 2018, Desmond hit 22 home runs and stole 20 bags. Last year he followed up with another 20 homers but stole only 3 bags. Hampson didn’t have much to offer last season, hitting .247 with a .686 OPS and just 8 home runs across 327 plate appearances. He has a solid hit tool and really strong speed, but will have to hit for a high average to reach his full offensive potential. Hilliard had just 87 plate appearances last season, but produced a 138 wRC+. He posted a strong 10.3% walk rate and hit 7 homers. He might provide the most offensive potential across the three, but is also least likely to DH because of his plus defense.

 

Projected Lineups

VS. RHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1CF26David DahlL
2SS27Trevor StoryR
3RF19Charlie BlackmonL
43B28Nolan ArenadoR
5DH9Daniel MurphyL
61B24Ryan McMahonL
7LF22Sam HilliardL
82B1Garrett HampsonR
9C14Tony WoltersL

 

VS. LHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1CF26David DahlL
2SS27Trevor StoryR
3RF19Charlie BlackmonL
43B28Nolan ArenadoR
5DH9Daniel MurphyL
61B20Ian DesmondR
7LF22Sam HilliardL
82B1Garrett HampsonR
9C6Drew ButeraR

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Best Option: Joc Pederson

The Dodgers have so many options it is impossible to truly say who will be the DH. It will likely be a rotation of hitters when days off and rest is needed. But since I had to pick one, I went with the Joc Pederson. With an outfield to share with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, and A.J. Pollock, Pederson could be argued as the worst defender of the bunch. He’s a fantastic hitter and is coming off a career season, where he hit 36 homers with a 127 wRC+. The Dodgers have a surplus of hitting, but the DH gives Pederson a little more job security.

 

Other Options

Like I previously said, the options are plentiful and the position will likely be shared. Pollock, Matt Beaty, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, and Edwin Rios, are all options. It will likely be based on day-to-day needs and match-ups.

 

Projected Lineups

VS. RHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1RF50Mookie BettsR
21B13Max MuncyL
33B10Justin TurnerR
4CF35Cody BellingerL
5DH31Joc PedersonL
6SS5Corey SeagerL
7LF11A.J. PollockR
8C16Will SmithR
92B9Gavin LuxL

 

VS. LHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1RF50Mookie BettsR
21B13Max MuncyL
33B10Justin TurnerR
4CF35Cody BellingerL
5DH14Enrique HernandezR
6SS5Corey SeagerL
7LF11A.J. PollockR
8C16Will SmithR
92B3Chris TaylorR

San Diego Padres

 

Best Option: Josh Naylor

Josh Naylor has some of the best raw power in the game, making him the easy candidate for DH. He hit 18 homers across the MLB-level and Triple-A last season, but struggled to hit for average at the highest level. Working in his facor is that Naylor is only 22-years-old, so the Padres won’t be giving up on him any time soon. Since Eric Hosmer being a lock at first base, Naylor has recently worked in making the transition to the outfield. However,  the DH makes much more sense for someone with his profile. If you need a low-cost source for power, look to pick up Naylor off of free agency.

 

Other Options

Ty France put up absurd numbers in Triple-A last season, slashing .399/.477/.770 with a 196 wRC+ and 27 home runs. However, he hasn’t had the same success at the MLB level yet. The Padres don’t have too many other options for the DH, so if Naylor does not deliver, France should be given a decent amount of opportunity.

 

Projected Lineups

VS. RHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1SS23Fernando Tatis Jr.R
2LF28Tommy PhamR
33B13Manny MachadoR
41B30Eric HosmerL
5CF2Trent GrishamL
6DH22Josh NaylorL
72B10Jurickson ProfarS
8C27Francisco MejiaS
9RF33Franchy CorderoL

 

VS. LHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1SS23Fernando Tatis Jr.R
2LF28Tommy PhamR
33B13Manny MachadoR
41B30Eric HosmerL
5CF2Trent GrishamL
6DH4Wil MyersR
72B10Jurickson ProfarS
8C27Francisco MejiaS
9RF33Franchy CorderoL

 

San Francisco Giants

 

Best Option: Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence was reunited with the Giants this offseason and he looks likely to have consistent at bats provided to him through the DH. Although he lost time due to injury in 2019, Pence put up some fantastic offensive numbers. In 316 plate appearances, he hit .297/.358/.552 with 18 jacks and a 128 wRC+. His walk rate and strikeout rates were about league average — at 8.2% and 21.8% respectively. Pence is entering his age 37 season, but the newly introduced NL DH will give him opportunity to produce at the plate while avoiding any health issues that may derive from playing the field.

 

Other Options

The Giants have a two other solid options at DH — Alex Dickerson and Jaylin Davis. Dickerson has a 110 wRC+ in 483 plate appearances. He doesn’t have great power, but in a full season he can reach the 20-homer mark and steal a handful of bags. Davis only played in 17 games last season with San Francisco, but hit 35 homers and stole 10 bags between Double-A and Triple-A. He has 65-grade raw power and 60-grade speed, giving him the make of an interesting bat in deeper and NL-only leagues.

 

Projected Lineups

VS. RHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1RF5Mike YastrzemskiL
23B10Evan LongoriaR
31B9Brandon BeltL
4C28Buster PoseyR
5DH8Hunter PenceR
6LF12Alex DickersonL
7SS35Brandon CrawfordL
82B1Mauricio DubonR
9CF6Steven DuggarL

 

VS. LHP
OrderPos#PlayerBats
1CF5Mike YastrzemskiL
23B10Evan LongoriaR
31B9Brandon BeltL
4C28Buster PoseyR
5DH8Hunter PenceR
6LF53Austin SlaterR
7SS35Brandon CrawfordL
82B7Donovan SolanoR
9RF49Jaylin DavisL

 

Winners and Losers

 

I came across an interesting gain/loss concept from Fangraph’s Craig Edwards that attempted to project how much WAR the National League teams would either gain or lose from the implementation of a DH.  Since the NL roster is designed to account for a DH, some teams may not have a hitter well-fit for the spot. If you want to see the projections, then you should check out his work. Here we will be using his WAR projections per 600 PA, but only rank the teams in the West by the lone projection of their projected DH.

TeamProjected DHProjected WAR
DbacksKevin Cron1.6
DodgersJoc Pederson1.4
PadresJosh Naylor0.4
RockiesDaniel Murphy0.4
GiantsHunter Pence-0.2

 

It is important to remember that these are just based on depth chart projections and can be wrong. It’s also worth noting that the DH is always less valuable, in terms of WAR, than a position that can benefit the team defensively. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for the NLE team projected to gain the most from the universal DH, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Naylor: (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire) Cron: (Photo by /Icon Sportswire) | Feature Graphic Designed by James Peterson (Follow @jhp_design714 on Instagram & Twitter)

Kyle Horton

Kyle is a former Division 1 baseball player, Cincinnati Reds fan, and Joey Votto enthusiast. Please follow him on Twitter @Hortonimo, he already told his mom that you did.

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Kyle, I think you have Garrett Hampson’s and Sam Hilliard’s positions mixed up on Colorado’s lineups. Hilliard should be in LF and Hampson at 2B (but, I think Brendan Rodgers, who should be healthy now, has a good chance of usurping Hampson at 2B).

    • Avatar Kyle Horton says:

      Yes you’re right! Good catch. I bet I meant to flop their order but forgot to change everything (their numbers were switched too). Fixed it!

  • Account / Login
    >