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Fantasy Baseball Impact of the Universal DH

With each passing day, we are receiving more news that points to Major Leauge Baseball starting sooner rather than later. Most of the news hints at an 80-100 game season, with the locations of the games still up for debate. There are also some roster changes that are being proposed for this shortened season, one being the universal designated hitter (DH), meaning there will finally be a DH in both leagues.

The DH began in 1973 and has been a staple of the American League (AL) for years. Some believe it makes for a better game, while the traditionalists feel it ruins the original game. For the past few years, there have been movements to bring the DH to the National League (NL). It appeared the DH would become an everyday part of the NL after the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it seems we may now see the DH implemented sooner. No matter if you agree with the DH being apart of baseball or not, you cannot disagree that the DH has brought some great players to the game that may not have had a chance to play at the same level. The DH has given us such greats as Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez and future Hall of Famer David Ortiz

The addition of the universal DH could open the door to some players that would not have everyday playing time or some that may even be sent to the minors as there was no spot on the roster for them. In this article, we will talk about 14 hitters that could see some increased fantasy goodness with the installation of the DH. Potentially, there will also be more than these 14 players that may have an impact throughout the shortened season. Let’s see some of the players that potentially could benefit most from the universal DH.

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Big Impact

Garrett Cooper (1B/OF, MIA)

Last season Cooper saw his first round of regular playing time with the Marlins but unfortunately, he was not looking to have an everyday job in 2020 due to a crowded outfield and first base situation. Last season he managed to hit .281 with 15 home runs over 107 games.

Surprisingly, Cooper had not shown regular power throughout the minor leagues but has been hitting for a solid average throughout. The increase in power changed last year with a really nice 40.4% hard-hit rate to go with a 9.6% barrel rate and a nice .165 ISO.

One of the downsides to Cooper’s potential mega-power boost is a 4.5-degree launch angle which led to a 52.9% ground ball rate and only a 16.9% fly-ball rate. If Cooper can continue his hard-hit rate, learn to elevate the ball more which would allow him to take advantage of his 30.4% HR/oFB, he can really take advantage of everyday playing time as a DH. 

 

Austin Riley (OF, ATL)

Riley exploded on the scene when he was called up last season. It felt like he was just hitting home run after home run in the early going. Then his bat went cold and he eventually ended up back in Triple-A before a September call-up. He finished the season combining for 33 home runs, 90 RBI, and 80 runs scored. The problems in his production were consistent between his Triple-A stats and his stats with the Braves.

In Triple-A he had a .293 average, but only a .226 average with the Braves. Riley also saw a massive change in plate discipline as he had a strikeout rate of only 20.1% in Triple-A and a K rate of 36.4% with the Braves. The power is more than legit for Riley. Even with the massive swing and miss, he was great when he made contact. He had a barrel rate of 13.7% to go with a hard-hit rate of 44.6%. Riley’s power has never been in question, it is his plate discipline.

He has also been a bit of a defensive liability, leading to Johan Camargo likely starting the season as the starting third baseman for the Braves. Their outfield is also really crowded. The combo of Camargo at 3B and the crowded OF was leading to Riley starting the season in Triple-A. The universal DH would give Riley regular at-bats and the ability to add a lot of home runs to a fantasy roster.

 

Ryan Braun (1B/OF, MIL)

Braun was looking to enter his age 36 season in a likey platoon role with the Brewers. The Brewers brought Avisail Garcia in as a free agent which was pushing Braun to some spot starts in the outfield or a platoon at first base with another new member of the team, Justin Smoak. The lack of playing time would stink for fantasy owners since his offensive production has been consistent regardless of his age, but his defense has not.

With the DH being in play, Braun could still play every day, which would add to his fantasy value. Braun has hit 17 or more home runs in six straight seasons, while also stealing at least 11 bases. Braun can give a solid batting average while also contributing in the other counting categories.

 

Yasiel Puig (OF, FA)

Here is your wild card. Puig is not even on a roster right now. For a while, it was looking bad for Puig signing with a team that would allow for a fantasy impact. Most teams already had their outfields in order and Puig would likely only be a fourth outfielder and likely in a platoon. Well, insert the universal DH and we have life. Over the weekend there were rumors of Puig signing with the Giants and that would lock in regular at-bats.

Signing with almost any NL team will help Puig get everyday at-bats. Puig brings a personality that may bother some, but those same people cannot question his skills at the plate. Puig has hit 23 or more home runs for three straight seasons while also stealing 15 or more bases in each of those three seasons. Over those three seasons, he has hit at least .263 and has had a solid ISO of at least .191. Puig is a beast at the plate and becoming a DH would be huge for a fantasy baseball team.

 

Moderate Impact

Yoenis Cespedes (OF, NYM)

Céspedes is in a similar boat as Puig, except he actually is on a team. Céspedes missed all of 2019 due to injury and has been battling injuries since the 2017 season. He even injured his ankle this offseason in a wild pig accident. As spring training went on, reports were coming in that Céspedes was recovering nicely and was looking like he would be ready to go by Opening Day.

There are more problems for Céspedes besides just his injury history. There is quite a log jam in the Mets outfield with Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo likely locked into every day playing time. That leaves one outfield spot and it already looked to be a platoon between J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith during spring training. Now insert the DH and Céspedes is ready to rock and roll. He is towards the end of his career and cannot likely play every day in the outfield anyway.

We know he can still hit since before missing last season he had a 9.8% or better barrel rate and a hard-hit rate of 43.7% or better as well since 2015. Céspedes may not be able to play defense well anymore, but he should still be able to mash at the plate and the DH could bring some life back to the 34-year-old veteran.

 

Aristides Aquino (OF, CIN)

The Punisher was mashing in Triple-A last season, hitting 28 home runs while hitting .299 over 78 games and earned the call-up to the Reds. Once called up, he picked up right where he left off, but eventually, things slowed down as pitchers found the holes in his swing.

He still managed to hit 19 home runs over 58 games with the Reds, but over his last 27 games, he only hit 5 home runs while hitting .196 with a near 31% strikeout rate. The power upside is intriguing for the Reds, but they have too many outfielders and it appeared Aquino, who has options left, was going to draw the short straw.

Newly signed Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama should man two outfield spots, while Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Phillip Ervin could platoon in the third spot. Aquino was going to start the season at Triple-A, but a DH should give the Reds a major reason to bring Aquino up and play him regularly, giving him fantasy value.

 

Kevin Cron (1B, ARI)

Cron had his first cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks last season and it was a mixed bag of results. In 39 games he hit 6 home runs, had a really nice .310 ISO, a 22.7% barrel rate, and a 51.2% hard-hit rate. At the same time, he only hit .211 with a 35.9% strikeout rate.

When Cron hits the ball, he hits it with a 47.7% ideal contact rate and a lot of authority. He has showcased this throughout the minors as well hitting at least 22 home runs in each of the last five seasons, including 38 last season. He has also had an ISO of at least .215 and an average of .283 over the last three seasons.

Cron has shown to be quite successful in the minors and is looking to carry that over with the DBacks. It appeared Cron would not get that chance to start the season with Christian Walker starting at first base and Jake Lamb as a potential platoon option. The DH could change all that. If Cron would get the call and play nearly every day, he could become a huge fantasy asset.

 

Eric Thames / Howie Kendrick (1B, WAS)

The addition of the DH could help out two players for the Washington Nationals. Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick both appeared to be in strict platoons going into this season and that could now change. For good reasons as Kendrick and Thames both excel at hitting the pitcher that lines up in their platoon.

The thing is Kendrick is still a solid all-around hitter and Thames has some insane power that can be utilized more often, not just against certain handed pitchers. Both players were being drafted in the back end of 15 team leagues due to their tremendous upside.

Now you add in a chance at more at-bats and you potentially have two players getting a very nice fantasy boost. Give me Kendrick over Thames if I have to pick between the two.

 

Low Impact

Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS, COL)

Many were waiting for 2019 to see the coming-out party for Brendan Rodgers. That was sadly put on hold due to injuries. Rodgers has shown decent power in the minors while hitting for a solid average and even showcasing some speed.

Rodgers has the ability to play all over the infield, but the Rockies are pretty locked in with Nolan Arenado at third base, Trevor Story at shortstop, and Ryan McMahon at second base. Not to mention the Rockies love to not play their talented prospects.

The addition of the DH could allow the Rockies to utilize Rodgers and his plus defense in the field while potentially playing McMahon or other Rockies at DH. Rodgers just needs a chance and the offensive fireworks will surely follow. Side note, Sam Hilliard could also see a nice bump with more consistent playing time thanks to the DH.

 

Wil Myers (OF, SD)

Going into the 2020 season it appeared that the longtime face of the Padres, Wil Myers would be the fourth outfielder for the team. That is one very talented and very expensive fourth outfielder.

Even in a down season where Myers saw his worst average in five years at .239 and his strikeout rate rose to career-worst 34.3%, he still produced some other nice fantasy stats, managing 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases.

The power/speed combo is very hard to pass up, especially if he returns to everyday at-bats. An honorable mention for the Padres would also be Ty France who hit 34 home runs between Triple-A and the Padres last season. France could be a major power source if given the chance with the DH.

 

Matt Adams (1B, NYM)

This pick could be a major longshot, and before anyone asks, no I am not crazy. Currently, Adams is a non-roster invitee with the Mets. There’s a chance he does not even make the team. At the same time, the DH could open up a really nice spot for Adams. For the last few seasons, he has been a platoon first baseman who has mashed right-handed pitching.

In the last three seasons, he has played between 111-131 games and has at least 20 home runs in each of those seasons, as well as an ISO over .239 each of those three seasons. Adams will not be a great source of average, but the DH was created for players like Matt Adams. If he makes the team, likely in large part due to the DH, you will be able to enjoy that super late-round fantasy goodness.

 

Jay Bruce (OF, PHI)

Bruce has been under-appreciated in fantasy drafts for the last few years. He is not a sexy pick, as he can be very streaky throughout the season and that makes owners very turned off at times. Fear not, as the DH is here to save the day. Bruce, similar to Adams, is built for this role.

As Bruce is reaching the later seasons of his career, he cannot quite play every day in the field due to not being the outfielder he once was in his career. He may not be able to still play every day in the field, but his bat will allow him to play every day at the plate with the DH. Last year he still managed to hit 26 home runs, his tenth season of 20 plus home runs in his 12-year career. Bruce will be hitting in a very strong Phillies lineup and the DH will make him fantasy relevant once again.

 

There are arguments for potential fantasy boosts on all NL teams with the addition of the DH. Some may be rather boring, while some have some potential upside. Keep an eye out for more information on players that may benefit from this wild season.

More 2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice




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