There were debates about whether the designated hitter should ultimately come to the National League for many years among baseball purists. Well, any lingering arguments over it have now been settled. The DH is now part of the lineup in the NL, and it’s a winning option for the teams and many players.
Having the DH will provide ballclubs with more roster flexibility, which is always welcomed. For players, the inclusion of the DH in the NL gives them additional opportunities to seek quality playing time. National League teams can now give extra at-bats to players that otherwise would have seen lesser time in the lineup because of defensive issues or limitations- not to mention the impact on NL-only fantasy baseball leagues.
The DH Creates Additional Lineup Flexibility In The NL
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When Nelson Cruz signed a one-year deal with Washington, it was a significant sign of changing times in the National League. In July, the seemingly ageless Cruz will turn 42 years old, yet he still hit 32 home runs with two teams last season. Washington’s lineup could use the extra punch, as it looked mediocre before adding Cruz. He at least gives them a chance to be more competitive, although no one indeed expects the Nationals to be a contender in the NL East.
Cruz is the longtime MLB model at DH. Another recent move also demonstrated how the DH is opening up new paths for players to gain more plate appearances elsewhere. Luke Voit seemed to be pushed out of the mix for quality at-bats when the Yankees ultimately decided to bring Anthony Rizzo back. There were no chances to play regularly at first base or DH.
But a trade to San Diego gave Voit a sudden new beginning, where he could be the Padres’ primary DH in a deal that was undoubtedly lauded as a refreshing move by the former Yankee. Voit told nj.com that he was “stoked” and “excited for a new opportunity.” He also talked about how much he is looking forward to hitting in a lineup with more speed ahead of him now. Many players want to get a chance to wear the Yankee uniform but would prefer to be in a starting role on another team. The introduction of the DH created the opening in the San Diego lineup for Voit.
The Brewers added Andrew McCutchen, and he is at a later stage of his career where it makes sense for him to roam the outfield less, yet his bat can still be a vital part of a lineup. McCutchen had 27 homers and 80 RBI for Philadelphia last season.
The Phillies acquired Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. Those were two headline pickups, but both are not optimal defensive outfielders. One could be ticketed for more time at DH, or both of them could be options there. Philadelphia now has further room to maneuver with both because of the DH.
National League DH Offers More Potential Playing Time
With the Mets, the inclusion of the DH will give Robinson Cano a possible pathway to frequent at-bats in his return to the team. Late in his career, Cano should not be playing second base often, but the Mets can find out if he still has a good chunk of his pure hitting skills intact. The DH slot could also afford Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis to have more playing time. It can keep those guys fresh, as starting jobs are not available right now, but having quality depth is very important. Having the DH option can help keep Smith and Davis sharp as hitters, and there is always a good chance one could earn consistent at-bats in the role. Smith may be able to share a lot of time with Cano at DH and could conceivably surpass him for the number of at-bats at DH over the full season.
For the Mets, the addition of the DH provides them with another important opportunity to keep their best player healthy. Jacob deGrom did not hold back as a hitter and injured his shoulder swinging the bat last season. Keeping deGrom out of the batter’s box will increase his chances of availability and give the Mets their best odds to contend for the National League pennant. It was fun to see deGrom hit .364 with six RBi last season, but it was certainly no fun to see him missing from the pitching rotation.
For the Braves, the DH will allow them to keep Marcell Ozuna’s essential bat in the lineup while no longer having to be as concerned about his defense. His presence is very important in a lineup that lost longtime signature player Freddie Freeman.
In Colorado, the Rockies can now keep Charlie Blackmon in the lineup and not tax his body further in the outfield, as he will turn 36 years old during the season. It will also be interesting to see if one player can emerge as the primary DH for the Cubs. Clint Frazier could be a player to watch, as he can start over with Chicago and possibly play his way into a regular spot in the batting order. He dealt with some defensive issues with the Yankees, and the Cubs have other quality players in the outfield. If Frazier is often in the lineup as a DH, Chicago could benefit from an offensive perspective.
The DH finally coming to the National League seems to offer mostly positive factors. The one drawback could be less of a ‘break” for opposing pitchers when facing the bottom of a batting order. But gaining more offensive support could be a fair trade-off. There are already many positive scenarios that the addition of the NL DH has created.