Who Could Benefit Most From A Universal DH: NL East Edition (Riley, Bohm & More)

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One of the rumors making the rounds as we continue to wait to learn what the future holds for the MLB season is the potential for a universal DH for 2020.  If adopted it’s hard to envision them going back, but that’s a debate for another day.  Fantasy owners should be prepared, just in case the move comes to fruition.  Who could be the biggest benefactor for NL clubs?  Obviously the schedule could impact things (if it is loaded with double headers teams could opt to use the spot as a way to keep their best hitters in the lineup), but let’s take a look at who the most likely DH are for each franchise.  Kicking things off is the NL East:

Atlanta Braves – Austin Riley

There is reason to believe that Riley would’ve won the third base job over Johan Camargo for Opening Day, but the addition of a DH would make the point moot.  The other names to monitor are Adam Duvall and Nick Markakis, both of which have no path to a starting role in the outfield, but it’s Riley who deserves the bulk of our attention though there’s no guarantee he thrives in the role.  The best way to summarize the questions is this excerpt from Rotoprofessor’s 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide:

Upon his promotion he hit .226 with 18 HR over 297 PA, and while we’d love to expect an improvement in his average everything points towards him continuing to struggle.  A 48.8% fly ball rate (after a 45.1% mark at Triple-A) points towards a continued regression in his BABIP (.293 in the Majors) and his 20.6% SwStr% and 41.3% O-Swing% show an abysmal approach.  Considering his 14.1% SwStr% over the past two years at Triple-A (518 PA), as well as a 17.38% Whiff% on hard pitches being his “best” mark, there’s little reason to expect any improvement.  While there’s some thunder in his bat, the downside far outweighs the reward.

Miami Marlins – Monte Harrison

There are quite a few names that could get consideration, depending on the route the Marlins take:

  • Jon Berti – Could he be used here as opposed to being a super utility reserve?
  • Garrett Cooper
  • Lewin Diaz – Could he force his way ahead of Harrison as the top prospect on the cusp?

We’ll go Harrison due to the likelihood of there not being a minor league season, opening the door for bigger benches and youngsters getting pushed faster (we can argue that he has a higher upside than Diaz).  Harrison likely would’ve been in the Majors in ’19 had it not been for injury, and with Lewis Brinson penciled into a starting spot it’s possible that he gets a starting role regardless.  There are going to be questions regarding Harrison’s production, as strikeout issues loom large (16.2% SwStr% in ’19 when healthy), and he needs to figure that out in order to tap into his 30/30 upside.

New York Mets – Yoenis Cespedes

If Cespedes is healthy it’s clear that he’ll be slotted into this spot, as there had been debate as to how the Mets would fit four outfielders into three spots.  With so much missed time (he had 478 PA total over the past three seasons) it’s questionable as to what he could bring to the table.  At the same time, would it be shocking to see a healthy, motivated Cespedes produce gaudy numbers as he’s playing for a contract in 2021?  The last time he played a relatively full season (132 games in 2016) he hit .280 with 31 HR.

If it’s not Cespedes and with Robinson Cano locked in at 2B for now (long-term he’s likely a DH), it will be Dominic Smith who steps into the role.  That, of course, is assuming he couldn’t overcome J.D. Davis for a starting outfield spot.  Regardless, with a DH and Cespedes not filling the role both should be able to find a spot in the lineup.

Philadelphia Phillies – Alec Bohm

Jay Bruce also makes sense for the role, as the delayed start to the season has allowed Andrew McCutchen to get healthy and be ready for Opening Day.  That said, there’s no questioning Bruce’s power but he’s also hit .223 and .216 the past two seasons so the Phillies could opt to utilize the more complete hitter.

Bohm may not be on the 40-man roster yet, but he was expected to arrive in the Majors in ’20 and if the minor league season is wiped out Philadelphia will have motivation to utilize him from Day 1.  If that happens there’s a lot to love, as we wrote the following about him as part of Rotoprofessor’s 2020 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide:

Bohm played across three levels in ’19, including 270 PA at Double-A, showing a strong approach (7.7% SwStr%) with the ability to limit the strikeouts (73) while drawing a lot of walks (53).  Couple that with the growing power (21 HR, 55 total extra base hits) and it’s clear the total package is there. 

Washington Nationals – Asdrubal Cabrera

The Nationals would bring another interesting debate, as they could go with someone like Howie Kendrick or Ryan Zimmerman regularly in the role.  Zimmerman was resigned and utilizing him in a DH role could help to keep him healthy and on the field.  He has also been a pretty clear platoon option the past two seasons.

As for Cabrera, the question here is whether or not he can find regular AB at 2B (Starlin Castro) or 3B (Carter Kieboom).  Assuming he was penciled in as a bench option, which was the expected outcome, it makes sense for Cabrera to be slotted into the DH role.  He’s hit 41 HR over the past two seasons while hitting the ball hard (Hard% of 38.5% and 42.7%) and showing a solid approach (last season he posted an 8.5% SwStr% and 28.8% O-Swing%).  If he’s going to be regularly penciled into the lineup, there’s going to be value.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants
PositionLast Updated
Catcher04/13/20
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Second Baseman04/15/20
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Third Baseman04/20/20
Outfield04/24/20
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