clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

DH in the NL: NL West Edition

New, 7 comments

What would the National League West teams do if the designated hitter were enacted immediately throughout all of baseball? Hint: the Padres would rejoice.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week I posed the question as to how the National League clubs would adjust their current rosters if the designated hitter were adopted, effective immediately. Some teams in the East and Central would struggle to find someone to fit as a full time DH (as is the current trend, more on this in the conclusion), while a team like the Pirates could put Pedro Alvarez into the role with relative comfort. Today I round out the exercise by looking at the National League West.

Team Most Games as DH in 2014 (Games Started) Projected 2015 DH
Diamondbacks Eric Chavez (3) Mark Trumbo
Rockies Corey Dickerson (7) Carlos Gonzalez
Dodgers Hanley Ramirez (5) Andre Ethier...for now
Giants Michael Morse (8) Andrew Susac
Padres Carlos Quentin (5) Matt Kemp

Arizona Diamondbacks - The Diamondbacks were 25th in the majors in runs scored in 2014 and did not make many adjustments to increase their offensive firepower. It's worth going back to the 2013 offseason when the Diamondbacks acquired Mark Trumbo. Trumbo certainly fits in the DH mold more than an outfielder mold, and his bat is fairly typical of an all-or-nothing power DH. Trumbo was hurt for a majority of 2014, and the DBacks did their best with a combination of Gerardo Parra (no longer with the club), A.J. Pollock, and Cody Ross (now listed as a fourth outfielder behind David Peralta). Moving Trumbo to DH would require some reconfiguring of the outfield, but it certainly could be managed.

Presumably, Trumbo would man the DH spot most often, with a fielding platoon of the lefthanded-hitting Ender Inciarte playing against righties and Cody Ross starting against southpaws. Under this scenario, perhaps Arizona thinks twice before dealing a top defensive outfielder such as Gerardo Parra, but so it goes.

Colorado Rockies - Drew Stubbs is currently listed as Colorado's fourth outfielder and will likely be an understudy to ‘one-month wonder' Charlie Blackmon (he hit .374/.418/.616 in April last year) and oft-injured Carlos Gonzalez. Last year Stubbs put up a 113 wRC+ but was a below league average hitter every year the previous three seasons. In the field he's better than Corey Dickerson and could fill in behind CarGo if Gonzalez were to take at least a few days at the DH slot.

Colorado would probably welcome the idea of adding a designated hitter because between Troy Tulowitzki's and Carlos Gonzalez's annual visits to the disabled list, every little bit of rest helps. They would likely use a committee of some sort, but I would argue Carlos Gonzalez would fit into the role quite nicely due to his fragility and poor defense.

Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers have a logjam in the outfield despite trading away Matt Kemp to a division rival. With Joc Pederson slated for full-time duty in center, the flanking duo of Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig will be taking time away from Andre Ethier (which is probably a good thing at this stage). Even putting aside his awful defensive numbers, Either did not have a strong 2014. Although he had been an above average hitter his entire career (with a wRC+ over 100 since he came onto the scene in 2006), Ethier finished last year as a league average hitter with minimal power. While it would make sense for the Dodgers to put him into a designated hitter slot for now, they would have to hope he returned to form; otherwise it would be a wasted position with a player clearly on the downswing of his career. The Dodgers undoubtedly would be a team that would pay for a premium bat-only player under this scenario.

San Diego Padres - San Diego has seemingly done a lot to upgrade their team from last year, and yet there are still articles such as this being written about their fielding prowess (lack thereof). With an outfield contingency of Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp (with Carlos Quentin, who is attempting to move to first base), the team may be more formidable at the plate but certainly does not conjure up imagery of smooth fielding.

Upton is the strongest fielder of the three and posted a solid defensive runs saved last year with 14. Myers was about even in DRS. Both their performances will likely decrease due to the size of the Petco Park outfield, however, causing headaches for pitchers. It's not a good fielding situation, and I haven't even touched on Matt Kemp's defense yet....woof! Kemp fails the eye test (see the above link, if you dare), the DRS test (-23 last year), and the UZR test (-22.4) . He cost the Dodgers over 20 runs last year in an outfield that is smaller than San Diego's. The Padres should lobby Rob Manfred for two designated hitters under the guise of increasing offense in the game.

San Francisco Giants - If the Giants still had Michael Morse, he would likely be the solution to the designated hitter puzzle. As currently constructed however, San Francisco does not have a player who immediately comes to mind to be put into the slot. At first blush, Gregor Blanco looks like a potential candidate, but that seems unlikely as his offensive ceiling is league average. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt could fit into the role, but each is too valuable defensively. It's possible to get both Posey's and Belt's bats in the lineup when Buster gets a day off from behind the plate, but we're still left with the every day problem.

Like the Dodgers, the Giants would be looking for an additional bat to fill the designated hitter void. In the meantime though, they might employ Andrew Susac in the role. Susac is blocked from playing time behind the dish because of Posey, and at only 24 years of age would do well to get more reps at the plate. He came to bat only 95 times last year but did muster a 128 wRC+ in that limited sample.

Conclusions

While this was an interesting and fun academic exercise, it's clear player signings and trades would change if the National League implemented the designated hitter. There would certainly be a larger market for power (already at a premium), and defense would become less relevant for teams lacking some offensive punch.

It is worth nothing that in the American League, teams are using the DH spot more as a place where players can take half of a day off, rather than having a full time DH. In fact, Scott Lindholm wrote about this very notion last spring. David Ortiz may appear to be the last full time designated hitter, but players like Matt Kemp and Pedro Alvarez could be joining him if the rules of engagement changed.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. Depth chart help provided by CBSSports

Steven Martano is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.