NL Players Who Benefit From the Universal DH
Updated: Aug 21
One thing we know for sure, if there is a 2020 season, all teams will utilize a DH regardless of league. With the new rule in place, one that has been debated for years and seemed like an inevitable change (whether favorable or not), many players will now benefit with a substantial increase in playing time. Some players previously thought to be taking up a bench role, could actually see their name regularly penciled into the line up. With an increase in playing time, comes an increase in value. Fantasy owners must be aware of who's now looking like a starter and which players might actually produce in those positions. Some of these guys go from waiver wire fodder, to valuable draft pick or free agent pickup. Here is a list of at least one player from each National League team that could benefit, with bold players deserving of a roster spot.
San Francisco Giants
Pence thrived as the DH in Texas last season before he got hurt. Showing off a revamped approach and swing, he hit for a .297 average with 18 home runs, 59 RBI and even stole 6 bases in only 286 at bats. This seemingly out of no where production earned him his first All-Star nod since 2014. If he can stay healthy, Pence should see the majority of at bats for the Giants in the DH role. Moving from Texas back to San Francisco won't help him much, but he's still worth a flier at the end of your draft.
If Jake Lamb can return to form, he could be utilized in the DH spot, possibly earning him regular playing time vs right handed pitching. Lamb hasn't shown the ability to be a major league regular since 2017 however, and unless he makes some major changes I don't see him getting consistent at bats. He did hit well in spring over a minuscule 10 game sample, but again he would have to prove himself before being given an every day job.
Another option is putting the speedy Tim Locastro in the outfield and moving one of their regulars to DH. The problem with this scenario, as good as Locastro is in the field, the three regular starters are all above average fielders as well and it wouldn't really improve the teams production all that much. The best way to utilize him, besides the occasional start, is to save him for late-in-game pinch running scenarios, where his speed on the base paths could mean the difference between a win and a loss.
In my mind, I think they’d be better served to let Kevin Cron be their everyday DH. At the very least vs left handed pitching. He had a lousy .269 on base percentage last year in his short stint in the major leagues, but he did club 6 home runs and even more impressively, drove in 16 on only 71 AB's. He absolutely obliterated AAA pitching last year, with a ridiculous 38 homers, 105 batted in and a .331 batting average all in a total of 82 games played. Everyone's AAA stats were inflated last year, but a 1.226 OPS is still something to pay attention to. If given the keys to everyday at bats and if Lovullo can see past the strikeouts, the D'backs and fantasy owners could have a steal on their hands a la 2019 Pete Alonso. Look for Cron in the last round or two of your draft.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers influx of outfielders should have less of a problem finding playing time with the newly implemented DH rule. AJ Pollock should see the greatest increase, as well as possibly the left handed hitting, 1B/OF Matt Beaty. Pollock was projected as an everyday player and possible all-star for the Dodgers, coming over from his near 20/20 years in Arizona. The outfielder, however was unable to find much success in Dodger blue, and eventually found himself sitting vs. right handed pitching. Figured to platoon even more this season with the addition of Mookie Betts and the team holding on to Joc Pederson, now with the rule changes however, Pollock should play nearly every day in left field, with Pederson most likely moving to DH. Joc will continue to sit vs lefties, while Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez will fill-in all over the field, moving players like Max Muncy or possibly Justin Turner to DH. The Dodgers will constantly mix and match, even giving Matt Beaty a chance in left or occasionally at first. Pollock did spend some time on the IL last year which has sort of been his MO over the years, but it surely contributed to his down season. If he can somehow stay healthy (and thats a big if) and hit righties moderately well, Pollock will become very relevant in fantasy leagues again. (His only season he stayed healthy he was an all-star) Originally going very late in drafts, AJ can now be moved up at least a few rounds and should definitely be owned in all leagues.
I already believed Hilliard was going to earn every day role or at least the strong side of a platoon, but now with the DH in play, he is almost guaranteed a semi-regular spot in the lineup. His power speed combination is just too impactful for the Rockies to leave on the bench, especially when they won't be fighting for a playoff spot. Early on if the K's don't get out of hand, look for Hilliard to start more and more often dropping the platoon role all together. He deserves to be taken at the very latest in round 22.
Garrett Hampson is a another player whose playing time will vastly increase. Originally projected to possibly platoon vs lefties, the former prospect will have every opportunity to prove himself this season after a disappointing rookie campaign. Many, including fantasy owners were very high on Hampson last year and if he can amass regular playing time he could put that speed to work and put up some sizable stolen base numbers. One scenario I see being played out is the Rox moving David Murphy to DH, Ryan McMahon to 1B and putting Hampson at second. I originally had him going outside my top 270, but now I do believe he'll be on the field a good deal and speed doesn't slump. He deserves a late round selection near round 24 or so.
The Rockies will also have room for Ramiel Tapia to start against some right handers, but he won't offer much in fantasy significance.
Ian Desmond will continue to garner starts against lefties and won't be much help except for in DFS leagues when he's starting and playing at home. Blackmon as well as Dahl will probably take turns at DH as well, while others fill in now and then to rest their legs.
*Update: Desmond has opted out for the 2020 season. His absence will further increase the aforementioned players playing time.
There is a slight chance if Hampson falters early and Rogers proves he's healthy, the young middle infielder could cash in on the opportunity and show the Rockies he deserves an every day job. He won't get the first crack however, so he should be left to the waiver wire for now.
San Diego Padres
I was already high on Wil Myers, expecting a return to a 20/20 season, and now he has an even easier path to every day at bats. He'll switch off between the outfield, DH and play 1B on occasion. He had a fantastic shortened spring and hit over .300 last September. I originally had Myers ranked 238th overall, which was already higher than most other projections. You should still have no problem getting him that late, but I may be so inclined on draft day to reach for him in the 22nd round.
Cordero is definitely someone to keep an eye on. He should be in the starting lineup often, however he is best left to the waiver wire to start the season. Harboring an intriguing power, speed combo, which he put on display in his injury shortened 2018 season, Cordero has the ability to hit 25 home runs and steal around 15 bases. As nice as that sounds, with the injury history and a lot of unknowns surrounding him, it's better to take a wait and see approach when it comes to drafting the young San Diego outfielder.
Ty France could also be an option after putting up some astounding numbers in AAA. His small sample size in the bigs was somewhat lacking however and I do believe the first shot will go to Myers with Cordero in right, but he's definitely someone to monitor.
Josh Naylor is another name being thrown around in San Diego as a possible DH. Naylor also hit well in AAA, not as exceptionally as France, but he did show a better eye. Like France, Naylor also got a taste of big league pitching last year and did fairly well. He could eventually take over as the full time DH as his approach and make up render him a somewhat ideal candidate, but for now he's best left for the waiver wire.
St. Louis Cardinals
When it comes to the Cardinals, there are a few routes they could go to fill the DH spot. A healthy competition during the second spring training and how the players produce early in the "regular" season will ultimately lead to who's going to earn the majority of the starts. St. Louis could turn to their 7th ranked prospect Lane Thomas or uber prospect Dylan Carson to fill the lineup. They could also give the veteran Brad Miller the DH role early on (or put him in the infield and DH Goldschmidt who had an ailing elbow or DH Matt Carpenter). Tyler O'Neil is another name that has been thrown around as a candidate to play LF, moving Edmond likely to 3B and Carpenter moving to DH. There is always the chance the organization uses some combination of all of the names listed, as well as platooning a few regulars such as Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader or even taking Carpenter out vs lefties.
The most likely scenario is Miller will be somewhere in the lineup vs R's, O'Neil or Thomas vs L's (possibly both if Carpenter sits vs lefties), and eventually Carson will take over for all of them. Thomas may stick in the lineup depending on performance and could replace any of the aforementioned veterans. Either way, none of these players are currently worth a roster spot. Some owners may want to take a flyer on Dylan Carson, but I doubt he starts right away and when he does get his shot, he will most likely suffer through some growing pains. On a side note the journeyman Brad Miller did hit 12 home runs on only 135 at bats vs righties, and even batted a respectable .274. In the off chance he shows signs he can repeat that performance, Miller may find himself a worth while add after the first few weeks of the season, but I wouldn't count on it. Matt Carpenter is also someone to keep a eye on, if he can return to form after a such a down year.
Almost everyone in the fantasy baseball world went rushing to move Ryan Braun up their rankings after the announcement of an NL DH and I am no different. After an off-season that saw the Crew bring in a number of capable veterans, Braun looked to be more of an every other day starter. Considering his age (he's 36) and the additions of quality defenders Avisail Garcia and Justin Smoak, Braun fills the DH role perfectly, which should allow him to stick in the lineup close to 6 days a week. He immediately becomes a capable 4th or 5th outfielder on fantasy teams, one who can contribute in all 5 categories and even qualifies at 1B. He'll hit somewhere in the middle of the order, surrounded by superstar Christian Yelich and budding star Keston Huira. Originally I had him as low as round 21 or 22 in 12 team leagues, but now I am moving him up to near round 18.
Justin Smoak wll also see an increase in playing time not having to share duties as much with Braun. If he can find a little more consistency this season and raise his batting average back up to a modest .260, he could be worth a bench spot in most leagues. Back in 2017 he was a beast and he's still only 33 years old. Maybe a change of scenery can help bring back his previous success.
Avisail Garcia is another player who was possibly going to be subbed out to get Braun in. No longer in danger of missing starts, Garcia gets a slight boost in the rankings. I already had him near my top 200 overall and now moving up even further, I like him in round 17 in 12 team leagues.
The Pirates could turn to a number of players to fill in at DH, none very fantasy relevant, but the two most likely candidates are Jose Osuna and JT Riddle. Osuna could assume the every day role after finding some success last year, with Riddle cutting into his at bats vs righties. Riddle would most likely play in the field giving the regulars a chance to rest their legs and move to DH. Reserve outfield Guillermo Heredia will likely be used in the same manner, but vs lefties. Speedy third base prospect Ka'Bryan Hayes, the Pirates top prospect may be a possibility, but rushing him could backfire. I see the pirates using some combination of Osuna and occasionally Riddle, but neither player has any place on fantasy teams.
The Reds are possibly the most intriguing club when it comes to adding the DH. Cincinnati was previously thought to have too may quality hitters and was going to be forced to platoon guys who deserve to play everyday. Nick Senzel could find himself in the line up almost daily, as well as Japanese star Shogo Akiyama. Josh Winker will still start vs righties, Phil Ervin vs lefties, Van Meter could see occasional starts vs righties, and more interestingly Aristides Aquino could earn an everyday job.
After a slow start this spring and with the abundance of great outfielders the Reds currently roster, the thought was Aristides would begin the season in the minor leagues. With the DH coming to National League however, there's a chance Aquino could find himself back in the lineup where a ridiculous 30% of his fly balls go for home runs. Catching fire immediately after his call up last season, Aquino was a force hitting 19 homers in 225 ab's, after clubbing 28 in only 323 ab's in AAA. He wasn't a highly regarded prospect, but after last year it goes to show the guy has tremendous upside. He moves from outside the top 300 in fantasy leagues, to being worth a late round selection in all leagues.
*Update: Artistides, even with expanded rosters was left off the Reds active one. (he's listed as a reserve on the 60 man player pool). At this point, unless he's called upon to replace any of his teammates, he's a long shot to contribute much this season.
There's a good chance Nick Senzel is in the lineup everyday now as well. Last season he solely played CF for the Reds, but he came up in the minors as a third baseman and got some experience at second. With the added lineup spot, Senzel could move around the field to help keep his bat in the lineup, resulting in a decent batting average to go along with his 20/20 home run/stolen base potential. He didn't hit that great against righties his rookie season, but long thought to be a top prospect and when injuries haven't gotten in his way, he's shown flashes of brilliance. I had him way down at 253rd overall because he was hurt to start spring training and he wasn't assured a line up spot, but with the delay and the DH being added, Stenzel is worth at least a 20th round pick.
I am convinced Shogo Akiyama is gong to be the Reds everyday center fielder. The guy hits, gets on base, has decent speed and plays a solid center field. He may sit occasionally vs some lefties just to allow some of the good bench bats to get in the lineup, but as a whole I see him getting the majority of the starts. I originally had him at 252, the addition of the DH only makes me feel more confident, he'll still go undrafted in a lot of leagues, but I'm moving him up about 10 spots.
I also have to mention Jesse Winker. He won't necessarily increase his value with the addition of a DH, but he will surely be starting vs RHP and when he is, you're going to want him in your lineup. I mentioned him on the undervalued post a couple weeks ago and I still like him as a possible final pick to fill out a draft. It of course depends how deep your league is, but in daily leagues he's a steal as a 26 year old with power and a career .907 OPS vs righties.
Steven Souza Jr.
Albert Almora Jr.
Cubs could turn to a few guys including Souza, Almora Jr., Happ or Bote. Chicago will also likely start both catchers at times to get Contreras some rest and to get Caratini's bat in the lineup. The player most likely to see an increase in action is Steven Souza. Possibly DH'ing Schwarber, Souza would fit in nicely in left field. He hasn't been healthy in a couple of seasons, but he was worth a 3.8 WAR in 2017 with the Rays, where he hit 30 home runs and stole 16 bases. He's someone to keep in eye on in deeper leagues if the Cubs give him a real shot and he produces early.
Happ was already expected to start the majority of games in center regardless of a DH. Unless Almora shows some of the promise he displayed early in his career, expect that to continue. Happ is a possible candidate to round out your roster in the deepest of leagues.
Bote will fill in all over the diamond, possibly starting at second if Kipnis or possibly Nico Hoerner isn't cutting it, but he isn't worth drafting.
Caratini can hit, especially against righties, but he won't likely play enough to be much help in fantasy leagues, except for in two catcher leagues.
There are also rumors Anthony Rizzo may sit out the season because he is a cancer survivor and shouldn't risk playing this year. It's completely a rumor at this point, but if he did (and no one should fault him), that would open up another spot in the lineup, giving even more value to guys who previously thought they wouldn't be playing much.
New York Mets
A National League DH could be just what the doctor ordered for the Mets. Not only does it give former prospect Dominic Smith, who hit very well last year when given the chance, an opportunity to see regular at bats, but it could be the perfect scenario for New York's injured superstar Yoenis Cespedes to get back into the lineup. Having Cespedes DH could allow him to play almost everyday without nearly as much wear and tear. It also means J.D. Davis wouldn't have to come out of the lineup (to get those two guys in), furthering his value. Brandon Nimmo should still get the majority of the starts in center if he is ok after his hear rhythm scare, with ex-Astro Jake Marisnick getting the starts vs lefties.
If Cespedes can convince everyone he's healthy and the Mets give him the keys to DH, the Cuban slugger becomes an immediate must add in all fantasy leagues just on pure potential. Even if he proves healthy and productive however, the club would still likely rest him a couple times a week. That seems the most plausible even in a shortened season, limiting his value. At 34 years old and after sitting out a year and a half no one really knows what to expect from an active Cespedes, but just seeing him on the field again would be exciting for Mets fans and fantasy players. With his potential power and subsequent RBI's, if he's active, he'd be worth drafting in the later rounds.
Dominic Smith in my mind would also be someone to watch for early in the season, especially if Cespedes is not ready to go. He quietly hit 11 home runs with a .282 batting average last season on only 177 at bats. Smith is someone you could add for next to nothing in most leagues and could prove productive if given the chance.
I think the obvious choice for the Phils is Jay Bruce. Still only 33 years old, the lefty power hitter has plenty left in the tank, evidence by his 26 home runs last season in only 333 at bats. His 2019 batting average was dreadfully low, but he did hit .243 before he got hurt, on pace with his career norms. (He had 2 hits in his final 43 sporadic at bats.) .243 however unsightly, is passable when combined with 1 home run every 12.8 at bats. Originally reported to be the opening day starter in left field (where he actually graded out very well last season in Philly), the power hitting veteran should be in the lineup most days, including those when facing a lefty. He may not warrant a draft pick right away, but deserves a close watch early on and a subsequential add if he produces like I think he will.
The DH also opens up more playing time for Adam Haseley. Thought to be pushed by Bruce and a now healthy Andrew McCutchen, Halsey now has a clear path to every day at bats starting most likely in center field. He doesn't produce the type of stats to have any kind of fantasy relevance however, outside of NL-only leagues.
Neil Walker is another familiar name currently employed by the club as a NRI. He should take up a bench role for the Phils and could sporadically fill in at DH vs lefties. His days on fantasy rosters though are long behind him.
Alec Bohm is the Phillies top prospect, but is blocked at the major league level. If Bruce falters Bohm could be "called up" (if that's even going to be a thing this season with expanded rosters) and given an every day job. He's someone to monitor down the road.
Howie Kendrick had the best year of his career last season at 36 years old. He hit for an astounding .344 batting average, .966 OPS, and crushed 17 home runs in 334 at bats. He followed that up with 12 RBI in the playoffs and earned the NLCS MVP award. Kendrick was finally able to stay healthy and manager Dave Martinez found creative ways to get his bat into the lineup somewhat regularly, while still allowing him plenty of time to rest. If sticking primarily to DH allows Kendrick to be active even more often this season, Howie becomes a very helpful fantasy piece that qualifies at multiple positions. There's a good chance he bats 4th right behind Juan Soto, Adam Eaton, and Trea Turner which needless to say would put him in a exemplary position to drive in a ton of runs. I originally had Kendrick outside my top 300, mainly because his age and playing time was going to be capped at half the season, but as a shortened season DH, Howie moves into my top 250 without a doubt.
**Update: Kendrick has yet to show up for summer camp as of July 15th. With the start of the regular season right around the corner, it casts a shadow on his availability for opening day. Taking into consideration his age and injured past, it's tough to rely on him as someone who could regularly contribute to your fantasy squad early on in the season. Taking him in the last rounds is still warranted, but proceed with caution.
Ryan Zimmerman is also a player who could find himself with increased playing time. He'll still play 1B on occasion especially against lefties (rotating between Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick depending on the pitching match-up) and he'll DH every few games to give Kendrick some rest. He's a savvy vet who hit well late last year and into the playoffs (he started almost every game). With the right amount of playing time and if he can stay healthy, Zimmerman could emerge (though unlikey) as a nice surprise in the deepest of fantasy leagues, particularly NL only ones.
**Update: Ryan Zimmerman has chosen to opt out for the 2020 season.
I don't see a ton of playing time increasing for Eric Thames. He was already going to start pretty regularly vs righties and now he'll possibly get a couple more stars, but nothing to really change his value. He's still got a ton of pop, but offers little else. He is a decent start when the matchups right in DFS leagues, but he's best left to the wire for now in standard ones.
If the Nats do indeed hand the staring third base job to top prospect Carter Keiboom, then Asdrubal Cabrera would be left without a lineup spot. If they go this route, Cabrera would find time at DH and fill in around the infield. He performed well last year for the Nationals and can still contribute when given the chance, but won't have much fantasy value outside of NL only leagues.
One other player I believe whos value indirectly increases, is the Nats young star Juan Soto. Earlier in the offseason I was worried about lineup protection, thinking opposing pitchers would basically pitch around him, lowering his total numbers a slight amount. It was enough for me however, to lower him to 14th overall. Basically a toss up between Soto, Freddy Freeman and Anthony Rendon, I went with the latter two because I liked their surrounding cast more. With the newly implement DH and the thought of a .966 OPS hitter batting behind him almost regularly now, I might just change my mind. If Howie can produce close to what he did last season, it’s a huge boost for the lineup overall, especially for Soto. Allowing Howie to DH should give him a much better chance of staying healthy and playing more regularly, thus giving Juan Soto the line up protection he needs.
Adam Duvall, Nick Markakis, and Austin Riley will all see an increase in playing time with the added lineup spot. Markakis has never been much of a fantasy asset and Duvall probably won't hit consistently enough to be relevant, but Austin Riley could emerge valuable. After getting off to a scorching start last season, opposing teams figured out Riley would chase the slider down and away and his strike out rate soared to 36%. If's he's able to cut down on the whiffs, the Braves will play him everyday somewhere in the lineup and his massive power potential makes him worth a late round selection.
*Update: Markakis has opted out of the season, which will further expand Duvall and Riley's playing time, if the roster stays as is.
**Update: The Braves have signed Yasiel Puig to a contract, where he should play at least six days a week. Freeman is still out with Covid-19 and there is no timetable for his return. Combine his absence with Markakis opting out, and the Braves should still have plenty of playing time to go around. It will come down to who gets the bulk of the playing time at third and how long Freeman is actually out. My prediction is Duvall will be in the lineup vs lefties, Riley will start about 5 days a week, Inciarte will start most games vs righties, while Carmargo will take the biggest hit and fill in for all those mentioned. Duvall loses some value (not that he was that high on anyones list, but I liked him as a sleeper), Riley's stays about the same, but Puig's presence does bolster some of his teammates value, adding another quality bat to the middle of the lineup. I think he'll fit in well in Atlanta. The team culture seems to fit his personality, plus the Braves usually get the best out of their players. Look for Puig to return to his old ways and can now be moved safely up draft boards again, (figuring he can be ready by opening day) up to round 11, or even 10.
The Marlins actually have a few decent players that could fill the position. Most likely, like many teams, you'll see a revolving door at a few positions, including the DH. Pitching match-ups will of course dictate a lot of who gets the start, and with the expanded rosters you may not see a repeat lineup for the Marlins in a any given week, but lets explore some options.
Matt Kemp. The Marlins could turn to the veteran to fill the role. Invited to camp as a NRI, Kemp did little to show he was ready to hit major league pitching again, suggested by his 4 hits in 28 at bats and 11 K's. Kemp, originally thought to be released at the end of spring training, has seen his numbers quickly descend since his fantastic first half with the Dodgers in the 2018 season. He slowly declined that year, then fell off a cliff last season after battling injuries and was even regulated to minor league duty. His fielding metrics have also been atrocious over the last few seasons, so a spot on an NL club made little sense at this point in his career. However, all that came before the announcement of the NL DH. If Kemp doesn't have to play the field and is actually 100% healthy, he could conceivably return to a somewhat serviceable player. I wouldn't add him to my fantasy roster, but he is only 2 years removed from driving in 85 runs, hitting 21 homers and batting .290. Kudos to him if he makes the squad.
**Update: Matt Kemp has since been traded to the Rockies, where he may platoon versus left- handed pitching.
The Marlins could also turn to Garrett Cooper, who was relatively decent last season. After slowing down a bit after a hot May and June, the long time minor leaguer showed promise with his opposite field approach. He hits righties surprisingly well and if he can put it all together, he could have a shot at regular at bats, but still isn't worth an add in standard leagues.
The NL DH could also lead to more at bats for utility player and base stealer Jon Berti. Another long time minor leaguer, Berti shined when finally given a chance at the major league level. He most likely won't DH, but he could spell guys who fill in at the position, while intermittently receiving regular starts of his own all over the diamond. His ability to get on base, as well as his speed and position flexibility, should be enough to keep him the lineup somewhat regularly. There's a chance the Marlins choose to play their younger players more often, but the speed alone warrants a late round selection.
Jesus Aguilar will probably rarely come out of the lineup now unless he really starts the season off slowly. He's does have some slight upside at only 29 years old, but judging by the metrics, pitchers have learned how to throw against him and I don't expect much more than a repeat performance of last year.
The journeyman Matt Joyce is also a option against righties. He was a nice surprise last year for the Braves, but doesn't merit any fantasy consideration in standard leagues.
The Marlins could always get creative and try to mimic the old 1980's Cardinals and play the speed game. Of course they don't have guys like Vince Coleman or Ozzie Smith, but they do have 3 guys who could bat 1, 2, 3 and are capable of stealing a ton of bags. If they were to bat Magneuris Sierra lead off, Berti second, and Jonathan Villar third, they'd have three guys who could steal 30+ bags with regular playing time. There's a very slim chance of that, and although we may see something like it on occasion, don't look for it often. Especially with the Marlins moving the fences in, the club is hoping to increase it's power output. Sierra won't likely see anywhere near enough at bats to be fantasy relevant.
Harold Ramirez is another player who could benefit with some extra playing time. The 25 year old Colombian outfielder hit well in the minors and was a nice surprise last year for the Fish. He won't play enough however or produce enough stats to be worth rostering in standard fantasy leagues.
Isan Diaz and Lewis Brinson may also have a more secure slot in the lineup now, but unless either player can reproduce their gaudy minor league numbers, they're best left to wire for now. Owners should take a wait and see approach.