There may be many areas of contention between the players and the owners during the current, laboriously ongoing negotiations. But one of them does not seem to be the designated hitter. The players like the idea, to quote MLBTR of “15 bat-only positions that might expand the market for defensively-limited players and aging stars,” and it’s something to which the owners don’t appear to oppose enormously. So it would not surprise me if the new CBA saw it expanded to the National League. It seems likely the owners will use it as a bargaining chip to get something they want, e.g, expanded playoffs. However, the fact it was removed from the NL after being in place for 2020, does give me a crumb of hope.
Personally, I feel it takes away more than it adds, with the loss of strategy more than countering extra offense. Its arrival would be another chip off my interest in the game, which has increasingly resembled the Venus De Milo statue in recent years, for one reason or another. But if it showed up, how would the team handle it? Who would be the best bets for a designated hitter in 2021? With the lockout freezing major-league transactions, it’s obviously hard to say. They may not even be on the roster, and I certainly would not bet against Mike Hazen going for a cheap veteran to fill the role (especially since he can’t go that route for our 2021 closer).
But limiting ourselves to the current roster, who are the possible candidates? To figure that out, we first need to decide, what do we want from a designated hitter? The main factors would seem to be, a player whose defense makes them a liability in the field, but who can still provide offensive production. Though over the past decade, designated hitters have collectively hit in the middle of the pack. With an OPS of .753, they trail 1B (.787), RF (.769) and even 3B (.757) in terms of pure output. Some of that may be the dampening effect of the NL, “making do” when it comes to finding DH’s on their roster: in just the AL over that time, they creep up above third basemen.
Certainly, the history of the Diamondbacks at the position doesn’t cover them in glory, with a .682 OPS. Last season was actually okay, the .762 figure posted by Arizona’s DHs the highest for the team since 2010. But in 2020, when the team had to use one for the whole campaign, the results were terrible: they hit .231 with just two home-runs over sixty games and a .639 OPS. Sixteen different players tried the role: Christian Walker came off best (.879 OPS), but the D-backs also tried the likes of John Jay, Wyatt Mathisen and even Tim Locastro a couple of time, albeit as a replacement. There were only 10 DH games in 2021, but this could give us a clue as to Torey Lovullo’s plans, so here are the stats for all those used.
2021 D-backs DHs
Not really very helpful, to be honest. Outside of the small sample size, more than half of the PAs went to Kole Calhoun, Andrew Young and Asdrubal Cabrera, players who do not figure to be part of the team’s plans for 2022. But it is notable that Christian Walker went from being the most regular DH in 2020, to barely being used in 2021. But he, as well as Seth Beer and David Peralta remain possible candidates for the role in 2021. Two of those three were also among the worst defenders on the team last year, by dWAR. That’s something which may well be a factor, since you’ll be looking at “addition by subtraction”, i.e. getting their glove off the field.
Here are the players who were worth worse than -0.5 dWAR (small sample size, etc.) in 2021 - all of whom are still with Arizona. May just be coincidence, but they include three left-handed bats and a switch-hitter.
- Pavin Smith, -1.8
- Josh Rojas, -1.6
- Ketel Marte, -1.3
- David Peralta, -0.6
Of course, there are cases where there were extenuating circumstances. Rojas was a bit of a Swiss Army knife, starting games at five different positions for the D-backs. While we don’t get a dWAR breakdown by position, but looking at UZR/150, easily the worst spot on the diamond for Rojas was shortstop. With (hopefully) Geraldo Perdomo ready this season, we shouldn’t be seeing Rojas much there. The Marte situation has also been well-discussed, with his struggles (and apparent disinterest) in center. Again, I’m hoping for that not be a problem in 2022, and the same goes for our other “center-fielder” Smith, who similarly put up a sharply negative UZR/150 in CF.
But I do think Peralta and probably Seth Beer or Walker would perhaps be the prime candidates for the job next year, pending any roster changes. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is replacing the player concerned defensively: that’d be more a factor for Peralta and Walker, than Beer, as he has yet to be everyday players. Given the somewhat surprising decision by the team to tender Walker, it does appear there will be some role for him in 2022. I don’t mind the idea of getting both his and Beer’s bat in the line-up everyday. The question would then be, who is defensively better? Though if Walker doesn’t bounce-back from his 2021 slump, it may not matter.
Peralta is an interesting case. He won the Gold Glove in 2019, but dWAR has been below zero each of the two seasons since. However, UZR doesn’t see him in such a negative light. though his UZR/150 was the lowest last year it had been since 2017, his final season playing mostly in right. With Alek Thomas looking primed to take over in CF whenever the team wants, potentially flanked by Smith and Daulton Varsho, and Peralta on the final year of his contract, a DH spot may be the best place for him. [Though the above outfield would be entirely left-handed, Peralta is as well, so he’s not going to help - if you consider it to be a problem to begin with.]
There was a paragraph here about Andrew Young, but it turns out he was selected by the Nationals in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft. Which tells you how much I have been paying attention to baseball over the past couple of months. But here’s a poll. Comments, suggestions and opinions are, as always, welcome.
Who should DH for the D-backs in 2022?
This poll is closed
Sign some washed-up has-been