2020 Designated Hitter
The 2020 MLB season will be unusual in many ways. The season will last 60 games and the National League will play with a designated hitter. The American League first adopted the designated hitter in 1973. Since then, all AL games and interleague games played at AL stadiums have utilized a designated hitter. The idea of a universal designated hitter is highly controversial, but there is no doubt it will increase offensive production and reduce the risk of pitchers getting injured while batting or running the bases. As a team that has recently struggled offensively, the St. Louis Cardinals will benefit from the added designated hitter.
The Cardinals now have the opportunity to utilize their excess position players and showcase their young talent. It appears that St. Louis will use multiple designated hitters across the season. Some potential occupants of the position are Matt Carpenter, Brad Miller, and a rotation of outfielders.
As of now, veteran third baseman Matt Carpenter appears to be the most natural fit for the position. The 34-year-old has had a largely successful career behind the plate. In 2013, he batted .318 over 626 at-bats and led the league with 55 doubles. However, Carpenter has been streaky and inconsistent in recent years. In 2018, he hit 36 home runs. The following season, he batted only .226 and hit just 15 home runs. Hopefully, the designated hitter role will allow him to focus his attention on finding his swing again. Another advantage of using Carpenter as a designated hitter would be the opening at third base for Tommy Edman. Edman excelled both offensively and defensively over limited playing time in 2019.
Brad Miller signed a one-year contract this winter, adding a left-handed bat to the bench. Although Miller experienced a slump in 2017, he has been at least an average batter throughout most of his career. He split his 2019 season with the Indians and the Phillies, batting .263 over 118 at-bats in Philadelphia. Miller has also struggled defensively at each infield position, making him a good fit for the designated hitter role. If Carpenter doesn’t produce offensively, Miller could be another viable option.
The Cardinals have an abundance of outfielders, but not enough room in the roster or lineup for each of them to see regular at-bats. This will allow the Cardinals to give their young outfielders more opportunities at the plate and in the field. The Cardinals outfield has been relatively weak offensively, so the designated hitter will also provide the Cardinals with some flexibility to move players around based on performance. Expect to see Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, and Lane Thomas split time in the outfield. O’Neill is likely to spend the most time as a designated hitter. The outfield roster will be even more crowded if and when 21-year-old Dylan Carlson is added to the roster. This will make it easier for Carlson to accumulate more at-bats and playing time this season.
Every team will be interesting to watch this season, but the Cardinals certainly have an edge. St. Louis will benefit from the addition of a designated hitter and one of the easier schedules in baseball based on opponent 2019 winning percentages. Whether the Cardinals adopt a more permanent designated hitter or rotate through a few players remains to be seen. Regardless, the 2019 NL Central division winners are poised to remain competitive in 2020.
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