The universal DH continues to be an option for the 2020 MLB season. How would the Reds fare if this rule change goes into effect?
When, and if, the 2020 MLB season begins, the Cincinnati Reds could be facing a new reality. Playing every game with a designated hitter. According to the MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, players seem open to the idea of adding the DH in the National League. A position also referred to as the universal DH.
Many Reds fans wonder how the team will handle having to use a DH in every game. After all, if the 2020 season was played as planned, the Reds would have only had to use the designated hitter in 10 scheduled games at American League ballparks. Now they could be looking at needing the position in upwards of 80 games.
The Reds spent the offseason building depth. With the signings for Mike Moustakas, Shogo Akiyama and Nick Castellanos, players that had a lead role in 2019 could now be coming off the bench. This will be a huge benefit for the team if the universal DH goes into effect.
The first place to look for a DH is in the crowded outfield. It’s assumed Akiyama and Castellanos will have their name etched in the lineup every day in centerfield and rightfield respectively. That leaves leftfield for Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and Phillip Ervin. Any of these three outfielders would be a great option at DH.
Winker holds the highest career batting average of the three at .285. This is despite a down year in 2019 where he batted .269. Winker likely gets the majority of the starts in left. On days he needs a break from playing in the field, DH would be a perfect way to keep his bat in the lineup.
Senzel had a solid rookie season, finishing with a .256 batting average. The only downside is his injury history. Being the DH could be a great way to keep Senzel healthy, and in the lineup deeper into the season.
Ervin could be a sneaky pick at DH, especially against left-handed pitchers, following his career-best .271 batting average in 2019. Ervin dismantled lefties to the tune of .349/.411/.628. In a bench role the last two seasons, Ervin has a combined 14 home runs and 54 RBI.
The DH could benefit Joey Votto the most. At 36-years old, cutting down on the amount of time he has to play first base could be a blessing for his longevity. Plus, it will give him more time to focus on his hitting, which has always been his strong suit.
With Votto in the DH role, the Reds have plenty of options at first base, such as Josh VanMeter, Kyle Farmer and Derek Dietrich. Mike Moustakas even has a few games experience at first base, if needed.
The most high risk, high reward option is Aristides Aquino. In only 205 at-bats in 2019, Aquino set the baseball world on fire with 19 home runs and 47 RBI. The Punisher set numerous MLB home run records and wowed fans with an awe-inspiring three home run game versus the Chicago Cubs. Placing Aquino at DH could be a risk due to his lack of MLB experience, but the Cincinnati Reds might take the chance if every swing could result in a shot over the wall.
An unconventional choice, but not unrealistic one for DH is Michael Lorenzen. Last year proved that Reds manager David Bell isn’t afraid of using Lorenzen as a pinch hitter. As one of the best pure athletes on the team, using Lorenzen at DH will be a way to make sure he has a chance to impact the game with his hitting, then hold the lead with his pitching.
If the universal DH becomes a reality in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds will have a variety of players to choose from. The hardest part will be picking between Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Phillip Ervin, Joey Votto, Aristides Aquino or Michael Lorenzen. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see whose name is written on the lineup card very soon.