The designated hitter is likely coming to the National League in 2020. And while many lifelong NL fans will have strong feelings against the change, Dodgers fans may be most amenable to the switch, knowing how strongly their club is positioned to take advantage of the rule change.
Among the 18 non-pitchers who took at least 50 plate appearances with the Dodgers last season, a whopping 13 of them were better than the league average in terms of wRC+. That doesn’t even include projected second baseman Gavin Lux, who is widely regarded as the game’s No. 2 overall prospect due largely to his upside at the plate (.392/.478/.719 in 232 Triple-A plate appearances last year). It seems safe to expect him to join that group of above-average bats.
It’s true that the Dodgers lost three of those above-average hitters — David Freese retired, Alex Verdugo and Kyle Garlick were traded — but L.A. also added one of the best hitters on the planet in Mookie Betts. He’ll pair with Cody Bellinger and some type of platoon between Joc Pederson, A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor in the outfield.
That’s only part of the Dodgers’ outfield depth, of course, and the infield is similarly stacked with talent and much better-than-average bench pieces. The arrival of Lux at second base likely pushes Max Muncy to first base, leaving Corey Seager and Justin Turner to continue suiting up on the left side of the diamond. Will Smith has the makings of a very good hitter behind the plate, as well.
That’s an extremely deep starting lineup as is, but the Dodgers could field nearly an entire second starting infield with their bench options. Taylor, already mentioned, hasn’t quite replicated his huge debut season in L.A., but his .257/.332/.451 slash over the past two seasons is strong. First baseman/left fielder Matt Beaty was a roughly league-average hitter in 268 PAs last year, and fellow corner option Edwin Rios would be in the mix to start at third base for some clubs after posting a 112 wRC+ in Triple-A last year and hitting .277/.393/.617 in 56 big league plate appearances. Enrique Hernandez had a down season but is only a year removed from hitting .256/.336/.470.
Beaty and Rios give manager Dave Roberts a pair of lefty-swinging bats to work into the mix at first base (either player), third base (Rios) and in left field (Beaty). Hernandez and Taylor can both play shortstop, second base or any outfield slot. No matter who needs a breather at DH on a given day or what hand the opposing starter throws with, Roberts has versatile option with quality offensive track records. The Dodgers also got a nice showing from outfielder DJ Peters in Triple-A last year and reacquired first baseman/outfielder Luke Raley from the Twins this winter on the heels of a 122 wRC+ in Triple-A. Don’t worry — platoon options abound there as well; Peters hits right-handed to Raley’s left-handed bat.
As it already stood, the Dodgers could’ve rolled out a lineup featuring Betts, Bellinger, Pederson/Pollock, Turner, Seager, Lux, Muncy and Smith on any given day. Now, it seems they’ll be able to rotate any of those regulars through the DH position while replacing him in the field with a versatile piece in a favorable platoon matchup. And on days when that projected lineup is out there, virtually any bench bat at Roberts’ disposal should be equipped to deliver well above-average offense — particularly given the ability to tweak based on matchups.
The Dodgers led the NL with a 111 wRC+ last year, and with a deep stable of balanced bats who have versatile gloves, they should excel in 2020 without even needing to think about another addition for the new DH spot.