Cincinnati Reds Options at Designated Hitter for 2020 Season
The Cincinnati Reds will have the ability to use the designated hitter this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major League Baseball has changed a lot of rules. One of those reasons is because of player safety. But, there’s been a lot of steam about the DH coming to the National League. This might be the league’s way of trying to implement it permanently. However, if any team is prepared to utilize the DH, it’s the Reds. The Reds will have 30 players on their Opening Day roster, though it drops down to 28 after two weeks. It goes down to 26 for the rest of the season two weeks later, but whom they have on the roster is to be determined. With that being said, let’s take a look who the candidates are to be the DH in 2020.
Nicholas Castellanos was one of the bigger signings for the club this offseason as he was expected to man right field. Castellanos, however, is not a strong fielder. That being said, his offensive prowess might be better suited for being a DH. That could allow the team to use a better defensive player in right field as well as giving a chance to play the field for more playing time.
Another big signing for the Reds as Mike Moustakas was signed on to play second base. Moustakas has played some second base in the past. He played 47 games and actually did better there defensively than at third base, where he’s played for the majority of his career. So it would make sense for him to DH as a way to keep his bat in the lineup on days where he doesn’t play second base.
Jesse Winker is an on-base machine and is a left handed bat that would be useful in the lineup. Winker hits right-handed pitchers really well, so having him as an extra bat in the lineup could make the Reds offense more potent. There’s also the consideration of having a logjam in the outfield that makes it easier to find a way to get him in the lineup, but his defense is not strong either.
Realistically, no one knows what Shogo Akiyama will bring to Cincinnati as he is transitioning from Japan. That being said, what is known about his abilities might make him a good candidate to DH. He’ll likely play the field more often than not, but having the DH will allow the Reds to keep him in the lineup. Akiyama does get on base a lot and defensive versatility, giving manager David Bell more flexibility with his DH options.
Aristides Aquino showed a lot of power last season, but he struggled towards the end of the campaign. While it was a bit shocking to see him named to the camp at Prasco Park in Mason, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t play for the team this season. Aquino could benefit being just the DH this season as he show some serious power, a right handed bat to use in a pinch hit role, and his strong arm for defensive reasons. He actually was rated as the club’s best defensive outfielder according to MLB.com’s runs prevented metric, but that was only in a two month stint.
Phil Ervin was pegged to make the roster as a bench outfielder, but his offensive does provide some good use. He hits left-handed pitchers well and gives positional flexibility. Ervin also provides speed which would come useful in key situations. Ervin is more than likely to be used in the field than DH, but his ability to hit lefties could come useful.
Nick Senzel was a highly touted prospect coming through the system as his bat is exceptional. However, he learned how to play outfield last season and was forced into playing center field on an everyday basis. The real concern will be how he handles the transition as he learns a new position, but his bat will still come useful. That’s where the DH comes in. If Senzel continues to struggle with the transition, then Bell will have to shuffle his lineup a bit. That could mean Senzel would play in the infield and DH.
Joey Votto is aging, there’s no way around that. As hard as that might be, he is in decline. He will be playing first base often, but sometimes he will need a day off from the field. He still has great on-base abilities and is a left-handed power bat, so keeping him the lineup would be good. If the DH becomes a permanent fixture in the NL towards the future, then Votto would be more valuable there especially when his contract ends in 2023 when he’s 40. If he does DH this season at all, the club has plenty of options to fill in at first base despite not having a true backup to Votto.
Curt Casali has been a useful backup catcher for Cincinnati for quite some, but he is an offensive first player. He could theoretically play first base as well, but mostly will be used at catcher. However, with three catchers on the roster, it could give Casali some more at-bats by using him as a DH.
Kyle Farmer is a great asset to have as his versatility will come useful to Bell. With three catchers on the roster, he should give Bell more positional flexibility and others a day off behind the plate. However, it’s a good way to get him in the lineup if Bell wants to. While he’s more valuable playing the field, he could still find ways to get some at bats.
Bell has another valuable player off the bench in Josh VanMeter. He can play in the infield and outfield, giving Bell more options to work around. What also makes VanMeter valuable is his bat, as he hits left-handed. He is more likely to come in off the bench, but he could be used as DH from time to time. Like with Farmer, if Bell wants to find a way to keep him in the lineup, the DH is always an option.
Mark Payton is a Rule 5 pick who flashed power in Las Vegas last season, so he could get some at bats that way. It’s unclear about the rules with a Rule 5 pick this season as to whether it still applies under these special circumstances, but he does have a chance to get some playing time. He could still come in and play the outfield, but his offensive abilities might be utilized more at DH.
Tucker Barnhart is a unique option here as he is the club’s best defensive catcher, but could also be used as a first baseman if needed. However, with the DH, it gives Bell a special option as Barnhart can switch hit. That could help with matching up against certain pitchers in a game — an advantage for both him and Bell. While likely to handle the catching duties more often, the DH could give Barnhart a day off from the field and a way to stay in the lineup.
Bell has a lot options here to utilize at DH. The Reds are not only the best-positioned in the NL for the DH. They might also be one of the better ones in all of MLB. Bell could rotate a lot of guys in for a lot of different ways. As some of the reasons already have been stated, here are some other ways the DH could be utilized:
- get speed in the lineup
- more power
- another on base guy
- another left/right batter to face a pitcher that is either a right/left hander
- being able to alternate hitters in the lineup from where they hit at the plate
- get a batter in who hits a certain pitcher well
While there might be a lot of ways to get creative with the DH, those are some that come to mind aside from other obvious ways. Bell could theoretically have the DH hit anywhere in the lineup too, which may make things more interesting. That might depend on the hitter though. Regardless, it will be exciting to see how the DH will be used and the options the club has.
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