DH for every NL team.

NL Central:

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals

The argument can be made for a couple of different players on the Cardinals roster.  Tyler O’Neil seems to make a lot of sense as he has had a few problems in the field that were well documented.  But I think that Matt Carpenter makes a lot of sense being a DH.  Bro’Neil needs to be active in the game to keep his focus, he has shown he is not great coming off of the bench as a pinch hitter, while Carpenter is a type of player that can focus on film while the team is in the field.  Tommy Edman has shown he can play a great hot corner.  

Nicholas Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds

Castellanos is not a great defender anywhere on the field.  He was a terrible third baseman and a subpar corner outfielder.  Great American Small Park should hide some defensive inefficiencies but he is still not a great option in the field.  With the addition of 6-time gold glove winner in the Pacific League Shogo Akiyama controlling center along with youngster Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Aristedes Aquino the Reds have more than a couple great options in the outfield. 

Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs

Kyle Schwarber is the type of player that the DH is built for.  A great power bat that has never had an exact spot in the field to play.  With Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Ian Happ and the addition of Steven Souza the Cubbies have enough options to handle the outfield and allow Schwarber to just mash. 

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

The addition of Avisail Garcia brought up a lot of questions about what was next for former MVP Ryan Braun.  The Brewers had talked about moving Braun over to first base but another addition Justin Smoak makes that an unlikely option.  Braun still brings impact to the lineup and can be protected from injury by just having a few at-bats per game. 

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

Josh Bell became one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball, surprisingly Bell has ranked as one of the worst defensive players in all of baseball.  His -31 DRS (fangraphs) was the worst in the league by a first baseman.  With Jose Osuna on the bench the Pirates can have a better defensive first baseman that can actually bring more power to the lineup. 

NL East:

Howie Kendrick, Washington Nationals

Washinton has a litany of veteran players in the infield and they are set on giving prospect Carter Kieboom the job replacing Anthony Rendon.  Kendrick has shown his ability to hit and he has to find a way in the lineup.   DH seems like it was made for Kendrick. 

Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves

The former gold glove winner has seen a consistent decline in his defensive ability due to injuries and just extremely questionable decisions.  The Braves needed to replace the Josh Donaldson pop in the lineup and keeping Ozuna healthy could be as easy as keeping him out of left field.  Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis can round out an outfield centered around mega-star Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins

It seems like Jesus Aguilar’s breakout season of 2018 was actually a lifetime ago.  Aguilar couldn’t replicate his success during the 2019 season but he still brings the power that belongs in a lineup.  The Marlins picked up Aguilar in the offseason, he immediately becomes a threat in the Miami offense.  The Marlins actually have a solid option at first base in Garrett Cooper.  Cooper can handle the defense of first base while Aguilar slots in at the DH spot. 

Neil Walker, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies loaded up with veterans in the offseason. Neil Walker will enter the season in a utility bench spot but would make a lot of sense as the DH.  Walker brings a OBP of .344 which would put him right at the top of the Phillies lineup.  The return of Andrew McCutchen will help with a serious problem Philadelphia has.  They were one of the worst teams in the league at getting on base.  Putting Walker in the lineup provides the RBI chances for the big bats as well as a switch hitter for late inning matchup problems.  

Dominic Smith, New York Mets

Long time prospect Dominic Smith found himself overtaken as the future first baseman of the Mets by Pete Alonso.  Smith is still an impact bat that just needed consistent plate appearances.  Smith transitioned to the outfield where he did not excel defensively.  With a healthy Michael Conforto along with Brandon Nimmo, JD Davis and Jake Marisnick the outfield is too stacked for Smith to find a spot.  Smith can hit and he should be given a chance as a full time DH. 

NL West:

Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks

Injuries have completely derailed the production of Jake Lamb.  With no set spot in the field because of Eduardo Escobar and Christian Walker, DH should be a great spot for Jake Lamb. 

Sam Hilliard, Colorado Rockies

Colorado has to find a way to get consistent at bats for prospect Sam Hilliard.  Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl and Ramail Tapia currently man the massive outfield in Colorado. Putting Hilliard in the DH role gives him a chance to in the majors with consistent at-bats.  The Rockies had a lot of options with Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond and Garret Hampson, but Hilliard needs to find a spot in the lineup. 

Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are going to play the matchup game as they always do, so naming one guy as the potential DH is trivial but I would go with Joc Pederson.  Pederson has shown his ability to play the corners as well as first base.  With the addition of Mookie Betts, the Dodgers now have two solid defenders in the outfield. Betts, Bellinger and former gold glove winner AJ Pollock would give the Dodgers their best defensive outfield.  Max Muncy is a better defender at first base so Pederson in the DH role makes the most sense. 

Josh Naylor, San Diego Padres

Josh Naylor mashed in triple-A slugging .573.  He has legit power that can be put right into the middle of the Padre lineup.  Naylor will have to find his way onto the roster.  Franchy Cordero, Will Myers and Juan Lagares are all candidates to take outfield spots from Naylor entering the season.  Despite the competition Naylor brings the most potential power and that is a need in San Diego to protect Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer.

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants

Hunter Pence had a resurgence in 2019 with the Texas Rangers.  Injuries cut his season short, ending what was going to be a great comeback season.  He had a WRC+ of 128 along with a .910 OPS he became a great story about a career renaissance. 

The Giants have a set outfield with Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson and Billy Hamilton.  Pence would be able to get consistent at-bats as the DH and not have to man the large and interesting San Francisco outfield.  

Middle of the Pack- Preview 2020 Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs decided they didn’t need to do much this offseason, in fact they decided that less is more.  Chicago decided that it was time for a change. They started with their manager, out goes Joe Maddon, in comes David Ross.  They didn’t stop with the coach. They continued to allow players to walk out the door without much effort to re-sign anyone.  Departing from the windy city, Cole Hamels, Nick Castellanos, Pedro Strop, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Steve Cishek. The Cubs still have a great roster…right?

Lineup- The core is still awesome.

The Cubs still have their core lineup intact.  Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Wilson Contreras and Jayson Heward (I guess he counts) all still make up one of the most fearsome lineups in the national league.  

The center field position is the biggest question mark with the biggest potential.  Ian Happ and Albert Amora will battle for the job with the winner most likely being Happ as he brings more potential with the bat than Almora.  Happ has a wRC+ of 127 in his 58 games last season compared to Almora’s 64 in 130 games. Chicago would love a resurgence of Steven Souza Jr. who will be returning to Major League Baseball in 2020.  It’s hard to project much out of Souza Jr. until he performs in the game.  

Second base is another spot that is up for grabs in the Chicago lineup.  Cubs top prospect Nico Hoerner is the frontrunner for the job. Veterans Daniel Descalso and Jason Kipnis will compete for the position but if Nico Hoerner shows anything during the spring he should be the name written into the lineup on opening day.  

The Rotation is questionable. 

Projected Rotation:  Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and Tyler Chatwood.

The Cubs decided to let Cole Hamels walk while not having a real plan as to who they were going to replace him with. The only off-season addition of note for the rotation was Jharel Cotton who has pitched in the majors since 2017.  Chicago will rely on their veteran starters to stay healthy and improve on their performances from 2019. A healthy Darvish is a step in the right direction for the rotation. A bounce back year from Jose Quintana is needed for the organization, Quintana’s 1.39 WHIP going along with a hard hit percentage of 38.2 were both the highest of his career. Quintana will never be a guy that will strike out a lot of batters, he has to reinforce his pitch to light contact approach and allow his solid defense to back him up.  

Bullpen- Kimbrel has to bounce back.

The Cubs have Craig Kimbrel.  While he wasn’t the shutdown closer he has shown in his career he will have a full off-season to prepare.  Kimbrel has to be the cornerstone of a bullpen that has a lot of questions. In front of Kimbrel the Cubs will feature some unproven arms Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan, Dan Winkler and Brad Wieck. Chicago added a former closer Jeremy Jefferess hoping to get the dominant player of 2018.  If Jefferess is able to perform to his potential the Cubs could have a solid 1-2 punch in the back end.   

Conclusion

Pecota projections have the Cubs with 85 wins, putting them behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.  The Cubs offsense can compete with anybody. Putting Kris Bryant in the leadoff spot should be interesting but they have the power behind him for that to make enough sense.   The question will be whether or not the starting staff can stay healthy and perform better than they did in 2019. The bullpen has some solid pieces to keep them inthe mix.  

David Ross’s first year as manager doesn’t worry me at all.  Catchers are basically managers in training and Ross should command the respect of a reltively veteran team.   The Cubs farm system ranks 28th (bleacher report) so if they do need to make a big move at the deadline that can be difficult.  The Cubs will compete for a playoff spot but I don’t see how this team has a chance to win the Central over the Cardinals and Braves.  The Cubs are in a place of mediocrity. Wouldn’s shock me to see some panic if they get out to a slow start. Kris Bryant may be the guy on the move.

Milwaukee Brewers 2020 Season Outlook

The Milwaukee Brewers made it to the National League Wild Card game in 2019 thanks to a dominant second half of the season.  The Brewers went an amazing 42-29 in the second half propelling them into the playoffs and nearly catching the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.  What made this even more amazing is that they had much of their success without the league’s MVP Christian Yelich. 

Key Losses:  

Position Players: Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Trent Grisham


Pitchers: Jordan Lyles, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Drew Pomeranz and Junior Guerra

Key Additions: 

Position Players: Luis Urias, Jedd Gyroko, Omar Narvaez, Avisail Garcia and Ryon Healy

Pitchers: Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson

Lineup Questions:

How do you replace Yasmani Grandal?

Yasmani Grandal signed a bargain deal with Milwaukee in 2019, he paid off his price giving the Brewers a 5.2 WAR, ranked just second behind JT Realmuto.  Grandal was a major reason that the Brewers were able to handle the loss of Yelich providing stability in the middle and sometimes top of the order.  

With Grandal out the Brewers went out and added Omar Narvaez.  LOVE this move. Narvaez is the perfect replacement on the offensive end for Grandal.  Quietly one of the best upcoming offensive catchers in all of baseball, Narvaez smashed 22 homers last season in Seattle and was able to produce a comparable slash line with Grandal

Grandal: .246/.380/.466

Narvaez: .278/.353/.460

Narvaez doesn’t bring the pitch framing that Grandal does but he is serviceable and will be a perfect split with defensive minded Manny Pina in 2020.

Whos on the corners? 

Milwaukee will have to replace all of their corner infield players in 2020.  Ryan Braun will be moving to first base a position he has little experience playing while third base projects to be a mix of the returning Eric Sogard, Luis Urias and Jedd Gyroko.  

Eric Sogard is coming off of a career season splitting time between the Blue Jays and Rays, providing both teams with a consistent bat finishing with a 2.8 WAR.  Sogard will likely be primarily a 3B/SS option for Milwaukee as they have established Keston Hiura as the face of the franchise along with Christian Yelich.  

The Brewers would love for Luis Urias to take over 3rd base.  Urias could see time at shortstop if Orlando Arcia is not able to hit at the major league level.  Picking up Urias was a great move by the organization, adding a guy that was recently a top 35 prospect. Arcia has shown the ability to be a defensive force but the offense has not had an impact on the major league level. I could see Urias being the full time shortstop by the end of the 2020 season.

Does the rotation have enough to compete?

Milwaukee has found success without the need of a strong rotation for two years.  They have found a way to piece together wins by getting the most out of the starters they have and utilizing a stellar bullpen. 2020 will see a similar approach.  The rotation will be headlined by 2019 All Star Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff was establishing himself as the ace of the staff before an oblique injury sidelined him for most of the second half of the season.  With Woodruff the Brewers have a starter that they can build their rotation around. The organization moved on from mainstays Zach Davies and Chase Anderson in the offseason to open up spots for a few question marks. 

The projected rotation at the moment according to ESPN and Rotochamp would be Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Brent Suter.  If you were counting that would be six names for five spots. The Brewers will most likely go with a five man rotation but outside of Woodruff the pitchers behind him have not been known for their ability to pitch long into games.   

The most intriguing players that will be given a chance would be former Padre Eric Lauer, 25, has the most potential of the projected starters.  Lauer is still young and was able to provide a terrible Padres squad with a 2.4 WAR in 2019 but his xFIP was pedestrian at 4.77. If Lauer can handle the smaller confines of Miller Park he should be a valuable piece in the long term for Milwaukee.  

Josh Lindblom is an interesting piece to the puzzle.  2019 saw a revitalization of his career while pitching in the KBO, receiving the Most Valuable Player award.  Lindblom has spent time in the majors with four different clubs most recently with the Pirates in 2017. Can he have similar success as pitchers like Miles Mikolas have had after seemingly reinventing themselves in other leagues?  Only time will tell. 

The Brewers rotation will be the biggest question as they head into spring training.  Their success beyond just the division will be determined by their health and progression.

Conclusion

The Brewers made a lot of changes in the offseason.  Players like Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez should thrive in more hitter friendly atmospheres. A full year of Keston Huira and  Christian Yelich being healthy for opening day should also be a spark to the offense. Josh Hader and company will be great as they have been for the last few years.  It’s about the rotation, if the rotation can take big strides in 2020 Milwaukee will be a force in the central again.  

If the Brewers find themselves in need of help going into the trade market they will have some problems as they have depleted what was once a very promising farm system.  Currently they rank 29th in baseball according to Bleacher Report. This team is built to compete right now, they are young and have a terrific manager in Craig Counsell. I would project them as a clear contender for a Wild Card spot heading into the season, anything past that would be a surprise.

Why the Cardinals have to win this series.

The Cardinals schedule to start the season was not ideal.  Opening up in Milwaukee with a group of young starters in a hitters park is not going to turn out well no matter how much talent you have.  The Brewers are who we though they were a potential offensive juggernaut that has limitations everywhere else of the field. Nevertheless that Cardinals were one blown save away from a split to start the season.  The scheduling god seemed to continue their cruel joke forcing the Cardinals to make as second trip to Milwaukee just two week later following a trip to Monterrey, Mexico.  The Cardinals were able to salvage the final game of the series, starting the season just 2-5 against the defending Central Division Champs. The third series versus the Brewers may only be a beginning of the week late April showdown but this could be a defining moment in the race for the Central crown.  The Cardinals need to come out and take advantage of a Brewers team that is dealing with serious pitching injuries.  Let’s breakdown how and why the Cardinals must win this series.

Pitching matchups favor the Cardinals in 2 of 3.

Game 1

Jack Flaherty has been tagged by the Brewers in two early starts giving up 9 runs and 16 hits in seven innings. Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain in particular have crushed Flaherty with a combined average of .492 over 23 at bats this season.  Flaherty has been great at home this season in two starts with a 0.82 ERA in two starts.  The Brewers will have Adrian Houser on the mound making his first start of the season. Since this is Houser’s first career start he will most likely dominate for the first 4 innings or so until the Cardinals unleash the second time through.

Game 2

Zach Davies who is what you would call the opposite of a Cardinal Killer, in particular Matt Carpenter has owned Davies to a .455BA in 22 career plate appearances.  Davies will most likely be opposed by Daniel Ponce De Leon taking the spot of the injured Michael Wacha.  Ponce De Leon has only faced the Brewers in relief where he pitched in relief successfully striking out two on 14 pitches. Ponce De Leon is going have a big night. This is soley based on the fact I believe the Cardinals will jump out early and give him the confidence to dominate.

Game 3

There was a time where Jouhlys Chacin would have dreaded a potential matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, owning an 0-7 mark in nine career starts up until last June.  Since then Chacin has won his last three starts against the Redbirds including a great opening day start where his struck out seven.  Chacin will face off against Adam Wainwright whose been the definition of up and down during the start of the season.  Waino will have to have his curve working against the powerful Milwaukee lineup.  If not his 89 MPH (being gracious) fastball will be put on a tee for the power bats of Milwaukee.

Brewers coming off of 4 game sweep in LA

You always want to kick a team while they are down.  The Brewers are coming off of an abysmal series in LA losing all four games to the 2018 National League Champs. Milwaukee has been dealing with a lot of injuries in the rotation which has caused them to force a few starts from guys they were not expecting including Chase Anderson and the game one starter Adrian Houser, injuries in their bullpen have also forced the hand of manager Craig Counsel putting guys in positions that they will not be successful.

Why the Cardinals have to win this series.

It is time for the Cardinals to show that they are the class of the NL Central. In game one, the Cardinals have their presumed “ace” on the mound in Jack Flaherty which should set the stage for the rest of the series. The key to victory is very simple, don’t pitch to Christian Yelich, take a advantage of the weakend Brewers starting pitching and take advantage of your home field.  The Cardinals will not have any excuses if they are unable to win this series.

Grading NL Central Offseason- Right Now

Pittsburgh Pirates: D

It was a quiet winter in the steel city adding just outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall whom you would think is just competing for a bench spot. The loss of Josh Harrison will hurt from a clubhouse perspective, while Ivan Nova’s movement will hurt from an innings eating perspective.

The Pirates would have a much higher grade if you considered the work they did at the trade deadline.  Having a full year of Chris Archer will make a difference for a team that was a surprising contender for a large part of 2018. Archer adds to their rotation that also features young stars in the making Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, making as solid top three.   The depth of the rotation takes a little plunge after that.

Cincinnati Reds: B+

The Reds got a B+ mainly for unloading the contract of Homer Bailey.  Getting rid of Bailey seemed like only a dream at the beginning of the offseason but they were able to do it while bringing in a potential steal of talent in Yasiel Puig.  While Puig has not lived up to the original hype he still brings some excitement to a Red’s organization that needed to show their fans that they are still trying to win.

The Reds were able to add some nice pieces to their rotation with former Dodger lefty Alex Wood and former Nationals righty Tanner Roark.  Both add depth to a very thin rotation.  These players both come from winning organizations which can only help the young starters during a season the season.

While trades were the main story the resigning of hard throwing closer Raisel Iglesias is an underappreciated move.  The Reds are not going to be frontrunners for the division next season, but their moves have made them no longer a push over.

Chicago Cubs: D-

Not that there was much expectation in the Chicago offseason with a cash strapped team but making virtually no improvements is never going to grade out well.  The Cubs should be getting back the services of last season’s big acquisition Yu Darvish. They will also have a full season of Cole Hamels.  The Cubs are hoping reclamation project Kendall Graverman still has something in the tank.

The rotation will be stronger to start the season. But the bullpen will still be a problem in the back end.  Uncertainty of the injury to Brandon Morrow and thee losses of Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez leave the Cubs very vulnerable if there are any further injuries. 

Replacing Tommy La Stella with Daniel Descalso is a nice upgrade but other than that not much to say here.

Milwaukee Brewers: C+

We you have a team with very few holes you would think they would look to fill those holes.  Added another starter was a sensible move for the defending division champs.  Instead the added to the opposite end by adding the best catcher on the market Yasmani Grandal.  An already potent lineup made themselves even more dangerous.  Grandal whose offense has always been the story of his career, but his defense has been an underrated aspect of his career for a long time.  Grandal ranked first in the league pitch framing ahead of defensive juggernauts Yadier Molina and Jeff Mathis

The Brewers chose to nontender their two lefties opening up a spot for former Rangers closer Alex Claudio.  Claudio will have to pick up the slack of a few different lost relievers. He’s held opposing lefties to a .194/.220/.278 line in 315 total plate appearances over his five-year career, thanks in part to a deceptive delivery.

The Brewers getting a C+ is based off of their previous work.  The 2018 offseason and trade deadline were clearly an A+.  I would have liked to see the Brewers bring back a second baseman that is more proven rather than have Cory Spangenberg play hold over for top prospect Keston Huira. 

Bonus points for trading away Domingo Santana, he deserved a shot to play every day.

St. Louis Cardinals- A-

The Cardinals needed a corner infield and a reliver.  They added the best first baseman in the majors for a group of players that were not going to be a part of their plans in the 2019 season. Luke Weaver had fallen out of favor, Carson Kelly was quietly becoming too old to be a prospect and I couldn’t remember the other guy’s name, but he was a 26-year old infielder. 


The Cardinals didn’t stop at Goldschmidt adding long time reliver Andrew Miller to the fold, while he is not considered a closer he gives the Cardinals a lot of options at the backend.

St. Louis gets an A- because they still have a need for a bonifide closer and there is a gap in right field.  Still the Cardinal had a very successful winter.