The proposed guidelines for a potential MLB season include the universal designated hitter. In other words, National League tradition will be set aside, and you'll be spared Mike Foltynewicz at-bats.
The season would be a test drive for what many in the industry deem inevitable. This shortened campaign would give everyone the opportunity to evaluate the senior circuit without pitchers at the bottom of the order.
No one knows what 2022 and beyond holds, but living in the present, the Braves are one NL team that would benefit greatly from the DH. It will favor teams with better offensive depth, such as the Braves and Dodgers. It also will help players with injury concerns, and/or those whose defensive liabilities hurt their overall value (such as Yoenis Cespedes).
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The rich get richer under the DH format. The lower portion of the Braves’ lineup represented a fair dropoff, but that conversation changes dramatically when you replace a pitcher with, say, Austin Riley or Marcell Ozuna in the middle of the order.
Starters won’t be removed in crucial offensive situations. NL teams won’t need to worry with the pitcher’s spot due up with the score tied and two on and two out. It could mean pitching deeper into games for Mike Soroka and Max Fried, whose innings won’t be a concern.
Perhaps most important, the DH solves the Braves’ third-base conundrum. Remember when that was your biggest question, Johan Camargo or Riley? The DH plugs both into the lineup, potentially on an every-day basis if the Braves choose.
It also addresses the outfield surplus. The Braves’ outfield group looks even better, as does the Ozuna acquisition. If his defense turns out that poor, the team could plug him in at DH. Otherwise, it’s another avenue to playing time for Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall.
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Under the new order, teams could potentially carry 30-man rosters, with 20 other players available. Top outfield prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters could be among the Braves’ minor-league candidates, and a DH creates another way to sort through their playing time (in such hypothetical, logic says a veteran would DH and one of the younger players would man an outfield spot).
There isn’t an obvious, every-day DH on the roster, but that’s a good thing. The Braves are one of the deeper teams in baseball. Each day, they could pull from a pool including Camargo, Riley, Markakis, Duvall and Ozuna, among others, to fill the role.
The team also could use it as a break for someone like Freddie Freeman, giving him a breather in the field. Not that managing workload will be among the chief concerns of an abbreviated season.
One iteration of a Braves lineup:
OF Ronald Acuna
2B Ozzie Albies
1B Freddie Freeman
OF Marcell Ozuna
DH Austin Riley
3B Johan Camargo
C Travis d'Arnaud
SS Dansby Swanson
OF Ender Inciarte
Riley and Ozuna, along with Duvall, give the Braves power options. Camargo, a switch-hitter who impressed in the abbreviated spring training, would fit nicely behind them.
The bottom half’s arrangement would largely depend on individual performance, especially in the case of the outfield, but it looks much better without a pitcher at nine.
At a time with few certainties, MLB’s proposal provides the Braves with one sure thing if the season happens: a better lineup.