Everybody is going to miss the sight of watching a pitcher hit a home run. The look of shock on the hitting pitcher’s face, the excitement from his teammates in the dugout, and the roar of the crowd. Everybody was amazed when Joe Blanton hit a home run in Game 4 of the World Series or when Bartolo Colon finally sent one deep in Citi Field. However, those moments are rare and the game is likely to add the designated hitter to the National League. While the DH will take away those moments, it will help provide an extra lineup spot for NL teams to use on players who could be fantasy-relevant. This article looks at four players who would benefit from the designated hitter being added to the NL.
NL HItters to Benefit from Universal DH
Gavin Lux- SS/2B Los Angeles Dodgers
Rostering a Dodgers’ prospect in fantasy can be aggravating at times. After breaking onto the scene a few years ago and being ranked as a top 5 prospect in baseball, the Dodgers were never willing to give Lux a chance to settle in. They always had a platoon of veterans who they needed to give at-bats to. Last year when Lux was starting to get everyday playing time the Dodgers went and traded for Trea Turner. Nobody is blaming the Dodgers for trying to win a World Series. They seem to always be in win now mode, and if you do not instantly perform, they will replace you. This has been the case for Lux. He is constantly being switched from starter, to bench, to AAA, and then even played CF for the Dodgers. He has never really gotten the chance to settle in and just play baseball.
Where things stand right now, the Dodgers just lost Corey Seager in free agency. Despite having Trea Turner, this seemingly opens up an everyday role for somebody else in the organization. Chris Taylor will still receive playing time at 2B. Max Muncy might play there, but he is below average defensively and might not play at all in 2022 after tearing his UCL. While Lux should play almost every day at second, the Dodgers are a mystery when it comes to their playing time. Adding the DH to the lineup, gives Lux another opportunity to get into the lineup. Even if Lux is not the one playing DH, the position will help remove some of the other competition for his time at second. AJ Pollock has a long history of injuries, so the Dodgers could look to play him at DH, opening an OF spot for either Taylor or Lux.
As a result of the additional playing time, Lux should be able to start finding his footing in the major leagues. Since his promotion to the bigs back in 2019, Lux has only accrued 532 total plate appearances. As a result of constantly being in and out of the lineup he has struggled. Hitting in the major leagues is difficult itself. Additional concerns rising from the thought that if he struggles he won’t get to play has only made things more difficult for him. Hitting can be as much mental as anything else. The designated hitter will help alleviate the mental concerns that Lux might be facing and eliminate the chances for diminished playing time.
There is a reason Lux was a top 5 prospect. He has excellent plate discipline for a young hitter. Despite not consistently facing major league pitching, he managed to have a double-digit walk rate in 2021. He ranked in the 66th percentile for whiffs and has shown a strong ability to make contact. If you look at his plate discipline metrics from 2021, Lux laid off pitches outside of the zone and made above-average contact on pitches thrown inside of the zone. From August forward, Lux walked more than he struck out and hit .296 which was backed up by a 0.282 xBA. The only area Lux has struggled with since joining the Dodgers is the barreling up the baseball. In 2019, Lux slugged over .600 in the minor leagues so I believe with consistent plate appearances Lux will barrel up more baseballs and show that power once again.
If you have held onto Lux in your dynasty leagues, the time to give up is not now. It has been difficult to stand by him with the lack of both playing time and results. However, the introduction of the DH could be just the thing that helps Lux tap into his potential. Wait one more season before throwing in the towel on this former top prospect. If you are in a league where somebody has already given up on him, then I urge you to consider snagging him this offseason. Currently going as SS19, Lux also has 2B and OF eligibility which could boost his value even higher. His price tag is only a late-round pick. He has the upside that should cause fantasy managers to take a shot on him for 2022.
Tyrone Taylor- OF Milwaukee Brewers
The retirement of Ryan Braun was the chance Tyrone Taylor had been looking for. With Braun gone and Lorenzo Cain’s injury history, it looked like Taylor would get the chance to play every day. His value took a hit when the Brewers traded for Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe had an excellent season for Boston last year and plays excellent OF defense. He is firmly penciled into the everyday lineup leaving Taylor on the outside looking in. Lorenzo Cain, when healthy, is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, and Christian Yelich is unquestionably the starting LF. Taylor now looks to need the designated hitter in order to receive a spot in the everyday lineup for Milwaukee.
During the 2021 season, Taylor received extended playing time with the injuries to Yelich and Cain. He posted a .247 average with 12 home runs and went 6/7 on the base paths. He posted a 106 wRC+, and barreled the ball at a 7.6% rate. The counting stats might not jump off the page, but what was clear is that Taylor has talent. What was also clear is that Taylor can provide fantasy value for your team. Although he may not contribute too much in batting average, he can provide some decent power and was effective on the base paths. What might be most encouraging was his strong in-zone contact percentage. The MLB average is 84.6%, and Taylor made contact on 90.2% of pitches. He posted a whiff rate of only 23.6%. Between the whiff rate and zone contact percentages, it is clear that Taylor has excellent bat control.
Taylor will likely have to fend off Keston Hiura for the designated hitter position. The former top prospect Hiura has struggled the past two seasons in the MLB and has been terrible defensively. Taylor’s versatility and recent success should give him the inside track at earning the job. If playing every day, Taylor has a chance to hit .250 with 25 homers and 15 steals. Taylor is currently going after pick 400 as OF99. This is basically free and behind guys like Michael A. Taylor. Tyrone Taylor has way more potential and could be an asset for your fantasy team with the DH.
Juan Yepez- 1B/3B St. Louis Cardinals
Before joining Fantrax, I wrote an article for Prospects Worldwide outlining under-the-radar prospects who should be on fantasy managers’ radars. There I detailed why Yepez has the chance to be a breakout prospect for the Cardinals. You can check out that article here! The biggest reason Yepez has the chance to contribute for fantasy teams this year is the introduction of the DH in the National League. The Cardinals have previously been hesitant to play hitters that struggle in the field. A few years ago, they traded Jose Martinez to the Rays. All Martinez had done was hit in the majors, but he was a liability defensively and the Cardinals moved on. Yepez is in a similar boat. He struggles defensively (although less than Martinez), but has a bat with great potential. The DH is a perfect way for the Cardinals to get his bat into the lineup.
Yepez has primarily played 1B and 3B in the minors and occasionally LF. While he has the versatility to play all three positions, he is not particularly strong defensively at any. In addition, the Cardinals seem to have all three of those positions locked in. O’Neil in LF, Goldschmidt at 1B, and Arenado at 3B. The NL DH would completely open up the opportunity for Yepez. His main competition for at-bats will likely be Paul DeJong and Lars Nootbar. DeJong has struggled offensively the past few seasons and is better defensively so using him at DH would be a poor use of the Cardinals’ resources. Nootbaar is a young bat who they like a lot and has potential. Nootbaar is probably the biggest threat to playing time for Yepez. However, Yepez’s bat has more potential and his approach seems to be built for better success in the bigs.
Since adjusting his swing back in 2019, Yepez has really broke onto the scene. In 2021, between AA and AAA, Yepez hit .286 with 27 home runs. Not only did Yepez get on base with his bat, but he posted a walk percentage over 11%. He looks to be a legit on-base/power threat that could provide excellent results in the middle of the Cardinals lineup. If Yepez is able to secure the DH role in St. Louis he could instantly become a 25HR with 80+ RBI guy. Yepez is basically free in drafts with an ADP of 495. While he does not currently have a locked-in lineup spot, his bat has the potential to help any player’s fantasy team. The DH will likely provide Yepez the chance to play and he needs to be on every fantasy manager’s radar.
Garrett Cooper -1B/OF Miami Marlins
During the 2021 season, there was a hitter who from May forward hit .326 and slugged .535. That same hitter had an average exit velocity of 91.5mph and walked 14% of the time. Over the past three seasons, he has posted an xwOBA of 0.363. In 2021, that would have ranked tied for 48th in all of baseball with Trea Turner. Trea Turner is a no-brainer first-round pick in fantasy this year. Now, what if I told you our mystery hitter is going as OF103 and is basically free in drafts. It would seem like a no-brainer selection that would cost you basically nothing. That hitter is Garrett Cooper.
A partial UCL tear cut short Cooper’s 2021 season. He has never played in more than 107 games which was back in 2019. However, if you combine the stats from 2019-2021, you have a sample size of 803 plate appearances. That is more than a large enough sample size to make a judgment on a player’s ability. Despite having excellent success as a hitter for the Marlins, they still have been hesitant to hand Cooper an everyday role. The introduction of the designated hitter would help solidify Cooper as a prominent member of the Marlins’ lineup.
Cooper has primarily played corner outfield and 1B for the Marlins to this point. After signing Avisail Garcia, and needing a position for Jesus Sanchez, it is unlikely that Cooper will continue to earn regular at-bats in the OF. Although an argument can be made Cooper has a better bat than both, he will likely receive limited playing time out there. The Marlins also like Jesus Aguilar at 1B. While Cooper will likely receive some playing time at LF, RF, and 1B he is dependent on the DH for regular at-bats. Although he will not get you many stolen bases, he is perfect for points leagues in which those are less relevant. He has shown power, the ability to hit for average, and the ability to get on base. Cooper is an excellent sleeper who with the designated hitter could become an everyday player for Miami.
Durability is a valid concern for Cooper. He is already 31 and needs to prove that he can stay on the field. The designated hitter not only would help get him in the lineup but could help Cooper stay healthy for an entire season. For 2022, Cooper is not a sexy pick. He is not flashy, and he will not win you your league. However, he is reliable. If he gets consistent at-bats he could easily hit 20 home runs, with a .280 batting average, while walking north of 10%. Combine that with the fact Cooper is going after guys like Aaron Hicks, Kole Calhoun, Victor Robles, and the conclusion is that he needs to be drafted higher. The DH will not only benefit Cooper but help benefit fantasy managers who draft him.
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