In a year where there have been many changes in sports, baseball continues to make modifications to its game. For the first time ever, the National League will have a designated hitter in 2020.
While many fans may not like the change, it immediately benefits multiple teams; no team will benefit more from the change than the New York Mets.
For a team who has questions when it comes to their starting rotation (Noah Syndergaard out due to Tommy John Surgery, newcomers Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha joining the rotation, and Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman consistency issues), the Mets lineup looks stronger than it has in the past decade.
The Mets already have an overflow of position players: Pete Alonso is locked in at first base, Jeff McNeil can play all over the diamond, and Michael Conforto has a reserved spot in the outfield for years to come.
With an infield consisting of Alonso – Robinson Cano – Amed Rosario – McNeil, there aren’t too many concerns regarding playing time there. The questions lie in the outfield, the Mets have six outfielders for three spots. This is where the DH comes into play for the Mets.
Remember Yoenis Cespedes? He’s still a Met.
Cespedes is entering his final year of his 4-year, $110M contract. After multiple quad injuries and a fractured right ankle, thanks to a wild boar, by the time 2020 Opening Day rolls around, it will be over two years since the last time Cespedes has stepped onto the diamond.
In early March, Cespedes was aiming to return in time for Opening Day, which was originally scheduled for March 26. But, he was aiming to return with the ability to play the outfield on a regular basis. Now, with an extended three month layoff, Cespedes has been given ample time to prepare for the season, with this time preparing to not have to play in the outfield every day, as he can just serve as the Mets DH.
The Mets sliding Cespedes into a regular role as their DH is a match made in heaven. When fully healthy, Cespedes is one of the elite raw talents in the entire game of baseball. If the Mets could get a fraction of what Cespedes has shown in years past, it’s an instant plus for the ballclub.
Even without Cespedes, the DH is still a gigantic plus for the Mets.
In 2019, the Mets experienced break-out seasons from both J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith. Both were thrown out in left field for the majority of the season, even though neither of them are primarily outfielders.
Davis turned out to be one of the Mets most consistent hitters, finishing the season hitting .307/.369/.527 with 22 homers in 140. Injuries left him to only appear in 89 games last season, but Smith impressed with posting a .881 OPS and hitting 11 home runs; Smith hit .318 with an 1.002 OPS off the bench.
These two became essential pieces to the Mets lineup, but there was no place to play them both together. Now with the designated hitter, these two could potentially swap between left field, some infield time, and time as the designated hitter in order to play in as many of the 60 games possible.
Now, Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen looks like a genius.
When Van Wagenen acquired Robinson Cano from the Seattle Mariners in December 2018, the hope was that Cano would move into the DH position as his age rose up.
After dealing with leg injuries in 2019, Cano, if needed, is another candidate to serve as the DH for the Mets this season.
If Cano serves as the DH, McNeil could move to second base and Davis could be brought back into the infield at third base, or Jed Lowrie, who played just nine games (going 0-for-7 on the season) in 2019, could potentially serve as an option at second.
Although it will be different seeing the Mets have a designated hitter for the entire season in 2020, it will help immensely as the Mets play 40 divisional games and 20 games against the American League East, arguably the two best divisions in baseball.