The universal DH is here! Whether or not you want it or not the universal DH has come to the National League and is likely to stay for the foreseeable future. That news breaks the hearts of Madison Bumgarner fans around the globe. That being said the DH will boost the value of several players across the Giants roster for the 2020 season and beyond.
As much as no one wants to believe it, the love-able Hunter Pence has never been much of a defender. According to Baseball-Reference Pence has received a negative defensive WAR every year except for his rookie season. That would have been hard to ignore for most National League teams. However, Pence signed a one-year deal in 2019 with the Texas Rangers where he became solely a DH. We then saw a revitalized Pence slash his way to a 126 OPS+. A sizeable increase from the previous two seasons (84, 64). If the Giants shove Hunter Pence into the DH role versus lefties they increase the likelihood of a repeat of 2019.
The implementation of a universal DH boosts the value of Buster Posey for the present and the future. Normally when Buster needs a day off the Giants boot Brandon Belt off the field and throw Posey at first. With the implementation of the DH, the Giants can now put Posey in the DH role and keep their normal first baseman in the lineup. Getting Posey proper rest while keeping his bat in the lineup will be extremely valuable to the Giants. As for the future the Giants have two minor league catching prospects in Joey Bart and Patrick Bailey. Both will need spots available to them in the near future. The DH opens up the possibility for Posey to remain behind the dish and have Bart/Bailey in the DH role or vice versa. The chances of Posey retiring as a Giant skyrocket with the introduction of the DH.
Similar to Pence, Pablo Sandoval is not much of a defender. Sandoval has received a negative grade in defensive WAR every year since 2014. However, 2019 saw a return to form from Sandoval that many were not expecting. Having barely topped an OPS+ of 100 with 101 in 2018 Sandoval surged to an OPS+ of 114 across 296 plate appearances in 2019. It would be tough to ask for similar production from a now 33-year-old Sandoval. That being said the likelihood of a continuing surge from Sandoval increases dramatically with the DH. As a pinch hitter in 2019, Sandoval slashed an OPS of 1.067 and slashed to a 1.021 OPS as a DH. It is reasonable to expect that what value “the Panda” does provide will likely be from the DH role.
Darin Ruf hasn’t played in the MLB since 2016 with the Phillies. Since 2016, Ruf has played three seasons in KBO where he slashed an OPS of .965, 1.024, and .911. The Giants then signed Ruf to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Before the Spring was halted Ruf was murdering the ball to a 1.469 OPS across 32 plate appearances. During Ruf’s time in the KBO, he played mostly first base and profiles as a 1B/DH type of player. Unfortunately for Ruf the Giants currently have Brandon Belt at 1B and that wasn’t likely to change. However, with the DH Ruf has a new life. Ruf’s offensive performance all but ensures he will make the team out of the second Spring Training. Especially since the Giants don’t have to worry about his defensive capabilities.
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