The designated hitter is coming to the National League once Major League Baseball returns on July 23rd. This could have an immediate impact on every NL club, and the Miami Marlins are no different.
Miami’s lineup was amongst the weakest in baseball last year. The Marlins scored just 615 runs across the 2019 regular season, ranking second-worst after the Detroit Tigers. The only bright light was dominant contact-hitter Miguel Rojas, whose ceiling with the Marlins could be very high.
This past offseason the team’s front office made sure to fill some of the holes in that lineup. Jonathan Villar came in after a trade with the Orioles. In addition, the team signed outfielder Corey Dickerson, who has hit over .300 the last two years with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
As plans changed due to the league suspending operations, Don Mattingly will have to choose a name that could elevate the team offensively as a DH. Miami doesn’t have an avid power-hitter as a runaway candidate for the position like many other teams have. However, outfield depth and offseason signings provide a couple of good DH options heading into 2020.
Harrison was drafted all the way back in 2014 by the Brewers. However, he’s yet to make his debut on the major-league level. However, he looks a lot closer heading into 2020, especially after a good spring training display throughout February and early March.
The Missouri native hit .364 with an OPS of .981 in 22 spring-training at-bats to enter the competition for a place in the team’s initial 26-man roster. With roster now expanding, Harrison is almost guaranteed a spot but he’s capable of taking his talents one step further.
Monte Harrison has a high ceiling when it comes to his production at the plate. He hit .274 in Triple-A New Orleans last year and posted a batting average over .280 in both seasons in the Arizona Fall League. Harrison also put on a show in Puerto Rico this winter, where he had a .300 average with a near .400 on-base percentage and four RBIs in 16 games.
A promising young hitter, Harrison is certainly on the queue for a starting outfield spot. With Dickerson and Lewis Brinson currently occupying two of the three outfield positions, and Villar possibly doing the same, Harrison is among the top suitors for the Designated Hitter spot.
MLB adding the designated hitter to the NL seems like it was a special move made for Villar. When the Dominican came in from Baltimore, Brian Anderson was already the top choice at third base. This meant he had to start adapting to the new reality of playing centerfield.
For many within the club, including Villar, this had mixed results. Although the former Oriole was confident he would be able to handle the change, the new-look National League comes as a blessing in disguise for the eighth-year player. He would now be able to focus on his offensive production without becoming a defensive liability. That would mean Harrison or Matt Joyce takes over the centerfield job.
After a strong 2016 campaign with Milwaukee, Villar’s stats slipped and he became an inefficient hitter. However, he thrived in a talent-less Orioles team, posting an over-average OBP and a near career-high slugging percentage during a full 162-game slate. He comes into 2020 as one of Miami’s most important bats, and he could do that even better as a designated hitter.
By acquiring Aguilar, the Marlins brought in power hitting they didn’t get from Garrett Cooper last year.
Cooper was surprisingly solid during the 2019 season, his first full in the majors. The former Brewers draft pick hit .281 with a .344 on-base percentage in 107 games (381 at-bats). If he carries that form over to 2020, there are legitimate dividends of having him in the lineup on an every-day basis again.
The Marlins’ decision to sign Aguilar to a one-year deal seems better by the day. At his best, Aguilar was an All-Star with 35 homeruns and 108 runs batted in (2018). However, this vastly differs from what he’s showed throughout his career, including last year’s downfall. At the age of thirty with his overall track record, 2020 might turn out to be a year when he’ll have to prove himself. This means the 2020 Marlins might be the lucky team to get that another All-Star campaign by Aguilar.
If this happens, the benefit of having both Cooper and Aguilar in the same lineup is very big.
At first sight, Berti seems like a better call. He had a .348 OBP in 256 at-bats throughout 2019, compared to .312 in 412 at-bats by Ramirez. The Marlins were second-to-last in team on-base percentage last year. This might have to be the focus since the team doesn’t attempt a lot of steals and doesn’t risk getting runners out.
On the other hand, both have played one full MLB season. Both batted near .270 last year with a considerable margin in the OBP. However, the big difference is in the age. Ramirez is only 25, while Berti is 30 years old. To many within the business, Ramirez would be the better choice as he’s less likely to be past his prime. Therefore, his ceiling is more likely to be in front of him.
ROTATING MULTIPLE OPTIONS?
With none of those players being anything close to a power-hitter with a high OPS, rotating a couple of those players might make more sense. Just like with modern-day bullpens, decreasing the workload would get the best of the hitters. Also, it would make their numbers impactful, despite not having a credible workload.
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