Chicago Cubs need more options at designated hitter
National League teams got late notice on adding the designated hitter this year. The new rule became official in late June.
So the Cubs will have more time to consider DH strategies for 2021 and beyond, since it seems likely this will become a permanent rule.
For the trial run in 2020, designated hitter was pretty much a disaster for the Cubs. Only one player had any success, and that was starting catcher Willson Contreras.
The Cubs used a variety of players at DH. When it comes to total appearances, Contreras and Victor Caratini played 18 games each at DH. Kyle Schwarber was next with nine, then Josh Phegley and Jose Martinez -- two players who weren't around long -- had seven each, and Jason Kipnis with six.
Contreras hit .298 with 4 home runs and a .992 OPS as designated hitter. He usually played DH on his days off behind the plate, which were typically when Caratini caught Yu Darvish. So that part seems like a good idea moving forward, keep Contreras at DH when he's not catching.
The only other Cubs designated hitter to go yard in 2020 was Steven Souza Jr., who hit his lone home run of the season while pinch hitting for Caratini in Milwaukee on Aug. 15.
Caratini had mild success as a DH, hitting .244 with a .657 OPS. It was better than he did while catching (.203).
Putting Schwarber at DH makes sense because he's not a natural outfielder, but maybe he's not cut out for the DH role. Schwarber went 2-for-29 as a DH, according to baseball-reference.com, good for a .069 average. He didn't have a good year at the plate, but at least he hit .213 as a left fielder, with all 11 of his home runs.
Martinez (0-for-21) and Phegley (0-for-9) never got a hit as DH. Kipnis went 3-for-19, David Bote was 1-for-6.
The only other guy who had anything approaching success was Kris Bryant, who went 2-for-8 with a double in two games at DH.
So what should the Cubs do next year, besides use Contreras at DH when he's not catching? Well, if the front office decides to overhaul the roster, than the next DH will probably be someone new.
If management decides to wait for the trade deadline and see if Bryant, Schwarber, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo bounce back from their rough 2020, there is no clear answer. Caratini against right-handed pitchers and Bote or Cameron Maybin against lefties were the best options on the season-ending roster.
The Cubs got Martinez from Tampa Bay at midseason with the idea that he'd be a good DH against left-handed pitchers, but he never got a hit in a Cubs uniform. Martinez will likely have to earn a job in spring training next year.