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Phillies could benefit from universal DH in 2020


CLEARWATER, FL – FEBRUARY 19: Alec Bohm (80) of the Phillies poses during the Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day on February 19, 2020, at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

Buried in Bob Nightengale’s report in USA Today on the possibility of MLB re-alignment for 2020 was this nugget – under the Florida-Arizona plan, baseball would likely see a universal DH this season. 

It’s worth pointing out, no one has any idea if this plan or any other plan will ultimately go into effect. Everyone wants there to be some sort of MLB season in 2020, but COVID-19 is entirely uninterested in baseball and all professional sports leagues. How quickly both the United States and the entire world get the virus under control to some degree will determine if there’s any MLB season in 2020 and what form it will take. As an anonymous official told Jayson Stark of The Athletic, “whoever tells you they know anything is full of crap.” 

Fair enough. If there is ultimately a 2020 season, though, this appears to be the framework of one of the plans that baseball is seriously weighing. And for as unfair as it may be for 15 typically National League teams to have to use a universal DH in 2020 when they didn’t prepare for such a reality this offseason, the Phillies would actually be set up pretty well in this scenario. 

In a shortened season, it feels increasingly likely that top overall position prospect Alec Bohm will play a heightened role for the 2020 Phillies. The expectation in a 162-game season was that he would join the Phillies at some point this summer. Now, it appears that the season may not start until June or July, meaning that Bohm – who will turn 24 in August – could break the second preseason with the major league club. 

There’s little doubt that the former first-round pick’s bat is ready for the major leagues. Across three levels of the minor leagues a season ago, Bohm slashed .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs, 80 RBIs and an .896 OPS. Though he’s yet to play in Triple-A, having him open the season at the major league level doesn’t feel like it would be rushing things from him at the plate – he’s ready for the challenge. 

That said, Bohm didn’t look strong defensively at third base in Spring Training, and there are legitimate questions about whether he’ll be able to stick at the position long-term. The feeling here is that in a shortened season where the DH is on the table, the Phillies may be inclined to just use him as their primary DH and take defensive concerns off his mind. 

It is possible that Bohm would spend at least some time at third base, though. Him playing in the field would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the lineup. Jean Segura, who it appeared would open the season at third base, would likely shift to second base. And Scott Kingery, rather than playing his natural position of second base, would likely return to the super-utility role, with the bulk of his starts likely to come in center field, at the expense of Adam Haseley. 

In the event that Bohm plays third base, the Phillies lineup could look something like this: 

No. 1 – Andrew McCutchen, left field

No. 2 – Bryce Harper, right field

No. 3 – J.T. Realmuto, catcher

No. 4 – Rhys Hoskins, first base

No. 5 – Didi Gregorius, shortstop

No. 6 – Jean Segura, second base

No. 7 – Alec Bohm, third base 

No. 8 – Jay Bruce, DH

No. 9 – Scott Kingery, center field 

It’s hard to imagine the Phillies constructing a better lineup from an offensive sense than that. However, manager Joe Girardi did seem hell-bent in getting Kingery to second base on a full-time basis in 2020. If that’s a priority, this scenario would be less appealing to the Phillies. We also don’t know what type of workload Jay Bruce is capable of handling – even without being asked to play in the field much – at this stage of his career. Plus, you would likely be sacrificing some defensive prowess if Bohm played in the field regularly. That may be something the Phillies are willing to do to evaluate where Bohm should play long-term, but it does feel like he’s better suited to be a DH than a third baseman right now for a team with playoff aspirations. 

Let’s say, then, that the Phillies decide to use Bohm as the primary DH in 2020. Even with uncertainty about what Haseley is as a major leaguer, the Phillies lineup would still be pretty impressive: 

No. 1 – Andrew McCutchen, left field

No. 2 – Bryce Harper, right field

No. 3 – J.T. Realmuto, catcher

No. 4 – Rhys Hoskins, first base

No. 5 – Didi Gregorius, shortstop

No. 6 – Jean Segura, third base

No. 7 – Alec Bohm, DH

No. 8 – Scott Kingery, second base

No. 9 – Adam Haseley, center field

Even for as loaded as the 2009 Phillies lineup was, during the World Series, they had Ben Francisco and Matt Stairs in the starting lineup in the games played at Yankee Stadium. Those two certainly were valuable role players, but did they belong starting games in the World Series? Probably not. The 2020 Phillies, at least to start the season, wouldn’t be forced to put players that probably don’t belong in a starting lineup into it to make up for the unexpected addition of the DH. 

What’s more, the DH could become a valuable way to get veteran players off their feet in a season that’s likely to become a sprint, rather than a marathon. Andrew McCutchen is 33 and coming off a torn ACL. Certainly, he could benefit from not having to play in the field every day. J.T. Realmuto isn’t a fan of DHing, but that would become an option to not have him catching every day so he holds up, both in 2020 and beyond. Another option, one the Phillies used a few times last year, could be to have Realmuto play first base and Hoskins DH. 

There’s been a growing feeling over the past few years that eventually, the DH will become universal. The 2022 season – with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in December of 2021 – was the year many speculated would be the first. As it turns out, the Phillies wouldn’t be in bad shape if the DH comes to the National League sooner. 

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