MLB
March 22, 2022

5 Best National League Designated Hitter Options For Your Fantasy Baseball Team, Ranked

The end of pitchers stepping up to the plate is finally at hand in the National League. This has been the bane of many fantasy players' existence, knowing that rallies died when NL hurlers came to the plate. Almost 50 years after pitchers last took a regular turn at-bat in the American League, the National League has finally come around.

Since there are no formal announcements on which players will man the Designated Hitter position when games start counting for real, there are sure to be many surprises at the start of the season. However, there are clearly several National League bashers who are cut out for the position, especially a few who just jumped over to the NL.

With all of that being said, here’s a look at the top five National League DH candidates for the 2022 season.

5. Robinson Cano, New York Mets

This could be somewhat of a gamble since Cano was suspended throughout the 2021 season because of his second PED suspension. The 39-year-old is back in a new role as the team’s designated hitter and backup second baseman to Jeff McNeil.

What kind of hitter will Cano be after missing a year at his age? The gamble here is that Cano’s once letter-perfect swing will still be good enough to be productive. Cano had a .256/.307/.428 slash line before a marked improvement in the Covid-shortened 2020 season that preceded his suspension.

Cano understands that he will not be a starting defensive player any longer and that he has become one of the game’s elder statesmen. His teammates have welcomed him back in a positive fashion, and he is going to have every chance to show that he can be a valuable competitor.

The days when Cano could challenge the 30 HR mark are over, but he could approach 20 home runs if he can stay healthy and get off to a good start this season.

4. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

Blackmon made the National League All-Star team three consecutive times between 2017 and 2019, and also received the honor one other time in his career. Blackmon, now 35-years-old, went through a downturn last year, but there’s every reason to think that going from regular outfielder to designated hitter should work in his favor.

Blackmon had a slash line of .270/.351/.411 with 13 home runs in 150 games and 582 plate appearances a year ago. However, the 2019 season – forget about the Covid-shortened season of 2020 – saw Blackmon bash 32 home runs. His slash line of .314/.364./.576 is more in line with the rest of his career. The key to Blackmon’s success will be a decision to eschew playing in the outfield in favor of full-time DH.

3. Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers

The signing of Freddie Freeman by the Dodgers means that Muncy will eventually serve as the team’s DH, and there’s little doubt that he will be one of the best in the National League in that spot.

However, it may take him some time to get there. Muncy had elbow surgery last year, and he has recovered enough to play third base for a few innings in a spring training game Monday. Once Chris Taylor recovers from his elbow injury, he appears to be the better defensive choice at third base than Muncy, leaving him as the most obvious DH option for the Dodgers this season. 

Muncy has wonderful power, having belted 36 home runs last season, and 35 in both '18 and ’19. Muncy had a slash line of .249/.368/.527 last year, and he is one of the most patient hitters in the game. He had 83 walks last season, and he can reasonably be expected to have 75-90 walks this season.

Muncy may state his desire to play defense throughout the spring and perhaps into the early part of the season. However, he appears to be the kind of DH that will serve manager Dave Roberts’ needs quite well.

2. Nelson Cruz, Washington Nationals

The 41-year-old Cruz is one motivated older ballplayer. Not because of the $12 million he will earn this year with the Nationals, but because he is a little over one season away from reaching the 500 home run mark for his impressive career.

Cruz has hammered 30 or more home runs in seven of the last eight seasons, and he is coming off a season in which he hit .265/.334/.497 while playing for the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays. Cruz also hits the ball extremely hard consistently, as noted by his 52.5% hard-hit mark.

Unlike many power hitters, Cruz is an all-field hitter. He is coming off a season in which he pulled the ball 28.8% of the time, hits the ball to center 51.5% of the time, and pounds the ball to right field 19.7% of his at bats.

This all-field approach should ensure that Cruz continues to be productive as he moves to the National League.

1. Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies

Schwarber is the perfect candidate for the DH position because he is not an accomplished defensive player. He may be willing to play the outfield or first base, as he did for the Boston Red Sox last year after being traded by the Washington Nationals, but he is not good at it.

Schwarber is a power bat who has produced big numbers to this point, but the remarkable thing about him is that there is even more to his game. Take his numbers last year – Schwarber hit the ball hard 52.4% of the time – a remarkable achievement when compared to the MLB average of 38.7%. That portends big things in the middle of a dynamic Philadelphia lineup that includes Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto.

He also had a slash line of .266/.374/.554 with 32 home runs. Schwarber had a career-high of 38 home runs, and if he is playing DH in the majority of games for the Phillies, this is likely the year he busts through the 40 home run mark.

Schwarber gets on base, and he hits home runs. The approach of home run/base on balls/strikeout may be the cause of much angst for old-school fans, but Schwarber is in the process of raising it to an art form.

Photo: Getty Images