In the second part of the Braves roster battles, we examine a position that we have never had to before with the Braves — designated hitter. If you’re not aware yet, the universal DH is here, which wasn’t expected when teams were making decisions last offseason. Fortunately, the Braves are in a fantastic spot with a multitude of options to choose from based on matchups and who is hot. To view the first installment of this series, click the link below.
DH Options Versus Lefties
Duvall put up otherworldly numbers in AAA Gwinnett last year after a miserable 2018 campaign. It took a while for him to receive another shot in the majors, but he made it count when he did, smashing ten homers in just 41 games. His performance earned him a spot on the playoff roster, where he turned out to be perhaps the most reliable bat outside of Ronald Acuna Jr. in the NLDS.
Over his entire career, Duvall has been a streaky hitter, so we will see which version of him shows up in 2020. If its anything like the one that smashed 42 homers in 142 games between Gwinnett and Atlanta, he should be utilized a lot this season as the DH.
Riley has to be one of the most significant X-Factors this season. When at the top of his game, he’s a 40+ home run guy at any level, but we saw him lose all of his confidence in the second half of last year. Although that isn’t all that atypical for a rookie, especially one that got off to a scorching hot start as Riley did.
The 23-year-old will compete with Johan Camargo for the everyday third base job. But even if he wins it outright, I imagine he will be utilized as the DH some games. I have all the confidence in the world Riley will bounce back and have a fantastic 2020, becoming an everyday player for the Braves, but there is the possibility he finds himself merely as a bench bat if he cannot turn around his woes from the second half of last year.
If Riley does win the third base job, the Braves can turn to Johan Camargo against righties and lefties. The utility man had a difficult time adjusting to his bench role last season, but with the DH in place, he should be able to receive everyday at-bats, regardless of who is starting most of the games at third base.
DH Options Versus Righties
Re-signing Nick Markakis to a one-year, $4 million deal now looks genius with the universal DH in place. The 14-year veteran is as consistent as they come at the plate, smacking 160+ hits in 11 out of his 14 seasons. Against right-handed pitching, Brian Snitker should have no problem putting him into the lineup. There is a chance that Snitker chooses to play Markakis in the field and DH Marcell Ozuna in this case scenario. However, the point remains the same. Markakis will have to earn these starting at-bats, even against righties.
Riley has the type of upside that can force Brian Snitker to insert him into the lineup every night, whether at third base or as the DH. If he plays like he did when he was initially called up, there will be no keeping him off the field.
Being that Camargo is a switch hitter, he could be the DH against lefties or righties. With the season being so short and every game a must-win, Snitker will be forced to roll with the hot hand. That could end up meaning both Camargo and Riley playing every day.