Barring a miracle, the Phillies, as well as the rest of the leagues, pitchers and catchers will most likely not be reporting to camp in the coming days. As the MLB lockout drags on, we can only look to the future as we await the conclusion of the current negotiations.
We have learned since the lockout has shifted its dark cloud over the game of baseball that the designated hitter will be joining the National League as we advance. The DH has been a staple of American League baseball since 1973. The National League has kept the tradition of allowing the pitcher to bat their turn in the lineup.
While many fans are split over the rule change, reports from baseball insiders covering the lockout have all but confirmed the National League would be adding the DH position from now on.
Like the rest of the National League, the Phillies will have to adapt their lineups to fit the DH. While the transition will be seamless, adding an everyday bat can be a challenge for a weak lineup. Spring Training, whenever it happens, will be the first indicator of the Phils plans going forward. The club will have several different avenues they can pursue to fill the newest spot in their lineup.
Rhys Hoskins seems the most logical fit for the Phillies DH in 2022. The Phils’ first basemen was having a bounce-back season at the plate in 2021 before an abdominal tear in August required him to miss the remainder of the year.
Hoskins hit 27 home runs last season and drove in 73 runs. He was a complementary piece to Bryce Harper in the Phillies’ lineup and forced pitchers to give Bryce pitches to hit. Rhys is known for his hot and cold streaks at the dish, and just having to focus on hitting should, in theory, allow him to work on his craft a little more. Letting him settle into a hitter-only role could help spike his numbers.
Another critical factor in moving Rhys Hoskins to the designated hitter spot would be the improvement in the defense. It is no secret that Rhys is not the best first baseman in terms of defensive talent. By all defensive metrics, Hoskins is a below-average fielder. While he puts in the effort and gives it his all, Rhys will not wake up one day and become a gold-glover. Moving the Big Fella to the DH slot allows young third basemen, Alec Bohm, to first base or leave the door open for a potential free-agent signing.
As mentioned previously, as a possible replacement for Rhys Hoskins at first base, another option for the DH spot is Alec Bohm. Alec Bohm struggled in his sophomore season after a fantastic rookie campaign that saw Bohm tie for second in NL Rookie of the Year.
The top prospect in the Phillies organization captured the hearts of many in 2020, and many fans expect Alec to return to that same hitter in 2022. The Phillies front office is hoping that comes true as well. While Bohm is not the prototypical designated hitter in terms of home runs and power, he is another player who would benefit from not playing defense.
Alec Bohm may play third base; however, Alec Bohm is not a third baseman. Not many people standing at six foot 5 inches can handle the hot corner, and Bohm is not one of them. Alec has proven to be a good athlete and has flashed a bit of leather at first base. Had his offensive struggles not taken over his game this season, Bohm would have been a logical fill-in for Hoskins after the season-ending injury.
Allowing Alec Bohm to develop his bat should be the top priority for the Phillies’ young infielder. Whether he plays first base or takes over at DH, he cannot be the starting third basemen on Opening Day (whenever that may happen).
A Platoon Situation
Another option for the Phillies to fill the DH spot would be a platoon. Rotating between guys like Hoskins, Bohm, JT Realmuto, and others could be the answer for the Phillies. Getting JT off his legs every once in a while would benefit both the player and team.
Realmuto DH-ing could keep his All-Star bat in the lineup on days he is not catching. The platoon potential gives Joe Girardi plenty of options as he can rest players and still keep them in the lineup.
Potential Free Agent Signing
If the Phillies were to add any free agents once the market re-opens, it is safe to say they could also throw their names in the hat for the DH role. Corner outfielders Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber are offensive players with little to no upside playing the field. Both players have played in the American League and have experience in the role.
One of the best-designated hitters over the last decade, Nelson Cruz, is an intriguing option to watch for as well. Cruz will be 41 once the season starts and turns 42 on July 1. He can still swing the bat well as he hit 32 home runs to pair with 86 RBIs in 2021.
While the Phillies have needs in the field, the lineup could use a power bat to support Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins. Dave Dombrowski should not hesitate to make a move if the Phils have to add that piece by signing a player or two in free agency.
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