After coming to an agreement with the players association, MLB has introduced a few rule changes for the 60-game 2020 season. Perhaps none of them is more intriguing than having every team in the National League have a designated hitter for the upcoming season, including the St. Louis Cardinals.
The big picture: With MLB implementing a universal DH for the 2020 season, these are the most likely candidates to be the Cardinals’ DH.
A steady source of good wood: Matt Carpenter
For a better part of the 2010’s, Matt Carpenter was the Cardinals’ most consistent hitter. During 2012-2018 which saw him earn three All-Star game appearances Carpenter:
- Averaged 19 home runs with 69 RBI
- Had a slash line of .275/.377/.471 with a OPS of .849
- Led the majors in runs (126), hits (199) and doubles (55) in 2013
Carpenter was also a fringe-MVP candidate in 2018, hitting 36 home runs and driving in 81 run. But Carpenter failed to carry his momentum over to last season. He:
- Hit 15 home runs with 46 RBI
- Slashed .226/.334/.392 with an OPS of .726
- Played in 129 games, the fewest he’s played since 2016
Whether 2019 was an aberration or a sign of things to come remains to be seen. But it will be fascinating to see how he and the Cardinals move forward, considering he signed an extension in 2019.
Also, he isn’t the most defensively capable player. But Carpenter can play first, second or third base. His age (34) doesn’t make it any easier for him as he looks to bounce back after a below-average 2019 season, at least by his standards.
The man with the golden bat: Paul Goldschmidt
A prolific hitter with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Goldschmidt seemingly was the answer to the Cardinals’ first base problem. The 31-year-old-Goldschmidt didn’t disappoint in his first year with the Cardinals.
- Hit 34 home runs and drove in 97 runs
- Slashed .260/.346/.476 with an .821 OPS
- Played steady defense at first base
Though his averages are down from his days in Arizona, Goldschmidt still showed that he has massive pop in his bat. His presence as a defensive anchor helped as the three-time Gold Glove winner helped the Cardinals rise from 28th (-18) in “outs above average” to first (42).
With such a steady presence at first base, it would be wise to keep Goldschmidt put.
The super utility player: Tommy Edman
A rookie in 2019, the 25-year-old Edman burst on to the scene, playing almost every conceivable position. Along with being able to play at third base, second base and in the outfield, Edman was a great all-around player as he:
- Hit 11 home runs and drove in 36 in only 92 games
- Slashed .304/.350/.500 with an .850 OPS
- Was second on the team in stolen bases, going 15 of 16
His ability to hit on both sides of the plate is also a key for him moving forward. Although he’ll never be a superb third baseman defensively like the San Diego Padres’ Manny Machado or the Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, his arm strength is still better than Carpenter’s, especially as it looks more and more like Carpenter is declining.
Nevertheless, Edman’s age, his ability to hit for average and his solid defensive ability makes him a prime candidate to start at third base in 2020.
A player with a ton of pop: Tyler O’Neill
In his two years with the Cardinals, O’Neill has been shuttling back and forth between the minors and majors. As such, the 25-year-old O’Neill has only played a combined 121 games. Much of that has to do with the logjam in the outfield, as there is no room for all the outfielders.
That said, O’Neill’s power is what intrigues the Cardinals’ front office. If his numbers were extrapolated to a full season, O’Neill would be averaging:
- 19 home runs with 52 RBI
- .258/.307/.454 with an OPS of .761
- 15 doubles
Even though O’Neill isn’t the most defensively-gifted outfielder, his ability to drive the ball out of the park makes him an interesting prospect as a DH. He needs to work on limiting his strikeouts, but considering how young he is, O’Neill has ample time to work on his plate discipline.
An intriguing infielder: Rangel Ravelo
After only playing 29 games as a rookie in 2019, the 28-year-old Ravelo has shown some promise with the bat. During his short time with the major league club, Ravelo hit two homeruns and drove in seven.
Because of his lack of playing time, he only hit .205/.256/.410 with a .666 OPS. Considering how durable Goldschmidt has been at first base, it stands to reason why Ravelo hasn’t found any playing time. Still, maybe consistent playing time as the Cardinals’ DH might serve him some good, allowing him to properly show off the power that had been sitting on the bench in 2019.
The bottom line: Matt Carpenter is the best choice
Taking everything into account, the 34-year-old Carpenter would make the most sense as the Cardinals DH. Allowing him to focus solely on hitting might help him get his averages back to his pre-2019 days.
Additionally, by having Carpenter as the DH, that would allow Edman to have a full-time position at third and could help O’Neill get more playing time in the outfield. Meanwhile, Ravelo would still be relegated to a bench role as Goldschmidt remains a fixture over at first.
In all, Carpenter being the Cardinals’ DH can only help him at this stage of his career. He’s not the defensive player he once was and if all goes well, Carpenter as the DH could potentially help the Cardinals win another NL Central crown.