Will there be a baseball season in 2020? Who knows.
If there is a season though, it will certainly look different. Last week, Patricia Beninato highlighted what the league might potentially look like in a shortened form. Because teams would be separated into the Grapefruit and Cactus league format, a universal designated hitter would be implemented.
For a lot of fans in Pittsburgh, this is quite the polarizing topic. Having said that, I’m certain that even the staunchest opposers would welcome the DH if it meant having baseball this season.
In my opinion, the Pirates have a few different lineup options with the DH present.
SS Kevin Newman
LF Bryan Reynolds
DH Josh Bell
RF Gregory Polanco
1B Jose Osuna
3B Colin Moran
2B Adam Frazier
C Jacob Stallings
CF Jarrod Dyson
First things first. Lineups aside, Bell will be the full-time DH in 2020. Hopefully this ends up being a win-win for the Pirates. Overall, the infield defense improves and Bell gets to focus on hitting alone.
The DH coming to the National League was always inevitable. In future seasons, I doubt the NL would go back to having pitchers hit after having a season where every MLB team used the DH. If we have a season, I’d imagine the universal DH would be here to stay. Because of that, I would not worry about stunting Bell’s “progression” defensively.
With Osuna as the new everyday first baseman, this lineup option gives the Pirates the most offensive potential. Last season, Osuna hit .264/.310/.456 with 10 home runs in 285 plate appearances. With a wRC+ of 97, he was a slightly below-average hitter league-wide. For the Pirates though, a 97 wRC+ tied Osuna for the fifth-best hitter on the Pirates (minimum 250 PA). Getting this bat in the lineup every day would make the offense slightly less terrible.
1B Moran/Osuna (platoon)
SS Cole Tucker
This is the more defensively focused lineup. Yes, I am aware that Tucker was optioned to AAA last month. For this exercise though, we’ll assume that he got called up. A lot of fans seem to get upset at the notion of moving Newman off of shortstop. I’m sorry, but Tucker is just flat out better defensively at the position. For this lineup, Newman and Frazier are interchangeable at second and third base. I’m confident that either would be a major upgrade defensively at third base over the range-lacking Moran. Moran and Osuna would man the first base platoon.
Out of these two lineups, I prefer the first. Score as many runs as possible early on. Defensive replacements can always enter late in the game.