As the Washington Nationals prepare to play a two-game set at Guaranteed Rate Field, we examine the best candidates for the designated hitter spot.
The Washington Nationals are playing in an American League ballpark for the first time since June 26 of last season.
Of course, playing in an American League ballpark means the Nats drop the pitcher’s spot in the batting order and add a designated hitter.
Because it has been such a long time since the last interleague road game, and because the roster has undergone much turnover since June of 2018, we are going to examine the best DH options for the Nats to use today and tomorrow.
#1 — Howie Kendrick
One of the most pleasant surprises on this 2019 Nationals team, Howie Kendrick is a no-brainer option to be the DH for at least one game. Kendrick is turning 36 next month and is coming off of a torn Achilles injury.
It has been a struggle all season for manager Davey Martinez balancing Kendrick’s obvious boost to his lineup while being mindful of the wear and tear it will take on his body.
Keeping Kendrick healthy is of the utmost importance if the Nats want to make a push at getting back to .500. Giving his legs a rest, while still getting him four plate appearances makes him the best possible candidate to DH.
#2 — Kurt Suzuki
It may seem strange to see two catchers in the same batting order, but it is something the Nats should consider. Kurt Suzuki is a superior hitter to Yan Gomes. Since the start of the 2018 season, Suzuki is slugging .450 compared to Gomes’ .416.
In addition, Suzuki is a worse defender, as his -3 defensive runs saved is much lower than Gomes’ +4. Gomes is also the better pitch framer, which benefits the pitchers even more.
#3 — Juan Soto
Since his call-up last May, Juan Soto has been a workhorse for the Nationals. It might not be a terrible idea to give him a breather one of these days. By making Soto the DH, it will provide Michael A. Taylor a chance to get on the field. For all his faults, Taylor is arguably the best defensive outfielder the Nats have, so getting him out there while sitting Soto down could make sense.
This won’t be the last time we have a DH conversation. In fact, in just over two weeks, the Nats will visit the Detroit Tigers for a three-game series. Might Max Scherzer lobby to get in this conversation too with revenge on his mind?