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Ryan Braun among NL hitters who will benefit most from the universal DH change

Fred Zinkie
·Yahoo Fantasy Contributor
·5 min read
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Aside from the shortened schedule, the addition of the DH to National League squads is the biggest change since baseball took a collective break in March. The lengthening of NL lineups is going to harm virtually all Senior Circuit starters while simultaneously boosting the numbers from many hitters. And while some squads are poorly constructed for this unexpected change, others have the necessary depth to greatly prosper.

[Still time to join or create a fantasy baseball league for the short season]

Here is a complete list of the National Leaguers who figure to benefit significantly from added opportunities.

Joc Pederson, 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers must be relieved that their winter trade of Pederson to the Angels didn’t work out. The slugger went into Spring Training without a secure role, but he will now be in the lineup against all righties, against whom he smacked 36 long balls a year ago. Pederson is once again a mixed-league impact player, and the DH addition also gives moderate bumps to two of his teammates. A.J. Pollock will also play as often as his sometimes-brittle body allows, while second base prospect Gavin Lux has the opportunity to steer clear of a timeshare.

Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Even at 36-years-old and with a long injury history, Braun remains a dangerous hitter when in the lineup. After all, he has averaged 22 homers and 14 steals across 465 at-bats during the past six campaigns. As a DH, Braun could log a heavy workload and be a solid power-speed threat for a late-round pick.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers

Braun’s move to DH will make Smoak the Brewers everyday first baseman. The career .231 hitter is not going to be a batting average asset, but he is moving from one hitter-friendly park to another after averaging 28 homers per year as a Blue Jays regular from 2017-19. Power hitters are everywhere these days, but Smoak has become a sneaky late-round option in leagues with more than 12 teams.

[Positional Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds

The Reds will welcome the DH as a way to free up an outfield logjam that had Winker on the outside looking in. The lefty slugger is an on-base machine who has extreme career splits (.907 OPS vs. RHP, .543 OPS vs. LHP) and could hit high in the lineup when a righty is on the mound. Moving Winker to DH will also cause small bumps in playing time for fellow outfielders Nick Senzel and Shogo Akiyama.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, New York Mets

Like Braun, Cespedes is an aging and injury prone player who could benefit from a chance to serve as DH. The slugger has totaled just 432 at-bats since the outset of 2017, but he may still have the power skills that resulted in 66 homers across 2015-16. At the very least, the 34 year old is worth a dice roll in the final round of 2020 drafts.

Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets
Is Yoenis Cespedes worth a draft pick this year? (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B/3B, Washington Nationals

Among Nats with at least 300 at-bats last season, Kendrick ranked first in batting average (.344) and second in both on-base percentage (.395) and slugging percentage (.572). He now moves from utility player to a full-time lineup fixture who will split time between DH and various fielding spots. The veteran may not be able to match his 2019 production rates, but Kendrick could still have an impact on shallow leagues.

Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS/OF, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are likely to make liberal use of their DH slot, giving fielding breathers to veterans such as Daniel Murphy and freeing up an outfield logjam that has Raimel Tapia, Sam Hilliard and Hampson competing for one spot. The situation could end up being too jumbled for fantasy managers to exploit, but the one to watch is Hampson, who wrapped up last season by posting nine steals and a .903 OPS in September.

Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Miami Marlins

Despite being on a rebuilding club and having posted respectable numbers (.791 OPS) as a 26-year-old last season, Cooper arrived at spring training without a set role. He should now serve as the regular DH, or take over at first base and push Jesus Aguilar into that role. Although his upside isn’t sky-high, Cooper is a career .280 hit with respectable power skills.

Tommy Edman, 2B/3B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Edman could have succeeded as a super-utility player, but his playing time should now be locked in as the Cards regular third baseman. Veteran Matt Carpenter is a strong candidate to serve as DH, which makes Edman a solid speed source with a reasonable ADP of 142.2 if he can repeat his hitting prowess (.304 average, .850 OPS) from his rookie year.

Steven Souza Jr., OF, Chicago Cubs

Souza is a bit of a long-shot for mixed-league value, but veteran fantasy managers will remember that he produced 30 homers and 16 steals in 2017. Previously set for a bench role, the 31-year-old could now share LF and DH responsibilities with Kyle Schwarber. The opportunity is there, and time will tell if injuries have robbed Souza of his exciting skill set.

Jay Bruce, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

Bruce tends to blow hot and cold, but we can’t dispute the power stroke of someone with 312 career homers, 26 of which came in a part-time role last season. Bruce has struggled to hit for average of late, and he doesn’t yet warrant a mixed-league roster spot. But at the very least, the southpaw slugger could be a cheap power source off the waiver wire when the Phillies face a string of mediocre righties.

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