Social Navigation

For Fun: Thinking Through the Cubs’ Designated Hitter Situation in Future Years

Analysis and Commentary

dan vogelbach smokiesWhen news surfaced that Commissioner Rob Manfred said the NL adopting the designated hitter was gaining “momentum,” many minds naturally thought about how that move could benefit the Cubs moving forward.

It makes sense considering the abundance of young, cost-controlled hitters coming through the Cubs’ minor league pipeline who would be blocked if it wasn’t for the designated hitter rule.

If and when the National League adopts the designated hitter (in 2017 at the earliest), the Cubs could have plenty of options they could use to fill the role.

Let’s have a little fun with a stream of thoughts …

1. Kyle Schwarber seems like the perfect candidate to be the Cubs’ first full-time designated hitter if and when it becomes universally adopted. He spent time at three defensive positions (catcher, left field, right field) in 2015, but wasn’t particularly good at any of those spots. However, Schwarber has been described as the kind of hard worker who wants to prove he isn’t one-dimensional. And if he was able to stick in a spot defensively, that could open up a spot for …

2. Jorge Soler, whose -7.0 UZR was the worst on the team, while -8 DRS ranked tied for 16 among 21 qualifying right fielders who played at least 800 defensive innings, according to FanGraphs. Solar played 825.2 defensive innings in 2015. He has had some health concerns flare up on his way to The Show and even during his rookie season.


Slotting Soler as the designated hitter would eliminate opportunities for him to get hurt in the field and also allow him to stay warm between plate appearances. It’s not as if Soler can’t turn into an adequate defensive outfielder, it’s just that he can be a defense liability at times. But not as much as …

3. Dan Vogelbach, whose only chance at breaking camp with the big league team in the near future would seem to be as the designated hitter, because he plays only one position. Unfortunately for him, it happens to be the one spot on the field where Anthony Rizzo plays. Vogelbach said he prides himself on not striking out (evidenced by his career 16.5 K% in the minors) and making the most of his plate appearances by making solid contact.


As we learned in the postseason, contact rate can be very valuable. So much so, the Cubs prioritized it by spending $240 million for 12 years worth of Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. But if the Cubs wanted to go with a good contact bat already on the 25-man roster, they might be wise to go with …

4. Chris Coghlan, whose 81.9 percent contact rate in 2015 ranks second behind Anthony Rizzo (83.1%) among returning Cubs. Steamer projects Coghlan to post a 10.1 BB% and 19.4 K%, which are respectable numbers in line with what he has done in his 666-game career. If Coghlan were still with the Cubs when the DH comes to the NL, he might be a fit to see some starts there.

Much like Schwarber, Coghlan plays several positions, but isn’t great at any of them. So, moving him out of the field of play would probably benefit …



5. The Cubs defense. Because maybe the answer to the designated hitter conundrum involves calling up Albert Almora, the No. 5 rated prospect in the Cubs system and one of the best defensive prospects in baseball. Almora could very conceivably be ready by 2017.

Putting Almora in center and shifting Heyward to right (did you see his range out there?) would make the Cubs defense better at two spots. Naturally, this would be most beneficial to …

6. Cubs pitchers, for obvious reasons. With Heyward and Almora patrolling the outfield, Cubs pitchers would be all the more at ease when a ball is hit in the air in the outfield. With quality outfield defense accounted for, that naturally takes us back to…

7. Kyle Schwarber. Or Jorge Soler. Or possibly even Daniel Vogelbach, Chris Coghlan or anyone else on a 40-man roster that features ample versatility – why even have one, single, dedicated DH? However selected on a given day, an extra bat in the line up definitely could help the Cubs in their quest for success.


Besides, isn’t run creation what the designated hitter is all about any way?


Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.