Now that we will finally see some kind of baseball this year, will we see anything different? Obviously the answer is yes. There will only be 60 games. We will see a runner at second base to begin every inning of extra inning games. Just like Little League. This is being done to protect players from too much exposure to each other.
The playoff format will remain the same, 5 teams from each league will qualify. Rosters will be expanded to 26 after four weeks, with 60 players eligible to play in 2020. The 40-man roster plus a “hey, stay ready” group of 20 players for the season. Those other 34 or so players will be sent to some other facility to keep ready for a call-up. Guess they will play inter-squad games for the season somewhere close to their home city. Who knows? We will see a bunch of temporary changes, just for this pandemic.
The one thing to watch will be the addition of the DH now in the National League. Who will shine and who will flop will be interesting to general managers, field managers and scouts. Especially American League teams. It was inevitable that the DH would eventually come to the National League. The move may become permanent starting in 2021, so the value of DH type players will increase substantially.
There are plenty of players in the NL who, for a number of years, have been thought of, as potentially being very good DH candidates. The problem has always been that they were too valuable to those NL teams to trade, until they were too old to be of any interest to an AL team. My belief is that there are a number of young power hitters who could fit that bill, who just happen to be floundering around in the NL. This shortened season could act as a proving ground for potential DH stars.
The first one who jumps out at me is the Mets’ Dominic Smith, who will get a legitimate chance to show what he can do at DH, hopefully for the majority of the sixty games and possible playoffs. Power from the left side and only 25 years old has most scouts intrigued at the potential for another David Ortiz type of impact player for the future in the AL and the NL. Trust me, teams are interested and would be willing to give the Mets what they want for him.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a long road to becoming an Edgar Martínez or Ortiz but the potential is there. The adjustment from position player to DH is not easy and in many cases has frustrated players. But to me the frustration has been seen in mostly veterans who have been on the field most of their careers. I have a gut feeling that Smith, being only 25, can make that adjustment and be comfortable. This is a player who just needs to play every day.
Averaging only 162 at bats per year, over his three years in the majors, he has handled the disappointment of being stuck in “who am I land” with the Mets very well. He has the potential to be a 25 to 30 HR type DH. Those numbers bring championships to clubs in the AL. I would hate to see him go. He is well liked in that young clubhouse and a natural team cheerleader in the dugout and you hate to lose that on any team.
But I would also love to see him have a great career. Some place where he can show off his hitting talents. He can always play first base from time to time, his natural position. Yet I feel the role of DH could make him a star.