In a dizzying offseason filled with an array of uncertainties, the designated hitter position remains no different for the Angels.
In a rehab year, Shohei Ohtani slashed .286/.343/.505 for a 123 wRC+ last year, taking up the bulk of DH plate appearances (106 games) and producing 1.8 fWAR. The Angels, coincidentally, combined for 0 fWAR outside of Ohtani at DH, ranking 9th in the American League in overall production there.
In 2020, it’s still primarily Ohtani at the slot, though more batter’s box appearances will be had by other non-Ohtani players this season.
- Projected mainstay: Shohei Ohtani, mostly
- Other options: Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella, Albert Pujols
- Projected fWAR: 2.6 (5th)
The Japanese-born superstar, Ohtani takes the cake in plate appearances to slug with 490 PA’s to a tune of an above-average 128 wRC+. Ohtani gets on base well and is able to both spray and drive the ball to the opposite field, with 31% of balls hit to right field and nearly 50% of balls having been hit hard. He’ll have to improve his ground-ball laden approach, as his launch angle of 6.8 degrees ranks the 23rd lowest among 320 players last season (min. 250 PA).
Ohtani’s presence in the lineup will come on days where he is not pitching (which he’s slated to do starting mid-May), penciled in 4-5 games a week. While Maddon will conceivably tinker with lineups, Ohtani is a more-than-capable leadoff hitter. With the speed to wreak havoc or at the very least, distract the opposing pitcher, Ohtani is a worthy batsmen to sport in the top-third of the order.
It’s highly conceivable that Justin Upton receives the remainder of time here. In a scenario where Tommy La Stella performs at an above-average clip at second base and David Fletcher/Brian Goodwin are both deserving of every day playing time, Upton might be the one to be booted to the bench in light of his defensive promiscuities. Upton had a whopping -13 defensive runs saved in ’19 before being sidelined from turf toe in just 63 games played. That’s impressive, just not in a good way. And lest we forget the coming of Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell, two projected well above-average outfielders who will both be knocking on the door of the majors in short order.
The future of the DH position depends on a lot of variables, but for now, it’s Shohei Ohtani’s time to slug. Everyone else can sit back and enjoy the Sho.