Will NL DH Help Catcher Plate Appearances: Recapping 2020 Data and Looking Forward To 2022

Mike Kurland Dives Into Catcher usage as a DH in the NL and looks suggests names who will benefit from the DH in the NL

There are frequent talks of catchers gaining more at-bats because of the DH spot in the NL. However, this might only be true for a handful of catchers. The catchers that are good hitters. 2020 is our only data to look back at and see how teams in the NL handled the DH role.

It is too early to say exactly how the DH role will work or if we even get it in the DH but below I outlined how many times an NL team utilized a catcher in the DH role in 202 and then looked at their current roster (which is also subject to change). The idea is to look at how likely the trend from 2020 might be to continue (or discontinue) if catchers were utilized.

Here is a sheet I created to look at how many times in 2020 a catcher was utilized as a DH for an NL team, who the catcher was and how many times a team utilized a catcher in interleague games.


NL East

Atlanta Braves

The Braves utilized a catcher in the DH spot in six games. Every time it was Travis d’Arnaud and if it was not him it was typically Marcel Ozuna.

As the roster currently stands there is not much competition for those DH at-bats and whenever d’Arnaud needs a rest day behind the plate he can gain added at-bats as the DH.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Travis d’Arnaud and Marcell Ozuna

Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins were one of five NL teams to not utilize a catcher at the DH position. They mostly utilized Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper both of whom are returning for 2022. This is also a team rumored to be in on a few more players and it could get crowded before long.

In 2021 they utilized Nick Fortes at DH three times. But it was the final week of the season so I am not sure we can look too much into this one.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Garrett Cooper

New York Mets

The Mets utilized a catcher just once at the DH spot and it was early in the 2020 season. They have plenty of hitters and could simply platoon from said DH spot. They mixed and matched throughout the 2020 season in general with the DH. We saw a mix on Robinson Cano, Pete Alonso Dominic Smith among others in said DH spot in 2020. No reason to think the Mets won’t do something similar in 2022.

Recently the Mets have been open about trading Jeff McNeil which would help the Mets open up more at-bats in the DH spot.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Dominic Smith

Philadelphia Phillies

No surprise here as the Phillies had the second-most games with a catcher at DH. They have one of the best hitting catchers in the league with J.T. Realmuto and with limited options on the bench, we should see added plate appearances for Realmuto.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: J.T. Realmuto

Washington Nationals

Only utilizing the DH twice for a catcher in 2020, I am not sure if that will change. However, as the roster currently stands the only players who would get in the way of Keibert Ruiz gaining extra at-bats would be Victor Robles and/or Andrew Stevenson. Both could be platooned from the DH spot thus creating a log jam for Ruiz. I am not sold on Ruiz getting too many added at-bats.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Victor Robles and Andrew Stevenson

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

This should not be a surprise to anyone but Willson Contreras led all NL catchers with 18 DH appearances in 2020. If you include Victor Caratini, who was the backup catcher and DH, they had a catcher in the DH spot for a total of 34 games.

Caratini is no longer on the team of course, but as long as the Cubs do not trade Contreras there is no reason to believe this would not benefit him the most. They do have Yan Gomes on the roster and that would allow the flexibility to have Contreras get a few extra days off and the DH spot would allow for Contreras to keep his bat in the order. However, if Contreras is traded it would likely be to a contender and this would not likely sustain.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Willson Contreras and Harold Ramirez

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds only had a catcher be the DH twice and both were Tyler Stephenson. However, Stephenson only played in four games that season and Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali were handling catcher duties. The Reds are one of the few teams that have more than enough bats to go around that Stephenson is not a guarantee for added at-bats given the other options. As it currently stands Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel, and Aristides Aquino all can be utilized as DH. Unless they make a trade to open up some at-bats via the DH spot, I don’t foresee a clear path to added at-bats for Stephenson.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Mike Moustakas

The Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals did not utilize a catcher in a single game in 2020.

Most likely to benefit from the DH for the Brewers: Mike Brosseau and Keston Hiura

Most likely to benefit from the DH for the Pirates: Michael Chavis and Kevin Newman

Most likely to benefit from the DH for the Cardinals: Paul DeJong and Juan Yepez

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

This total was a bit misleading. They had a catcher as a DH six times, however, that is counting Daulton Varsho’s five DH appearances to Carson Kelly’s one. Varsho technically did catch for them a bit and will continue to do so but he was utilized as a DH, catcher, and in the outfield. He should find himself in a similar role in 2022. Although he should likely end up in a regular role in the outfield to start the year one would think.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Seth Beer and Jordan Luplow

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are going to play around and mix and match the DH spot most likely. They gave Elias Diaz two DH appearances in 2020 but that was toward the end of the season. They gave at-bats to the likes of Matt Kemp that year even. I would expect them to fill it from the depth of their roster and of course sign a veteran presence to take over that spot (or simply put C.J. Cron there).

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Raimel Tapia and Connor Joe

Los Angeles Dodgers

With Will Smith at catcher and them openly wanting to rest him you would think this is a team that makes a ton of sense to DH him. In 2020, they regularly rested Smith while not utilizing him as the DH. He has had issues with LHP to this point in his career and the Dodgers are a team that would be more likely to utilize platoons at the DH given their typical depth on offense. However, Smith did get the two DH appearances near the end of the 2020 season and in there 10 interleague games, they allowed a catcher to DH four times and three of those times were Will Smith.

Also in his favor is that the bench is currently littered with left-handed bats.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Will Smith and Gavin Lux

San Diego Padres

The Padres utilized a catcher as the DH in three games in 2020. All of which were filled by Austin Nola who should be back and is currently the assumed starter of the team. However, they have Victor Caratini, and Jorge Alfaro on the bench and Luis Campusano who will likely be up sooner than later so a DH in the NL would likely lead to a catcher being utilized as one almost by default here. This is another team likely to make more moves when the lockout ends.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Austin Nola (for now) and Ha-Seong Kim

San Francisco Giants

I would not expect a ton of use from the catcher spot here for the Giants DH. IN 2020 they were without Buster Posey and only utilized a catcher once as the DH. Unless Joey Bart proves to be a good bat I expect the Giants will utilize a platoon situation to yet another spot on this roster unless someone takes it and runs with it.

Most likely to benefit from the DH: Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf, and Austin Slater

We hope you enjoyed this article. You can follow the author on twitter @Mike_Kurland. The link will take you to his page.

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