Cubs: Expect David Ross to deploy a DH carousel in 2022
Going into 2022, the Chicago Cubs really lack consistent power bats to fit the newly established universal DH. Of course, it’s not too late to add someone to help out in that regard, either. Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, the two best all-bat, no defense types on the market are still available, but both are unlikely to end up in Cubs uniforms. There are cheaper options, like Jorge Soler, but there’s no telling if that’s the route they want to go either.
What if they don’t sign a true DH at all? Well, it seems like third-year manager David Ross could run a DH by committee. They could mostly use the spot for utility, getting guys off their feet after days of play and playing to the strengths of some of their newly acquired pieces.
It would be right in line with how Ross ran the Cubs during the shortened 2020 season. Obviously, it was a different scenario. The universal DH was implemented temporarily to combat pitcher injuries in the shortened schedule, so there wasn’t exactly the time to find a true DH for the team. Still, Ross incorporated the role to best help Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and othersstay fresh while still providing offense. With how they’re set up this year, they look poised to take that approach once more.
The Chicago Cubs could forgo a true DH and still succeed in 2022
I wouldn’t consider this the best strategy considering the lack of power in the Cubs lineup, but if they sign better bats to cover their remaining holes on the field, it opens the door for the DH to allow Ross to rest guys and play to their matchups. Assuming he doesn’t get shipped off, Willson Contreras is the prime candidate to benefit from this. Ross can place him at DH from time to time to keep his bat in the lineup while avoiding the large workloads he’s dealt with the past few years.
Nico Hoerner could really benefit from this strategy too. Given the bevy of injuries he suffered last year, the Cubs could play it safe, rolling with the former first-rounder as the designated hitter, keeping him healthy and still getting his bat in there. The same goes for Frank Schwindel who could give way to Alfonso Rivas on defense. From there, the list of potential DHs gets even longer, including other mediocre defenders like Ian Happ, Clint Frazier, Harold Ramirez, and Nick Madrigal if they add another middle infielder.
This is all to say a metric ton of players could play DH in Chicago depending on the situation. Even FanGraphs’ depth chart predicts eight players getting time at the position with four – Frazier, Contreras, Ramirez, and Schwindel – taking the lion’s share. This mix and match approach to get the best out of everyone has a Tampa Bay Rays approach that can work. Moreover, it works to the benefit of the high upside, high-risk guys, giving them the runway to realize their potential.
Under Ross’ management, this team is built to survive without a true DH. That bevy of options allows the Cubs to treat it as a utility position to keep everyone fresh while constantly putting out the best defense possible.