Who should become the San Diego Padres DH in 2022?

FORT MYERS, FL- MARCH 20: Nelson Cruz #23 of the Minnesota Twins looks on during a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 20, 2021 at the Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
FORT MYERS, FL- MARCH 20: Nelson Cruz #23 of the Minnesota Twins looks on during a spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 20, 2021 at the Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

One of the expected changes to major league baseball from a new collective bargaining agreement will be the addition of the universal designated hitter (DH) to the sport. It is a labor issue that both sides agree upon and will not hold up any potential deal or delay the start of spring training next month.

For the San Diego Padres, the front office will have to figure out how to utilize the DH position in regard to the everyday lineup. Once they get back to work, Padres general manager A.J. Preller will have some heavy lifting with re-tooling the roster.

Some of the possible moves include adding an outfielder or two, another starting pitcher and one more piece to the bullpen. But the biggest need for the Padres will be a DH once the lockout ends.

So, let’s take a look at the possible DH options for the Friars in 2022:

Why not Fernando Tatis Jr. as the San Diego Padres DH?

While the sub-heading may read as being a bit blasphemous to the Friar Faithful. The thought of moving Fernando Tatis Jr. to a part-time DH role is not far-fetched. It will offer him an opportunity to play injury-free next season.

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There are several reasons why this proposed move is not a bad idea. It allows new Padres manager Bob Melvin to use the DH position as an option of giving Tatis Jr. a half-day rest while keeping his bat in the lineup. This approach will preserve his body for the grind of a long baseball season.

There is no reason to remove Tatis Jr. from shortstop as he is one of the best defenders in the game. The analytics show that he is a plus 5 in defensive runs saved above team average for his career at short. But the occasional start at DH will limit the threat of him re-injuring his troublesome shoulder.

The move to DH only works if Tatis Jr. buys into the plan. Any apprehension, then the Padres must look elsewhere for a DH. Tatis Jr. is too important to disrupt his daily routine.

Left-hand hitting DH option: Jurickson Profar

Some American League clubs choose to use their bench players in a platoon at the DH position. Those additional at-bats will keep them fresh to contribute all season long.

The left-handed-hitting option in a possible Padres DH platoon would be Jurickson Profar. He has been invaluable as a utility player in his two years with the team. Some of the Friar Faithful already consider Profar a semi-regular. The reason being is his ability to play every infield and outfield position. His versatility helped the Padres survive the rash of injuries throughout the 2021 campaign.

The one negative in Profar’s game is his bat. His inconsistent production offers very little to a potent batting lineup. But Profar did have a career season with the Friars in 2020. He batted .278/.343/.428 with seven home runs and seven steals in 56 games.

If Profar could return to this production level in 2022, he is the perfect left-hand hitting option in a DH platoon.

Right-hand hitting DH option: Luis Campusano

The right-hand hitting option in a DH platoon could be Padres top-catching prospect Luis Campusano. The talented hitter showed an electric bat (.295/.365/.541) in 326 plate appearances at the Triple-A level last season.

Campusano’s splits in El Paso are eye-opening. He batted .278 with 13 home runs and 40 RBIs in 298 plate appearances against right-handed pitching. And in limited at-bats, Campusano batted .250 with two home runs and six RBIs against left-handed pitching. Obviously, he showed more power (.504 slugging percentage) against righties, but Campusano had a better on-base percentage (.364 to .342) against lefty pitching.

No question with a little more major league seasoning, Campusano could become the Friars full-time DH because of his natural hitting ability. But this is all contingent upon him making the roster coming out of spring training.

Free agent signing of Nelson Cruz

The resumption of free agency will coincide with the end of the lockout. And one of the early signings could be Nelson Cruz to the Padres as their full-time DH. No question, Cruz is a proven run-producer who can provide much-needed support for Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado in the Padres lineup.

Plus, there is plenty of power left in his bat. Cruz hit 32 home runs in 140 games played between the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays last season. The 41-year-old has hit 30 or more home runs in six of the last seven seasons. The lone season was the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign as Cruz hit 16 HRs in 53 games.

Besides being a perfect fit in the lineup, Cruz would be ideal for the Friars locker room as well. He is the perfect mentor for the young players on the roster. Cruz can become a calming voice during the tough stretches of a long baseball season.

Whatever your opinion is of the DH, it is here to stay. The style of baseball played in the National League will change with the addition of the DH in 2022. Now, managers will have to learn how to use this offensive advantage over a course of a 162-game campaign instead of a brief interleague interlude.

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For the San Diego Padres’ sake, Melvin has the experience to be creative with the DH position. Hopefully, the choices available can make an impact on the lineup.