Designated hitter options still on the free agent market for the Arizona Diamondbacks to pursue

The Arizona Diamondbacks still need to find a designated hitter, so who is still out there for them to go after?

Oct 7, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez (28)
Oct 7, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez (28) / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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Aug 30, 2023; New York City, New York, USA;  New York Mets designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach (32)
Aug 30, 2023; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach (32) / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Platoon options

Brandon Belt is the best potential platoon option. Last year, 365 of his 404 plate appearances came against RHP (a touch over 90%), and batted .256/.375/.515 with a .381 wOBA and 146 wRC+ against opposite-handed pitching. Belt ranked top 15 in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ among the 203 batters with at least 300 plate appearances vs RHP.

He only saw 39 plate appearances against left-handed pitching but registered a wRC+ of just 64. There was a worrying aspect of Belt’s season, and that was strikeouts. Even though he was a top 15 batter last year vs. righties, he also struck out over a third of the time (34.5%, to be exact).

Joc Pederson is another potential left-handed hitting platoon designated hitter option. He stepped to the plate 375 times against right-handers while batting .241/.351/.435. This was a down year for Pederson. He registered .337 wOBA and 115 wRC+ against righties, and it was just the second time he faced opposite-handed pitching at least 300 times and had a sub-120 wRC+.

But Pederson did have a .368 xwOBA on the year. His 13.4% walk rate was the best he’s posted since his 2015 rookie season, while his 20.9% strikeout rate has thus far been the best of his career. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and launch angle from 2023 aren’t much different from 2022, so there’s a good chance we could see him rebound next season.

Belt can occasionally play first base, and Pederson can work as a 5th outfielder, but if the D-Backs want to go full-on part-time DH, Daniel Vogelbach would be one option. 303 of his 319 plate appearances were against right-handed pitching. He batted .246/.353/.427 with a .342 wOBA and 119 wRC+. Vogelbach had a respectable 24.1% strikeout rate but had a strong 13.5% walk rate.

So far, we have only looked at left-handed hitters who can hit right-handed pitching well. But for a platoon to work, you need a right-handed hitter who can hit left-handed pitching well. One of the better platoon options vs LHP is Garrett Cooper. Cooper was consistently a solid batter from 2019 through 2022 but had a down year in 2023. He is now looking to rebound in 2024.

Cooper stepped to the plate 112 times against left-handed pitching this year but hit extremely well. In this relatively small sample size, he hit .324/.374/.529 with a .385 wOBA and 145 wRC+. 345 of his plate appearances were against same-handed pitching, but he had just an 80 wRC+ when facing a righty. However, it’s not as if Cooper hasn’t hit right-handed pitching well in the past. He had a wRC+ above 115 in ‘19, ‘21, and ‘22.

One player who could serve as a part-time DH/4th outfielder for the D-Backs is Aaron Hicks. Hicks had 74 plate appearances vs LHP this past year but had 17 hits, including three home runs and 11 walks. It is a small sample size of less than 100 plate appearances, but Hicks has a better career OPS vs LHP (.753) than when he faces RHP (.702). Hicks’ defense is far from what it once was, but could be solid in a 4th outfield capacity.

Another part-time DH/4th outfield option on the free agent market is Randal Grichuk. Grichuk saw 134 plate appearances vs. LHP, batting .328/.388/.607 with a 150 wRC+. His 9% walk rate was above league average; however, he also kept strikeouts to a minimum with just a 12.7% K-rate. These numbers are much worse than the 79 wRC+, 5% walk rate, and 23.4% K-rate he put up against RHP.

If I had to choose two of these players, it would probably be a Belt/Grichuk platoon. Take it for what you will, but if you combine Belt’s numbers vs. RHP and Grichuk’s numbers vs. LHP from last season, you get a .276/.379/.541 batter in 499 plate appearances. Both can also provide solid back-up and depth in the outfield and first base.