For teams in the AL, the designated hitter position is either a luxury or a gaping hole to fill. Essentially, you want your DH to be a middle of the line-up guy, one who can hit for power and drive in runs, who hopefully does minimal damage in the field when he gives a position player a day off. For a team like the Yankees, abundant in older, hard-hitting players, the DH puts them at an advantage. That being said, no matter who the Yankees’ DH is in 2014, they will still be just a bit behind, as the AL East possesses the best DH in the game. Here are my 2014 AL East Designated Hitter rankings:
5. The Baltimore Orioles. As of today, Nolan Reimold is slated to be the Orioles DH in 2014. At 29, he is coming off back-to-back injury riddled seasons and this may very well be his last chance. Prior to the first 2012 injury, Reimold showed signs of legitimate play, hitting .313 with 5 HRs in 16 games before going down for the year. He has never had more than 358 at bats or 15 HRs though, and that is most likely why they brought in Delmon Young on a minor league contract. Young has legitimate 20-home run power and can drive in runs, but it is his non-baseball issues that have plagued him. At 27, if he can get it together, he should easily supplant Reimold as the every day DH.
4. Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays. With last year’s addition of David DeJesus, it looks like Joyce will get a shot at the every day DH role for the Rays. His power numbers are pretty consistent, hitting 19, 17, and 18 HRs the last three years, but his average and RBI totals are all over the board. Playing at one position for the first time in his career could help stabilize him and push him to the next level.
3. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays. Lind bounced back from an up and down 2012 to post a .288 average, with 23 HRs, 67 runs, and 67 RBI in ’13. Those numbers are right around his career norms (.257 average, 21 home runs, 68 RBIs, 51 runs), which aren’t eye-popping numbers, but safe and consistent. It appears that Edwin Encarnacion will be the every day first baseman, which moves Lind back to the full-time DH role. His first base experience is a huge advantage to spell Encarnacion and keep both bats in the line-up.
2. Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees. There will most likely be a revolving door at DH for the Yankees this year, as McCann, Texiera, Jeter, and Beltran will need days off the field, but Soriano should see the majority of at bats as the Yankees DH. All Soriano has ever done is hit, and when he returned home to New York last year, he did just that. In 58 games after being traded back to the Yankees he hit .256, with 17 HRs, and 50 RBI. Throw on top his career norms (.272 average, 27 HRs, and 76 RBI) and the fact that he has always been a defensive liability, you have the perfect fit for a DH at Yankee Stadium.
1. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox. Oh, Big Papi. Harold Baines put the DH on the map. Edgar Martinez took the position to the next level. David Ortiz? He made it cool to be a DH. He smashes the ball like The Big Hurt used to, but he seems to always get it done on the biggest stages. He is the kind of guy Yankees fans loathe, but would immediately embrace in pinstripes.
Even at 37, if David Ortiz is healthy, he’s guaranteed to get you right around 30 HRs, close to 100 RBI, and hit around .300, which is right on par with his 11-year averages with the Red Sox (34 HRs, 108 RBI, and a .292 batting average). Of his 431 HRs, 11 are walk-off, 40 are game tying, and 149 took the lead. Big Papi doesn’t just hit, he hits when you need to him. Ortiz is the top AL East DH and hands down, the number one overall DH in baseball.