The last offensive position yet to rank in the AL East is that of designated hitter. Several teams in the division will use the same player for the majority of games at DH, while others will use various players.
Most of the players named here may also start at other positions. And so, my rule of not listing a starter at another position goes out the window here.
But one player clearly stands above the rest.
1. Boston Red Sox
Let’s face it, if the Red Sox need a DH, Ortiz is likely to be that player. As I write this, I think he just got another hit of the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching. All kidding aside, his bat is too valuable not to have in the lineup, but he just can’t play first base anymore, although the Red Sox do try to run him out there in interleague games, as they did in six games last year. The 38-year-old is a nine-time All-Star and was a complete monster in both the World Series and the ALDS last year, winning World Series MVP honors. A lifetime .287 hitter, Ortiz has hit .309 or better in each of the last three seasons. Factor in the 30 home runs, the 38 doubles for a guy with no speed, and Ortiz is still as formidable at the plate as ever. He won’t win points for his charm (just ask the Orioles’ visiting clubhouse phone, but Ortiz is a masher in the truest sense.
Napoli and Nava are both expected to start at other positions, and let’s not forget, this is Big Papi’s position.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees DH situation could be a who’s who of their aging veterans. But it is Soriano who is expected to be the regular DH. He provided a big boost once acquired by the Yankees last year, hitting 17 home runs in 58 games and driving in 50 runs. Soriano no longer has the speed he once did, but is still a guy who can hit for over 30 doubles. In fact, Soriano has 25 or more doubles in each of his 13 full seasons in the majors, to go a long with 20 plus homeruns in all but his first full season. Soriano can still bring it with the bat, and so far his age has not caught up to him. Never a big average guy, Soriano will be a key part in the Yankees veteran-laden lineup. Jeter could play some DH in his last season so the Yankees can get him in the lineup, and Suzuki is expected to be a reserve as well. But it is likely Soriano who will play here the most, as the Yankees want him in the lineup.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Nelson Cruz is expected to DH against righties and Delmon Young against lefties, at least preliminary based on comments from Buck Showalter. Cruz is another player who can mash the ball, and will be a power threat in Camden Yards for sure. I wrote extensively about him when talking about left field, to re-read that, click here. As for Delmon, his average numbers are similar to Ortiz, but he is nowhere near the power hitter than Ortiz is. His numbers have been down the last three years, but Young is considered a bit of a good luck charm, as his team at the end of the season has made it to the playoffs each of the last five seasons. If that isn’t a reason for the O’s to keep him, I don’t know what is!
Reimold is a guy who has some power, but he has to make the team first. And if he does make the team, Urrutia and Pearce will not.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Lind rebounded from three subpar seasons to have a pretty good year in 2013 as the regular DH for the Jays. Occasionally he will spell Encarnacion at first base and Edwin will be the DH, but Lind is the primary DH in Toronto. Lind offers a decent amount of power and is a solid option at DH for the Jays. At 30 years old, nothing suggests his numbers would be declining, it is really about staying healthy for Lind. That is a big part of the reasoning as to why he has moved to DH. One thing you will notice with Lind is he hits into a lot of double plays, which can be killer in the AL East.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
I said when talking about Joyce as a reserve corner outfielder that the Rays expect big things from him this year. Joyce is a career .249 hitter, and only has one season, 2011, where he hit above .255. In fact, in 2012 and 2013 he hit .241 and .235 respectively. That will not get it done from the DH, and is why the Rays are considering other options if he can’t cut it. Neither DeJesus nor Rodriguez would be prototypical DH options, and one of these three is going to start in LF. One other possible option is Wilson Betemit, who is attempting to come back with the Rays this season. However, the Rays have this position pretty much set, it is all about how well Joyce performs.