2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Designated Hitter Rankings
Jesus Montero is an attractive DH option because he’ll soon qualify at catcher.
By RotoRob and Tim McLeod
The 2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward with the release of our final cheat sheet among the hitter ranks. The pitchers, plus plenty of other goodies, will soon follow. So while you wonder how Michael Cuddyer will fare in Colorado, let’s take a look at the top designated hitter options in Fantasy baseball.
We’re at the point where it’s time to identify those players that didn’t make the 20-game eligibility rules in play in most leagues. They clog up your ability to have roster flexibility, but can return some solid dividends if selected at the right time. If at all possible, you should avoid filling the slot with a true DH, but don’t totally ignore Billy Butler, David Ortiz, and especially, Jesus Montero — catcher eligibility could be right around the corner for the young Mariner.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals (14 at 1B): The Hutch Award winner for his work on and off the field, Butler is relegated to a DH only slot this year after qualifying at first base in 2011. Last season was Butler’s most productive campaign in the bigs, but his strikeouts rose back up, bringing his percentages down. More flyballs translated into a few more homers, but we’re still waiting for Butler to have a serious power breakout, and that may yet be coming. If he can get his batting eye back to its 2010 levels and continue his upward power surge, we could be looking at .310-25-100 RBI man here. And as the Royals’ overall lineup improves, opponents won’t be able to intentionally walk him 15 times like they did last year, which could mean more RBI opportunities. We’re expecting Butler to hike his isolated power numbers up substantially over the next two-to-three seasons, so keeper league owners in particular should be holding him or targeting him.
2. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (1): The Sox and Ortiz battled about money all winter, with Big Papi looking for a long-term deal and Boston holding fast to its recent cost-cutting ways. The lumbering DH stayed moderately healthy last year, continuing a renaissance that began in 2010 after he looked nearly washed up in 2009. Ortiz’s extra-base pop declined slightly, but was still impressive as he reached 40 doubles for the fourth time and just missed his seventh 30-homer campaign. Going forward, his BA will probably regress, but he remains a threat for 30 long balls in 2012.
3. Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners (28 at C): As we discussed in our Catcher Rankings, Montero may qualify at catcher in some leagues, but we believe he’ll open the season only eligible at DH. One of the top hitting prospects in the game. Montero wasted no time in showing he could hit big league pitching in his first try last season. He also flashed some serious extra-base pop, and now that he’s been dealt to the Mariners, he’ll be allowed to develop in a pressure-free environment. We love the fact that Montero’s walk rate in the Show was even higher than it was at Triple-A – a great sign for a young hitter. Now that he’s in Seattle, Montero immediately moves to the top of the Mariner prospect list, but he didn’t come cheaply as Seattle gave up Michael Pineda and Jose Campos for Montero and Hector Noesi, a deal we believe the Yanks won.
4. Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians (9): Last year, when we ranked Hafner at the bottom of the DH Rankings, we said his ceiling was quite low – even if his salary wasn’t ($13 million?! Yikes). Well, we were pretty bang on there, as injuries once again derailed Pronk, limiting him to his lowest at-bat total since 2008. His power continued its decline, and of course he’s never had speed. Hafner’s BA has crept up in each of the past three seasons, and that’s the main reason he is higher in our rankings this season, but his overall regression as a hitter has relegated him to an AL-only asset – and not a must-own one at that. There’s talk Cleveland could move him, but who would take that contract? I expect Hafner to stay a bit healthier this season, but he remains a hitter in major decline that’s a serious injury risk. It would take a miracle for him to make a run at 30 homers, something he hasn’t done since 2006.
5. Jim Thome, Philadelphia Phillies (7): About the only thing left to discuss with Thome is whether he’s heading to the Hall, something we covered in a Podcast in August. After all, now that he’s a glorified pinch-hitter back in the NL with Philly, whatever Fantasy value he still had has disappeared. Added by the Phillies as part of a major bench overhaul, Thome last year wasn’t hitting nearly as well for the Twins as he was in 2010. Dealt to Cleveland, he was more productive down the stretch, but overall last season his extra-base pop took a big step backwards after a nice renaissance in 2010. As long as he gets around 300 plate appearances (which is highly questionable unless Ryan Howard remains out much longer than expected), Thome should again spank around 15 dingers. If that’s enticing, knock yourself out.
6. Jack Cust, Houston (8): Eighth in these rankings a year ago, Cust was someone we expected to rack up the walks, hit dingers and struggle to hit for BA. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. The walk rate was great as always, Cust fell over 30 BA points shy of his weight, but where he hell did his power go? Three freaking homers in 270 plate appearances? Yuck. After he wore out his welcome in both Philly and Seattle last season, for some reason, the Astros signed him to a one-year deal – perhaps to act as their DH? Oh, that’s right… they don’t move to the AL until next year. Well, there’s a reason Houston has sucked recently. Cust plays the outfield about as well as Dwight Howard sinks free throws, and yet he’s back in the NL for the first time since 2006. There’s no value to be found here, folks.
7. Manny Ramirez, Oakland A’s (66 at OF): Manny’s ill-fated tenure with Tampa Bay last season ended after just five games when he was nailed with another PED suspension and dodged it by retiring. Now, the soon-to-be-40-year-old is back thanks to a perplexing move by the A’s. Ramirez looked pretty lost at the plate in those few games as a Ray, but the A’s – desperate for offense – opted to give him a look. Any Fantasy owner considering him needs to be aware that he still has to sit out 50 games because of the suspension, so he’ll be an in-season addition at best.
8. Ryan Lavarnway, Boston Red Sox (NR): It remains to be seen if Lavrarnway’s future is behind the plate or not, but this prospect sure can rake. He’s currently blocked by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and now Kelly Shoppach, but if Lavarnway has the skills to catch, neither of these players will be a long-term obstacle for him. Last year, he saw his first big league action after combining for 32 dingers between Double-A and Triple-A. Lavarnway won’t offer any speed, but he’s got power and will be capable of putting up a decent BA as well. Note that Lavarnway mostly caught in the minors, but he didn’t qualify at any position in the majors, so for now we’re assuming he’ll be listed as a DH only to start the season.
9. Vladimir Guerrero, Free agent (2): As of press time, Guerrero was still looking for work, and with each passing day, it’s looking less likely like he’ll find a job to begin the season. One of the best hitters of his era, Vlad struggled through his worst season last year, missing time with a broken hand and suffering a serious decline in his counting stats. His extra-base pop really declined as more and more of his homers either turned into doubles or simply disappeared altogether. For the second time in three years (and his entire career), he failed to hit .300 and his batting eye suffered serious regression as his strikeout rate rose slightly and his always low walk rate plummeted. There’s a chance Philly will pick him up, but if he winds up in the NL, Guerrero will have a much smaller role. He’s sitting 410 hits shy of 3,000 and 51 homers away from 500, but it’s looking highly unlikely he’ll reach either milestone.
10. Johnny Damon, Free agent (65 at OF): We’re still waiting to see where Damon lands, but it’s clear it won’t be back in Tampa Bay. The A’s and Yanks were possibilities, but those seem less likely now given recent signing. Seattle remains a possible destination for the durable veteran, whose slow offensive regression continued last season, although he’s bounced back in the power and speed departments. Damon still does a lot of the little things right, although his batting eye showed major deterioration last season. He had his lowest WAR since 1998, so it’s clear that Damon’s days are numbered, but he should find a job and be capable of at least one more viable season before we stick a fork in him. And pretty well anywhere he winds up, he should have more power potential than he had in Tampa Bay.
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