Vladimir Guerrero has taken his talents to B-More.
By Phillip Heilman, Tim McLeod and RotoRob
The 2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit rages on with the release of another cheat sheet today. So while you Zack Greinke owners start to panic, let’s turn our attention to some hitters — as in those designated as as a bat without a glove — as we present the top nine Designated Hitters for 2011.
And now we arrive at everyone’s favourite position — the old guys that can’t field a position and don’t qualify anywhere category. No one likes to clog up the Utility slot with a player that is strictly limited to that slot, but at the same time Vladimir Guerrero, David Ortiz, Adam Lind, and Hideki Matsui all have the potential to return solid value. Don’t be in a hurry to roster any of these Utility types, but at the same time don’t neglect them totally as they could provide a nice late-round boost in the HR/RBI totals at a discounted value.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (1): Ortiz sure showed he still has his home run stroke by winning the Home Run Derby last year, and he certainly continues to thrive at Fenway (933 OPS last year). However, Ortiz didn’t exactly blaze down the stretch as we had hoped; in fact, if not for a strong September, Big Papi’s post-break numbers would have looked pretty bleak. He remained healthy again, but the Sox are giving him a bit more rest each season, it seems, so you can expect a larger sprinkling of days off against lefties. And while it was nice to see his power bounce back, Ortiz struck out more than ever last season, so it looks like his days as a .300 hitter are over. – RR
2. Vladimir Guerrero, Baltimore Orioles (2): It took almost all winter, but the Orioles finally bagged their new DH and clean-up hitter. Vladdy enjoyed a nice comeback in Texas last year, putting together his most productive season since 2007. His walk rate bounced back a tad, but he really cut his strikeout rate, helping him get back to .300 after falling short of that mark for the first time in his career in 2009. Guerrero is the centrepiece of a revamped Oriole lineup that should score plenty of runs this season. – RR
3. Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays (NR): After his breakout in 2009, Lind slipped badly enough last year to garner consideration as our Fantasy Baseball Dud of the Year. Still, we know he’s talented and can rake when he’s on, so it would not be a shock to see him at the top of this list by the end of 2011. We’d like to blame last year’s debacle on some nagging injuries, but Lind was healthy. The fact that he offered no speed wasn’t a surprise, but where did Lind’s extra-base pop go? The culprit behind his power outage in 2010 was his work against lefties. In 2009, Lind hit .275 with seven dingers and 26 RBI in 167 at-bats against southpaws; last year, those numbers plummeted to .117 with just two homers and 10 RBI in 137 at-bats. He’s expected to move into the clean-up spot this season, so clearly the Jays believe he’s capable of bouncing back. And given that he’s right smack in the middle of his power prime, you’d be well advised to believe it as well. – RR
4. Hideki Matsui, Oakland Athletics (3): After moving from the Yankees to the Angels last year, Matsui now heads to his third team in three years, the A’s. Last season with the Angels, Godzilla clearly showed he could still produce. His strikeout numbers were up last year, which could foreshadow a slight decline in production to come, not to mention the general decline expected from someone his age (36). However, the Athletics signed Matsui to shore up the middle of their lineup, and will need for him to produce at a high rate again this season. Oakland Coliseum is a prototypical pitcher’s park, so it is doubtful Matsui will get back to the 30-homer plateau, but he should be capable of 20 homers and 80 RBI, and those numbers have some value. – PH
5. Luke Scott, Baltimore Orioles (NR): After the addition of Guerrero this offseason, the Orioles will predominantly put Scott in left field this year, but until he qualifies there he will only be DH-eligible. Scott has hit 20+ homers in each of his three seasons in Baltimore, so the power should continue to be there. With the additions of the aforementioned Guerrero, as well as Derrek Lee, Scott should have more opportunities with runners on base this season. That should translate into more RBI. If the Orioles stay healthy, they should have a better offense than in recent years, and Scott should continue to produce well for them and for his Fantasy owners. – PH
6. Dan Johnson, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): Johnson was able to rebound slightly in 2010 after the last few years had been a Fantasy wasteland for him. He blasted 37 home runs last season; unfortunately for Fantasy owners that don’t play in a Triple-A league, 30 of them were for the Durham Bulls. Still, he clearly showed what we’ve known for a while – that he has some pop in his bat. Johnson will compete with Casey Kotchman for PT in the Tampa Bay lineup this year and should see some time at first base, third base and the outfield as well as at DH. Given that Kotchman isn’t exactly an awe-inspiring hitter, Johnson should get enough at-bats that he makes for a decent late-round sleeper option. – PH
7. Jim Thome, Minnesota Twins (5): At this stage in his career, Thome will no longer be seeing playing time every day. The Twins are looking for him to spend another year raking against right-handed pitching. Thome faced some minor injuries in 2010, and hit predominantly against righties (just 87 at-bats vs. southpaws), yet was still able to compile 25 home runs. Health doesn’t seem to be an issue this season, as Thome has been said to be fully healthy heading into the year. Because of his ability to hit right-handed pitching with power and rack up a good 20 dingers or so, Thome is worth a late round flier, but owners that draft him should also look for another capable option to platoon with him. – PH
8. Jack Cust, Seattle Mariners (NR): Fantasy owners drafting Cust should know exactly what they are going to get. He will provide a high OBP and some useful power numbers, but will hit for a low average. Also, he is a candidate to strike out 150 or more times a year, depending on how many plate appearances he gets. Cust will platoon with Milton Bradley, at least until Bradley loses it again, so owners should not expect a full season of at-bats from Cust. It’s probably best that you avoid him in all formats except AL-only leagues, where his power could provide some value. – PH
9. Travis Hafner, Cleveland Indians (9): Hafner’s once sky high ceiling is now relatively low, so we suggest you leave Pronk for the deepest of deep formats and do so with very modest expectations. – PH
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