The American League West is loaded with designated hitters with solid resumes.
Mark Trumbo was an All-Star last year. Lance Berkman was a most valuable player candidate two seasons ago and Kendrys Morales was on his way to a big career before an ankle injury.
How will it shake out at the DH position this year?
Here’s a look at the DH rankings in the West.
1. Los Angeles – The Angels certainly boast of the most versatile designated hitters in baseball in Mark Trumbo. He may also be one of the best. Trumbo played left field, right field, first base and third base for the Angels last year as the team tried to find a way to keep his All-Star bat in the lineup despite Trumbo having defensive deficiencies. With all those spots occupied as of now, it looks like the majority of his ABs this year will come from the DH spot. He certainly gives the Angels a potent one as Trumbo, who finished second in the rookie of the year voting in 2011, hit 32 home runs last season. Many of them were of the majestic variety too. Trumbo also had a career high 95 RBI and hit a respectable .268 despite hitting just .227 after the All-Star break. The Angels have to hope that he’s closer to the .306 hitter he was prior to the All-Star Game because .227 hitters have a tendency to lose playing time. Trumbo will also play some first, giving DH time to Albert Pujols. Team production in 2012: .273 average, 27 home runs, 91 RBI, .788 OPS Expected production in 2013: .275 average, 35 home runs, 95 RBI, .825 OPS
2. Texas – It should have been a sign of how much Lance Berkman has embraced his new role as the Texas DH that he showed up to spring training without a glove. It was an oversight on his part but it may have also been a wise decision. The Rangers didn’t sign him for two years to play first base. They signed him to hit and they have to hope that he’s healthy after being limited to 32 games last season because of a pair of surgeries. If Berkman can stay healthy, he’ll likely hit third for Texas. That should give him an opportunity to see plenty of good pitches with both Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hitting behind him. He was healthy in 2011 and had 31 home runs and 91 RBI for St. Louis. The Rangers would gladly take those numbers as well as the attitude he brings to the Texas clubhouse.
Team production in 2012: .265 average, 18 home runs, 78 RBI, .754 OPS Expected production in 2013: .290 average, 25 home runs, 85 RBI, .750 OPS 3. Seattle – In 2009, Kendrys Morales finished fifth in the most valuable player voting in the American League. That was the season before a horrific ankle injury turned Morales from an everyday first baseman into a primary designated hitter. The Mariners picked up Morales from the Angels for lefty Jason Vargas. The switch-hitting Morales had 22 home runs and 73 RBI for the Angels last season and his ankle was healthy enough that he made 28 starts at first base. The Mariners are hoping they don’t need him to play first this year in order to take some of the strain off his ankle. If he plays in the field, Raul Ibanez and Jesus Montero could seem some of the DH time. Morales’ production is vital for a Seattle lineup that has struggled to produce runs in the last few seasons. His homer total with the Angels would have led the Mariners last season.
Team production in 2012: .214 average, 11 home runs, 58 RBI, .597 OPS Expected production in 2013: .275 average, 25 home runs, 75 RBI, .750 OPS
4. Oakland – The Athletics don’t necessarily have one player penciled in as they’re everyday DH but they’ve got several players who could fill the role well enough. Seth Smith and Chris Young appear to be the best candidates only because there’s no room for them in the starting outfield of Yoenis Cespedes-Coco Crisp-Josh Reddick. Smith had 43 starts at DH (the most on the team) last year and ended the season with 14 home runs and 53 RBI. Young is likely the club’s fourth outfielder and is a centerfielder by trade. But Oakland has to find a way for the career National Leaguer to play, so DH might be his best bet. Young has hit at least 14 home runs in each of the last six seasons.
Team production in 2012: .256 average, 24 home runs, 83 RBI, .782 OPS Expected production in 2013: .250 average, 25 home runs, 75 RBI, .750 OPS
5. Houston – The Astros are new to this whole DH thing with the switch in leagues but may have two solid candidates for the primary job in Chris Carter and Carlos Pena. Carter, who can play first base and the outfield, isn’t a plus defender but could win the job in left. He also hasn’t been able to stick in the majors in any of the last three seasons. But there’s always opportunity in Houston and Carter did make the most of his limited action with Oakland last season, hitting 16 home runs in just 218 at-bats. Pena, who signed a one-year deal with Houston, is a solid first baseman but hasn’t been able to hit for average in the last five years. He hasn’t hit better than .227 since 2008 but he still has pop, with a total of 47 home runs over the last two seasons.
Team production in 2012: .200 average, 1 home run, 3 RBI, .560 OPS in six interleague games Expected production in 2013: .225 average, 20 home runs, 70 RBI, .650 OPS