Young gives Rangers edge at DH in AL West
The American League West certainly boasts some of the most versatile designated hitters in the game.
Texas has Michael Young, who has started at all four infield positions. Los Angeles designated hitter Bobby Abreu was an All-Star outfielder and Seattle will use its catcher of the future Jesus Montero at designated hitter.
Then there’s Oakland, where Manny Ramirez and his Hall of Fame credentials will take over at DH in May.
So who has it best when it comes to DH? Here are the rankings.
1. Texas — It’s good when you can boast the team’s reigning player of the year at DH like the Rangers can with Michael Young. Young, who will also fill in at first base and third base, was in the running for a batting title in 2011, set a career high with 106 RBI and finished eighth in AL MVP voting. The RBI numbers will be hard to equal this year as Young won’t be hitting cleanup like he did for the final half of the 2011 season. The Rangers will also use other players at DH, including Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba. Napoli had the second-most plate appearances at DH last season and Torrealba was third. Texas has to be careful about using a catcher at DH because they likely won’t carry a third catcher.
Team production in 2011: .287 average, 26 home runs, 108 RBI, .834 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .290 average, 25 home runs, 100 RBI, .800 OPS
2. Los Angeles — The Angels will have strength in numbers when it comes to their use of the DH this season. Bobby Abreu has been squeezed out of the outfield and will get the bulk of his at-bats at DH (last year he had 400). That number may be reduced — the Angels are targeting 400 total ABs for him this season. If Kendry Morales is healthy, DH at-bats will come his way. The Angels could also use Mark Trumbo at DH if he can’t grasp the move from first base to third. Morales, who missed all of 2011 while recovering from a broken ankle, would provide some pop. He’s yet to play in a spring training game but he’s running the bases and hasn’t had any problems with the ankle. Trumbo would also provide some clout, as he hit 27 home runs as a rookie. Using Trumbo or Morales is an automatic power upgrade over Abreu, who had just eight homers in 2011.
Team production in 2011: .237 average, 14 home runs, 70 RBI, .702 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .270 average, 20 home runs, 80 RBI, .750 OPS
3. Oakland — Who knows what to expect out of Oakland from the DH spot this season. If Manny Ramirez is feeling good mentally and physically, Oakland could have something in this spot. They won’t know until 50 games into the season as Ramirez will open the season on suspension for a failed drug test. The last time he played a full season was in 2008 and he hit 37 home runs. The Athletics would gladly take a 2009 Ramirez — he hit 19 homers and had 63 RBI in 104 games. But Ramirez, who turns 40 in May, has just nine homers since 2010 in 95 games and is certainly a risk. The A’s will mix and match until Ramirez is eligible, with Jonny Gomes and Brandon Allen possibilities. But all they are doing is holding down the fort until Ramirez is eligible. What happens then will be interesting to see.
Team production in 2011: .245 average, 19 home runs, 92 RBI, .703 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .250 average, 20 home runs, 80 RBI, .700 OPS
4. Seattle — The best bet for the Mariners at DH this season may come from their catcher of the future. Jesus Montero, the key for the Mariners in the Michael Pineda trade to the Yankees, figures to get the bulk of his at-bats at DH to start the season. The Mariners already have their best run producer from 2011 (Miguel Olivo) at catcher but have to find a way to keep Montero’s bat in the lineup. He played in just 18 games with the Yankees last season but had four home runs and 12 RBI. Those are the kinds of numbers that make you a middle-of-the-order hitter for the offensively deprived Mariners. Any production out of the DH spot will be a step up from 2011 when Jack Cust had the most at-bats at DH but no one had more than three home runs from the spot. Seattle could also use Mike Carp or John Jason in the DH spot occasionally.
Team production in 2011: .225 average, 9 home runs, 57 RBI, .648 OPS
Expected production in 2012: .250 average, 20 home runs, 70 RBI, .675 OPS