BBE 2018 Positional Rankings: MLB’s Top 15 Designated Hitters

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Over the offseason, the team of contributors at Baseball Essential voted upon every position on the diamond, compiling our comprehensive Top 15 countdowns for the 2018 season.

Major League Baseball is overflowing with youth and skill, but don’t forget about the rugged veterans we all know and love. These Top 15 rundowns will feature a splendid mix of young, exuberant athletes, and the aged, mature individuals who mentor them. As for the positions, we will unveil the top 15 starting pitchers, relievers, catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, center fielders, and right fielders, as well as the foremost designated hitters, utilitymen, and managers, over the next few weeks.

Our voting format is simple. The team of writers and analysts at BBE were given ballots a few weeks back for their top 10 individuals at each spot. A first-placed  vote is worth 10 points, second-place is good for nine, and so on.

As the spring training season starts to get underway, you will see these countdowns published prior to the beginning of another exciting MLB season. To keep track of the Top 15 lists you might have missed, stay posted to the Top 15 tag on the site.

In the rundown, we list the player, their position among the list, and how many points they have received in the voting. Now, you’re ready. Here are MLB’s Top 15 second basemen for the 2018 season.

Honorable Mentions:

None! I guess with only 15 American League teams, it’s not totally surprising to have 15 names on the list, but because this is based on last season’s position and there is so much flux at the DH position, this list actually contains a couple National Leaguers, one guy who might retire, and several players who might not be designated hitters this season.

Robbie Grossman – 15th (2)

Minnesota Twins switch-hitter Robbie Grossman leads off the rundown after a 2017 that saw the 28-year-old slash .246/.361/.380 with nine home runs, 45 RBIs, and 22 doubles. Grossman appeared 63 times at DH in 119 total games in 2017 and contributed well to a Twins club with a surprise American League postseason run.

Grossman returns to Minnesota this season, but his playing time might take a cut. The Twins inked Logan Morrison to a contract this offseason, and with a stacked outfield and a future Hall of Famer in Joe Mauer at first base, Morrison might have to fill in at DH. But we’re not the manager, and only time will tell.

Cheslor Cuthbert – 14th (3)

In addition to having one of the best names in MLB, Cheslor Cuthbert is a pretty decent hitter. Slashing  .231/.275/.322 in 58 games last season, the righty hit two home runs, 18 RBIs, and 33 hits in 153 plate appearances.

The 25-year-old is expected to appear predominantly at the designated hitter position in 2018, as the Kansas City Royals signed free agent Lucas Duda to play first base and re-upped All-Star Mike Moustakas at third base.

Luis Valbuena – 13th (4)

With future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani in the Los Angeles Angels dugout, Luis Valbuena has to fight for at-bats at designated hitter (or first base). He’ll make the most of them, like he did in 2017’s Angels campaign.

From rugged veterans to youthful sluggers, the designated hitter spot has a variety of interesting players. Here are the top 15 DHs entering the 2018 season.Click To Tweet

The lefty hit .199/.294/.432 last season, but he made up for weak averages with 22 home runs, 65 RBIs, 15 doubles, and 48 walks in 117 games played. With Pujols lining up to play first and Ohtani looking more like a pinch-hitter, the 32-year-old could get extended time at DH in 2018.

Ryon Healy – 12th (7)

The status of Ryon Healy is unknown ahead of Thursday’s Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians, but if he’s out, the Seattle Mariners will really miss him. In 149 games — 78 at DH — last season with the Oakland A’s, Healy slashed .271/.302/.451 with 25 home runs and 78 RBIs.

The righty hitter was traded by Oakland to Seattle in November, a transaction that might prove to be a steal for the M’s. The 26-year-old will most likely play first base after a DH-heavy 2017, a spot vacated by the loss of Yonder Alonso.

Victor Martinez – 11th (7)

Victor Martinez isn’t the player he used to be. The five-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, and former MVP finalist is a thing of the past, but V-Mart is still a valuable switch-hitting slugger for the Detroit Tigers. The 39-year-old hit .255/.324/.372 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 2017.

The career .298 hitter is an early candidate for a big trade deadline acquisition by a contender. Martinez has received MVP votes six times in his career and still has a lot of baseball left to play.

Shin-Soo Choo – 10th (10)

If you don’t account for his gargantuan contract, Shin-Soo Choo is a designated hitter every team in MLB would want. The Texas Rangers lefty hit .261/.357/.423 with 22 home runs, 78 runs driven in, and a team-high 77 walks in 2017.

Choo, who played 65 games at DH last season, will likely move there full time with the arrival of Rangers young guns Nomar Mazara and Willie Calhoun in the Globe Life Park outfield.

Brandon Moss – 9th (15)

After the A’s signed and subsequently designated Brandon Moss for assignment this offseason, rumblings of his possible retirement arose. This would be a shame, as Moss can surely still provide some value to an MLB team after a .207/.279/.428, 22 home run, 50 RBI, 118-game 2017 season.

If the 34-year-old left-handed batter does retire, Moss leaves MLB action with 160 home runs over 1,016 games. If not, he’ll be a cheap, somewhat valuable signing for a team looking for affordable power-hitting.

Evan Gattis – 8th (20)

FOX Sports’ Joe Buck perfectly summarized Evan Gattis after the Houston Astros slugger hit a go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series: “When he connects, they go a long way.” Gattis hit .263/.311/.457 in 2017 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs, and 22 doubles in just 84 games with the World Series champs in 2017.

The righty played catcher and designated hitter last season, but thanks to the two-way presence of Brian McCann, the 31-year-old will likely play a huge chunk of games at DH this season barring any injuries.

Albert Pujols – 7th (24)

It’s really hard to convince younger baseball fans that Albert Pujols was once the best position player in Major League Baseball. The Angels first baseman/DH has fallen off a cliff from his previous three-time NL Most Valuable Player pedestal, hitting .241/.286/.386 with 21 home runs and 101 RBIs last season. The righty actually cost Los Angeles almost two wins last season just by being in the lineup (-1.8 Baseball-Reference WAR).

Regardless, it’s hard to bet against a ten-time All- Star and future first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee. The 38-year-old won’t be relied on as much as previous seasons with the Angels thanks to their revamped lineup, and he could come back around to positive value in a lesser DH role.

Corey Dickerson – 6th (28)

There are a lot of questionable decisions the Tampa Bay Rays have made recently; perhaps chief among them was to DFA and trade Corey Dickerson to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 long balls and 62 RBIs as an AL All-Star with the Rays last season, and luckily for him, played a good amount of outfield that will help him transition to the National League a little easier.

From one rebuilding, organizationally dysfunctional club to another, Dickerson will still bash and drive in runs at will. The 28-year-old lefty batter will be fine in the PNC park outfield, after posting serviceable defensive numbers in 2017.

Mark Trumbo – 5th (29)

A year removed from leading MLB in home runs, Mark Trumbo is still seeing balls fly over the Baltimore Orioles’ outfield fence as the resident veteran DH in the O’s dugout. The righty hit .234/.289/.397 with 23 home runs, 65 RBIs, and 131 hits in 146 games with Baltimore in 2017 after achieving an All-Star Game appearance the previous year.

The 32-year-old is expected to miss three to four weeks at the start of the season, but he will be a heavy auxiliary hitting option in a lineup with MVP candidates Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado when he returns. The former Silver Slugger winner is a career .247 hitter with 201 total long balls.

Hanley Ramirez – 4th (30)

The best days for Boston Red Sox righty Hanley Ramirez are behind him, but when he’s feeling it, he’s one of the most productive designated hitters in baseball. Ramirez hit .242/.320/.429 with 23 homers, 62 RBIs, and 57 walks in 2017, appearing in 133 games — 108 at DH — during last season’s AL East divisional crown season.

The 34-year-old is projected to shift to first base with Boston’s free agent signing of J.D. Martinez. The former Rookie of the Year and NL MVP is not inexperienced there and can produce with his bat to offset any potential defensive woes.

Kendrys Morales – 3rd (40)

Throughout his long MLB career, Kendrys Morales has been a risky player to pitch to. Last year was no exception for the 34-year-old, as he hit .250/.308/.445 with 28 home runs and 85 RBIs in 150 games played for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Morales is a pure slugger and will return to the DH spot with the Jays in 2018. Formerly the fifth-place finisher in AL MVP voting with the Angels in 2009, Morales clearly has a high ceiling and could be an impact player in a potential Wild Card run in Toronto.

Edwin Incarnation – 2nd (42)

There are few sights in baseball more beautiful than Edwin Encarnacion trotting around the bases after a home run with one arm raised as though a bird rests on it. This is something we saw the Cleveland Indians power-hitting righty do 38 times in 2017, in addition to batting .258/.377/.504 and driving in 107 runs on the year.

Depending on how Terry Francona and the Tribe plan to use Yonder Alonso, the 35-year-old Encarnacion will see a healthy mix between first base and DH in 2018 as the Indians look to win the AL Central division for the third straight season.

Nelson Cruz – 1st (60)

There used to be concerns that Nelson Cruz would not be able to generate offense at an elite level like he did with the Rangers when he left Arlington, but the righty squashed those doubts with the massive piece of wood he calls “The Boomstick.” Cruz slashed .288/.375/.549 with 39 home runs, an AL-best 119 RBIs, and 70 bases on balls in his fifth All-Star season in 2017.

The 37-year-old Mariners offensive giant posted 4.1 bWAR despite playing only five games in the field. Cruz is a free agent after 2018, so only he knows what the future looks like, but for now he plays as MLB’s top designated hitter.

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