Spring training is here. Pitchers and catchers begin reporting to camp in just a few days, and in less than three weeks, Grapefruit League and Cactus League games will begin. We’re almost home.
So, with the offseason coming to an end, it’s time to look ahead to the upcoming season. And to do that, we’ve been breaking down the top 10 players at each position for the last several days. Some things to keep in mind:
- The players are ranked according to who we’d want for 2017 only. Contracts and salaries don’t matter. Simply put, if you are trying to win the World Series this year, whom do you want at the position?
- These rankings are the result of voting by your four CBSSports.com baseball writers: R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, and Matt Snyder. We ranked the players individually and averaged them all together.
- These are not fantasy baseball rankings. You can find those here. It’s not just about offense. All-around play matters, especially at an up-the-middle position.
Now let’s get cracking on our designated hitter rankings headed into the 2017 season. Obviously, David Ortiz would top this list if hadn’t retired following a wildly productive 2016. Alas and alack, Big Papi no longer plays This, Our Baseball. So who steps into the breach? The reveal:
Nelson Cruz Seattle Mariners DH
|Many of us -- including this writer -- didn’t expect Cruz to continue producing after he left Arlington. Well, in the three seasons since he left the Rangers he has authored an OPS+ of 147 and mashed 127 homers. At age 36, Cruz could of course decline suddenly, but recent history suggests he’s going to pound the ball again in 2017.|
Carlos Santana Cleveland Indians DH
|Santana, who’s going into his age-31 season, has never been much of a hitter for average, but he has long been a reliable purveyor of secondary hitting skills -- i.e., drawing walks and hitting for power. He has drawn no fewer than 91 walks in each of qualifying seasons, and he’s coming off a 2016 campaign in which he cracked 34 home runs and put up an OPS+ of 121.|
Carlos Beltran Houston Astros RF
|Beltran looked to be on his way out of baseball after a down 2014 with the Yankees. Over the past two seasons, however, he has put up an OPS+ of 120 while tallying 48 homers and 67 doubles in 284 games. The future Hall of Famer turns 40 in late April, but he can still rake.|
Mark Trumbo Baltimore Orioles RF
|Trumbo was badly miscast as an outfielder last season, but he slots in as Baltimore’s DH for 2017. Given that he gives away a lot of runs when he’s manning the outfield, that’s a good thing insofar as his overall value is concerned. The power is very real, and he’s back in a home ballpark that will aid his signature skill at the plate.|
Hanley Ramirez Boston Red Sox 1B
|Since 2014, Ramirez has gone from shortstop to left fielder to first baseman to, now, DH. Given his recent struggles afield, Ramirez probably won’t be too disappointed to set aside his glove. As for the bat, it’s doing just fine. Last season, Ramirez registered his first 30-homer season since 2008 and along the way slugged .505. He also played in 147 games, which is his highest total since 2012.|
Victor Martinez Detroit Tigers DH
|V-Mart is 38, but he can still hit a little. Last season, he got back to being durable, as he played in 154 games, and he also hit 27 home runs with an OPS+ of 123. The safe bet is that he’ll again put up solid numbers at the plate in 2017. On the downside, Martinez remains perhaps the worst base-runner in all of baseball. In 2016, for instance, he took the extra base just seven percent of the time.|
Matt Holliday N.Y. Yankees Yankees LF
|Yes, another aging slugger. Getting off the field might help Holliday stay healthier than he has been for the past couple of seasons. His numbers took a dip last season, but he still managed to put up an ISO of .215 with 20 homers in 110 games. Holliday in 2016 also ran a BABIP of .253 versus a career mark of .333. Don’t be surprised if he rebounds on that front. He can still hit.|
Albert Pujols L.A. Angels Angels DH
|El Hombre is very much in decline and has been for some time. Not only has his batting average plummeted since signing with the Angels (.328 with the Cardinals to .266 with the Angels), but he has also endured a steep decline in his walk rate. All of that has yielded some low OBPs. Pujols still has home run power, and that’s a valuable thing. But he’s a one-dimensional sort these days.|
Kendrys Morales Toronto Blue Jays 1B
|Morales followed up a terrible 2014 with a strong and vintage 2015. Last season, his age-33 campaign, the rate-based numbers slipped back a bit while still being reasonably solid. If Morales continues his decline -- certainly a strong possibility at his age -- then he’s going to slip below the bar of adequacy for DHs. That said, he’s coming off a 30-homer season and headed into a new ballpark that’s quite accommodating toward sluggers.|
Brandon Moss Kansas City Royals RF
|Last season, Moss mashed 28 homers in 128 games. However, he posted an OBP of just .300, which is an unacceptable figure for someone of limited defensive value. In 2017, you can probably expect another season of low OBP power from Moss. In other words, he’ll be acceptable by the standards of DHs but not much more than that.|
Also receiving votes: Corey Dickerson