Baseball

Top 10 MLB Players: Designated Hitter

|
Image for Top 10 MLB Players: Designated Hitter

In February, it was announced that the designated hitter would be used universally in Major League Baseball. This time, the change is permanent; so National League teams adjusted their rosters to accommodate this new rule. While typically designated hitters would be huge sluggers who are not viable options in the field, some teams have elected to use the designated hitter spot to give their starters a break.

10. Gavin Sheets, CWS

Gavin Sheets came up in 2021 and immediately had a huge impact on the White Sox’s run to a 93-win season. Sheets played in 54 games and slashed .250/.324/.506 with a 125 wRC+. He is off to a slow start in 2022, and FanGraphs’ projections don’t love him, but there is still clearly a great bat here. Sheets grades out as a 50-grade hitter with 70-grade raw power. He hits the ball hard; he had an average exit velocity above 90 miles per hour and a barrel percentage of 9.9.

9. Marcell Ozuna, ATL

Marcell Ozuna will split time between left field and designated hitter in 2022, but he will likely be the full-time DH once Ronald Acuna Jr. returns to the outfield. Ozuna had an eventful 2021 that included a slow start, a hand injury, and a suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. Since joining the Braves in 2020, Ozuna has a .362 OBP, .518 SLG, .375 wOBA, and 134 wRC+ in 533 PAs. Ozuna is a two-time All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger, a Gold Glover, and finished sixth in National League Most Valuable Player voting in 2020. He is back with the team in 2022 and has already off to a great start.

8. Kyle Schwarber, PHI

Kyle Schwarber had a massive season in 2021, powered by a 21-game stretch from late June to early July in which he hit leadoff and slugged .924 with a 245 wRC+ and 16 home runs. Within that stretch, he hit 12 home runs in 10 games with a 1.192 SLG and 292 wRC+. After being traded to Boston, he stayed hot, posting a 161 wRC+ in 41 games. From June 12th onward, he had a 190 wRC+ and an average exit velocity of 93.6 MPH. As a result, Schwarber got a four-year, $79 million deal with the Philadephia Phillies to be their designated hitter in 2022.

7. Franmil Reyes, CLE

Franmil Reyes is a young, exciting player who already has multiple 30-homer seasons despite playing 120 games only once. Reyes was dealt to Cleveland by the Padres in 2019, and he has hit 50 homers as an Indian/Guardian. In his 422 career games, Reyes has slashed .258/.322/.495 with a 117 wRC+ and 3.7 fWAR. Reyes remains at the heart of the Guardians lineup in 2022, although he likely won’t be playing for much other than numbers.

6. Nelson Cruz, WSH

Nelson Cruz is 41 years old, and he is the definition of a late bloomer. Although he only had a wRC+ above 120 twice (not including the 7 PAs in 2005) before his age-31 season, he has put up a wRC+ above 120 for nine straight seasons since turning 32 years old. He didn’t even have his first 30-homer season until he was 28. He has had seven 30-homer years in a row (excluding 2020) since 2014. Father Time may be catching up to Cruz, whose 122 wRC+ in 2021 was his lowest since 2012. Cruz signed a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals ahead of the 2022 season, which may end up being his last.

5. JD Martinez, BOS

Since joining the Red Sox, JD Martinez has done nothing but impress. During their 2018 World Series run, he had a 170 wRC+ in the regular season and slashed better than .300/.400/.500 in the playoffs. Martinez even won two Silver Sluggers that year (one at right field and one at designated hitter). He struggled in the shortened 2020 season, but so did many other stars. Since signing his five-year deal with the Boston Red Sox, Martinez has a 138 wRC+ and 115 home runs. The Red Sox are poised to compete once again in 2022, and Martinez will be right in the thick of it.

4. Max Muncy, LAD

The implementation of the designated hitter in the National League enabled the Dodgers to bring in former MVP Freddie Freeman to man 1st base. While originally it seemed that Muncy would be playing 2nd base, Gavin Lux has settled in as the everyday starter. Regardless, Muncy has one of the best bats in the league despite his poor start to the 2022 season. In 492 games with the Dodgers, Muncy has a .369 OBP, .513 SLG, and 136 wRC+. He also has the highest fWAR out of anyone on the list since 2018 with 14.3, although that’s mainly because he’s played a lot of 2nd base where he grades out as an above-average defender. Muncy probably should not be a designated hitter, he’s more than capable in the field, but the Dodgers lineup is so stacked that it pushes him off the field.

3. Giancarlo Stanton, NYY

Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball harder than anyone else in the league. He is responsible for the hardest-hit ball in every single season since Statcast tracking began in 2015. His 122.2 MPH exit velocities in 2017 and 2021 are tied for the highest ever recorded. Stanton put his injury issues behind him in 2021 to the tune of a 137 wRC+ in 579 plate appearances while even making a few starts in the outfield. Stanton will split time at right field and designated hitter in 2021, but he’ll mash either way. He’s never put up a wRC+ below 110 in his twelve-year career, including nine seasons with a wRC+ above 135. The four-time All-Star and former National League MVP will put on another show in the Bronx in 2022.

2. Shohei Ohtani, LAA

Shohei Ohtani might be the best player in baseball, but he ranks 2nd among designated hitters. The 2021 American League MVP ranked 3rd in the league with 46 home runs and led the entire league in fWAR if you compare his pitching and hitting figures. He finished the year top five in wRC+ and SLG while finishing top ten in stolen bases. Solely as a hitter, Ohtani is a top-two player at his position. He is also arguably a top-ten pitcher in the league. It is unbelievable what he does on the baseball field, and it is “ShoTime” once again in 2022.

1. Yordan Alvarez, HOU

Yordan Alvarez had the worst of his two MLB seasons in 2021 and still finished with a .346 OBP, .531 SLG, .369 wOBA, and 138 wRC+. He underperformed his xwOBA by 20 points and still ranked 2nd among designated hitters in wRC+. The top spot on this list is up for debate, but Yordan’s consistency is unrivaled. Since being promoted to the big leagues in 2019, Yordan has slashed .288/.369/.578 with a .393 wOBA, 153 wRC+, and 7.6 fWAR in 240 games. Still, at just 25 years old, he has an entire career ahead of him.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

Share this article