2017 Rankings: Top 15 Designated Hitters for Fantasy Baseball

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As the 2017 fantasy baseball season approaches, we’ve finished up just about all of our positional rankings, save for designated hitter. The majority of these players (except for three) are eligible at other positions, and since we’ve already written about them, I will just link you to our in depth analysis in their respective articles. If you happen to be in a league that has a specific DH spot, all of these guys should qualify.

1. Edwin Encarnacion (Cleveland Indians) – We went over Edwin Encarnacion in our Top 25 First Basemen for 2017 article.

2. Nelson Cruz (Seattle Mariners) – We went over Nelson Cruz in our Top 20 Outfielders for 2017 article.

3. Mark Trumbo (Baltimore Orioles– We went over Mark Trumbo in our Top 20 Outfielders for 2017 article.

4. Carlos Santana (Cleveland Indians) – We went over Carlos Santana in our Top 25 First Basemen for 2017 article.

5. Gary Sanchez (New York Yankees) – We went over Gary Sanchez in our Top 25 Catchers for 2017 article.

6. Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers) – The ageless wonder, Victor Martinez, keeps on going and never stops. Now 38-year-old, Martinez had an excellent season last year, hitting .289 with 27 home runs. The guy just doesn’t stop. There are very few players who are DH-only that are worth owning. That DH-only designation really can hurt, because it really limits your overall roster flexibility, as you can take out a DH-only player and put him somewhere else. So if you’re going to own a player like that, he better be worth it, and Victor Martinez is. V-Mart has shown no signs of his average dropping or even his power. His 2015 season was somewhat limited, but I believe injury played a part in that. In 2016, he was healthy and his hard hit rate jumped right back up to where it’s been. He enjoyed a bit of an elevated HR/FB rate, so I think the home runs will come down a bit, but he’s still a very good player. I’d expect him to hit around 20-25 home runs while batting in the .270s-.280s. That’s a guy who’s worth owning, even if he’s DH-only.

7. Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)We went over Albert Pujols in our Top 25 First Basemen for 2017 article.

8. Kendrys Morales (Toronto Blue Jays) – I think people are sleeping a bit on Kendrys Morales for some reason. Sure, his 2016 wasn’t as good as his 2015, but did anyone really expect him to hit in the .290s again? He saw a decline in plate discipline, which doesn’t necessarily surprise me, but the power went up, and the average still won’t kill you. I could easily see Morales batting in the .260s with 25+ home runs and 80-90 RBIs. Sure, he’s DH-only, and that can be a pain, so whether or not you draft him should depend on your roster construction, but if you can deal with the limited positional flexibility, Morales can be a good source of home runs and RBIs with an average that won’t tank your team.

9. Carlos Beltran (Houston Astros)  We went over Carlos Beltran in our Top 60 Outfielders for 2017 article.

10. Evan Gattis (Houston Astros) – We went over Evan Gattis in our Top 25 Catchers for 2017 article.

11. Mike Napoli (Texas Rangers) – We went over Mike Napoli in our Top 25 First Basemen for 2017 article.

12. Corey Dickerson (Tampa Bay Rays)We went over Corey Dickerson in our Top 80 Outfielders for 2017 article.

13. Kennys Vargas (Minnesota Twins) – In very limited time (only 47 games), Kennys Vargas showed some pretty impressive pop. While the 10 home runs don’t necessarily look all that impressive, considering the relatively small number of at-bats that he saw (only 117 plate appearances), that’s pretty solid. The most impressive number is his 41.7% hard hit rate, a massive jump from the 28.1% hard hit rate he had in 28 games with the Twins in 2015. The thing that’s going to hurt you with Vargas is his batting average. He strikes out a ton, 32.2% last year, but what gets lost in that his the fact that, from 2015 to 2016, his chase rate dropped, and his walk rate increased to a respectable 13.6%. Vargas is still only 26, so he could easily take another step forward in his plate discipline, and he appears to be the lead candidate to get the DH job for the Twins. If he gets a full season with them (and I think he will), I could see him batting in the .240s with 20+ home runs. He’s also likely going to be eligible at first base in most leagues, so you have a little bit of flexibility there.

14. Pedro Alvarez (Free Agent) – As of this writing, Pedro Alvarez does not have a home, but I’m fairly confident that he’ll sign somewhere, considering he had a pretty solid year last year with the Orioles, batting .249 with 22 home runs in 376 plate appearances. Now, where he signs could impact his ranking somewhat (e.g. if he signs in a hitters park vs. a pitchers park, or if he signs somewhere where he’ll have a full time DH job), but assuming that he signs somewhere and has a similar role to what he had with the Orioles (that is, a bench player who fills in at DH and occasionally third base), then I could see him having a similar year to last year, batting in the .240s with 20+ home runs. The RBIs will vary depending on the team he signs with, but I could see Alvarez still being a useful player this season.

15. Trey Mancini (Baltimore Orioles) – As an Orioles fan, Trey Mancini is frustrating to me. And I say that not because he himself is frustrating, it’s just frustrating to me that he likely won’t be getting regular playing time (he might not even make the roster, though I think he will). If, somehow, Mancini were to get regular playing time (and that would likely have to be through a Chris Davis injury), he’s got the potential to be a 20+ home run, .260 batter. He’s major league ready right now, and I think he can be a really good player, if given the opportunity. As it stands, however, I think Mancini will make the major league roster with the Orioles and fill the Pedro Alvarez role, being a DH fill-in and occasional first baseman. If he does that, I think he could still bat in the .260s, but I think the power will be limited to around 10-15 home runs and maybe 50 RBIs and runs each. But pay attention to Trey Mancini, because he’s only 24 (almost 25) and I think he’ll be a more important player int he years to come.

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Ben Palmer

Lifelong Orioles fan, Camden Yards is my second home. Also a big Ravens, Wizards, and Terps fan. I'm also very much into the world of sabermetrics and statistics. I'm a huge music fan too and listen to way too much music every year.

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