(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)
It’s that time of year, when we start rankings all the different positions for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. Today, we’re going to tackle the top 15 designated hitters for fantasy baseball in 2018. These rankings are not for your traditional utility positions, which can be any player, rather these rankings are for leagues that have a specific “designated hitter” position. All of these players spent significant time (or will spend significant time) as a designated hitter in 2017.
And just for fun, I’m going to name the three tiers after the three albums from The Jimi Hendrix Experience in order of personal (obviously objective) preference.
Tier 1: Are You Experienced?
1. Giancarlo Stanton (New York Yankees) – While Stanton didn’t DH in Miami (obviously), he’s likely to spend a reasonable amount of time DHing for the Yankees this year. We covered Stanton in the Top 20 Outfielders in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
2. J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox) – While Martinez likely doesn’t have DH eligibility yet, he’s likely to be the Red Sox’s DH for much of the season, so he’ll gain that eligibility pretty quickly. We covered Martinez in the Top 20 Outfielders in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
3. Nelson Cruz (Seattle Mariners) – Nelson Cruz only played five games in the outfield last year, so he’s going to be a DH-only player. Cruz is going to be one of the few players in fantasy baseball that’s totally going to be worth the limited roster flexibility that you’re going to get with Cruz. If Cruz has been anything, he’s been extremely consistent. After three-straight years of hitting more than 40 home runs, Cruz disappointed us all by hitting just 39 last year. Just kidding, Cruz is going to be awesome, no reason to expect anything different from him yet, even at 37 he’s still raking. A .280s average, around 40 home runs, you should be able to bank on just about all of that.
Tier 2: Axis: Bold As Love
7. Hanley Ramirez (Boston Red Sox) – Can you expect much from Hanley Ramirez this year? I’m not sure. He’s 34 now and has a long injury history, but he reportedly (subscription required) is feeling a lot better now after having shoulder surgery, eliminating something that’s bothered him for a long time. I know that sounds so #bestshapeofhislife, but it might be worth noting. Either way, I expect his average to improve, as his .242 average last year came with a .272 BABIP and a .271 xAVG. The 20+ home runs should still be there, and a decent number of runs/RBIs as well being in the middle of a strong lineup, but Hanley could be a bit frustrating. That being said, if this surgery really worked and he’s back to being good Hanley Ramirez, he could be quite a bargain. But that depends on how much you buy into the narrative.
8. Kendrys Morales (Toronto Blue Jays) – Dealing with the fact that Kendrys Morales is DH-only is tricky, but he still can produce enough to warrant being rostered. His average isn’t going to kill you and it might even improve, as his .250 average last year came with a .278 BABIP and a .272 xAVG. I’d say there’s no reason you can’t expect another near-30 home run season with a decent batting average and a good number of RBIs.
9. Corey Dickerson (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Dickerson isn’t going to see much of any DH time in Pittsburgh (basically just whenever they’re playing in an AL stadium), but he did DH a fair bit last year, so he’ll be DH-eligible. We covered Dickerson in the Top 60 Outfielders in Fantasy Baseball for 2018.
12. Albert Pujols (Los Angeles Angels) – The ghost of Albert Pujols is still haunting the Angels lineup, and even if his production is relatively pedestrian, he’s still somewhat useful. The power shouldn’t be much better than 20-25 home runs, the average is still going to be around .250s or so, but the RBIs could be where things get interesting. In three out of the past four years, Pujols has had more than 100 RBIs, and in the year he didn’t (2015) he had 95. I don’t know that he’s going to break 100 again, but that’s certainly in the cards.
Tier 3: Electric Ladyland
13. Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels) – Otani is reportedly going to DH for the Angels whenever he’s not pitching, and as such he qualifies for the DH position right away in ESPN leagues. Some other leagues are using other strategies to handle Otani on offense, so be aware of what your platform does. Do you know what to expect from Shohei Ohtani this year? Because if you do, you’re missing your calling as a fortune teller. Ohtani’s value is going to be significantly higher as a pitcher than a hitter, but he’s going to get time as a DH, and he has the ability to produce some. He’s got speed, he’s famously been graded as an 80 speed guy, but at this point, stories about Ohtani are starting to sound like #MattWietersFacts at this point. I think he should be able to have a handful of home runs, probably in the double-digits, and a decent amount of runs and RBIs with maybe even a few steals. Or he could go 40/40, win MVP, the Cy Young, and a Silver Slugger, lead the Angels to a World Series, and at the end of the season ascend into heaven on chariots of fire, who knows at this point?
14. Ryon Healy (Seattle Mariners) – Healy has shown pretty good power, he hit 25 home runs with the Athletics last season while batting .271, and it seems fairly legit, though I would expect the average to come down a bit. The main problem with Healy is, he’s hurt right now. He recently had hand surgery and, as of this writing, there’s no timetable for his return. If we find out he’s back pretty soon, he’d bump up some in these rankings, but as of now, we have no idea what he’s going to look like coming back from this surgery and when that’s going to happen.
15. Nick Delmonico (Chicago White Sox) – Looking at his line, Nick Delmonico’s year last year was pretty uninteresting, with a .262 average and nine home runs (though just in 43 games). But there’s reason to be interested in him. He’s got the ability to touch 20 home runs and has really good plate discipline, turning in a .373 OBP and a 13.9% walk rate last year. He’ll likely have a steady gig with the White Sox, so who knows what could happen. Don’t forget, this guy had an August where he slashed .307/.429/.573, so he’s shown he has the ability to produce at a high level.