The designated hitter rule was established in the American League in 1973, and many baseball leagues throughout the world have also adopted the rule. The National League does not have a DH position, and instead allows pitchers who do not possess the skill to hit at a consistent level to swing the bat. Many are in favor of expanding the designated hitter rule to the National League, but there is also a large contingent of people who would prefer that the National League just stay the way it is.
The large crowds in favor of expanding the designated hitter rule are more than likely fans of teams that play in the American League. There is always the argument that a DH can produce more scoring chances for a team, and as a result the game will be more exciting. Pitchers that hit also are at greater risk of being injured while trying to swing a bat. The counter argument is that some pitchers are actually not terrible at hitting. It is also the traditional way that the game is played, and DHs are sometimes seen as lazy players who can’t play defense.
Even though the DH is not traditional in baseball there is no denying that there are some proficient hitters that are currently playing the DH position. Some of them are atrocious on defense, and it is a hilarious sight to see players like David Ortiz try and play out in the field during inter-league play. The DH position also allows older players to prolong their careers. Some older players struggle with fielding at the levels they used to when they were younger, and the designated hitter position allows these players to still make a contribution to an American League team.
Here, we rank all 15 designated hitters in the American League.
15 Pedro Alvarez - Baltimore Orioles
Pedro Alvarez came up and has spent most of his career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He switched from third base to first base, and now that he is in the American League he has transitioned to the DH position. He has put on a lot of weight since he first appeared in the MLB. This weight may be pulling his numbers down, and he is currently having a rough first quarter of the season. He is only batting .191 through 89 at bats. Pedro Alvarez has also only hit a minuscule two HRs, and if his numbers do not improve he could be riding the pine soon.
14 Evan Gattis - Houston Astros
Evan Gattis has been known through his short career to be a guy who swings his bat extremely hard at seemingly every pitch. Occasionally Gattis launches a ball into the seats. This mentality at the plate has resulted in a low career batting average of .248, and through his first 86 at bats of 2016 he is only hitting a lowly .244. It is still early in the season so there is time for Gattis to get his game back up to the level he is capable of. The Houston Astros have not played remotely close to where they were last season, and will need Evan Gattis to start belting HRs like he did last season to help turn their season around.
13 Billy Butler - Oakland Athletics
Billy Butler spent a majority of his career with the Kansas City Royals, and even managed to make an All-Star team during his time in Kansas City. He now plays the role of DH for a struggling Oakland Athletics ball club. The struggles of the team seemed to have rubbed off on Billy Butler, and he is playing at a much lower level than he is used to. For his career Billy Butler has batted .289, but as of May 24th, he is only batting a horrid .206 for the season. The Oakland A’s will need Billy Butler to start producing or else his tenure as DH may end.
12 Corey Dickerson - Tampa Bay Rays
Corey Dickerson fits the mold of stereo typical power hitter this season. A lot of power hitters are known for having high HR and RBI totals, but low batting averages. Corey Dickerson through his first 113 at bats has a vile batting average of .186, which is well below his career batting average of .285. The season is still young, and Dickerson, based on past results, is more than capable of improving his batting average. Despite the low batting average Dickerson does have some pretty impressive power numbers. After the first quarter of the 2016 MLB season Corey Dickerson has hit 8 HRs and 18 RBIs.
11 Carlos Santana - Cleveland Indians
Like most DHs, Carlos Santana has been known to hit the ball long over the fence throughout his tenure in the MLB. The Cleveland Indians have been an above average team early on in the 2016 MLB season, but Santana’s stats have been anything but above average. Through his first 153 at bats Santana is only hitting .229. The 8 HRs and 22 RBIs he has accumulated are decent numbers, but with such a low batting average it is obvious that Carlos Santana has missed a lot of grand opportunities to have even more RBIs. If Carlos Santana can up his batting average the Cleveland Indians may have better odds to take home the division title in 2016.
10 Avisail Garcia - Chicago White Sox
Avisail Garcia is only 24 years old, but already has had over 1,000 at bats during his time in the big leagues. The Chicago White Sox have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 MLB season early on. Garcia has been a reliable DH for the team during their surprise early season run, and it is undeniable that the experience he is getting at the young age of 24 will allow him to have a long life span in the majors. Avisail Garcia through 124 at bats in 2016, is batting .250 with 4 HRs and 15 RBIs.
9 Byung Ho Park - Minnesota Twins
Byung Ho Park is beginning his rookie year in MLB, and it has been a fairly smooth transition for him. The Minnesota Twins surprised many in 2015 by finishing with 83 wins, but have been a disappointment so far in 2016. The Twins have not played poorly due to Byung Ho Park. The rookie DH may be a rookie of the year candidate if he continues to play at the level he is at now. Through his first 130 at bats Byung Ho Park is batting .223 and has 9 HRs and 15 RBIs, which is much better than what the Twins were expecting from the rookie.
8 Kendrys Morales - Kansas City Royals
The beginning of 2016 has not been pleasant for Kendrys Morales, but the end of 2015 was very satisfying. Winning a World Series is always a joyous moment, but being on top of the hill leaves a team with the pressure of staying there. Kendrys Morales is definitely feeling that pressure as he is a batting a baffling .191 through 162 at bats. This is a total contradiction to his career average of .270, and Morales is in hope that the worst has already occurred for him in 2016. Kendrys Morales will need to step up his production so that the Royals have a chance to remain at the top of the hill.
7 Prince Fielder - Texas Rangers
Prince Fielder has always been known as a powerful hitter. He spent most of his career as a first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, but converted to DH when he joined the Detroit Tigers in the American League back in 2012. He now plays for the Texas Rangers, and was good enough in 2015 to win AL Comeback Player of the Year. The beginning of the 2016 season has been a struggle for Fielder. He currently has a .202 batting average and only 2 HRs as of May 24th. Prince Fielder is still one of the better DHs in MLB, and has batted a career .284 and hit over 300 HRs while in the MLB.
6 Carlos Beltran - New York Yankees
Carlos Beltran is a potential hall of famer once he finally decides to hang up his cleats, and he is still putting up pretty good numbers. His batting average is a little low at .274, but his power numbers have been great a quarter of the way through the season. There are not many 39-year-olds who are hitting 9 HRs and gathering 27 RBIs.
The New York Yankees have not been a team that looks like they can compete for the AL East division crown in 2016, but Carlos Beltran is still showing his worth at the major league level.
5 Albert Pujols - Los Angeles Angels
Albert Pujols has spent a bulk of his time in the MLB playing first base. Pujols is almost certainly a first ballot hall of famer, but the machine has slowed down in recent years. The production is still coming from the 36-year-old, but not in as many aspects of the game as earlier on in his career. Through his first 171 at bats Pujols is only batting .228. For his career he is hitting an incredible .310, and is 31 HRs away from 600. Despite the low batting average Pujols has still hit 9 HRs and batted in 30 runs.
4 Victor Martinez - Detroit Tigers
Victor Martinez was an extremely successful catcher for many years with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, but the physical abuse that catching can put on one’s body prompted the Tigers to allow Martinez to be there every day DH. At 37 years old Martinez is still highly productive as a hitter. Through his first 153 at bats in 2016 he is hitting .340, which is actually higher than his already impressive .303 career batting average. The Detroit Tigers are in an extremely competitive division in the AL Central, and Victor Martinez has always been a key contributor to whichever team he is playing on.
3 Edwin Encarnacion - Toronto Blue Jays
Throughout his tenure in the MLB, Edwin Encarnacion has been known to hit HRs and drive in runs. Batting in runs is easier for Encarnacion now a day because the Toronto Blue Jays are stacked with hitters that get on base frequently. It is still highly remarkable that through 179 at bats he has already reached 32 RBIs. He has also hit 9 HRs, and has been one of the most productive players on the Blue Jays roster early on in the season. The Blue Jays have not lived up to their impressive 2015 season through the first quarter of this season but it is not due to Edwin Encarnacion’s play.
2 Nelson Cruz - Seattle Mariners
Nelson Cruz spent a good chunk of his career playing the outfield, but has been the Seattle Mariners DH for the 2016 season. The Mariners are unexpectedly off to a hot start through the first month and a half of the season, and Nelson Cruz has been a key contributor to the team. He has 9 HRs and 29 RBIs which ranks towards the top of all of MLB in both categories. He is also batting .280 which is better than his career average of .273.
The Mariners are trying to make it back to the playoffs, but the AL West is a stacked division and Nelson Cruz will need to continue putting up good numbers in order for their playoff hopes to become a reality.
1 David Ortiz - Boston Red Sox
If you were to look up designated hitter in a Google image search David Ortiz’s picture would more than likely be one of the images located toward the top of the page. David Ortiz has made it apparent that 2016 will be his last season in the majors. He is 40 years old, but he is not playing like his age. David Ortiz through 152 at bats is batting .329, which is over 40 points higher than his career average. Ortiz is not just hitting for average either. He has 11 HRs and 37 RBIs, and many are wondering why he is even retiring.