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Designated Hitters
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Designated Hitters

Quick Key to the tables:
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.  B = Bats.  T = Throws.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2005.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider a player's 2005 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.

David Ortiz601180.3471481119D
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:L33327162.8

Achieving career-best skill ratios in nearly every relevant measure carried Ortiz to the brink of the MVP award before his minimal defensive contribution correctly gave ARod the edge. Ortiz nevertheless posted extremely impressive numbers and possesses the skill foundation to echo these marks over the next few years. While we must expect mild regression, I only advise you drop out of any bidding that heads over $30.

Travis Hafner486148.30533108094D
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28B:L    T:R25255656.8

A little deterioration of Hafner's contact and ground-fly rates could depress these numbers, however a slow start to the year due to off-season elbow surgery coupled with a Mark Buehrle fastball to the face in mid-July, necessitating a brief DL stint, instead appear the primary culprits for his fleeting difficulties. Hafner owns a very strong skill set and simply cruised through much of the season. Adding an additional two weeks of games could send him into the .300/40/120 stratosphere. Consider him a virtual clone of David Ortiz, albeit likely to cost you at least five bucks less in any save the most stat-savvy of leagues.

Josh Phelps15842.266526021D
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R330.7-0.6

The quality of designated hitters simply drops off a cliff here as anyone that performed competently outside of Ortiz and Hafner qualified at another position. An abrupt reversal of Phelps' platoon split somehow failed to keep him employed despite his higher level of performance. He lasted only two months before making room for Jonny Gomes by moving to AAA Durham(IL), where he registered a .270/.329/.550 output with 14 HR, 33 RBI, and a 15:53 BB:K in 222 AB. Nothing here indicates he will ever hold a particularly respectable BA, so although he could contribute as a DH, his uncertain future severely limits his fantasy value. Phelps signed with Detroit, where he slides behind Chris Shelton, Carlos Pena, Dmitri Young, and a bevy of outfielders on the depth chart.

Frank Thomas10523.2191226019D
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37B:R    T:R225.43.5

Egregiously dismissed from the White Sox with the full complicity of the left-brainless Chicago media, this first-ballot Hall of Famer tops my list of Comeback Player of the Year candidates and MVP sleepers. Joining the Athletics provides him with a perfect fit as Oakland loses little if Thomas succumbs to more injuries while the club happily will hit him sixth whenever he can play, giving him a great opportunity to catalyze the entire lineup. His approach also should benefit everyone from Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby to Nick Swisher, Dan Johnson, and Daric Barton, who should replace Thomas at DH in 2007. His persistent health issues and fading BA create potential problems for fantasy teams, but anyone that does not mind the BA hit should try to stash his potential 25/100 season for a few bucks just prior to the endgame.

Greg Dobbs14235.24612018D
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:L    T:R00-5.2-3.1

Dobbs' .321/.367/.416 line with 3 HR, 22 RBI, and a 14:22 BB:K in 190 AB for AAA Tacoma(PCL) keeps him on speed dial whenever a Mariner hits the DL. He can handle any corner position and possesses mildly intriguing power potential. Unfortunately, little in his statistical history indicates much hope for him emerging as more than AAAA filler, which renders him useless to fantasy teams.

Erubiel Durazo15236.237416115D
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:L    T:L00-3.6-5.4

Durazo's sole purpose in 2005 involved providing justification for keeping Dan Johnson in the minors and subsequently delaying his service clock. Rube landed on the DL at the end of May and spent two months rehabbing his sore elbow before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July. He now appears likely to miss the entire first half of 2006, so do not expect him to receive more than a minor league deal, perhaps even with Oakland. The key here is that Durazo retains solid power skills, and given his age and development, he offers significant upside anywhere you can snag him in a reserve draft.

Chad Allen5315.2830505D
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30B:R    T:R00-1.7-1

Breaking camp in the majors only kept Allen employed for two uneventful months before his inevitable return to the minors. He hit .345/.374/.525 with 8 HR, 33 RBI, and a 10:31 BB:K in 200 AB for AAA Oklahoma(PCL) before an August release for off-field reasons sent him to Memphis, where his averages dipped about twenty points by season's end. Limited upside renders Allen little more than roster filler even if he lands a big league job this year.

John-Ford Griffin134.3081603D
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25B:L    T:L001.21.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Toronto for my comments on Griffin.

Joe Borchard125.4170000D
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26B:S    T:R0-10.91

The combination of Borchard's lack of options with the non-tendering of alternative reserve outfielders Timo Perez and Willie Harris virtually insures that Chicago's former top prospect will open the year with the White Sox. Unfortunately, Borchard only managed a relatively pedestrian .265/.339/.487 with 30 HR, 68 RBI, and a 52:143 BB:K in 495 AB for AAA Charlotte(IL). Scant evidence exists of any overt skill development following his arrival at Charlotte four years ago. Of course, anyone with his power potential could post helpful numbers at The Cell, so when you are searching for a sleeper fifth outfielder with upside, Borchard deserves that second dollar in the endgame.

Ed Rogers111.0001204D
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R0-1-4.4-4.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Baltimore for my comments on Rogers.

Ruben Sierra17039.229429014D
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 39B:S    T:R00-6.4-6.4

I will not be shocked if Sierra tears up spring training with the Twins and unexpectedly emerges as a regular DH option. The problem here is that increasing contact problems cut his BA to truly annoying levels, eliminating the utility of his positive power production. Moving from Yankee Stadium to the Metrodome will not address this problem, so only bid that buck if you are desperate for quantitative help during Dollar Days.

Adrian Gonzalez15034.227617017D
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23B:L    T:L00-3.8-2.8

Gonzalez moves from Texas to San Diego, though he will return to the PCL until the Padres find a way to dispatch Ryan Klesko. The first player selected in 2000 effectively finished his minor league apprenticeship last summer, registering a .338/.399/.561 performance with 18 HR, 65 RBI, and a 32:44 BB:K in 328 AB for AAA Oklahoma(PCL). Even playing in PETCO will not drop his BA much below .300, so expect to see stats resembling Sean Casey's numbers, adjusted for the park differential, after Gonzalez gains more experience in the majors. Ignore Gonzalez's irrelevant big league numbers to date when evaluating the youngster's potential once he gains that elusive full-time job.

Ryan Garko10.0000000D
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24B:R    T:R-1-1-0.2-0.2

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Cleveland for my comments on Garko.

Franklin Gutierrez10.0000002D
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22B:R    T:R-1-1-0.2-0.2

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Cleveland for my comments on Gutierrez.

Ken Harvey4510.2221504D
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R-1-1-1.9-1.7

While the non-tendered Harvey landed a minor league deal with the Royals, he no longer has any place in an organization bursting with candidates for long-term 1B/DH slots. Back problems prevented his expected comeback last year after the club killed his confidence by demoting him for Cal Pickering at the end of camp, then further erred by dismissing Pickering after less than a dozen games as the starter. I still see some upside in Harvey's numbers, but he needs to return to full health and find a change of scenery before he will deserve a blip on our fantasy radar.

Eric Munson183.1670202D
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:L    T:R-2-2-1.4-1.4

Although Minnesota dumped Munson at the end of spring training, he landed with the Rays almost immediately, posting a relatively respectable .282/.347/.532 with 25 HR, 71 RBI, and a 38:81 BB:K in 387 AB for AAA Durham(IL). He signed with the Astros this winter but should not see any time in the majors barring an injury to Morgan Ensberg or Mike Lamb. Despite his apparently limited upside, the third player selected in the 1999 draft just turned 28 in October, so finding a couple hundred at-bats in Houston could put Munson on the Phil Nevin career path.

Jeff Liefer5611.1961805D
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31B:L    T:R-2-2-4.6-4.5

An August grand slam by Liefer helped key the Indians' surge into contention, but his struggles the rest of the season effectively overwhelmed that one shining moment. He at least managed an impressive .321/.388/.595 performance with 19 HR, 68 RBI, and a 35:62 BB:K in 321 AB for AAA Buffalo(IL) prior to his July promotion, numbers that earned him a 2006 contract with Seibu in Japan. Of course, Liefer would not belong on any fantasy roster even if playing with an MLB team due to his persistently low big league batting average.

Calvin Pickering274.1481304D
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29B:L    T:L-2-2-2.5-2.3

I absolutely do not care that Pickering posted a contact rate under .50 in his twenty-seven at-bats. The Royals opted to keep him as their DH at the end of spring training despite his struggles during camp, Pickering understandably started slowly due to concerns regarding the birth of first child in mid-April, and then he certainly merited more than eight additional at-bats prior to his demotion. Anyone involved in the decision to demote Pickering deserves a lifetime ban from baseball for utter incompetency - either they should have sent out the journeyman to prove his worth in the minors once more or they should have given him the 100+ at-bats his 2004 numbers warranted. Instead, Pickering headed to AAA Omaha(PCL), where he celebrated life as a daddy by posting a .275/.384/.528 season. Along with his 23 HR, 67 RBI, and a 56:130 BB:K in 335 AB, that .912 OPS translates to a far higher level of production than the actual marks posted by Denny Hocking, Ken Harvey, Shane Costa, Joe McEwing, and many other "hitters" employed by the Royals in 2005. Now I doubt that Pickering will receive the extended look he deserves, and Allard Baird should hang his head in permanent shame over allowing this situation to develop.

National League Designated Hitters

Tim Olson20.0000000D
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27B:R    T:R-4-4-0.4-0.3

National League players are not supposed to qualify solely at DH, but Olson appeared in just three games, all during interleague play, pinch-hitting twice and pinch-running once before replacing Ryan Shealy at DH in his last game with the Rockies. Fantasy leagues with strict player eligibility rules therefore must consider Olson strictly for their UT slots. Of course, he also does not appear headed for a return to the majors this summer. Olson's .295/.357/.497 performance in 322 AB for AAA Colorado Springs(PCL) does not merit much attention, especially as he still possesses unimpressive plate discipline. I do not expect him to contribute to any successful fantasy teams this year.

NL Outfield Week begins tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Paying much attention to anyone outside of the couple of players listed here makes little sense. Ortiz and Hafner rank as two of the best pure hitters in the game while Thomas and Durazo need a return to full health before contributing anywhere. Of the youngsters, Borchard, Garko, Gonzalez, and Gutierrez all could finish the year with positive value, but the latter trio first needs to find playing time on crowded big league rosters. Right now none of them merits more than an endgame flyer or mid-round rookie pick.

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