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Designated Hitters
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Designated Hitters

Quick Key to the tables:
B = Bats.  T = Throws.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
AB = At-bats.  H = Hits.  BA = Batting Average.  HR= Home Runs.
RBI = Runs Batted In.  SB = Stolen Bases.  R = Runs.
Pos = Position qualification based on 20 appearances or max. # of games in 2006.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted to
consider a player's 2006 defensive rating in Scoresheet fantasy baseball.

We ranked players by position 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 all players in the league where they began the season.

1.  David OrtizBOS Red SoxAge: 30B:L   T:L

I'm done doubting Ortiz. Predicting anything short of 40 homers and 130 RBI seems laughable, especially after the Red Sox restructured their offense this winter, replacing Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, and Trot Nixon with Dustin Pedroia, Julio Lugo, and J.D. Drew. Pitchers also began respecting him more than Manny, driving Ortiz's intentional walks from nine to twenty-three. Only his positional limitation prevents me from recommending Ortiz at $30, but if bidding somehow stalls around $25, pushing toward $30 appears a viable strategy.

2.  Travis HafnerCLE IndiansAge: 29B:L   T:R

The best hitter in the American League, Hafner significantly increased his walk rate and overall power production for third straight year. He ranked as the league's most valuable player right until the end of August, when a C.J. Wilson broke Hafner's right hand and ruined untold thousands of fantasy seasons. However, he appears perfectly healthy now, and unless another fluke injury sidelines the slugger, anything less than a .300/40/110 campaign would shock me. Bid to $30 without hesitation given his $40 upside.

3.  Jim ThomeCH White SoxAge: 36B:L   T:R

No, I didn't expect Thome to rebound from his back problems. Yes, this prediction appears ridiculously foolish, easily ranking with my worst projections of the year, and yes, batting between Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko appears a perfect lineup slot for the slugger. However, Thome also enters 2007 as a 36-year-old DH with a balky back, so while I expect he'll hit the twenty-eight homers he needs to reach 2005, he also could fall to $15 or less given his limited skill set. Let someone else overpay for the significant risk that accompanies drafting Chicago's aging cleanup hitter.

4.  Frank ThomasOAK AthleticsAge: 38B:R   T:R

Quite possibly the best all-around hitter since Ted Williams retired, Thomas' .424 OBP ranks behind only Barry Bonds and Todd Helton in that span, and his career numbers rank in the top 40 in hits, homers, total bases, RBI, walks, and runs created. Few players possess better Hall of Fame credentials, and after this reemergence in Oakland, he should sail into the Hall on the first ballot. However, Thomas also appears determined to boost his numbers even further into baseball's statistical pantheon, especially since he also lacks a World Series ring. Signing with the Blue Jays doesn't appear likely to solve that problem, but for $18M over two years, only Toronto's artificial turf appears able to prevent Thomas from pushing even higher on the career leader lists. The problem here is that fantasy owners need to focus on the fact that he couldn't even break $20 with this MVP-caliber campaign, and even if he takes full advantage of the park switch to post his best BA of the millennium, he'll earn far less than $25 I suspect he'll cost in most leagues.

5.  Mike SweeneyKC RoyalsAge: 33B:R   T:R

The success of the Royals' season depends on the talent Dayton Moore can secure for the pending mid-season dumps of Reggie Sanders, Octavio Dotel, and Sweeney, who heads into free agency this fall and therefore seems certain to depart Kansas City after succeeding George Brett as the club's most visible player. He appears a perfect fit for a multitude of AL clubs, including the Rangers, Twins, and Indians, especially if a winter of rest alleviates some of his back and neck pain. Sweeney still owns respectable base skills, and although his move to DH limits his fantasy usefulness, he looks like an intriguing lottery ticket at any price below the teens.

6.  Adam LindTOR Blue JaysAge: 23B:L   T:L

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Toronto for my comments on Lind.

7.  Tim SalmonLA AngelsAge: 38B:R   T:R

While Salmon missed the vast majority of 2004 and 2005 on the DL, he returned for a final season last summer, posting another set of solid stats in his final campaign. The most visible Angel in franchise history finished his career ranked at or near the top of the club's leader board in every major offensive category other than steals, as well as one of the only Angels who played fourteen seasons without ever spending time in another organization.

8.  Matt StairsKC/TEX/DETAge: 38B:L   T:R

Returning to the Royals on a one-year deal resulted in another respectable first half for the aging slugger. Unfortunately, he stumbled after the break, only netting Kansas City Joselo Diaz from the Rangers, and then Stairs spent the last two weeks of the season with the Tigers after Detroit claimed him off waivers. He only landed an NRI with Toronto for 2007, so although he appears almost certain to break camp in the majors, he won't see much action unless Alex Rios, Reed Johnson, or Frank Thomas hits the DL. Consider Stairs no more than an endgame draft option in leagues requiring a DH until he qualifies in the outfield.

9.  Dmitri YoungDET TigersAge: 32B:S   T:R

Young's career seemingly disintegrated last summer. He contributed little on the field, and a raft of off-field issues combined with his ineffectiveness at the plate to lead to his release from the Tigers in September. A strained quad suffered at the beginning of spring training basically sidelined him until May. Then charges from a domestic violence incidence erupted, prompting Detroit to DL him again, ostensibly for the quad injury but realistically due to the off-field distraction. He spent thirty days in rehab for alcoholism and depression, rehabbed in July, and then returned in the second half, although despite decent numbers at the plate, the newly-acquired Sean Casey essentially pushed him off the roster by September. Considering that Young received a year of probation for the assault charge, his failure to find an NRI to date doesn't surprise me. I suspect he'll eventually head to Tampa if the Rays decide that Delmon needs his older brother's guidance, but until you see Young producing in the majors, he doesn't belong on anyone's roster.

10.  Josh RabeMIN TwinsAge: 27B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Minnesota for my comments on Rabe.

11.  Greg DobbsSEA MarinersAge: 28B:L   T:R

While Dobbs appears a decent AAAA bat, his sporadic big league appearances don't indicate much fantasy upside for the erstwhile cornerman. Yes, he posted a respectable .314/.375/.451 output with 9 HR, 55 RBI, and a 37:58 BB:K for AAA Tacoma(PCL), but after heading to the Phillies on waivers last month, he needs a great spring to see more than an occasional at-bats in Philadelphia. Qualifying at a regular position merely will bump Dobbs from completely useless to useless as more than roster filler.

12.  Jerry OwensCH White SoxAge: 25B:L   T:L

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Chicago(A) for my comments on Owens.

13.  Fernando TatisBAL OriolesAge: 31B:R   T:R

Tatis just turned 31 on New Year's Day, which makes him perhaps five years younger than he seems considering he hasn't cracked the majors since 2003. A .298/.372/.420 performance with 7 HR, 37 RBI, and a 36:56 BB:K in 326 AB for AAA Ottawa(IL) earned him a spot on the Orioles for the second half, and while he added little to fantasy teams, his .250/.313/.500 output suggests surprising upside given his previous struggles. He signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers, so although he should open the year with the minors, the inevitable Olmedo Saenz injury should insure Tatis receives another shot on a big league bench.

14.  Justin HuberKC RoyalsAge: 24B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Kansas City for my comments on Huber.

15.  Jeremy BrownOAK AthleticsAge: 26B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Oakland for my comments on Brown.

16.  Kevin BarkerTOR Blue JaysAge: 31B:L   T:L

The Brewers' former starting first baseman returned to the majors for the first time since 2002 on the strength of a second straight solid campaign at AAA Syracuse(IL). Barker posted a .275/.379/.480 performance with 18 HR, 76 RBI, and an 80:119 BB:K in 473 AB, and while that won't earn him more than an occasional cup-of-coffee as an injury replacement in Toronto, he should remain employed in the upper minors indefinitely.

17.  Kevin KouzmanoffCLE IndiansAge: 25B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Cleveland for my comments on Kouzmanoff.

18.  Mike RabeloDET TigersAge: 26B:S   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Detroit for my comments on Rabelo.

19.  Jonny GomesTB Devil RaysAge: 25B:R   T:R

Few players appear tougher to evaluate than Gomes, who struggled to earn a starting job in the majors and then collapsed during his sophomore campaign due to a sore shoulder that bothered him all summer, eventually requiring surgery in September. Thankfully, he just turned 26 in November, and as he offers perhaps the most OBP potential of anyone on the Rays, only a woeful camp could keep him from reemerging as the starting DH. If Gomes looks healthy, consider him an excellent buy anywhere shy of the teens. He clearly only needs a full-time job to reach a .280/30/100 season sometime this decade.

20.  Jason BottsTEX RangersAge: 26B:S   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Texas for my comments on Botts.

21.  Carl EverettSEA MarinersAge: 35B:S   T:R

Cut by Seattle after four awful months with the Mariners, Everett appears near the close of his career. Even a contract somewhere like Texas won't lead to more than a couple bucks of fantasy value for the close-minded journeyman. No one with this little upside deserves a roster spot in any league.

22.  Ruben SierraMIN TwinsAge: 40B:S   T:R

Set to challenge for DH at-bats in Minnesota, Sierra strained his right quad in spring training, returned for a couple of games in April, and then tore his left biceps tendon at the end of the month. While he unexpectedly required just six weeks on the DL, he appeared punchless upon his return, earning his release at the end of the first half. A spring training invite with the Mets appears highly unlikely to lead to a continuation of Sierra's big league career in any significant way.

23.  Kevin WittTB Devil RaysAge: 30B:L   T:R

Another summer spent excelling in the minors earned Witt a look in September, but he completely flopped despite registering a .291/.360/.577 performance with 36 HR, 99 RBI, and a 50:132 BB:K in 485 AB for AAA Durham(IL). Given his paucity of big league options, Witt wisely signed a one-year deal with Rakuten in Japan.

National League Designated Hitters

1.  Yurendell DeCasterPIT PiratesAge: 27B:R   T:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Pittsburgh for my comments on DeCaster.

NL Outfielder Week begins tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Hafner edges Ortiz as the best investment among designated hitters, Jonny Gomes laps the field as the most intriguing sleeper, and then Adam Lind and Jason Botts both only need regular at-bats to emerge as double-digit values, especially considering the favorable hitting environments and lineup support each enjoys.

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