AL East by Position: Designated Hitter

Designated hitter is the last comparison to make in this series, and it's funny that in the position where the only requirement is being able to hit there are so many suspect batters. Luke Scott is streak city, Nick Johnson is made of glass, Pat Burrell had a lousy first year as a Ray, David Ortiz could possibly be near the end of the line, and Adam Lind is a straight up beast but doesn't have much of a track record.

1. Adam Lind (Blue Jays) - Finally, a Blue Jay gets the top spot on the list! As mentioned above, Lind doesn't have much of a major league track record. He spent parts of 2006-2008 with the Blue Jays with mixed success, but finally put it together in 2009. The 25 year old hit 35 home runs and 46 doubles with an OBP of .370. Lind has the minor league numbers to back up his year in 2009 and my money is on him continuing to be a major threat offensively. A DH is all he should be, though. He played 55 games in the OF for the Blue Jays in 2009 but his defense is a bit Adam Dunn-esque.

2. David Ortiz (Red Sox) - It entirely possible that 2010 will be very unkind to David Ortiz. From 2003-2007 he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the American League, then he struggled with injuries for much of 2008, and in 2009 he was absolutely abysmal for the first two months of the season. From Opening Day until May 31st, a span of 208 plate appearances, he hit .185/.284/.287 with just 1 home run. He looked totally cooked and I thought for sure he was finished. After that, though, he rebounded to hit .264/.356/.548 with 27 HR over the final four months. His final stats were decidedly mediocre but the way his season split so severely makes it hard to know what to make of him. I'm placing him at #2 on the list though because he proved over the final four months of the season that he still has what it takes to be productive (even if he will almost surely never again reach his pre-2008 levels). If he'd hit over the entire season the way he did from June 1 through the end of the year he would have ended the season with close to 40 HR.

3. Nick Johnson (Yankees) - I've always really liked Nick Johnson. I hoped he'd be an off-season target for the Orioles to play first base, but no luck. Johnson has a well known history of injury, missing large chunks of time in 2003, 2004, and 2008. He also missed the 2007 season entirely. Getting on base is the name of Johnson's game and he does it well. His lifetime OBP is .402, which is 9th among active players with at least 3000 plate appearances. He's only had three seasons where he's had enough ABs to qualify for the batting title, but in each of those years he was in the top 10 in the majors in OBP. Last year, his .426 OBP was third to just the two MVPs, Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols. Johnson doesn't fit the traditional mold of a DH in that he doesn't hit for a lot of power (his career high for HR is 23 '06, generally you can rely on him to hit about 15 in a full season), but because he gets on base so well he still has a career OPS of .849. If Johnson stays healthy for the entire year the Yankees will have gotten him for a bargain at $5.5M and he'll probably prove more valuable than David Ortiz.

4. Luke Scott (Orioles) - As we are all well aware, David Ortiz wasn't the only streaky DH in the AL East last year. Luke's final season numbers of .258/.340/.488 with 25 home runs (tops on the O's) and 26 doubles were certainly respectable. Of the AL East DH's on this list only Lind had a higher slugging %. But as O's fans we know that's not the whole story. Luke's first half numbers were outstanding as he hit .305/.384/.592 with 18 HR before the All Star Break. After? .208/.292/.375 with 7 HR. Luke has always been known around these parts as streaky but he took it to an entirely new level in 2009. '09 was Luke's first year as a full time DH and he's made no secret of the fact that he doesn't like not playing the field. By his admission, not having defense to take his mind off of some bad at-bats caused him to over analyze and possibly caused his extended slump. Gee, if only the Orioles had a need that Luke could have met...maybe a corner infield spot (no, I'm not ready to let it go). If Luke can level out his offense and not get too much into his own head, he'll be valuable in 2010.

5. Pat Burrell (Rays) - After nine productive seasons with the Phillies, Pat Burrell signed a 2 year, $16M contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately for the Rays, Burrell decided 2009 was the time to have the worst year of his career. He struggled with injury, missing a month with neck problems, and didn't play well when he was healthy. Burrell came into Tampa Bay with a career hitting line of .257/.367/.485. In Tampa Bay he hit .221/.315/.367. It's very, very unlikely Burrell will be so lousy in 2010 and if he is he probably won't last the season. The fact is he switched to the toughest division in the tougher league, he was bothered with injury, and he got a year older. Those three probably combined in the worst possible way for Burrell in 2009. He can't stop aging, but he's been in the league a year and if he can stay healthy I'm sure he'll rebound some. Maybe not to his 2007 levels, but to a place where he can help the team rather than hurt it. It's a contract year as well, that always helps.

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