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Five Best Hitters in the AL

I was going to do this a few days ago but didn't get around to it. Since I'm bored (as the Orioles are slaughtering the Red Sox and the game isn't interesting to talk about), I figured I'd get around to it.

This is "in response," I guess you could say, to a couple of similar things that have been printed recently by fellow authors here on the SB Nation network; first, Matthew Kizner of Beyond the Box Score posted his top five AL hitters. After that, Randy Booth of Over the Monster posted his own top five. Their lists:

Matthew Kizner, Beyond the Box Score

  1. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels
  2. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
  3. Michael Young, Rangers
  4. Derek Jeter, Yankees
  5. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Randy Booth, Over the Monster
  1. Ichiro, Mariners
  2. Manny
  3. Vlad
  4. A-Rod
  5. David Ortiz, Red Sox and Gary Sheffield, Yankees (tie)
So I thought I'd list my own, because I disagree a bit (or more) with both lists. A few things to get out of the way, though:
  1. I will not list Brian Roberts. His freaky two months this season make him one of the best hitters in the American League to this point in 2005, maybe the best, but that's not the purpose. Roberts has not proven enough.
  2. Michael Young is in no way one of the five best hitters in the American League, by any qualification whatsoever. He's a good ballplayer, but was not even one of the two best hitters on his own team in his 2004 breakout season. Teixeira was much better and Blalock was superior as well. Both are having much better 2005 seasons than Young. Young is a hustling buzz player for sportscasters, not a great hitter. He's not even in the top ten, to be honest, and I'm not sure he should even be in the top 15, but I haven't thought about 15 yet. Anyone who wants to list 15 better AL hitters than Michael Young has my blessing.
  3. I won't list Miguel Tejada because I don't think he is one of the five best hitters in the AL. I know some O's fans would disagree, but the fact is he's just not good enough. Like Young, it's not to say he's not a good hitter. For what it's worth, Tejada is better than Young, too, but not as good as Teixiera.
  4. Melvin Mora, as always, remains criminally ignored. I won't place Mora, though, partially due to not wanting to overrate him out of favoritism, but more because his walk rate is down this season and it makes him a much less effective hitter than he had been the two seasons before. He is still good though.
  5. I'm not going to put Ichiro on here, either. Ichiro is a fantastic contact hitter that works his strengths and covers his weaknesses like no one else in the game, maybe. I don't agree with Kinzer that Ichiro is overrated by being what he is, and I don't agree with Randy that he's the best hitter in the AL because of it. I'm somewhere in the middle. I think Ichiro is fantastic, but in no way would I trade any of the five guys I'm ranking straight-up for Ichiro.
That said, let's get to my list.

1. Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
Manny hasn't gotten off to a good start this year, but he was a better hitter than Vlad Guerrero last year - not by a whole lot, mind you, but he was better. To date, over a full season, Manny Ramirez has never had a bad season. His career-low in OPS with a season of 400 at-bats or more? .953. That's Manny Ramirez's down year (1997 with Cleveland, when he hit .328/.415/.538).

Ramirez's career numbers are outlandish: .314/.409/.596, a career OPS of 1.006, 401 homers, 1310 RBI. He's had thirty or more doubles every year since 1996. The last time he didn't hit 30 homers was '97. Put very simply, and this isn't brought up all that much: Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of all-time. Coming into 2005, Ramirez ranked ninth all-time in career OPS, behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Rogers Hornsby (minimum: 3000 PA).

2. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels
To be fair, Guerrero ranks 13th all-time in OPS coming into this year, and of the top 25, 13 of the players in the top 25 are active. It's also worth noting that Guerrero and Ramirez are not the same hitter. Vlad is still, at his core, a free-swinger, and Manny has always been more than happy to take a walk. Both of them can mash. I don't dispute Vladimir Guerrero's ability at all. I don't argue with Vlad being No. 1 on anyone's list, really.

As far as frightening hitters go, Vlad Guerrero is the scariest this side of Bonds. The way he can golf a ball 450 feet must give pitchers diarrhea.

3. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
A-Rod is back to being A-Rod. He's a great hitter. It's as simple as that. He's a slap fighter and a guy I couldn't possibly root for anymore, but the man can hit the baseball.

4. Gary Sheffield, Yankees
Historically underrated, Sheffield is going to join the 500 homer club and has a good chance at putting up a career OBP of .400+ (he's at .401 at this moment). Sheffield is an offensive force and has been forever. Sheff's last bad season? 1991.

5. David Ortiz, Red Sox
Since going to Boston, Ortiz has been a monster. Building a team, I'd rather have Teixiera than Ortiz simply because of age, but right now Ortiz is superior.

Outside of Sheffield, all these guys should be around for a while, too.

I'd give Teixeira, Mora, Tejada, Ichiro, Jeter, Varitek, Trot Nixon (maybe the most underrated hitter in the AL), and Carlos Guillen honorable mentions. And it's more than worth saying that a healthy Frank Thomas can be in this type of group still, though likely not quite in the top five anymore.

Eric Chavez looked last year like he was ready to be part of this group, but he has been miserable in 2005. Hideki Matsui is in the same boat.