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How does Delmon Young rank among AL East DHs?

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The Orioles will probably have a lot of different designated hitters, but one of them will be Delmon Young. How does he compare to the divisional competition?

Will Delmon Young deliver postseason magic again?
Will Delmon Young deliver postseason magic again?
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The DH is an interesting position. For one, half the teams in the majors don't even employ one. Second, it's a position that requires no defensive capability. Sure, most teams seem to be moving away from using an everyday DH, but the value to a team still lies in hitting capability with playing in the field a secondary concern. Given this, I'd expect DHs that are employed to be really good at hitting and relatively inexpensive. Did any AL East teams value players that way? Of course it's not that simple, but keep some of that in mind as you read through about these five guys.

Another thing - is it weird the DH is actually a controversy? It's been 42 years since the American League adopted one. The fact that the National League hasn't come along yet is strange and it gets weirder every year. Of all the things baseball seems to be focusing on (pace of play, relevance of All-Star Games, Pete Rose) this seems like something that could be easily fixed, it would make the players union happy, the game would be more exciting, and most importantly - inter-league play (which has been increased lately for some reason) would be a lot less confusing.

Below you will see the player expected to be at DH more than any other for each team in the East. These are in no particular order, though I do discuss who I think will be the best below.

The stats you see underneath a player's name are his total statistics for 2013 and 2014 and ZiPS projections from Fangraphs that predict how he will perform in 2015.

David Ortiz
Age: 39
2015 Salary: $16M

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB

2B

HR

RBI

fWAR

2013

137

600

.309

.395

.564

76

38

30

103

3.4

2014

142

602

.263

.355

.517

75

27

35

104

2.3

2015 (ZiPS)

126

537

.277

.363

.526

64

27

29

88

2.9

While some teams are platooning at this position, or using players who can also play in the field, David Ortiz is full-time DH. He's become a staple of the franchise. He's the only remaining player from their 2004 World Series team, and I expect that to be true until the day he retires. As long as he continues to stay healthy, he appears on track to remain one of the best hitters in the division.

However, at age 39, there's no guarantee he will be able to play through the entire season. Avoiding play in the field obviously helps prevent injury, but there are no guarantees. Orioles fans wouldn't mind if he missed some playing time, since the Red Sox don't have much depth at this position. They do have a lot of outfielders who could put in some time, but I wouldn't expect any of them to put up Ortiz's numbers. His numbers were down some in 2014, and the projections for next year seem to indicate he may have more hits that don't go for home runs.

The Red Sox offense was not great last year, ranking below average in several offensive categories. While the team has addressed that in the offseason by signing guys like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, make no mistake about it - if the Red Sox are to be successful in 2015, they need David Ortiz to be the player they've come to expect.

Edwin Encarnacion
Age: 32
2015 Salary: $10M

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB

2B

HR

RBI

fWAR

2013

142

621

.272

.370

.534

82

29

36

104

3.9

2014

128

524

.268

.354

.547

62

27

34

98

3.5

2015 (ZiPS)

132

559

.270

.358

.514

64

27

30

97

3.4

Last season, Encarnacion got most of his playing time at First Base, but this year it seems like he's going to be the team's DH with the departure of Adam Lind and their acquisition of Justin Smoak. He's been an all-star the last couple years and could be one again in 2015 if he continues to hit like he has been.

Like Ortiz, the projections seem to indicate there's going to be some drop-off in power but he should still make a very good DH. And even though the last few years he's played mostly in the field, he's gotten into the lineup enough as a DH that I wouldn't expect there to be a much of a change in production due to this switch. It's certainly a toss-up between him and Ortiz for title of best DH in the division, but given the fact that he's several years younger and should more be more reliable I think I'd give it to Encarnacion at this point. He does seem to be on a slight decline from his career year in 2012, but it seems like the projections have already taken that into account. Sorry.

Baltimore Orioles
Delmon Young
Age: 29
2015 Salary: $2.25M

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB

2B

HR

RBI

fWAR

2013

103

361

.260

.307

.407

20

16

11

38

-0.7

2014

83

255

.302

.337

.442

10

11

7

30

0.9

2015 (ZiPS)

116

418

.261

.297

.401

17

17

12

50

0.3

Did you know Delmon Young was the first overall pick of the 2003 draft? It doesn't matter how many times I hear that, it's still going to surprise me. However, no matter how far he's fallen from his status as a top prospect, he delivered the greatest moment in a game at Camden Yards in a long, long time. I was there for that game and I'll never forget it. So for that at least, I'm personally going to give him a lot of leeway this year. If he starts to decline though, I at least trust Buck won't be quite as sentimental.

Unlike the two players above, Delmon Young is not projected to be very productive in 2015. While Orioles fans are going to continue hoping the projections are very wrong, its probably a fair assessment - this guy just hasn't done much. But the Orioles seem to be one of the best teams at extracting maximum production from players and I expect them to continue to do that in 2015.

I'd expect Young to see very limited time in the field and most of his at-bats against left-handers. And the Orioles are in a good position to platoon him with lefties like Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza. Still, they aren't counting on him to match up with Ortiz or Encarnacion for production. We all know by now, this what the Orioles do - they shy away from high-priced free agents and instead assemble a team of players who give them the best value at the best price. I actually thought there might have been some better guys out there that wouldn't have been too expensive that could've filled this role (Colby Rasmus anyone?) but I guess that extra $1M the Astros gave him was enough to make the difference. Oh well, no point in looking backwards, right?

John Jaso
Age: 31
2015 Salary: $3.18M

G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB

2B

HR

RBI

fWAR

2013

70

249

.271

.387

.372

38

12

3

21

1.2

2014

99

344

.264

.337

.430

28

18

9

40

1.6

2015 (ZiPS)

92

316

.253

.346

.396

35

14

7

33

1.8

The Rays acquired John Jaso from the A's in the offseason in the Ben Zobrist trade (The Rays actually drafted him back in 2003). He seems to have split time at C and DH for Oakland. In Tampa Bay, I'd expect him to see a lot more time at DH - the Rays already have a lot of catchers. The speculation seems to be he'll split time at the position with David DeJesus. Over the last two years, Tropicana Field was a slightly better park for left-handers than the Coliseum, so that should benefit him. Still, Jaso is not projected as much of a power hitter and the Rays have struggled over the years with getting production from the DH position. It'll be interesting to see if Jaso changes anything.

Carlos Beltran
Age: 37
2015 Salary: $15M


G

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB

2B

HR

RBI

fWAR

2013

145

600

.296

.339

.491

38

30

24

84

1.9

2014

109

449

.233

.301

.402

37

23

15

49

-0.7

2015 (ZiPS)

113

464

.254

.310

.434

34

23

17

62

0.9

The Yankees are surely hoping to get better production from Beltran this year. He may match up with Ortiz in age and salary, but his production is nowhere near Ortiz's level. And the Yankees DH position will be interesting this year. There's already hints from Joe Girardi that Alex Rodriguez will get more playing time at DH than Third Base. Beltran is a switch hitter, and over the course of his career he has produced similar numbers from both sides of the plate. Last year he was much better against RHP (which makes sense at Yankee Stadium, where left-handed batters enjoy a short field) and since Rodriguez bats right, I could see a platoon split there. He had some injury problems last year, but age is catching up with him and I don't think he should be counted on as a productive piece of the lineup.

* * *

So what do you think? Are the Orioles in trouble without a better DH? From that I can tell - no. First of all, they get a lot of production from their position players where other teams might not. Second, despite what the projections say I don't think Jaso or Beltran will necessarily be better than Young. Or, more accurately, I don't think the Orioles with their platoon of DH players will get less production from the position than the Yankees or Rays.

It will be interesting to see how much Young actually gets into the lineup this year and what the production from the position is. Ortiz and Encarnacion will probably outperform the other guys but that's OK - I think the Orioles have those teams beat in a lot of other ways.