Real baseball is starting to mirror fantasy baseball when it comes to the designated hitter position: It's now largely an afterthought.
Even though Houston is joining the American League this year, adding one more DH to the baseball world, the position is as thin as ever in fantasy. Only David Ortiz, Luke Scott, Travis Hafner, Dan Johnson and Jim Thome failed to qualify at another position. Of that group, only Ortiz is worth drafting in a standard fantasy league. Hafner and Johnson might be called upon to fill the holes left by injured Yankees Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, but they are merely late-round AL-only fodder.
The pickings are slim, so study up.
Is there a debate at No. 1?
Yes, but only because it is difficult to define what a fantasy DH
Comeback player: Victor Martinez, Tigers
He earned "comeback player" honors in our
Breakout: Jesus Montero, Mariners
Montero is the classic overlooked sophomore: Everyone loved his potential as a rookie, then wound up disappointed. Many of those people will likely avoid Montero on draft day, which will be their loss: This is more likely the year Montero comes through as an elite fantasy catcher. While he will have fewer at-bats to take at catcher, his offensive potential remains important enough for the Mariners to keep him in the lineup at DH or first base, too. He should see 500 at-bats, making 20-plus homers and 80-100 RBI possible. Consider him an outstanding mid-round pick.
Bust: Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
He earned "bust" dishonors in our
Sleeper: Kendrys Morales, Mariners
Morales is going to one of the toughest parks in baseball, but he was looking like the kind of monster whose bat would produce anywhere. His career numbers at Seattle's Safeco Field can support that: .292/7/23/19/0/.346/.558, albeit in just 29 games. With the fences moving in and Morales finally proving healthy last season after struggling to return from a broken ankle, Morales should play nearly every day, either at first base or DH. No one expects Morales to replicate his breakthrough 2009 numbers (.306/34/108/86/3/.355/.569), but that is precisely what makes him such a bargain in the middle rounds. We might not have seen the best from this 29-year-old slugger yet.
Top prospect/rookie: Chris McGuiness, Indians
McGuiness is not a true top prospect in terms of oozing talent, but he can certainly hit. Prospects are rarely one-dimensional players, which is why so few rookies are used at DH. McGuiness, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Rangers, was the Arizona Fall League MVP and will work on playing some outfield in addition to first base. Cleveland has an open DH spot right now, so it is possible McGuiness, who has to be kept on the major-league roster or be offered back to the Rangers for cash, sees time in this spot. Don't target this guy outside of the deepest AL-only leagues, but his pop (23 homers in 123 Double-A games) makes him someone to watch.
Note: Astros first base prospect Jonathan Singleton would have been the choice here if he wasn't suspended for 50 games for testing positive for marijuana.
Projected primary DH by team
Other potential eligibles
Our rankings only consider those who play DH as their primary position or played at least 20 games there in their most recent major league season. Here are some other players who are eligible in leagues with different requirements:
? Fifteen games: Eric Chavez, Ryan Lavarnway and Ben Francisco
? Ten games: Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nick Swisher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Josh Reddick, Dayan Viciedo, Mark Reynolds, Cody Ross, Matt LaPorta, Pedro Ciriaco and Andy Dirks
? Five games: Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Matt Wieters, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Morse, Alfonso Soriano, Torii Hunter, Jason Kubel, Mitch Moreland, Chris Carter, Brennan Boesch, Wilson Betemit and Mike Aviles
From the rough estimate projections below, the average DH in a 12-team league should produce around .278/24/86/76/4/.351/.483.