Most fantasy leagues don’t use the designated hitter position, opting instead for a “utility” spot in which any batter can be used. Big leaguers eligible only at DH can be used only in that utility spot, eliminating the flexibility it would otherwise offer and thus diminishing the value of DH-only guys. The bright side is that a couple of them can really mash, and their DH-only status causes them to fall farther than their numbers would dictate. Be sure not to let guys like David Ortiz, Jim Thome and rookie sleeper Kila Ka’aihue get lost in the shuffle on draft day.
1. David Ortiz, BOS
Big Papi had his worst season as a member of the Red Sox in 2008. Injuries limited him to just 416 at bats, and he hit .264 with 23 jacks and 89 RBI. At 33, he likely has a few more productive seasons in him, and his DH-only status coupled with his disappointing showing last year could cause him to fall far enough to be a steal.
2. Jim Thome, CHW
Thome showed signs of decline in 2008 as his average dipped to a full-season career-low .245. However, his 34 jacks and 90 RBI indicate the power is still there. If he falls far enough in your draft, don’t hesitate to scoop the 38-year-old up.
3. Kila Ka’aihue, KC
Ka’aihue was a monster in triple-A last season, hitting .314 and mashing 37 homers in just 401 at bats. Also impressive were his 104 walks, as compared to just 67 K’s. He held his own in 21 big league at bats as well and is a great sleeper pick.
4. Travis Hafner, CLE +
Hafner was one of the most feared sluggers in all of baseball in 2006 but hit just .197 with 5 homers in limited duty last year. A troublesome right shoulder is to blame, and Hafner underwent surgery in the offseason. Feel free to take a late-round flier.
5. Gary Sheffield, DET
Sheffield, now 40, is nearing the end of the road. He hasn’t cracked the 500-at bat mark since 2005 and hit just .225 with 19 jacks in 2008. You never want to count out a competitor like Sheffield, but 25 homers is probably a best-case scenario.
6. Rocco Baldelli, BOS
Baldelli, who signed with Boston this offseason, hasn’t come close to playing a full season since 2004, mostly because of a disorder that causes chronic fatigue. He’s talented enough to produce if he gets regular at bats, but don’t count on that.
7. Jeff Larish, DET
Larish has shown good pop in the minors and didn’t embarrass himself in 104 big-league at bats last season, hitting .260 with 2 homers. He K’s a lot and isn’t guaranteed a starting job so draft him late if at all, but keep him on your radar.
8. Chris Carter, BOS
Carter has hit .300 or better with 18 or more homers the past three seasons in triple-A, but all he has to show for it is 18 big league at bats. He’d probably put up decent numbers if he ever got regular at bats, but that isn’t going to happen in Boston.
9. Mike Sweeney, SEA +
Sweeney was a terrific hitter a decade ago but hasn’t managed even 300 at bats in a season since 2005 and had operations on both knees last year. If he can somehow stay healthy, he might flash his old form once in a great while.
10. Cliff Floyd, SD
Floyd has had a nice career but at this point he’s just a platoon player. He can still swing the bat, as evidenced by his 11 jacks in 246 at bats last season, but he probably won’t get even that many at bats this year now that he can’t DH.
THE BEST OF THE REST
11. Craig Monroe, PIT
12. Tug Hulett, KC
13. Matt Stairs, PHI
14. Randy Ruiz, TOR
15. Frank Thomas
FANTASY PREVIEW SCHEDULE
Monday, Feb. 23 - Intro & Catchers
Wednesday, Feb. 25 - First Basemen
Friday, Feb. 27 - Second Basemen
Monday, March 2 - Third Basemen
Wednesday, March 4 - Shortstops
Friday, March 6 - Outfielders
Monday, March 9 - DH-only
Wednesday, March 11 - Starting Pitchers
Friday, March 13 - Relief Pitchers
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by the Associated Press