MLB player rankings ahead of 2023 season: Designated hitters
It’s truly a brave new world for the best designated hitters in 2023. The DH is now universal, giving all 30 teams the option to use a DH on a daily basis.
But that just means that there are more designated hitters out there, making it a little harder to figure out the top DHs in MLB right now.
Best designated hitters 2023
The best designated hitters in 2023 appear to be a crop of mostly veterans. In fact, there are a few who might end up being considered among the greatest designated hitters of all time. That being said, we’re only interested in the best designated hitters for 2023.
What DHs are poised to make the biggest impact for their teams this year? While that wasn’t an easy question to answer, we did come up with a ranking of the 10 best designated hitters for the 2023 MLB season.
10. Nelson Cruz
At age 42, it’s amazing that Nelson Cruz is still playing in the big leagues. But to a certain extent, that’s why MLB has the DH. To be fair, last year was the first time we started to see a decline with Cruz, as he hit just .234 with 10 home runs. That could be a sign that the end is near for him.
However, a win-now team like the Padres was still willing to take a chance on him. Given the career he’s had, Cruz deserves the benefit of the doubt for just one more season.
9. Marcell Ozuna
The Braves are probably never going to get what they paid for with Marcell Ozuna’s four-year, $64 million deal from a few years ago. But at age 32, Ozuna still has the resume of someone who can make an impact this year. He was electric during the shortened 2020 season, even if he’s posted an OPS under .700 in back-to-back seasons.
Despite a .226 average and .687 OPS last season, Ozuna still had 23 homers and 19 doubles. Obviously, Atlanta would prefer to get a little more than that. But Ozuna still isn’t a terrible option at DH.
8. Trey Mancini
Despite coming back from cancer in 2021 and helping the Astros win a World Series last year, Trey Mancini has something to prove this season. His numbers have understandably come down since his massive season in 2019 when he hit 35 homers and posted an OPS of .899.
Mancini hit just .239 with an OPS of .710 in 2022, and those numbers were far worse after getting traded to Houston. However, he’s still just 31 years old and is perfectly capable of returning to the player he was a few years ago. The Cubs are giving him a chance, and even if he doesn’t get his groove back completely, Mancini can still chip in 40-50 extra-base hits this year.
7. Daniel Vogelbach
Even with limitless pockets, the Mets seem content to go with Daniel Vogelbach as their primary DH this season. That should say something about how highly they think of him.
Keep in mind that Vogelbach was an all-star in 2019, finishing that season with 30 homers. Between his time with the Pirates and Mets last year, he mashed 18 homers with an OPS of .793. He may not bring much else to the table, but Vogelbach can certainly handle the DH role for a contender like the Mets.
6. Anthony Santander
With 33 home runs and 89 RBIs, Anthony Santander was an important part of Baltimore’s surprising success last season. The Orioles are no doubt counting on him once again as they hope to take another step forward in their rebuilding process.
The way things are shaking out with the rest of the lineup, Santander figures to be the primary DH in Baltimore despite just 34 starts in that role in 2022. As a switch-hitter with some power, that might be the best role for him. He’s definitely better from the right side, although most of Santander’s homers last year came as a left-handed batter. Unless the Orioles want to give Adley Rutschman a day off, Santander should be in the lineup as a DH and could end up excelling in that role in 2023.
5. Joc Pederson
There have certainly been some ups and downs for Joc Pederson in his career. But he settled in nicely in San Francisco last season and should be the primary DH for the Giants again in 2023.
The power is still in his bat after Pederson launched 23 homers and posted a .521 slugging percentage last season. Being an all-star last year should help to keep his confidence high, as should the fact that the Giants made him a qualifying offer. If he can maintain some level of consistency from last year to this year, there’s no reason Pederson can’t be among the top DHs in MLB in 2023.
4. Giancarlo Stanton
One could debate whether the Yankees are getting their money’s worth with Giancarlo Stanton considering his contract. His .211 average and .759 OPS in 2022 were both the lowest of his career despite Stanton making the All-Star Team for the first time since being traded to the Bronx Bombers.
On the other hand, his 66 home runs over the past two seasons are nothing to scoff at. Even if some injuries have held him back a little, Stanton is still a threat every time he steps in the batter’s box. His immense power is still there, which is why pitchers still have to be careful with how they approach him.
3. J.D. Martinez
While age is starting to diminish his abilities, J.D. Martinez is still an exceptional hitter. The championship-hungry Dodgers certainly think so, giving Martinez $10 million to help them win a title in 2023.
Obviously, there is bound to be some skepticism with Martinez only hitting 16 homers and posting an OPS of .789 last year. But it’s not always about home runs; Martinez still hit .274 last year and has totaled 85 doubles over the last two seasons. At age 35, the five-time all-star can still be a productive hitter and the ideal DH for a contending team like the Dodgers.
2. Eloy Jimenez
Even if Eloy Jimenez would like to play the outfield more, that may not happen in 2023 with Andrew Benintendi joining the Chicago outfield alongside some of the other internal options the White Sox have.
But there’s nothing wrong with keeping Jimenez in the DH spot.
Keeping him off the field could help him to stay healthy, which has been the only thing holding him back during the first part of his career. If he can just stay healthy and play 150-plus games, there’s no reason why Jimenez can’t end up with 30-plus homers and at least 100 RBIs, numbers most teams would happily take from a full-time DH.
1. Shohei Ohtani
Not only is Shohei Ohtani one of the best starting pitchers in baseball but he also moonlights as an elite DH.
As a pitcher, Ohtani is just coming into his own but he’s been a standout hitter in the big leagues since his arrival in 2018, at least if you forgive the 2020 campaign.
Over the last two seasons, Ohtani has totaled 80 home runs, 56 doubles, and 14 triples, not to mention 37 stolen bases. Even with a brutal 2020 season, his career OPS is .886, which isn’t something a lot of hitters can say five years into their career. Ohtani even hits on days that he pitches, so he has no weakness, making him the best DH in the majors right now.
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