Designated Hitters Preview
The top five Designated Hitters in Major League Baseball are some of the most well-rounded players at the plate. They can hit for average power and produce in big moments. Henceforth, this is why their teams allow them to hit and escape their duties in the field. Most of their teams do not want them on the field because of the risk of injury and defensive shortcomings. This is why these five players are in their respective lineups to do one thing: mash.
Marcel Ozuna is one of the forgotten bats of the vaunted Atlanta Braves offense, which hosts a plethora of elite hitters. This has been Ozuna’s first representative full season since 2019. In 2023, he finished with 40 home runs, a .274 batting average, and an OPS of 905. This was a great season for Ozuna as he helped extend the Brave’s batting order and was a constant anchor, playing 144 games. The great season culminated in an incredible 3.3 WAR as a designated hitter, which is difficult to achieve while not playing on the field.
Why is he not higher on the list? Unfortunately, Ozuna has been injured for the past seasons and his form until now was struggling. However, as he plays with the best offense in baseball, he could always prosper from it and climb the list next year.
One of the former top Cubs prospects, Jorge Soler, has emerged as one of the MLB’s best designated hitters. He does what any good DH should do: drive in runs and produce big hits. Soler most famously exhibited his talents during the 2021 World Series, where he won the WS MVP. Since then, he has become a respected power threat across the league. In 2023, Soler had a strong season, hitting 36 home runs, with a 250-batting average, an 853 OPS, and a WAR of 1.8. These are very strong numbers from the DH position, considering he missed over half of the previous season.
Soler has led the AL as the 2019 home run king, hitting 48 and 27 more in 2021. 2019 was his breakout season, and since then, Ozuna has averaged 37 home runs each full season where he has been healthy. That offensive production makes him a great DH option for any MLB team. Like Ozuna, if Soler can stay healthy, we will not be surprised if he goes further up the list.
Before the emergence of Yordan Alverez and Shohei Ohtani, J.D. Martinez was the best designated hitter in baseball. However, he has struggled to recapture his incredible 2018 form with the Red Sox over the past few seasons. This can be down to age as he will be 36 heading into 2024, but in 2023, Martinez had a bit of a resurgence, batting 271, with 33 home runs, an OPS of 893, and a WAR of 1.9. If Martinez can capitalize on what he did in 2023 going into 2024, J.D. could become MLB’s next Nelson Cruz.
Whichever team signs him will receive a professional hitter who can also teach his teammates new techniques for hitting.
Yordan Alverez has to be one of the most terrifying hitters in baseball. He hits to all fields with power, can hit for average, and is good at taking his walks. 2022 was a monster year for Alverez and the best season of his career, batting 306, with 37 home runs, an OPS of 1.019, and a WAR of 6.8. He put up an impressive WAR while also not playing the field; all of this culminated in a third-place finish for the AL MVP. Despite suffering an injury in 2023 Alvarez had another great season batting 293, with 31 home runs, and finishing with a WAR of 4.6.
Yordan is the closest player we have seen to David Ortiz since his retirement in 2016, and if Yordan keeps playing as he has there’s a good chance he’ll be in Cooperstown as well.
Shohei Ohtani is baseball’s most complete player being the best two-way player since Babe Ruth. The man can do everything, pitch, hit, steal, defend, he is an incredible talent. Despite his year being cut short due to an elbow injury Ohtani had the best season of his career, finishing the season with a whopping 10.0 WAR, 44 home runs, 304 batting average, and an OPS of 1.066. Ohtani’s 2023 season could potentially never happen again and will go down as one of the greatest seasons ever by a player. His WAR may be considered slightly inflated as he pitches as well. Though Ohtani’s offensive WAR was still 6.0 which is the highest among the Designated Hitters in 2023.
Unfortunately, Ohtani will not be a two-way player in 2024 while recovering from his second Tommy John Surgery. However, we will still be able to hit, and if he has a similar season to 2023 in 2024 look out for him to win a record third MVP award.
Main Photo Credits: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports