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The season is just a day away and there are a few rankings left to discuss. After covering outfielders, this post focuses on the DHs and benches on all the teams in the AL East. While it may seem strange to put the DH and bench together, there are few teams outside of the Red Sox that employ a full-time DH and rather cycle many players through. As a result, pairing the DH and bench is the best way to encapsulate the strengths and weaknesses of each team. So without further ado, here are the rankings:
1. David Ortiz, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Jonathan Herrera, David Ross, Boston Red Sox: There is no question that David Ortiz is the premier DH in baseball. Despite missing most of April last year, Ortiz put up a .309 average with 30 home runs and 102 RBIs and was integral to Boston’s World Series run. Along with Ortiz, the clutch performances form the Red Sox bench went a long way to their championship. While they may not reach the same level of excellence they had last year, this is still an extremely formidable group.
2. Alfonso Soriano, Francisco Cervelli, Ichiro Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees: Soriano was huge for the Yankees last year after being picked up from the Cubs at the deadline hitting 17 home runs and driving in 50 runs in just 58 games. He should be a solid force for the Yankees going forward and also gives them a bit of a threat on the bases. Beyond Eduardo Nunez, the Yankees bench is full of players that could be solid everyday players on other teams so they should help the Yankees rest their aging regulars.
3. Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce, Jayson Nix, Jose Molina, Tampa Bay Rays: Because this is Joe Maddon’s team it’s hard to specify an exact DH and who are bench players. It is Joe Maddon’s way to mix and match on a daily basis and he is one of the best at doing it. The Rays team is constantly changing and yet they have made the playoffs three out of the past four seasons. As a result it is not the players themselves that deserve this ranking but the sum of their parts and this Dh/bench combo should be extremely impactful.
4. Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce, Jemile Weeks, Nolan Reimold, Baltimore Orioles: While Nelson Cruz is expected to see most of the time at DH it should not be a surprise to see Nolan Reimold get a significant amount of at-bats as well. Reimold is capable of providing some power off the bench, but his injury history is troubling and it remains to be seen whether he can contribute regularly. Weeks and Pearce give the Orioles some flexibility off the bench, but should not be confused as impact players.
5. Adam Lind, Maicer Izturis, Erik Kratz, Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind had a career year in 2009 hitting 35 home runs and driving in 114 runs. He fell off the map the next few seasons, but rebounded nicely this past year. If the rest of the Blue Jays roster can stay healthy then lefty hitting Adam Lind will be a nice complement to righties Bautista and Encarnacion. As far as the bench goes the Blue Jays were pretty lackluster in 2013 and with very few changes there should not be much of a difference.
1. David Ortiz, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Jonathan Herrera, David Ross, Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox hold a slight edge because Ortiz is likely the best DH of all time. The clutch performances of Carp and Nava make them great assets of any team to face right-handed pitchers. Herrera will play only when the other infielders need a day off. Ross is a huge defensive catcher that can get the job done in the playoffs. as everyone saw in the World Series.
1. David Ortiz, Daniel Nava, Mike Carp, Jonathan Herrera, David Ross, Boston Red Sox: Ortiz is still as solid as they come as a designated hitter. Although his power numbers aren’t where they were ten years ago, Ortiz tallied an OPS of .959 last season, well above his career average. At the same time 30+ homers and 100+ RBI is nothing to shrug at, especially accompanied with a .309 batting average. Father Time may be calling, but Big Papi will continue to be a huge contributor through the 2014 season. Also, this is the same bench that made major contributions to a World Series run last season and there’s no reason to not like them this season either.
2. Alfonso Soriano, Francisco Cervelli, Ichiro Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees: Soriano was a great pick-up for the Yankees last season and he should continue to pay dividends in the coming season. The only reason we haven’t heard more about Soriano over the past eight seasons has been because he’s been playing for the Chicago Cubs. Throughout his stint with an insignificant team, he still managed to stack up significant stats across the board. He may not get on base like Ortiz and he may not be quite as clutch, but he brings the same type of power to the table and he can steal a few bases. For the bench, the Yankees needed a deep team last season to survive an injury plagued season and although the team missed the post season it is safe to say that the bench delivered. The New York front office never has trouble putting together a solid group of backups and utility pieces and they have done another good job this season.
3. Adam Lind, Maicer Izturis, Erik Kratz, Toronto Blue Jays: With Adam Lind, you can expect a solid offensive contribution when he’s healthy. Will it be the same type of impact he had with in 2009 with 35 home runs, 114 RBI, a .370 OBP, and a contribution of 3.6 wins above replacement? Probably not. But while Lind has failed to replicate that type of season over the past several years, he still has the potential to make a difference. In a lineup that has (tentatively) Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion batting ahead of him, Lind is a dark horse candidate for big year. The Blue Jays bench will be a source of weakness in 2014. While Maicer Izturis and Erik Kratz are somewhat valuable pieces and can bring experience to the table, the rest of the bench is incredibly weak and lacking in experience tremendously. If the Blue Jays need a guy to step up in the wake of an injury, they may have a hard time finding him here.
4. Sean Rodriguez, Matt Joyce, Jayson Nix, Jose Molina, Tampa Bay Rays: Like just about everybody else in Joe Maddon’s lineup, Matt Joyce can get on base. A career .340 OBP is excellent and a career OPS of .795 proves he’s not just taking walks either. Joyce has received restricted playing time throughout his career but he has definitely made his limited number of at-bats count. With a full season worth of at bats, its possible Joyce can take a step forward in his career. As far as the bench goes, the Rays have made putting together a team with depth a habit and that explains why they have found themselves in the playoffs three out of the last four seasons. Guys like Sean Rodriguez and Jose Molina have embraced their roles as bench players with this team and have found ways to make contributions in every way possible. Newly acquired shortstop Jayson Nix was a part of the bench that kept the Yankees afloat in spite of a slew of injuries last season, and he seems to be a really good fit for Tampa Bay in 2014. This should just be another solid bench for Joe Maddon in 2014.
5. Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce, Jemile Weeks, Nolan Reimold Baltimore Orioles: In a lineup that is bound to bash dozens and dozens of home runs, it is very possible that Reimold will get in on the action as the Orioles DH. Like Joyce, Reimold hasn’t seen that many at-bats throughout his career but has demonstrated solid power numbers as he has managed to hit a home run every 22 times up to bat. However with just 936 at bats to show for six seasons of service, whether or not he can maintain that type of production over a full season remains a big question. Baltimore made some major upgrades to their roster this past winter adding slugger Nelson Cruz and starter Ubaldo Jimenez, but its bench has remained a weakness with very little experience and major league success under its belt. Steve Pearce, Steve Clevenger, Alexi Casilla, and Ryan Flaherty are all players that have yet to establish themselves as valuable and henry Uritiia has just 58 career at-bats. Like the Blue Jays, if the Orioles suffer injuries in the early going, they will likely have to make moves to acquire more depth.
Those are the rankings for the DH and bench with the Red Sox being the clear favorite. Have a different order? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for the rankings of the pitching staffs later tonight.