Every winter, MLB Network puts out its Top 10 Players Right Now series, ranking the best players in the majors at each position. They wrapped up their 2021 edition this month, and five Oakland A’s showed up among the eight position player groups, though none of the team’s pitchers made the cut.
The A’s got the following mentions:
- C: Sean Murphy (5th)
- 1B: Matt Olson (8th)
- 2B: —
- SS: —
- 3B: Matt Chapman (7th)
- LF: Mark Canha (3rd)
- CF: Ramon Laureano (7th)
- RF: —
- SP: —
- RP: —
However, they didn’t do a list for designated hitter. Of course, since the universal DH hasn’t quite arrived yet, there are only 15 spots for the American League teams, but that just means it’s twice as easy for your club to get a selection.
Let’s take a look at the competition. At the top are a few obvious stars, like Nelson Cruz, J.D. Martinez, and Edwin Encarnacion. Martinez and Encarnacion had down years in 2020, and the latter is still a free agent, but they’d still surely be among the leaders. Let’s add in Giancarlo Stanton, even though he’s been injured the last couple years.
The next tier is led by Jorge Soler, who led the league in homers in a breakout 2019 but had a mediocre 2020, as well as Austin Meadows who has a similar story. There’s also Yordan Alvarez, who had a monster rookie year but then effectively missed last summer. Franmil Reyes, Rowdy Tellez, and Shohei Ohtani are exciting young hitters with promising early track records. And Renato Nunez is putting together an interesting stat sheet over the last couple years as well.
Don’t forget Miguel Cabrera, who is now teammates with Nunez in Detroit, meaning only one of them can be on the list (presumably Cabrera). The former MVP has only been an average hitter the last four seasons overall, but approaching his 38th birthday he can still pop some dingers and get on base a bit.
On the other end of the age spectrum is Ryan Mountcastle, a top prospect who had a strong rookie campaign in 2020. Ty France didn’t bring that same pedigree out of the 34th round of the draft, but he destroyed Triple-A and then had a nice rookie year last summer.
One prominent name missing from the equation is Shin-Soo Choo, who was a free agent this winter and chose to play in Korea.
That gives us this list to consider:
- Nelson Cruz, MIN
- J.D. Martinez, BOS
- Giancarlo Stanton, NYY
- Edwin Encarnacion, free agent
- Jorge Soler, KCR
- Austin Meadows, TBR
- Yordan Alvarez, HOU
- Franmil Reyes, CLE
- Rowdy Tellez, TOR
- Shohei Ohtani, LAA
- Miguel Cabrera or Renato Nunez, DET
- Ryan Mountcastle, BAL
- Ty France, SEA
I left two teams off the list. The White Sox currently have Zack Collins listed on Roster Resource, on the strength of 36 career games. And the Rangers figure to be some combination of the slumping Khris Davis and Willie Calhoun, who might be slumping even worse.
So, where would we put Moreland? Part of it depends on how much you believe in each of the individual young bats on that list, many of which have one awesome season in either 2019 or 2020 but not a long MLB track record to back it up. And another variable is Moreland himself, who has done some of the best hitting of his life over the last two years but in only 133 total games.
Moreland, 2019-20: .256/.333/.521, 120 wRC+, 29 HR, 10.1% BB, 21.8% Ks
We can comfortably rule him out of the Top 5, but it’s not impossible to make a case for one of the bottom spots. If you mark down Stanton for his injuries, and Encarnacion for not actually being on a team right now, then that’s two of the heavyweights. Knock out Meadows, Alvarez, and Ohtani until they bounce back after disappointing 2020 summers. Eliminate anyone who hasn’t yet been good for (or even played) at least 100 games, and that’s Tellez, Mountcastle, and France. And Cabrera because he’s not his old self anymore.
That would leave Cruz, J.D., Soler, and Reyes, and you could make a case for Moreland over Reyes for now anyway. And of the remaining trio, only Cruz was actually good last year. Again, suggesting Moreland for the Top 5 is overly ambitious, as at least some of the names from the previous paragraph would rank ahead of him, but he can at least be part of the conversation for the Top 10 — especially since we’re talking about just 2021, not entire future careers.
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Where would you rank Mitch Moreland among DHs in 2021?
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