This is part of an ongoing series where I rank the American League Central teams at each position. This idea stems from something they did over at Fangraphs. Their series was doing Power Rankings at each position for all of Major League Baseball, and their rankings were generated by taking their best guess at dividing playing time at the position (based on 700 PA) and using a combination of their ZiPS and Steamer projection systems.
My process is much more subjective. Still, I rely heavily on the Fangraphs pieces, team depth charts and recent press to get a feel for who's in the mix at the position.
Previous posts: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF
1. Kansas City Royals
Billy Butler, 679 PA, .313/.373/.510
Eric Hosmer, 598 PA, .232/.304/.359
Salvador Perez, 305 PA, .301/.328/.471
Butler had his best season in 2012, but it wasn't far and away better than he was in 2010. The two seasons were very similar, but in 2010 he hit 45 doubles, 15 homers and walked 69 times. Last season, he hit 32 doubles, 29 homers and walked 54 times. So, for 14 extra homers, he lost 13 doubles and 15 walks. Sure, you'd prefer the homers, but the difference isn't massive and it doesn't make his 2012 as much of a breakout as many would have you believe. That's important for his projection because "he is who we thought he was", so to speak, not this promising young-ish player who finally turned a corner from good to star.
Hosmer and Perez were included because they might get partial days off by sliding into this role from time to time. It won't be enough to move the needle much on the Royals' production from this position.
2. Detroit Tiger
Victor Martinez, Didn't play in 2012
Prince Fielder, 690 PA, .313/.412/.528
Miguel Cabrera, 697 PA, .330/.393/.606
Martinez was sorely missed from the Tigers' lineup in 2012, as he sat out the season after tearing up his knee in preseason workouts. It ended up being Delmon Young's most usual landing spot in the lineup and as a result, the Tigers' production at the position was lagging. When he's healthy, Martinez will be a good bet to outpace both that terrible production from last season and the American League's average DH. It's one of the big boosts when you compare this year's kitties to last.
The interesting thing about the Tigers is going to be when they rest Victor and put Prince or Miggy in at DH, they will likely get more production than they get from their starter. Wisenheimers all over the blogdom will quip that's because those two should both be DHs, but we won't get into that. Gains in production from those two will probably be cancelled out by the rare instance where Leyland doesn't want to mess with the "flow of the lineup" and throws Kelly or Tuiasosopo in at DH.
3. Chicago White Sox
Adam Dunn, 649 PA, .204/.333/.468
Dayan Viciedo, 543 PA, .255/.300/.444
Paul Konerko, 598 PA, .298/.371/.486
The optimist looks at Adam Dunn and sees one of the most productive .200 hitters in baseball history. The pessimist looks at Adam Dunn and sees the least productive 40 home run hitter in baseball history. I look at Adam Dunn and see Will Farrell.
4. Cleveland Indians
Mark Reynolds, (BAL) 538 PA, .221/.335/.429
Jason Giambi, (COL) 113 PA, .225/.372/.303
Carlos Santana, 609 PA, .252/.365/.420
Apparently the Indians saw the White Sox's Dunn and said they wanted one of those, just a little less so. Less as in a little less strikeouts, less walks and less power. That ends up adding up to significantly less production for significantly less money. On days when Tito doesn't feel Mark Reynolds' defense is good enough to cover DH, he'll put in Giambi.
Giambi spent the last three seasons and change with the Rockies, so it'll be interesting to see what he can do outside of Denver. He'll likely be serving as the Tribe's lefty complement to Reynolds and, if you believe Francona's spring training reports, extra hitting coach.
5. Minnesota Twins
Ryan Doumit, 528 PA, .275/.320/.461
Justin Morneau, 570 PA, .267/.333/.440
Chris Parmelee, 210 PA, .229/.290/.380
As a catcher, Doumit is a good bat to have in the lineup. As a DH, it's good to remember Doumit has the ability to catch. That's kind of the story for the Twins' DH candidates. Unless they're putting Mauer or Willingham there, they just don't have the bats to fill the spot. That leaves them pulling up the rear in these rankings.
Butler may outproduce Martinez in the DH spot, but please remember I did not take into account Little Victor and the value of the "awwwww"s he generates. One thing I find genuinely interesting is Butler is the only regular DH in this group who's his team's best hitter (though that could change in the 2013 Royals' lineup). That's good for Butler, but it may not say great things about the Royals' lineup considering Martinez is probably fourth or fifth in the Tiger lineup.
After those two, Dunn will have to continue to Three True Outcome his way to productivity while the Indians and Twins will have to try to piece something together and hope their fans get a look before it falls over.