Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2011 Position Preview: Designated Hitter

"He's the best one tool player in all of baseball." Sadly, this will be my personal legacy for David Ortiz, even though it is not true. My dad, the king of all that is negative, has said this about Ortiz since the day he broke out as a star in Beantown. To be fair to Ortiz, he is a two tool player, one who can hit for power and average. As a designated hitter, that is all that matters. 

As Ortiz enters what could possibly be his last year in a Red Sox uniform, I will start by looking back at what has made him such an endearing player over the last eight years. First of all, the guy was as charismatic as they come. I will always remember all of the intricate handshakes he had with several individuals in the locker room year after year. He had one of the most likable personalities this town has ever seen. The other reason people loved him? He played his best at the most important times. Everyone remembers the 2004 ALCS, being down three games to one, and Ortiz stepping up in the final four games, having big hit after big hit and leading the Sox to the pennant and eventually the title. 

His numbers in a Boston uniform have been astounding. He was waived by the Twins in the offseason before the 2003 season, and he was picked up by Theo Epstein, arguably his best pickup of his career. It took about a month for the Red Sox to make Ortiz an everyday player, but that decision started paying dividends almost immediately. With the Red Sox, Ortiz has finished in the top 5 of the MVP voting five times, all of those consecutively from 2003-2007! He was one of the premier hitters in baseball for a chunk of this decade. 

Ortiz is now 35 years old, and clearly on the downswing of his career. He now has a new annual tradition of playing terribly in April and May, waiting for Boston fans to panic, then come back with nice numbers the rest of the year. With this being a contract year, and Ortiz seemingly being a man of tremendous pride, I would say we should expect decent numbers from Ortiz. With the additions of Crawford and Gonzalez (Gonzo especially, who could become Ortiz 2.0), less of the brunt of the offense will be on his shoulders, so the impact of his decline will be far less than it would be. Despite Ortiz's regression, the man will never pay for a beer in Boston again. Here are my predictions for Ortiz.

.257 BA, 24 HR, 79 RBI, .786 OPS, .458 SLG, 2.3 WAR

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