1. David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)- It has gotten to the point where it’s almost inconceivable that anybody other than Ortiz could ever top this list. Aside from a little hiccup in 2009, Ortiz has been one of the premier hitters in baseball for over a decade and is still going remarkably strong for his age. At 37 years old last year, Ortiz put up a season that would have fit right in with his prime as he slashed .309/.395/.564 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs in 137 games in Boston. He remains the central figure in the Red Sox lineup and there is arguably nobody more key to the performance of their offense than Big Papi in Boston.
2. Adam Lind (Toronto Blue Jays)- Four seasons removed from a breakout season in 2009 that showed Lind to be one of the game’s best sluggers– he slashed .305/.370/.562 with 35 homers and 114 RBI– Lind finally showed off his offensive potential again. After three below average offensive seasons from 2010-2012, Lind came back to slash .288/.357/.497 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs. Lind was one of few non-disappointments in the 2013 Blue Jays’ season and at just 30 years old, he will look to be an important middle-of-the-order hitter for the next few seasons.
3. Alfonso Soriano (New York Yankees)- The Yankees experienced a major late season slide in 2013, but that wasn’t any fault of midseason acquisition Alfonso Soriano. Soriano was acquired from the Chicago Cubs for almost nothing in July and he went on to crush AL East pitching down the stretch, posting a .256/.325/.525 slash line and hammering 17 home runs in 58 games– as many homers as he had hit in 93 games in Chicago. On the whole, Soriano had a solid season as he posted a .255/.302/.489 line between New York and Chicago with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs. Soriano is not the same dynamic player he was ten years ago, but he remains a powerful and consistent bat who should fit in great at designated hitter.
4. Matt Joyce (Tampa Bay Rays)- Joyce has been squeezed out of an outfield role a bit in recent seasons, but he should still get regular playing time as a designated hitter next year. Unfortunately, despite being in his prime (29 years old as of August), Joyce has seen his numbers significantly decline the last few seasons, posting OPS’s of .825, .769, and .747 over the last three years. Joyce has developed into a “three true outcomes” type of player as he has seen his power, walks, and strikeouts remain high while seeing his average plummet along with virtually every other offensive statistic. Still, Joyce has plenty of potential at 29 years old and could certainly rejuvenate his career in 2014.
5. Steve Pearce (Baltimore Orioles)- Pearce, a promising young player when he was first promoted to the majors, had seen a long hiatus from major league effectiveness before being turned into a semi-useful utility man for the Orioles the last couple of seasons. Pearce has extensive time in both the corner outfield and at first base and turned in a quality offensive season in 44 games in Baltimore last season. He posted a .261/.362/.420 slash line, good for a .782 OPS and 111 OPS+. With both left field and first base filled for next season, Peace may well get a shot at starting designated hitter for the O’s and will get his first real chance to prove himself at age 31.