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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Early 2012 rankings -- designated hitters

Aside from David Ortiz and Billy Butler, there isn't much of a reason to draft a designated hitter.

Yes, we have the Rangers' Michael Young ranked first below, but that is only because DH is his primary position. In fantasy, he should be eligible at first and third base, and you might even be able to play Young at second, where he appeared in 14 games last season.

Obviously, you're likely much better off playing the .338 hitter in the infield than having him eat up your utility position. That leaves us with Ortiz, Butler and ...

Kendrys Morales?

You might remember Morales from 2009, when he caught our attention by hitting .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBI. You likely recall him from 2010, when he was having another productive season (.290, 11 homers and 39 RBI in 193 at-bats) before he fractured his ankle in a celebration that followed his walkoff grand slam.

Last month, The Sports Xchange reported Morales has looked impressive in batting practice. The Angels clearly would love him to return to health, giving them an everyday DH and lineup protection for Albert Pujols.

If that's the case, Morales is a very interesting late-round fantasy pick. For now, though, we're skeptical -- he hasn't played since May 29, 2010. Then there is Mark Trumbo, who had 29 homers and 87 RBI as a rookie for the Angels last season.

With Pujols at first, there are only so many available at-bats for the likes of Morales, Trumbo and Bobby Abreu.

If Morales is healthy, he should be the regular, with Trumbo filling a utility role as a backup DH, first baseman and possibly even at third. Because Morales hasn't played in nearly two years, we'll give Trumbo a slight nod for now.

Note: All players are ranked at the positions at which they are expected to spend the most time in 2012, not all positions at which they are eligible. ... Stats are from 2011.

Rank, player, team R-HR-RBI-SB-Avg.
1. Michael Young, Rangers 88-11-106-6-.338
2. David Ortiz, Red Sox 84-29-96-1-.309
3. Billy Butler, Royals 74-19-95-2-.291
4. Mark Trumbo, Angels 65-29-87-9-.254
5. Kendrys Morales, Angels DNP
6. Johnny Damon, free agent 79-16-73-19-.261
7. Travis Hafner, Indians 41-13-57-0-.280
8. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays 70-17-55-8-.272
9. Vladimir Guerrero, free agent 60-13-63-2-.290
10. Adam Dunn, White Sox 36-11-42-0-.159

Key stats: Young's power went down in 2011, but his batting average and RBI were career highs. If he can reach his 2009 and '10 level of 22 and 21 home runs, while keeping his average well above .300 (it dipped to .284 in 2010), he is a fifth-round steal and undervalued on many sites.

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