MLB's Top 25 Designated Hitters of All Time

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IDecember 26, 2011

MLB's Top 25 Designated Hitters of All Time

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    Beginning in the 1973 season, American League teams were able to use a designated hitter. Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees was the first DH, and there have been many more players who have filled the DH position since then.

    There is a constant debate about whether these players that only have an impact offensively are deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame. Some great players have been DHs, and they have put up outstanding numbers during their career. Other players have become DHs after they were no longer able to play good defense.

    The following list features the best DHs in MLB history.

25) Danny Tartabull

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    Danny Tartabull spent his time in the major leagues as both a right fielder and a DH. He was a power hitter, and he drove in more than 100 runs in five different seasons in his career.

    Tartabull bounced around to six different teams during his career, but he was able to have success with almost all of them.

24) Dave Kingman

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    Dave Kingman spent most of his career as a first baseman, but as his career began to wind down he became a DH.

    Kingman led the league in home runs twice during his career. He had strikeout issues and led the league in strikeouts three times. Kingman ended his career with 442 home runs and a .236 batting average.

23) Cecil Fielder

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    While his son is one of the more promising young first basemen in baseball, Cecil Fielder was one of the best DHs in the history of the game.

    Fielder was a feared power hitter, and he led the American League in home runs twice, including when he hit a career high of 51 in 1990. He also finished in second place in AL MVP voting twice during his career.

22) Willie Horton

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    Willie Horton spent most of his career with the Detroit Tigers, and he was a key part of their 1968 world championship team.

    Horton also collected a number of personal accolades during his career. He was selected to four All-Star teams, and in 1979 he won the award given out to the league's best DH.

    The Detroit Tigers retired his No. 23 in 2000.

    Photo Credit: MLB

21) Mike Sweeney

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    During his career, Mike Sweeney split most of his time between first base and the DH position. The longtime Kansas City Royal was a five-time All-Star.

    Sweeney belted 215 home runs during his career and had a .297 batting average.

20) Andre Thornton

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    Once he joined the Cleveland Indians, Andre Thornton's career really began to take off. He broke the 25-homer mark five times during his career.

    After suffering a knee injury that required two surgeries and cost him the 1980 season, Thornton essentially became a full-time DH for the rest of his career.

    Photo Credit: Cleveland Seniors

19) Richie Zisk

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    A .324 batting average and 10 home runs were enough for Richie Zisk to finish in the top 10 of the 1979 NL Rookie of the Year voting.

    Like many players, Zisk did not become a full-time DH until the latter part of his career. In fact, Zisk had been an All-Star left fielder.

    Photo Credit: Baseball-Reference

18) Dave Parker

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    For many years, Dave Parker was a key part of the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup. He posted a .334/.394/.585 line with 30 home runs when he won the NL MVP Award in 1978.

    When Parker got older, he moved to the American League, and his career was extended by the fact that he could DH.

17) Greg Luzinski

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    Greg Luzinski was a feared member of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup when he was their everyday left fielder. Once he went to the Chicago White Sox, he became a DH.

    Luzinski set a White Sox franchise record by hitting a home run in five consecutive games. He was named the designated hitter of the year in both 1981 and 1983.

    Photo Credit: NY Daily News

16) Carl Yastrzemski

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    Carl Yastrzemski spent most of his career as an outfielder and a first baseman for the Boston Red Sox. He did become a designated hitter toward the end of his career.

    Yastrzemski won the AL MVP Award in 1967 when he won the Triple Crown. The Hall of Famer is one of the greatest Red Sox of all time.

    Photo Credit: Mitchell and Ness

15) Jose Canseco

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    The honors that Jose Canseco received, including the 1986 AL Rookie of the Year Award and the 1988 AL MVP Award, were tainted by his steroid use.

    Canseco finished his career with 462 home runs. The biggest impact that Canseco had on baseball may have come as a result of his openness about the steroid era.

14) Ken Singleton

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    The best years of Ken Singleton's career came when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. He was an outfielder and a designated hitter for the team.

    Singleton was a three-time All-Star and finished in the top three of the AL MVP voting twice. He now serves as a commentator for the YES Network.

13) Brian Downing

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    Brian Downing was an important part of California Angels history. When he retired, Downing was the team's all-time leader in hits, runs, doubles, home runs and RBI.

    The Angels retired Downing's number in 2009. He was selected to one All-Star game and finished his career with 275 home runs.

12) Hal McRae

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    While Hal McRae is best known for this rant from when he was manager of the Kansas City Royals, he also had a good major league career.

    McRae was a three-time All-Star, and he was also the winner of a 1982 Silver Slugger Award. A member of the 1985 World Series champion Royals, McRae finished his career with 191 home runs and 109 stolen bases.

11) Chili Davis

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    Throughout his career, Chili Davis was a very consistent hitter. He eclipsed the 20 home run mark in almost every season he played, and he only batted below .250 twice in his 19-year career.

    Davis was the first player born in Jamaica to appear in a major league game. He also appeared on three All-Star teams.

10) Don Baylor

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    Don Baylor had a long career in the major leagues, and he spent at least part of almost every season as a designated hitter. Baylor had a big bat throughout his career.

    The three-time AL Silver Slugger winner also took home the 1979 AL MVP Award. That season, Baylor hit 36 home runs and drove in an American League-leading 139 RBI.

    Photo Credit: About.com

9) Reggie Jackson

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    Primarily an outfielder during his major league career, Reggie Jackson began to spend more and more time as a DH once his playing days were winding down.

    Mr. October became a full-time DH during his time with the California Angels. Jackson was a 14-time All-Star and is enshrined in Cooperstown.

8) Jim Rice

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    A lifelong Boston Red Sox, Jim Rice was one of the best players to play designated hitter in MLB history. He was a key hitter for the team.

    Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. The 1978 AL MVP was selected to eight All-Star games during his career, and the Boston Red Sox retired his No. 14.

7) Harold Baines

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    Harold Baines holds the MLB record for most games played as a DH with 1962. He was a longtime member of the Chicago White Sox, and the team eventually retired his number.

    Baines ranks 30th all-time in RBI with 1,628, but that was not enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

6) Jason Giambi

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    Jason Giambi has primarily spent his time in the major leagues as both a first baseman and a DH.

    Giambi was an intimidating power hitter for much of his career, but he was fueled by steroids for a few seasons. He is a former American League MVP and a two-time AL Silver Slugger Award winner.

5) David Ortiz

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    David Ortiz's build and poor defensive abilities caused him to become a designated hitter. His impressive power has led him to be one of the best DHs in baseball history.

    Big Papi has been a star for the Boston Red Sox ever since he signed with the team in 2003. Ortiz is a seven-time All-Star, and he has won the award given to the best DH in the majors on six different occasions.

4) Paul Molitor

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    Paul Molitor is one of the best players to ever don a Milwaukee Brewers jersey. He is also one of the all-time greats that have spent an extended period of time as a DH.

    Molitor was known both for his great performances at the plate as well as his ability to cause havoc on the basepaths. He stole over 500 bases during his major league career.

3) Jim Thome

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    When he first broke into the major leagues, Jim Thome was a third baseman. He eventually shifted across the diamond to first base, and he then became a designated hitter.

    Thome is just one of eight players in major league history that has eclipsed 600 home runs. He is an eventual Hall of Famer and one of the game's greats.

2) Edgar Martinez

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    The award that is given out to the best designated hitter in baseball is now known as the Edgar Martinez Award. This is because of the fact that Martinez was absolutely dominant at the position for years.

    Martinez has one of the best cases for the Hall of Fame out of any player that has been a DH for almost all of his career. A career .312 hitter, Martinez also slugged 309 home runs during his 18 years in the majors.

1) Frank Thomas

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    Frank Thomas could certainly put a "Big Hurt" on opposing pitchers whenever he stepped into the batter's box. He played 971 games at first base, but he began serving as a DH more frequently in 1998. Thomas is one of the best players in baseball history and will eventually be a member of the Hall of Fame.

    The two-time American League MVP ended his career with a .301 batting average and 521 home runs. He is considered a Chicago White Sox legend, and the team has retired his number.