Making the Grade: Ranking Designated Hitters in the AL Central

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No. 1: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers

Apr 25, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez (41) gets set to bat in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Martinez is hurt. There is absolutely no two ways about it. That is the only possible excuse for Martinez, who is a career .305 hitter, to be off to such a slow start for the Detroit Tigers.

When healthy, Martinez is one of the most dynamic hitters in all of baseball. He can hit for power and average. He sprays the ball all over the field and makes it next to impossible to effectively execute an appropriate shift. At his best, Martinez is the best designated hitter in the entire league – not just in the AL Central.

Finishing second in the AL MVP voting last season, Martinez hit .335/.409/.565 in 151 games with Detroit. He hit a career-high 32 home runs, added 33 doubles and contributed 103 RBIs behind Miguel Cabrera. Always a patient hitter, Martinez walked 70 times last season, not including the 28 free passes that were issued intentionally.

Hampered by a knee injury, Martinez is hitting just .213 to start the season and has seen every bit of his power sapped. He is still without a home run and he’s hit just one double, driving in just nine runs for the Tigers.

Something is wrong.

According to Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers should place Martinez on the disabled list and allow him to get healthy for the long-term success of the Tigers in 2015. As Samuelsen wrote:

"Short term, Martinez needs to go on the 15-day disabled list. Anyone who says that the Tigers offense will struggle without Martinez for two weeks isn’t watching the Tigers. They are playing without Victor Martinez. If you look at Martinez’s WAR through his first 20 games, it’s -0.5. Translation? A minor league replacement level player would be worth one-half more win than Martinez has been worth to this point. Hardly the production you’re looking for from a cleanup hitter."

When healthy, Martinez is easily one of the best hitters in the game. At 36 years old, Martinez is still a significant difference-maker in an already potent Tigers lineup. He is ‘getting close’ to feeling like himself again and, when he’s finally healthy again, Martinez will undoubtedly sit atop this list throughout the duration of the season.

Next: Ranking the Right Fielders