Oakland Athletics: Designated Hitter By Committee Best Approach for 2016?


Up until the signing of Billy Butler last offseason, the Oakland Athletics never had an appointed designated hitter. Once Butler joined the team, he became the A’s DH for all 162 games of the season. Even though his production had been declining over the previous years, Oakland hoped a change of scenery would help Butler bounce back after being with the Kansas City Royals his entire baseball career.

Unfortunately, A’s fans saw the Butler experiment flop in 2015. His slugging dropped below .400 for the first time in his seven years in the league, his batting average went from .271 in 2014 to .251 in 2015, and his WAR fell to -0.9. Ultimately, if Butler does not pull his numbers out of the gutter this upcoming year, it would be foolish to have him fill the designated hitter position for the majority of the season.

Thus, the Oakland Athletics should go back to the designated hitter by committee approach they used in the years prior to Billy Butler. The A’s have a number of players who could fill this position, maybe not on a daily basis, but definitely from time to time. Here are some obvious options to fill the DH role:

Mark Canha – Right now, Canha’s position on the field is in limbo. Although he normally plays first base, the A’s have Yonder Alonso slotted as the starting first baseman for 2016. Additionally, the Athletics have noted that they want to see Canha play more in left field. However, with Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, and Jake Smolinski all vying to play in that outfield position, it is likely that Canha’s playing time there will be limited.

Even though Canha’s offensive numbers were not great during the first half of the season, he really excelled during the second part of the year after overcoming a mysterious respiratory illness. From August to October, he batted over .300 with 37 RBI and eight home runs in just 59 games played. If Canha can produce the same numbers he did during the last few months of the 2015 season, he could be a good candidate to fill the designated hitter role.

Stephen Vogt – Vogt is no stranger to the designated hitter role. In 2014, Vogt dealt with a foot injury that limited his playing time as a catcher. Thus, he played numerous positions like first base, left field, and was the designated hitter for some time. Additionally, he DH’d for the A’s for eight games in 2015.

This past season, Vogt proved that he can have a power bat. His offensive success during the first half of the season landed him on the American League All Star team. Additionally, since Josh Phegley has proven that he can be a reliable catcher for the Oakland Athletics, it would not be detrimental to have Vogt as the DH from time to time.

Coco Crisp – Because of Crisp’s chronic neck problem, it is unlikely he will be spending much time in the outfield. It seems as though every time Crisp plays in the outfield, he re-injures himself and ultimately lands on the disabled list. However, when Crisp is healthy, he is known as the catalyst at the top of the lineup.

If Crisp is slotted into the designated hitter spot in the lineup, this could potentially keep him off of the DL. Additionally, he would hopefully provide an offensive spark on a consistent basis. Think about Crisp and Billy Burns as one and two in the daily lineup? Having these two at the top of the lineup could really improve the Athletics’ overall on base percentage as a team.

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If Billy Butler cannot improve his offensive numbers this season, the Oakland Athletics should really consider slotting in some other players in the designated hitter position throughout the year. The A’s have used the designated hitter by committee approach in the years prior to the Butler and it has been effective. This will allow the Athletics to have more options when it comes to building their lineup for each game and hopefully give them a better chance of winning.