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Top 10 MLB Best Designated Hitters of All Time Rankings

Ranking the greatest Designated Hitters in MLB history such as David Ortiz, Jose Canseco, Frank Thomas, and more

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By admin | March 21, 2023

The game of baseball is built around four fundamentals which are hitting, field, base running and pitching. While all are equally important for any team to succeed, the one that allows the game to go on is the hitting element.

For many, hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult things to do and gets even more difficult to do when the velocity of the baseball continues to increase in speed.

However, for the designated hitters landing on the Top 10 Designated Hitters All Time list, each could hit with the best hitters in baseball.

Landing at the top of the list among the best designated hitters of all time is the long time Boston Red Sox great David Ortiz. After starting his career as a first baseman, Ortiz made the transition to designated hitter in which he finished out his MLB career.

His performance at the plate earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame while also having his #34 Boston Red Sox jerseys were retired. Joining Ortiz on the list of the best designated hitters of all time is Edgar Martinez, Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, and Hal McRae.

As you start to look at the best designated hitters most if not all started as positional players eventually moving to designated. Add in the expansion of the designated hitter in the National League and the designated hitter position should produce many other greats down the road. For now though here is a look at the Top 10 Designated Hitters All Time rankings list.

Honorable Mention

Travis Hafner

Team(s): Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees

Landing just outside of the Top 10 Designated Hitters All Time rankings list is the long time Cleveland Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner. Hafner, who spent time early in his career, spent most of his career as a designated hitter.

From 2002 to 2013, Hafner racked up 1,043 games as the designated hitter while composing a career stat line that featured a career .275 batting average while hitting 200 home runs, posting 236 doubles and driving in 689 runs.

Brian Downing

Team(s): California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers

Another great designated hitter just missing the Top 10 list of the best designated hitters is the longtime California Angeles Brian Downing.

Downing, who also spent time both at first base and catcher, spent 823 of his games as a primary designated hitter while posting the most doubles (142), home runs (125), and runs batted in (412) compared to any other position.

When he retired, Downing posted a .272 batting average to go along with 142 doubles, 12 triples, 125 home runs and 412 runs batted in at the designated hitter position.

Top 10 MLB Designated Hitters

10. Don Baylor

Team(s): Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s, California Angels, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins

Coming in at number 10 on the Top 10 Designated Hitters All Time rankings list is Don Baylor who put together a strong career that featured the 1979 AL MVP Award, one World Series Championship, and three Silver Slugger Awards.

While Baylor spent time at first base and at all three outfield positions, most of his career came at the designated hitter position while recording 1,284 games.

Baylor would post a career .259 batting average mark while at the designated hitter position to go along with 214 doubles, 219 home runs and 803 runs batted in.

9. Jose Canseco

Team(s): Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox

One of the biggest home run hitters of his era, it is easy to see how and why Jose Canseco landed among the best designated hitters of all time.

While debates are made due to his link with steroids, it still doesn’t take away the fact he put up big numbers across his career including as a Designated hitter.

Canseco wrapped up 3,730 career at bats across 846 games at the position while picking up 853 hits, 153 doubles, 208 home runs and 641 runs batted in all while posting a 265 batting average and .510 slugging percentage mark. 

8. Chili Davis

Team(s): San Francisco Giants, Minnesota Twins, California Angels, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees

A name that is often overlooked when looking at the greatest designated hitter was Chili Davis who spent the early portion of his career playing in the field for the Giants before making the move to the American League.

Over the second half of his career Davis appeared in 1,160 games as the designated hitter while posting a career .282 batting average and .382 on base percentage.

Over those 1,160 games Davis racked up 4,899 at bats while picking up 1,175 hits, 222 doubles, 200 home runs and 736 runs batted in. 

7. Jim Thome

Team(s): Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles

The face of the Cleveland Indians from 1991 to 2002 is ranked among the best designated hitters to play in Major League Baseball. However, Thome fell down the list as he spent more time at first base than he did at the DH spot in the lineup.

Nonetheless, it is hard to leave Thome off the list as he still managed to hit 205 home runs, drive in 568 runs, and pick up 749 hits over 817 career games at the position with majority of those coming later in his career. His production at the plate both as a designated hitter and as an infielder earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

6. Harold Baines

Team(s): Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians

When you start to think about designated hitters the first name that often comes up is Harold Baines who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame majority as a DH.

The six-time AL All-Star and World Series Champion had his #3 retired by the Chicago White Sox while landing in the Baltimore Orioles Wall of Fame.

Baines racked up 1,643 games at the position while building a portion of his Hall of Fame resume with 293 doubles, 236 home runs, 981 runs batted in, and a .291 batting average in 6,618 career at bats. 

5. Hal McRae

Team(s): Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals

Rounding out the top five designated hitters on the Top 10 Designated Hitters All Time rankings list is the great Hal McRae who spent time with both the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds. Over his career McRae picked up two World Series Championships while making the All-Star team in three different seasons.

Starting his career in 1968 and finishing in 1987, the longtime Royals designated hitter racked up 1,426 games at the position while racking up 1,555 hits, 366 doubles, 47 triples, 145 home runs, 823 runs batted in while posting a .294 batting average. 

4. Paul Molitor

Team(s): Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays

The designated hitter position is often looked at as a position that is played by someone who can hit for power but without the speed or ability to play the field.

However that wasn’t the case with Molitor who was a pure hitter who could also hit for power while moving the position due to injuries that slowed him down in the field.

In the end Molitor wound up in the Baseball Hall of Fame after posting a career .306 batting average to go along with 3,319 hits, 234 home runs, 504 stolen bases, and 1,307 runs batted in. 

Over 1,172 games at designated hitter, Molitor racked up 1,457 hits, 285 doubles, 102 home runs, 654 runs batted in while posting a .308 batting average.

3. Frank Thomas

Team(s): Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays

As you enter the top three designated hitters of all time, each could easily be slotted in at the top spot. Unfortunately for Frank Thomas first base was where he started his career, and made the nickname the Big Hurt famous.

By the time Thomas made the move to DH, the former longtime Chicago White Sox All-Star had racked up his only five All-Star appearances, won both of his two AL MVP Awards, and the 1997 batting title.

That said Thomas still put up some big time numbers at the position including 1,288 hits, 256 doubles, 269 home runs while driving in 881 runs and posting a .275 batting average.

2. Edgar Martinez

Team(s): Seattle Mariners

One of the faces of the Seattle Mariners organization Edgar Martinez made his debut with the team in 1987 and retired in 2004 while only playing for that team.

Martinez would go on to post a career .312 batting average while winning two AL batting titles as well as being named to seven AL All-Star teams.

Martinez spent 1,403 games at the position while racking up 1,607 hits, 370 doubles, 243 home runs, 1,003 runs batted in and a .314 batting average mark while also holding a .428 on base percentage. 

1. David Ortiz

Team(s): Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox

At number one on the Top 10 Designated Hitters All Time rankings list is the recently inducted Baseball Hall of Fame member of the 2022 class David Ortiz.

Ortiz built a strong resume after joining the Boston Red Sox in 2003. A resume that included a World Series MVP, three World Series Championships, and his #34 retired by the Red Sox Organization.

Ortiz racked up 2,027 games at designated hitter while picking up 2,191 hits, 557 doubles, 485 home runs, 1,568 runs batted in and posting a .289 batting average. In the end it is hard to look past David Ortiz as the best DH of all time.

How would you rank these great Major League Baseball designated hitters? Rank below to be added in the Power Rankings.

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Players Count 10
  1. Charlie Blackmon

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  2. J.D. Martinez

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  3. Giancarlo Stanton

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  4. Bryce Harper

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  5. Trey Mancini

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  6. Hunter Pence

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  7. C.J. Chatham

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  8. Luke Voit

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  9. Miguel Cabrera

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  10. Andrew McCutchen

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