Sep 26, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Chris Carter (22) waits for the pitch during the game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Oakland 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Crystal Ball: Who Will Oakland's DH In 2012?


Every Friday, Swingin’ A’s will make a prediction about the A’s 2012 season with the help of our “crystal ball.” The series, appropriately titled “Crystal Ball Fridays,” will continue through the week before Opening Night. Enjoy. 

Could the A’s be looking to add another player before the start of spring training? Well, according to the most recent rumors, the A’s are interested in signing a designated-hitter within the next week or so. On the A’s radar is free agent and newly “un-retired” outfielder Manny Ramirez. Ramirez, 39, will turn 40 in May and will have to serve a 50-game suspension before he could help out the A’s offensively, but the A’s remain interested in Ramirez nonetheless.

The A’s do, however, have few in-house options they could look at to fill the role of designated-hitter this season. Among those candidates are Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter, and Kila Ka’aihue. The A’s, though, wouldn’t mind adding a guy like Ramirez to the mix to help the offense generate some run support for the young starting rotation. 

Crystal Ball, who will be the A’s designated-hitter in 2012?

The answer is somewhat of a two-parter. If the A’s do end up signing Ramirez, the team could allow one of the candidates mentioned above fill the position until Ramirez is cleared to play. At the point of his return, though, it would be expected that Ramirez, a career .312 hitter with 555 HR, would assume the team’s primary designated-hitter role.

If the A’s fail to sign Ramirez, though, look for the team to give a guy like Kila Ka’aihue a shot at the designated-hitter position. Ka’aihue has absolutely crushed the ball in Triple-A, but hasn’t had the same success on the big-league level yet. The 27-year old 1B/DH hit .272/.379/.433 with 11 HR and 65 RBIs last year with Kansas City’s Triple-A team. The season before that, Ka’aihue posted a .322/.465/.601 slash line with 24 HR, 78 RBIs, and a .279 ISO in Triple-A ball.

On the major-league level, though, Ka’aihue hasn’t had much success. Last year in 23 games with the Royals, Kila Ka’aihue hit just .195/.295/.317 with two home runs and six RBIs. Not great, to say the least.

Still, the A’s are somewhat intrigued by Ka’aihue’s power potential. Some don’t particularly care much for Ka’aihue, but the A’s are definitely interested in seeing what the guy can do over a few at-bats. If he can bring the type of success that made him a threat in the minor leagues to the big league level, then Ka’aihue has a shot at Oakland’s vacant DH spot this year.

OTHER CANDIDATES:

  • Chris Carter: At 25, Carter’s time as a top-prospect may be numbered. In a sense, it’s now or never for the young slugger. The A’s are starving for right-handed power, but Carter still hasn’t made the jump from successful Triple-A hitter to a major league starter. He’ll face off against Ka’aihue, Daric Barton, and a few others for the first base spot this spring, but he’ll also be vying for some playing time as designated-hitter, too. Carter hit .274/.366/.530 with 18 HR and 72 RBIs last year in the minor leagues. In 15 games with the Athletics last year, though, Carter posted a much more discouraging .136/.174/.136 slash line with no home runs and just two RBIs. He’s been touted as a top A’s prospect for a few years now, but he’ll need to have himself a tremendous spring if wants to start 2012 in Oakland and not Sacramento.
  • Jonny Gomes: Gomes, 31, is another candidate the A’s could look to promote within to fill their DH spot. Gomes hit much better against left-handed pitching last season than he did righties. He posted a .311/.407/.456 slash line with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 90 at-bats against lefties last year, but hit just .167/.292/.362 against righties. Overall, the veteran outfielder/DH hit .209/.325/.389 with 14 HR and 43 RBIs with the Reds and Nationals last year. He’s definitely got a shot, though, at competing for Oakland’s primary DH role.
  • Magglio Ordonez: The A’s have shown some interest in signing the veteran free-agent, but talks haven’t exactly gotten off to a fast start. The A’s are reportedly much more interested in acquiring Manny at this point than they are in acquiring Ordonez.

Final Prediction: The A’s will likely open the season with Kila Ka’aihue as their designated-hitter. The team will, however, have Manny Ramirez waiting in the dugout for his 50 game suspension to end. Once Manny’s suspension is completed, the A’s will unveil “Manny-land” in the bleachers.

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Tags: A's A's Rumors Chris Carter Kila Ka'aihue Magglio Ordonez Manny Ramirez Michael Taylor Oakland A's Oakland Athletics