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A's Top 5 designated hitters: Gallegos' take

@MartinJGallegos
May 18, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on each player’s career while with that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on each player’s career while with that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, vote in the Twitter poll for your favorite at this position.

Here is MLB.com’s ranking of the top five designated hitters in A’s history, as selected by Martín Gallegos. Next week: right-handed starters.

• A's All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF

1) Khris Davis, 2016-present
Key fact: 156 home runs since start of 2016 season ranks third in Majors

In an organization with a rich tradition of power hitters, Davis is carrying the torch passed on by sluggers of A’s past. Upon his arrival from the Brewers via trade in 2016, Davis went on an elite run from ‘16-18 as the game’s most prolific slugger with 133 homers, including a league-leading 48 in ‘18. In that three-year stretch, he became the first player in Oakland history to put together three straight seasons of 40-plus dingers, leading to a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension last season.

Davis still has time to continue his rapid ascent on the A’s all-time home run list, where he sits 13th with 156 big flies.

2) Jack Cust, 2007-10
Key fact: Career .381 on-base percentage with A’s leads all franchise designated hitters

“He could run for mayor of Oakland and win it!” was the call from A’s radio voice Ken Korach during a game against the Indians on May 13, 2007, when Cust sent A’s fans into a frenzy at the Coliseum by hitting his sixth home run in just his seventh game with the club. Once a top prospect with the D-backs as a 1997 first-round pick, Cust struggled in the big leagues over his first five seasons. From “bust” to “Four-A player,” all the dreaded labels were firmly placed on him. Then an '07 trade from the Padres to the A’s led to Cust finally living up to that potential. He crushed 97 homers over four seasons (‘07-10) and earned the nickname “Babe” Cust from fans.

Not only was Cust a slugger, but he also got on base plenty, leading the league in bases on balls (111) in 2008 and drawing 377 walks over four seasons with the A’s.

“When he broke in with the A’s, it was uncanny,” Korach said. “He was on fire. It was like one [homer] after another. He had that Babe Ruth look in the uppercut swing and was a left-handed hitter, big guy. He became kind of a folk hero here, and it happened really quickly.”

3) Dave Kingman, 1984-86
Key fact: Averaged 33 home runs and 101 RBIs over three seasons with A’s

Kingman’s massive power brought fans to the Coliseum in droves during his three-year stint with the club. Even though he was at the end of his career, you wouldn’t have guessed those three seasons would be his last based on the numbers he put up. In Kingman's first season with Oakland at age 35, he finished 13th in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting after recording 35 homers and a career-high 118 RBIs to go with a .268/.321/.505 slash line.

Kingman finished his career with 442 home runs. A large part of that came in his power surge with the A’s, as he slugged 100 home runs over three seasons. Though he hit 35 home runs in 1986, Oakland decided not to renew his contract and instead brought back Reggie Jackson for one final season in ‘87. Kingman went on to sign a Minor League deal with the Giants, for whom he played the first four seasons of his career, but he retired after playing 20 Triple-A Phoenix games that season.

4) Geronimo Berroa, 1994-97
Key fact: One of eight players in Oakland history to hit 30 homers and 30 doubles in a season (1996)

The A’s weren’t doing much winning during Berroa’s stint, but he was at the heart of some of the most powerful lineups in club history. Berroa was part of the 1996 team that bashed 243 big flies, which stood as the franchise record until last season’s group eclipsed it with 257.

The strikeouts came often for the free-swinging Berroa, but his swing was a violent one that certainly made the ball travel a long way whenever he made contact. Berroa amassed 71 homers through three full seasons with the A’s, and he had 16 in 1997 before being traded to the Orioles halfway through the year.

5) Frank Thomas, 2006, ‘08
Key fact: Homered in six consecutive games in 2006, which stands as A’s record

We’re going with quality over quantity here with Thomas. Playing just 55 games with the A’s in 2008, he only had one full season with the club (2006), but it sure was fun to watch. The Big Hurt arrived in Oakland a 38-year-old veteran nearing the end of an illustrious career, and he underwent a career resurgence in ‘06. He slashed .270/.381/.545 with 39 home runs and 114 RBIs over 137 games to finish fourth in AL MVP Award voting. He reached the postseason for just the third time in his career that year, and he did his best to lift the A’s with two home runs and a .500 batting average in an AL Division Series sweep of the Twins before getting knocked out by the Tigers in the AL Championship Series.

Honorable mention
Erubiel Durazo (2003-05) was coveted by the A’s for years as a member of the D-backs. Once Billy Beane signed him in 2003, Durazo did not disappoint. He bashed 20-plus homers in each of his first two seasons with the club and put together the best year of his career in ‘04. That season, he received AL MVP Award votes and slashed .321/.396/.523 with 22 home runs and 88 RBIs.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.