First, let’s get some basics out of the way in terms of how to interpret these rankings. None of this stuff should come as any major surprise, but it never hurts to provide background:
- As a reminder, these rankings are geared toward a standard, daily, 12-team H2H redraft league, as that is typically the most popular fantasy baseball format. They will only factor in the five standard categories: Runs, RBI, Home Runs, Batting Average, and Stolen Bases.
- I would recommend not paying super close attention to the specific ranks of each player, and honing in more on the respective tiers that they’re in. Each tier represents a grouping of players that I think could arguably perform at a similar level, and/or carry similar levels of risk in terms of injury concerns or playing time obstacles. If Player X is ranked at #55 and Player Y is ranked at #65, but they’re in the same tier, it means that I personally like Player X a lot better, but think there’s a valid argument to be made for Player Y performing just as well.
- I take rankings like this as more of an art than a science. Every person’s rankings are influenced by their own biases, strategic philosophies, determinations of risk, and projections. It’s why no two rankings are ever exactly alike. Jon’s way of evaluating and ranking players has worked out well for Jon (and me) over the years, but it might not be a great fit for you. I can’t possibly predict your team’s specific needs, your league mate’s player evaluations, or your current waiver wire, and if I could it’d be weird. In a bad way.
- Yes, these ranks vary from the official PL positional rankings that I also developed. That’s because these are only mine – no input from others. This is a safe space for me where I answer to no one but myself…and you if you leave a comment.
- I’m using 20 games as the threshold for the positional eligibility in the List. I have not included presumed eligibilities based on likely new positions (such as Gleyber Torres moving to second base). This is just a maintenance thing and we will update eligibility throughout the season. Feel free to let me know if I’m missing any!
And now a couple of notes on how I generally evaluate hitters before we dive in:
- I’ve gotten more level-headed over the years when it comes to weighing stolen bases, but I still think they’re incredibly valuable given how rare they’re becoming. Every steal is important, so don’t take those “chip-in” steals for granted. Finding steals at the end of the season can be a dogfight.
- So let’s talk about hot starts: Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you some long-winded rant about marathons and sprints — what I care about most is whether these surprise hot hitters are getting shots in the top or middle of the lineup. That’s what can make them valuable as short-term replacements for guys who hit the IL, and from there they might blossom into something even more exciting than that. It’s totally fine to grab Steven Kwan or Jeremy Peña (who are now ranked but may not be for long) at the expense of your last bench guy, especially in a shallow league.
- No stat is an island and they should all be taken in proper context. For ranking purposes, the primary starting points I use are plate discipline, wRC+, quality of contact metrics (also known as Statcast batted ball data), and lineup context. I also use various projections (some free, some I buy) and dollar value generators. Unlike Nick, I’ll also look at other rankings as I prepare my own to get a feel for how my colleagues are valuing certain players, positions, or stats. I recommend trying as many of these things as you can until you find what you like.
- Positional eligibility, and specifically multi-eligibility, is really neat but also isn’t a huge factor in many 10- and 12-team leagues anymore due to the prevalence of multi-eligible players (16 of the 30 second baseman I ranked in the preseason were eligible at two positions, with five more players being eligible at three positions). It’s of more value in deeper contests like the NFBC, or in leagues with limited roster moves (draft and hold leagues, transaction limits/costs, extremely short benches, etc.), but even then the value is fairly situational and context-dependent.
- On a similar note, I don’t really penalize players for only qualifying in the utility slot. At most, it is a mild inconvenience if a DH-only player is available at a great value and you already have filled your utility spots.
- If you’d like input on a player or have any feedback, your best bet is to reach out to me on Twitter (@ifthechufits) or in the comments!
Want more on how these rankings came together? Check out the podcast Hacks & Jacks featuring myself and Joe Gallina, which also happened to be a finalist for Best Baseball Podcast of 2021 by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA)!
- Not a lot of movement in the top tier, and I don’t expect there to be much movement for a while barring major injury or a major transaction.
- Tiers 2 and 3 don’t have much movement either, with the exception of Byron Buxton, who I almost certainly ranked too low to start with. Even if he falls short of 20 steals, he can easily make up for it on a per-game basis. In shallower leagues where replacement level in the outfield is high, I’d be targeting Buxton as a “buy-high” if I can move a player outside my top-50 or top-60 overall players because a 130-game Buxton (which I realize is 30 more than he’s played in the last two seasons combined) is definitely a top-40 player.
- This ranking of Shohei Ohtani is just the hitter — in daily formats where he is both a hitter and pitcher, he’s my top overall player.
- Tier 4 saw a lot more movement, starting with Olson moving to the top of the three-headed first base monster. I might even move him up again if he continues to show the plate discipline he had last year and so far, so good.
- Two different speed guys fell a bit in this tier — Cedric Mullins dropped only because I had other guys I wanted to move up, and Marte fell because on a philosophical level I’m finding I care less and less about steals by the day.
- Tier 5, at this point, is a bunch of guys who might jump into Tier 4. I expect to dissolve this mini tier by the end of the month.
- Tiers 6 and 7 are where we start to see more and more volatility in the ranks, in large part because there’s a lot of talent in this range that can be tough to rank because of positional and statistical differences that still result in roughly the same value.
- Say what you want about his plate discipline, but Javier Báez is incredibly fun to watch. He seems like a different guy than the one we saw in New York at times last season with respect to his engagement, and for a guy like Javy, that makes a big difference.
- Seeing Alex Bregman look like pre-scandal Bregman is really encouraging, and if he keeps it up for the whole month he could easily move up another 10-20 spots.
- Is it really that hard to imagine Nelson Cruz driving in 90+ runners again hitting behind Juan Soto?
- I miss Fernando Tatis Jr. really bad, but even 300 plate appearances of him combined with a replacement-level player (or better yet, an above-replacement level player that you drafted) should still be an elite piece of your team.
- So in Tier 8, we learned that I believe in Seiya Suzuki now. I ranked him quite aggressively here, and to be fair, the last time I did this list I wasn’t quite sure where he’d be hitting and whether they’d let him play every day. So far, it seems like he’s going to hit towards the middle of the lineup and start on a daily basis, so I’m in.
- Jesse Winker dropped to Tier 9, but that’s in large part because their current roster construction suggests they intend to platoon him. I get why everyone wants to do this so badly—his career wRC+ against lefties is just 64 while he has crushed righties—but at some point just let him play. It is worth noting, though, that Seattle has faced four consecutive righties and ran the same top-four each time: Adam Frazier, Ty France, Jesse Winker, and Mitch Haniger.
- No, I don’t know what to do with Cody Bellinger. I’m not sure when I will.
- Randal Grichuk was a bench guy when I first made the list, so his vaulting to the top-100 isn’t as amazing as it sounds. Team context and opportunity play a big role in rankings, and Grichuk went from the worst situation (small-side of a platoon) to arguably one of the best (hitting in the middle of the lineup in Coors).
- Tier 10 is another one of those “will they or won’t they” tiers. Will Jarred Kelenic prove he should play every day right now, or does he need a slower ramp-up? Will Yoán Moncada recover smoothly from his oblique strain?
- Don’t drop Akil Baddoo yet, but it was definitely not the start of the season I was hoping for. He’s in Tier 11 now, but his range of outcomes is insanely wide.
- Myles Straw will be a lot more useful than I thought if Steven Kwan and the rest of the Guardians continue to play so aggressively.
- It’s Tier 12 and I’m already falling for Ian Happ again. Even if he can just add 20 points to his batting average, he’ll become a lot more palatable as part of a Cubs lineup that suddenly looks a lot less terrible than it did a month ago.
- It’s been great to see Detroit commit to Spencer Torkelson as an everyday player right now. That gives me more confidence than his slow start could possibly take away at this point.
- Tier 13 is sort of a bummer, as it has a bunch of guys who dropped a long way, like DJ LeMahieu. I’m not quite sure what to make of him hitting fifth instead of first or second, but I guess it means more RBI? It also means fewer plate appearances, though, and for a guy who primarily contributes batting average, plate appearances matter. It’s weird, and this whole lineup construction in the Bronx has me scratching my head.
- Dropping Eugenio Suárez in these rankings seems extreme after just three games, but yuck — he looks just like the bad version of himself.
- Steven Kwan himself leads off for Tier 14, and in reality, I don’t expect a ton of Kwan over the course of the whole year in terms of power or speed, but he’ll put a ton of balls in play and that should give him a chance to win a permanent role in this lineup.
- Remember how excited we were for Andrew Vaughn last season? Is this what a post-hype prospect is?
- Jeremy Peña could maybe be a 20 home run, 10 stolen base shortstop with a .240-.250 batting average, and that’s a heckuva waiver wire find. It’s hard for a shortstop-only guy like this to make a big impact in standard Yahoo leagues that don’t use a middle infielder, but in all other formats of 12-teams or more, he’s at least worth adding to your watchlist.
- There’s a universe where Gio Urshela hits .300 with 20 home runs. I wonder if it’s this one.
And now, at long last, I present to you my FIRST in-season Hitter List:
Photo by John McCoy | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)
No love for Connor Joe
Guy will be a league winner
I actually like Connor Joe! My biggest concern is the very thick logjam in Colorado’s CF/DH slot (Joe/Grichuk/Hampson/Daza/Hilliard). Joe doesn’t play CF like Hilliard or Daza, and he’s not nearly as versatile as Hampson, and that means he has to share the DH spot.
He has VERY little room for error, because if more than one of those other guys is hot at the same time, it’s Joe who will sit.
Thoughts on Owen miller?
Just got done mentioning him on the First Pitch Podcast – not ready to add him in 10- or 12-teamers yet, but the Guardians are hot and have some good matchups coming up.
You forgot Julio Rodriguez
Actually, I did! You’ll now find him just inside the top 100.
Rodgers is killing me but according to the list don’t drop him for Torres?