Hey all, welcome to the Hitter List! Before we begin, I am Dave Swan and I’ll be filling in for the man, the myth, and the legend of two adorable newborns, Scott Chu. Even though Scott is away, I vow to keep similar virtues and uphold the criteria. Although, fear not…there will be changes.
The season is only embarking on its third week, and many factors will play a role in determining the list. Some of those factors include injuries, lineup shuffling, breakouts, and slumps. Heck, many teams don’t have six or fewer players with the minimum number of plate appearances required to be considered “qualified”.
So, what’s that mean? Plenty of stats haven’t hit a point of stabilization. Furthermore, we’ll try to block out the variance. In other words, as a general rule, I’m trying to avoid taking too much meaning from the stats themselves.
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:
- Will Smith is still appearing on the 7-day IL and there are rumors he won’t be off Thursday. When it comes to concussion injuries, it’s best to be cautious. Conversely, he swings to the end of the early C1 tier. However, he’s destined to go back up. Among all catchers, it’s hard to see past how consistent he has become.
- Matt Chapman soars up the ranks and for good measure. He’s already got 15 barrels and racked up 28 Runs+RBI. Furthermore, his 41.2% IPA% is 7th best in the MLB. Basically, he’s crushing the ball, only striking out at a 22% clip which is far lower than his career norms. If he can keep this up, we might be looking at an MVP season.
- Michael Harris II tumbles 30 spots. Coming into 2023, I wasn’t worried about his ability to put up a 20/20 season, but more so that regression could be coming. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen enough to decide. He gets his big drop from the injury, which he should be back from. Back injuries are tricky.
- Christian Walker’s batting average is south of the Mendoza Line. And while that made me want to drop him down, he’s actually only striking out 18% of the time. Either way, he’s likely going to submarine your batting average and continue to put balls over the fence. Let’s let him stay for this week.
- Ryan Mountcastle went ham this week and provided his fanbase with a nine (yes, NINE!) RBI game. Last year, Mountcastle led all 1B in barrels…and what do you know, he’s doing it again. Maybe #70 is too low?
- José Abreu is off to a cold start. In a home park that you’d want to pull, Abreu has put more into the opposite field (puzzling). Could be a small sample but he could also be in for an explosion of power when that adjusts.
- Jeremy Peña drops down the batting order. Not good for his counting stats but he’s been better since.
- Andrew Vaughn is yet to hit an HR but a 33% HC% and sub-20% K-rate suggest he will put up a great batting average. Just hit more flyballs and the dingers will follow.
- Willson Contreras‘ production hasn’t been there, but the underlying metrics suggest more will come (and a 2 HR game last night helps). Hang in there and don’t make any drastic moves.
- Seiya Suzuki returned with a bang and put one out in his season debut. Since then, he’s made it in the lineup every chance possible, so it’s safe to assume the oblique is a thing of the past.
- Jorge Polanco is playing in rehab games and should be nearing a return. Until then, he stays at the bottom of the tier.
- Fellow Cubs outfielder Ian Happ signed an extension. He leaps up a few spots, behind Ty France. Happ has been an OBP machine and uses his power/speed combination to perform in many ways.
- Lars Nootbaar is back and looks healthy. The outfield is crowded but he immediately came back with an early lineup spot.
- Sean Murphy is turning it on as he gets more playing time. Unfortunately, Travid d’Arnaud will return soon.
- Tim Anderson drops WAY down due to injury. He’ll be out til early May or so. Additionally, it’s a knee injury and that could limit his SB upside.
- Alex Verdugo gets the leadoff spot vs. RHP. The Red Sox just finished an onslaught of southpaws. Expect Verdugo to get lots more ABs.
- Joey Meneses doesn’t have the same mojo. He’s only DHing and not even hitting at a replacement level. He could lose swings at the dish very soon.
- If you’re looking for SBs, Jorge Mateo will aid in that department. With three HRs and striking out at a 17% clip, he should be on every team
- J.D. Martinez is batting in the middle of the lineup vs. LHP and RHP.
- Bryson Stott grabbing some leadoff ABs is extremely helpful at a position with injuries mounting up.
- Speaking of injuries, Bryce Harper is taking reps at 1B? That could be very interesting. However, he’s not coming back very soon.
- Just when Michael Conforto was getting back, he was sidelined with a calf issue. It’s a shame because he’s been productive and appeared not to show many signs of rust after a lost 2022.
- Javier Báez is lost on the field and lost at the plate. Should his recent play continue, I don’t know if he’ll be in the top 150. The strikeouts are gone but the power is too.
- A lot of fresh faces here, the craziest one being Patrick Wisdom. He’s mashing HRs at an alarming rate and keeping the Ks down. It’s early, so be cautious.
- Brett Baty and Anthony Volpe sit in this tier. The talent is off the chart and they simply need more seasoning before moving up. Until we see more, they’re only a stash.
- On the other side of the age spectrum, Andrew McCutchen is showing he can still play ball. Fewer ground balls and more walks are aiding a hot start.
- Mitch Haniger didn’t come back as soon as expected but there is a shot he returns by the weekend. Let’s see how he performs before boosting him up the ranks.
And here’s the Taxi Squad, presented in no particular order:
I understand Scott Chu is still out and not wanted to upset things too much but this still feels very conservative after three weeks of the season. Spencer Torkleson and Jose Miranda both got bumps? They’ve been pretty awful thus far, so has Yoshida for the Sox. His statcast data has been….horrendous to say the least (excluding K and BB rates). I was also hoping to see some bigger movement from Yandy Diaz who has doubled his career launch angle and just hit his 6th HR today (back to back days). His strong plate approach and well documented hard hit metrics seem to be going unnoticed in the community. Yandy didn’t hit his 6th HR last year until August 9th. It’s looking like the invisible breakout.
I don’t speak for Dave, but Tork is looking a lot better the last few days and the upside is very real. Miranda isn’t showing us anjy power yet but is making plenty of contact without strikeouts.
Also, as a general note, unless a player moved more than 5 spaces (especially towards the back of the list), the shift up or down is likely a product of addition or attrition of other players to the list, not a specific movement for that player. A +2 for Tork right now suggests treading water while 2 players (or at least a net of 2 total players) above him fell off due to injury or role change or something.
I’m watching Yandy VERY closely, though. We don’t have enough data to feel especially strong about fly ball rates yet, but 49.1% is a HUGE change for a guy who is usually just burying the ball into the ground.
Yandy showed a fly ball spike like this in 2021 but it didn’t last long. If he can keep up a 40%+ fly ball rate for another 2-3 weeks, he’ll be flying up the list.
Great List! Q: Is Vaughn Grissom close?
The Taxi Squad and the last tier are really tough to separate. He could easily be in that tier or the Taxi Squad.
Is Vaughn Grissom absence a clerical error? Or did his mlb call up get him booted off the taxi squad?
You can consider him a taxi squad guy. The small sample of plate discipline is nice, as Grissom really struggled with Ks at the end of 2022. He’s picked up SS eligibility, which is nice. The big question will be what happens when Arcia returns.
Phew! Had to make the call, loaded at MI so I dropped him for Taj. My gosh Chu take a break lol. Congrats! Take care of your growing fam. You da man! Good luck and lots of love for you and yours
(Father of two myself, but i did it one at a time;)
This IS my break, John-Mike.
You’re missing Esteury Ruiz!
And if you’re not missing him, his savant has really improved, the A’s should let him run wild (even half his SB pace from the minors would be great) and his walk % should rise with how much he walked in the minors.
I’d argue Ruiz still a really niche player, even when he’s hot. Leading off is cool, but only 1 XBH in his last 54 PA is a concern, and that OBP is entirely batted ball driven – just 1 walk in those last 54 PA.
I’d want to see that he’s not just Billy Hamilton, who was always better in theory than reality. Step 1 is keeping those Ks down and maybe taking some walks (his triple-A numbers in 2022 were what got people excited).
Hey Scott, just read your reply now, thanks for the nice reply by the way, it’s appreciated!!
Good to see Esteury figuring things out so far. I actually traded him away a while back, so I’ll be appreciating him from afar. Was able to make a deal of Esteury, Starling Marte, and DeSclafani for the fragile question mark in Carlos Rodon last month.
With how nice Esteury’s gap power swing was in his 2022 minors highlight videos, I would’ve been shocked if he didn’t start to figure it out on the A’s! You rarely see such a skilled base stealer have the potentially patient batting eye and enough gap power potential that he does. Here’s to hoping that he ends up being a lovely 40-60 SB guy this season with 5-10 HR!
And his OBP was not entirely batted ball driven before I made my comment, by the way. He was getting hit by an unusually high amount of pitches back then. So surely at least some of those HBP would’ve been walks instead. Right now he has the AL lead at 9 HBP.
I Need movement at a position, am I Unwise to leave Eloy on the wire? I really need steals and currently Santander and Jeff McNeil are the end of my bench. Also considering Edman who you have high up, my co-manager likes him as well.
In roto is it okay to have just a one category guy, considering straw for steals
Yandy Diaz at 98 ? His launch angle is up from 7 degrees last year to 14 degrees this year. He made massive strides last year in terms of quality contact. He just drove the ball into the ground. If this is a swing change and not just noise Yandy is going to be a top 25 hitter this year.
You heard it here first
Has there been any discussion about adding a way to filter position on the website? For example I want to see your Catcher rankings. Right now I have to copy and paste the list into excel and filter for “C”. Think it would be a cool feature to add to simplify it