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 in the offseason. 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. 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 cold 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 struggling hitters are getting their playing time reduced by way of demotion in the order or getting left out of the lineup entirely. Both are obviously concerning, but how managers approach slumping hitters will give you a lot of insight into the length of the leash a player might have with that manager. Something I’m not doing is reading too deeply into expected stats quite yet. Plate discipline metrics are starting to become slightly meaningful, though as I discussed in today’s Hacks and Jacks podcast, a single series of improved or worsened discipline still has a massive impact on a player’s stat line.
- If I did want to get some insight on whether what I’m seeing is new or if it’s just normal fluctuation, I’d use my favorite tool—the rolling chart. While we don’t have much for rolling data in 2022, you can see where they currently are on a rolling chart and see how it compares to their career trajectory.
- 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)!
- I shuffled around the top tier, and while I’d love to say it’s a bold, triumphant exclamation…it’s just a really tight tier and it could shuffle around quite a bit.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is my top hitter right now because he looks unstoppable at the plate and the separation between these top players is razor-thin.
- I added Ronald Acuña Jr. to the top tier because he’s unbelievable.
- 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.
- Luis Robert is off to an absolutely scorching start to the season, and I love the dramatic strikeout reduction that’s happened since his debut. The longer he looks like a 30-20 player, the higher up he’ll climb.
- He continues to show improved plate discipline after he struggled so much in 2020, and there’s a non-zero chance Matt Olson gives us triple-digit runs scored and RBI along with 40 or more home runs while hitting .275.
- I still don’t know how to rank Byron Buxton, but until I hear he’s out for a month or longer, I won’t move him much. He’s just too good when he’s playing.
- I’m not worried about Cedric Mullins yet. He’s still leading off, and the strikeouts have come down considerably since the opening four games.
- 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.
- Oblique injuries can linger, but I hope I’m worrying about nothing with Teoscar Hernández. A big part of his value comes from accumulating counting stats in that lineup, so missing time hurts just a little bit more.
- Over his last nine games, Francisco Lindor has three home runs, three steals, and just two strikeouts to six walks. I don’t know if he’s back, but if he was, it would look like this.
- 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.
- Javier Báez is out with thumb soreness, but it’s not broken.
- Franmil Reyes will soon have a two-week stretch where people ask me if he’s a top-30 hitter. Just watch. He’s just a streaky guy.
- I didn’t move Seiya Suzuki enough, I just know it. Unless something awful happens, he’ll be in the top-50 next week.
- 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.
- Marcell Ozuna is hitting the baseball very hard and making a lot of contact, so maybe that small sample from 2021 doesn’t mean that much after all.
- While I did move C.J. Cron up in the rankings a bit, the real test is the upcoming road trip—can he do enough at home to make up for the adjustment periods on the road?
- No, I still don’t know what to do with Cody Bellinger. I’m not sure when I will.
- Jarred Kelenic has been much better over his last five games, and the power and speed are there, even if the contact isn’t.
- Bobby Witt Jr. will be a fine player and could still be a 20-20 player in 2022, but this kind of struggle is par for the course. The first thing to expect, from a development standpoint, should be more contact. The hit tool is too good for him to strike out this much. He might not get on base, but he should miss less.
- Spencer Torkelson finally got his first hit and then his first two home runs. He’s slowly moved up to sixth in the order and could move even higher if he keeps making contact.
- Myles Straw is going to see a slowdown in runs scored, but he should be able to keep swiping bags and getting on base, and that means he can generate value.
- Get well soon, Fernando Tatis Jr.
- Eugenio Suárez has, just like that, reinspired my intrigue with a couple of home runs and a few games where he didn’t strike out. It’s going to be a bit of a wild ride for him in the rankings, so buckle up.
- Don’t look now, but Anthony Santander is doing some cool stuff. Despite a career 5.7% walk rate, he’s walking 22.2% of the time (and at least once in nine of his eleven starts) while also dropping his strikeout rate. The power leaves a lot to be desired, which stinks as it’s his primary skill for fantasy, but I’m very curious to see where this goes.
- My buddy and undying Astros fan Carl Palmer is expecting his first kid any moment, so he’ll probably be on cloud nine when he sees I also moved up Jeremy Peña for him. You’re welcome.
- I’m sorry, Akil Baddoo, but until there are fewer strikeouts or more running, you’ll keep falling. He’s fine to drop in 10- and 12-team leagues with three outfield spots. I’d probably keep him in anything deeper.
- The final tier is mostly made up of guys I figured ought to be in here but that I didn’t know what to do with. Josh Naylor is one of the more interesting new names—he can make good contact and has power, but high ground ball rates have made it tough for him to unlock it in the majors.
- Owen Miller hit the IL, that’s why he’s missing, but I did manage to bump Steven Kwan again due to the role.
And now, at long last, I present to you, the Hitter List:
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)