Hitter List 4/21 – Ranking the Top 150 Hitters for 2021

Ranking the top 150 hitters for fantasy baseball every week of the year

Hello, and welcome back to Hitter List, where every week during the regular season I’ll be sharing updated rankings for the top 150 hitters in baseball. These rankings are geared toward standard, daily, 12-team H2H leagues, 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.

First, let’s get some basics out of the way:

 

  • 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.

 

  • Player movement (+/-) can be influenced by the movement of players around them in the ranks. You may see a player rise a few spots despite a poor performance, or drop a few spots despite a great performance. This can happen when players above them are moved below them, or vice versa. It could also be the result of injured players returning to the list after coming off the IL, or dropping off the list when they hit the IL. Just something to be conscious of if you see a change that doesn’t initially make a ton of sense.

 

  • Any player currently on the IL or not in the majors is removed from the list.

 

  • Hopefully it goes without saying, but these rankings aren’t an exact 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. My way of evaluating and ranking players has worked out well for me over the years, but it might not be a great fit for you. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and that what makes the game so fun. Please keep that in mind before eviscerating my fragile mental health in the comments.

 

And now a couple of notes on how I generally evaluate hitters before we dive in:

 

  • I’ve typically weighed stolen bases pretty heavily, but I’ve gradually learned to value the stat less and less over the years. And I’m hoping to continue to move in that direction this year, with one caveat: I still think players with truly elite speed (e.g. Trea Turner and Adalberto Mondesi) are worth their weight in gold. As stolen bases have plummeted in recent years, and previous world-class speedsters like Mallex Smith, Dee Strange-Gordon, and Jonathan Villar currently find themselves with declining skillsets and/or no path to full-time at-bats, players who can swipe 40+ bags have become a true rarity. Getting that kind of stolen base output from one lineup slot allows you so much more flexibility in how you put together the rest of your team, and I think that can really give you an edge when it comes to roster construction.

 

  • Batted ball quality is huge for me (as I’m sure it is for most people). Every year the industry takes further strides in how it evaluates contact quality and its relationship with launch angle. Connor Kurcon’s DHH% and TrueHit statistics are revelations, and something I hope to rely on for player rankings throughout the year. Looking at quality of contact in conjunction with a hitter’s plate discipline, contact ability, spray charts, and batted ball tendencies is really where the meat of my player analysis tends to take place.

 

  • Considering the format that these rankings cater towards (standard 12-team H2H), I generally think streaming catchers is a viable strategy, and as a result I’m a lot lower than most on the mid-tier options. That said, a catcher like J.T. Realmuto is essentially in a tier of his own, and as a result I think rostering him gives you a significant edge over your competitors. With this position in particular, I weigh ceiling significantly more than floor.

 

  • I hate kids. As exciting as it is to own a young prospect right as he’s breaking out, I’ve found that trying to pinpoint which prospect will take off and when is a complete crapshoot, and can oftentimes result in spending a lot of playing time and FAAB on young players who don’t return much value. As a result, I tend to lean towards veteran hitters with longer track records.

 

Ranking Notes

 

 

 

  • On the surface, it’s awesome that Fernando Tatís Jr. is back so quickly after his season looked like it was in jeopardy. However, his season looked like it was in jeopardy for a reason. The injury he suffered is one that not only has a high likelihood of recurrence but one that could have long-term implications on his playing career. To reduce the risk of another injury, Tatís Jr. has adopted a new two-handed swing to reduce the stress on his shoulder. Though he’s popped a home run since returning, he’s also struck out in nearly half his plate appearances, and I think there’s got to be some concern here. Obviously, the upside is that of the top overall player, but the injury risk and potential impact on his productivity can’t really be dismissed, which is why I’ve dropped him a bit here. I think if you have the opportunity to shop him for another top-tier hitter who has fewer question marks, it’s probably not a bad idea.

 

  • Welp, with Buxton going down shortly after publishing last week’s piece, I’m literally batting 1.000 when it comes to cursing featured hitters this year. Sorry, J.D. Martinez, the end is nigh. At least he had a good run prior to my voodoo magic kicking in. He’s currently leading the league in RBI, and in the top 10% in average exit velocity, wOBA, and xwOBA. His strikeout rate is also at the lowest point of his career, and his barrel rate has rebounded to where it had been in 2018 when he hit. 330 with 43 home runs. With strikeout and barrel rates starting to reach their stabilization points throughout the league (60 PA for strikeouts, 50 BIP for barrels), it’s beginning to get to the point in the season where you can buy into impressive starts like this a little bit. I’d still like to see him keep this up for another week or two before being fully bought in, but we know the ceiling here is 40+ home runs with a batting average above .300, which I think would put him in the conversation as a top-10 hitter.

 

  • Randy Arozarena has been treading water pretty well to this point, but the red flags he had coming into the year haven’t gone away by any stretch of the imagination. His groundball rate has ballooned to 65% (!!!), and his whiff rate has shot up to 38%. To add to this, he’s not only continued to struggle against non-fastballs but his .417 wOBA against fastballs is supported by just a .271 xwOBA. Now, he’s still hitting the ball hard when he does make contact. But with so many of those batted balls being driven into the ground, he’s not producing the barrels he did last season. It is, of course, still early. But there aren’t too many good things happening below the surface at the moment, despite the palatable fantasy numbers.

 

  • Coming into the year, the question was whether the quality-of-contact gains Jesse Winker made last season would stick because if he could pair those gains with his customarily solid contact rates, he could blossom into an elite bat. Well so far, so good, as Winker has not only improved even further on his barrel rate (16.7%) and Hard Hit rate (56.7%) but he’s also kept his whiff rate below 30% and trimmed his strikeout rate to just 20%. That’s really, really good for a guy making as much hard contact as he is. On top of all this, he’s also lowered his groundball rate below 40% for the first time in his career. Though he only has one home run to show for it, if these changes stick, he’s going to go on a monstrous run in the near future.

 

  • Speaking of monstrous runs, let’s talk about Mitch Haniger, who posted a casual .321 average over the past week with seven RBI. Haniger has historically flashed plus power and shown the ability to handle most pitch types fairly well. When paired with a solid batted ball profile and above-average plate discipline, it’s clear to see why Haniger was a fairly popular sleeper heading into the year. He missed last season with what can only be described as a freak injury but seems to have picked up right where he left off so far this year. With Kyle Lewis back and Jarred Kelenic on the horizon, Haniger should find himself in the middle of a surprisingly potent Seattle offense. And in addition to plenty of counting stats, there’s upside here for a .280 average with 30+ homers.

 

  • The Angels’ strange obsession with continuing to get Albert Pujols into their lineups on a regular basis seemed like a roadblock to Jared Walsh. But in recent weeks he’s been getting reps in right field, which has served as a boon not only to his playing time but his positional eligibility. While Walsh’s contact quality falls into the good-not-great category, he more than makes up for it by consistently squaring up the ball, as evidenced by his 44% Sweet Spot rate, which is nearly 50% higher than the league average. That’s helped his power play up, allowing him to still post an impressive 13.9% barrel rate this year. Between that and the excellent whiff and strikeout rates, I see a guy in Walsh who has excellent bat control. In much the same vein as Haniger, I see a guy with the potential to hit .280 with 30+ home runs as long as he’s not ceding regular playing time to the Albert Pujols Farewell Tour.

 

  • Kris Bryant is doing some interesting things in the early going. He’s posting the highest Hard Hit rate (43.2%) since his 2015 rookie season, and he’s also elevating the ball significantly more than he ever has. With five home runs already under his belt, it seems these changes are already paying dividends for him. Considering how the past few seasons have gone for Bryant, it’s easy to forget that he was once a prospect projected for 80-grade future power. It’s probably safe to say that him ever reaching that level of power output is highly unlikely, but a Bryant who can get back to impacting and elevating the ball is one who could be an incredibly productive fantasy hitter. It’s definitely something to monitor going forward.

 

  • Jazz Chisholm looked overmatched last year, and considering he posted back-to-back 30%+ strikeout rates in 2018 and 2019 in the minors, there was definitely concern over whether his bat could keep him afloat long enough in the majors for him to take advantage of his 20/20 potential. Well something seems to have clicked for Chisholm this year, and he’s not only showing incredible plate discipline (17.6% walk rate) but he’s dropped his strikeout rate to a digestible 25.5%. This has been helped largely by the fact that he’s demolished non-fastballs this year. The early returns on his batted ball profile are encouraging: a good mix of line drives to all fields and plus-power that has him leading the league with a cartoonish 28.6% barrel rate. Everything looks really promising so far, and I think a 20/20 year is very much in the cards.

 

  • Pick up Nick Solak right now and bask in the glory of a hot streak that has seen him slash .385/.467/.731 with three homers and a sub-15% strikeout rate over the past week. I still have concerns that the lack of pop and high groundball rates will cap his power around 20 homers and potentially eat into his batting average upside. But a hot streak’s a hot streak.

 

  • We’re three weeks into the season and Avisaíl Garcia is 11th in baseball in barrels per plate appearance. He’s been destroying baseballs this year while sticking to his free-swinging, whiff-tastic ways. The lack of plate discipline and penchant for hitting grounders creates a pretty wide range of outcomes for a guy like Garcia–we’ve seen that he can hit .330 or .230 in a season, and there’s no telling which it’ll be. He’s a lotto ticket, and worth a grab if you want to see if this is one of the years where you (and him) will get lucky.

 

Rank Hitter Position Change
1Ronald AcunaT1OF-
2Mike TroutOF-
3Mookie BettsOF+1
4Trevor Story
T2
SS
+1
5Trea TurnerSS+1
6Jose Ramirez3B+1
7Freddie Freeman1B+1
8Corey SeagerSS+3
9Fernando Tatis Jr.SS+UR
10Francisco LindorSS-
11Bryce HarperOF+1
12Bo BichetteSS+2
13Manny Machado3B, SS+2
14Nelson CruzDH+2
15Xander BogaertsSS+4
16Rafael Devers3B+6
17Marcell OzunaOF-
18J.D. MartinezDH+10
19Jose Abreu1B, DH-6
20Kyle TuckerOF-2
21Aaron JudgeOF, DH+4
22Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
T3
1B, 3B
+7
23Yordan AlvarezOF, DH-
24DJ LeMahieu1B, 2B, 3B-3
25Nolan Arenado3B+1
26Shohei OhtaniDH+4
27Luis RobertOF+5
28Alex Bregman3B+3
29Ozzie Albies2B-5
30Pete Alonso1B+3
31Nick CastellanosOF+7
32Randy ArozarenaOF-5
33J.T. RealmutoC+1
34Whit Merrifield
T4
2B, OF
+1
35Trent GrishamOF+4
36Austin MeadowsOF, DH+1
37Paul Goldschmidt1B+3
38Tim AndersonSS+UR
39Wil MyersOF+4
40Dominic Smith1B, OF+2
41Eugenio Suarez3B-
42Michael ConfortoOF+4
43Byron Buxton
T5
OF
+5
44Charlie BlackmonOF-8
45Franmil ReyesOF, DH-
46Max Muncy1B, 2B, 3B+3
47Ramon LaureanoOF+12
48Matt Olson1B, DH+14
49Yoan Moncada3B-5
50Jesse WinkerOF+19
51Matt Chapman3B+2
52Tommy PhamOF-5
53Dansby SwansonSS+3
54Giancarlo StantonOF, DH+1
55Anthony Rizzo
T6
1B
+8
56Cavan Biggio2B, OF+5
57Eric Hosmer1B+13
58Lourdes Gurriel Jr.2B, OF-7
59Michael BrantleyOF+5
60Alec Bohm3B-3
61Gleyber Torres2B, SS-11
62Javier BaezSS+4
63Mitch HanigerOF+26
64Josh Bell1B+3
65Tommy Edman2B, 3B, OF+8
66Jared Walsh1B+21
67Mike Yastrzemski
T7
OF
-2
68Joey GalloOF, DH-
69Justin Turner3B+8
70Brandon Lowe2B-18
71Alex VerdugoOF+8
72Kris Bryant3B, OF+12
73Gio Urshela3B+3
74Carlos CorreaSS+1
75Jorge SolerOF, DH-15
76Ian HappOF-18
77Jeff McNeil2B, 3B, OF-5
78Travis d’ArnaudC, 1B+3
79Eddie Rosario
T8
OF
+3
80Jazz Chisholm2B+UR
81Marcus SemienSS-1
82Dylan Moore1B, OF-8
83Trey Mancini1B, OF+5
84Clint FrazierOF-6
85Anthony SantanderOF+5
86Will SmithC+5
87Yermin MercedesDH+27
88Victor RoblesOF-2
89Rhys Hoskins1B+3
90Dylan CarlsonOF+3
91Kyle LewisOF+UR
92Nate Lowe1B+6
93Salvador PerezC+2
94Josh Donaldson3B+UR
95Gary SanchezC, DH+1
96Mark Canha
T9
1B, OF
+3
97Jesus Aguilar1B-3
98Keston Hiura2B-15
99Manuel MargotOF+3
100Ty France2B, 3B+13
101Didi GregoriusSS-1
102Kyle SchwarberOF-1
103Christian VazquezC+3
104C.J. Cron1B-7
105J.D. Davis3B, OF+UR
106Jeimer Candelario3B+4
107Corey DickersonOF+5
108Jake Cronenworth1B, 2B+7
109Miguel Sano
T10
3B
-2
110Ryan Mountcastle1B, OF-25
111Andres Gimenez2B, SS+15
112Yuli Gurriel1B, 3B+8
113Garrett Hampson2B, OF+6
114David Fletcher2B, 3B, SS+8
115Brandon NimmoOF+UR
116Nick Madrigal2B+8
117Akil BaddooOF-
118Joey Votto1B+UR
119Nick Solak3B+26
120Avisail GarciaOF+UR
121Evan Longoria3B+UR
122Ryan McMahon1B, 2B, 3B+UR
123Brian Anderson
T11
3B, OF
-12
124AJ PollockOF-16
125Eduardo Escobar2B, 3B+UR
126Austin SlaterOF+UR
127Aaron HicksOF-22
128Andrew BenintendiOF-5
129Nick SenzelOF-13
130Hunter Dozier3B, OF, DH-12
131Andrew McCutchenOF-28
132Alex DickersonOF-11
133Luis Arraez2B, 3B, SS, OF-8
134Bryan ReynoldsOF+15
135Phillip Evans3B, OF-8
136Cedric MullinsOF-8
137Donovan Solano2B-8
138Rowdy Tellez1B-6
139Kyle Seager3B+UR
140Colin Moran3B+4
141Alex KirilloffOF+UR
142Paul DeJongSS-3
143Jonathan India3B-9
144Tyler NaquinOF-8
145Travis Shaw1B, 3B+UR
146Austin Riley3B, OF-15
147Chris Taylor2B, OF+UR
148Franchy CorderoOF+UR
149David DahlOF-11
150Michael A. TaylorOF-8

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer, content manager, and podcaster with Pitcher List. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

  • Avatar Patrick says:

    How do you view Wilson Contreras? Surprised he’s not on the list

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      My issue with Contreras has always been his high (~50%) groundball rates. That creates a lot of volatility when it comes to his batting average and power (see: Eric Hosmer). If things break right, he could hit .270 with 25 homers, which is awesome. I’m just not sure there’s any good way to tell which years things will break right for him. I’m also pretty hesitant to include catchers on these lists unless they have big ceilings, as I think you could stream catching options in this format (12-team H2H) and do pretty well for yourself.

      • Avatar NickFolesMVP says:

        But you have 6 other catchers on the list? If we’re looking at probable outcomes, how can Contreras be lower than all of them? He’s definitely better than streaming options. Just because streaming is a viable option doesn’t mean that the good catchers don’t have value.

        • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

          I do think there’s a good argument for Contreras making the list on counting stat production alone, and I probably will include him (and possibly Grandal) next week because of that. That’s something I often struggle to account for.

          My point isn’t that good catchers don’t have value though–it’s that in formats where streaming is a viable option, their value is muted. The six catchers currently on the list are players that I personally prefer to Contreras, either because I think they provide ceilings above what could be attained through streaming, or because they’ve historically been stable enough offensive contributors that they offer more peace of mind (and less headaches) than catcher streaming.

  • Avatar Jim says:

    Eaton. What gives?? He needs to be ranked.

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Yeah, I could see an argument for him as high as Tier 10. Part of this is trying to project future performance, and I think there are some serious durability/long-term performance issues when it comes to Eaton. But no doubt he’s been a great source of counting stats so far.

  • Avatar Leo says:

    Where does Starling Marte rank when he gets back from IL?

  • Avatar Bern says:

    Surprised to see you have someone like Dylan Moore so high above Cronenworth who has been batting in the top 4 of the Padres lineup.

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Yeah, Moore’s been really bad lately. The ceiling there is just so enticing though–if he could just find a way to put the ball in play more, I think there’s 25/25 upside. Definitely understand preferring to lean on the floor of Cronenworth though.

  • Avatar Augie says:

    151. Juan Soto

  • Avatar Bronx Boo-ers says:

    Surprised Clint Frazier is still on the list. He’s seriously struggling and losing playing time. Should I still hold out hope for him?

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      He’s a similar guy to Ian Happ for me, who’s also struggling. They’ll run hot and cold, but as of now I’m still holding out hope for a .260 AVG and 30+ homers by season’s end.

  • Avatar J says:

    OBP 10 team league (5 year keeper – dynasty)

    Thoughts on trading Hiura (32 round keeper) away for Edman (16th round keeper)??

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Personally, I’m on the precipice of giving up hope with Hiura, so I’d be okay with this, especially in a format that shallow.

      • Avatar Wes says:

        I traded FOR Keston $3/McCutchen $0 and gave away Witt $3/Edman $1 in a dynasty with $3 price keep three weeks before the season started. Keston to 1B and while Witt was hot, he wasn’t nuclear yet if I recall. 2B was the biggest hole on my team, for sure. What a cluster. At least I picked up Jazz when I dumped McCutchen. FML

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