Hello and welcome to Hitter List, where every Wednesday I’ll be flawlessly ranking the top 150 hitters in baseball from now through the end of the season.
To truly hate something, you must first understand it, so here’s a general overview of how I go about evaluating players so you can critique these rankings more thoroughly:
- I value stolen bases significantly more than home runs. The 5,585 homers hit in 2018 were the fourth-highest total in modern history. And the 2,474 stolen bases from last year were the lowest total since 1994 and the eighth-lowest total since 1969. In other words, stolen bases are a scarce resource getting even scarcer, like wise bullpen decisions from Gabe Kapler. And home runs are an abundant resource that are becoming more prevalent, like… Christian Yelich monster dongs? All else being equal, I’ll always take the guy with 15 HR/20 SB over the guy with 20 HR/15 SB.
- I’m generally not a believer in positional scarcity, so position eligibility only comes into play in two instances: as a tiebreaker when two players are fairly evenly matched, or if a player is eligible at catcher, because catcher is a barren wasteland this year filled with adrenaline-fueled maniacs playing guitar riffs while strapped to 18-wheelers. Wait, no, that’s Mad Max: Fury Road, but catcher is just as bleak and weird.
- I’m an old man who’s afraid of change, so I tend to be low on young players without major league track records.
- These rankings apply only to leagues using standard scoring (R, RBI, HR, SB, AVG). Adjust accordingly for other formats.
- These rankings are meant to be from today’s date through the end of the season. These are purely for redraft, so I’m not taking 2020 into account here at all.
- A player’s movement in the rankings can be just as much about where guys around them have moved as anything else. A player might move down purely as a result of someone below them rising, and vice versa.
[hitter_list_2019 list_id=”30289″ include_stats=”1″]
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: This past week, baseball gave us another aggressive reminder that the specter of death and decay is coming for us all by claiming Aaron Judge, Austin Meadows, Starling Marte, Harrison Bader (who returns today), Jean Segura, and Odubel Herrera. Their spots in the rankings take a hit as a result, though figuring out how much of a hit each should take was admittedly difficult, especially for guys like Judge who don’t have a clear timetable for return.
- Additions: Shohei Ohtani is someone I have shamefully overlooked to this point. He’s nearing his return, so he makes his triumphant debut on the list this week. Clint Frazier also makes his first appearance: The Judge injury and the fact that Yankee Stadium appears to have been built on an ancient Native American burial ground clears up any concerns I had about his long-term playing time. He’s made nice strides towards cutting down on his strikeout rate, and is worth an add in 12-teamers and deeper. Christian Walker, Jeff McNeil, and Shin-Soo Choo also make their debuts, though I’m admittedly a bit skeptical about all their hot starts.
- Christian Yelich makes the well-deserved leap into Tier 1 this week. If you haven’t checked out Michael Ajeto’s excellent piece on the changes he’s made the past two seasons, stop what you’re doing and read it — no pants required. I was skeptical that Yelich would be able to repeat what he did in 2018, but if that truly is his new baseline I think you can make the argument for him as the No. 2 player in baseball going forward. And even, dare I say it — first overall? No, I dare not… yet.
- Francisco Lindor is healthy now and deserves our attention. I’m still holding him outside the top-10 until I see that his legs still work and aren’t being held together by chewing gum and paper clips, but a few stolen bases over the coming weeks should launch him back up to where he likely belongs.
- This is shaping up to be the fourth straight season in which Joc Pederson has cut down on his strikeout rate, and he’s posting a .267/.385/.707 line with 10 homers despite a .200 BABIP. He’s a borderline must-add player in all formats for his potential to give you a decent batting average with 30 homers and a handful of steals.
- I’m souring quite a bit on Rafael Devers, who has been benched recently in favor of Michael Chavis. The high ground-ball rates and lack of hard contact make me think owners would be best off shopping him now while he still has some name value and the surface-level stats look palatable.
- Speaking of getting benched regularly, Jesus Aguilar has lost at-bats to Eric Thames and Yasmani Grandal (yeah, seriously) over the past few games, and seems to be sitting regularly against righties. I don’t think the Brewers are giving up on him completely this early, considering the year he had in 2018. I think they’re just giving him some space to get things right, and the peripherals look solid. But the fact that the hot-hitting Thames is still lingering on the periphery makes me a bit nervous, especially since he’s a lefty and would soak up the strong-side platoon at-bats if the Brewers go that route.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)