Hitter List 4/28 – 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 30+ 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, once those stats are updated for 2021. 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 bit 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

 

 

 

  • Maybe the best part about putting these lists together each week is getting to follow players that I had zero interest in drafting, whose breakouts I’d likely be oblivious to, since they’re not rostered on any of my teams. Enter: Matt Olson. For years now the fantasy community has been chasing the sublime high of that 24-homer, 216-plate appearance rookie season, only to be disappointed due to either injury or just underwhelming performance. After three years of a being toyed with, I was firmly in the camp of not having any further interest until Olson showed he could actually put together a full season of sustained production. And while it’s still early (and maybe his ranking this week is a bit aggressive in light of that), the early returns so far have been phenomenal. The customary power is there, of course, with six homers already under his belt. But even more enticing is the .312/.379/.610 slash line and 17.2% strikeout rate, the latter of which sits over seven percentage points below his career low. It’s all backed up by an increase in his zone swing rate and zone contact rate, and a sizable dip in his whiff rate, which sits right around league average at 24%. Seeing a guy with this much power displaying this much bat control has softened even my steely heart, and turned a skeptic… into a *believer*. If these changes are for real, there’s 45-homer upside with an average that could flirt with .280 and that’s bonkers.

 

  • One of the other great things about this list is having the opportunity to be humbled. Constantly. In public. So the whole world can see. And laugh at my misfortune. Last week I mentioned I’m worried about Fernando Tatis Jr. and the potential that his new swing and shoulder injury could impact his offensive production. Well, he hit .407 this past week with five homers and four stolen bases. So that puts that concern to bed. Am I still worried about his shoulder becoming an issue at some point? Of course. It’s an issue that requires regular maintenance, and often ends up requiring surgery. And he’s now more prone than others to having his season end early on a swing, or defensive play, or slide. But as long as he’s healthy, he’s pretty clearly a Tier 1 player, so that’s where he’ll stay.

 

  • Rhys Hoskins‘ career actually has some parallels to Matt Olson’s. Two power-hitting first basemen whose incredible rookie seasons set up unrealistic expectations that they never seemed to live up to… until now? Hoskins had two major problems the past few years: he was way too passive at the plate, and he didn’t hit the ball hard enough to take advantage of the extreme amount of pulled flyballs that he hit. Well he’s at career-highs this year in swing rate and zone swing rate, so he seems to have gotten more aggressive. And he seems to be continuing a trend that began last year of putting a little more oomph behind his batted balls: he’s in the top 7% of the league in Hard Hit rate (55.9%), barrel rate (18.6%), and average exit velocity (93 mph). How much of this uptick is the result of the new ball? Hard to say. But it’s definitely encouraging that he’s addressing two of the biggest holes in his game, and with six homers over the past week it’s clearly paying dividends.

 

  • I feel like I bring up Nate Lowe every week. But isn’t it normal and healthy to think about the people you love perpetually at the expense of everyone and everything else in your life? A hot start and then a big lull in production had everyone confused on how to value this guy. But with a solid .286 average in his last 15 games with three homers and a steal, he seems to be settling into a groove. This man is such a unicorn to me: a left-handed hitter with easy 30+ home run power that goes to the opposite field with the majority of his batted balls. He’s also one of the few hitters I’ve seen that has performed equally well against all pitch types–he’s posting .350+ xwOBAs against fastballs, breaking balls, and offspeed stuff this season. His scuffles against lefties have continued so far this year, but he has the power and batted ball mix to be an incredibly balanced hitter, and I think he should be rostered in all formats right now.

 

  • A quick note on catchers. To begin the year, I was pretty adamant about catcher streaming being a viable option in the format that this list caters to (12-team H2H). So much so, that I gave short shrift to any catchers that I didn’t feel either had A) very high ceilings for their position, or B) a long enough track record of success that their production seemed relatively safe. Well, I’ve reconsidered that stance. The truth is, catcher streaming requires time and effort, and I think I underrated the value of having a guy on your roster that you could set and forget. With that in mind, I’ve moved some catchers that I have been heretofore intransigent about onto the list, including Yasmani Grandal and Willson Contreras.

 

  • Speaking of catchers, my current Obsession by Calvin Klein comes in a Carson Kelly-shaped bottle. This man is currently seventh among qualified hitters in xwOBA, and has six homers on the year, including three in his last four games. He’s apparently tweaked his swing to better handle non-fastballs, and it’s paying dividends, as he is currently crushing all pitch types. The 18.4% barrel rate is absurd, but perhaps crazier is the microscopic 15.4% strikeout rate and 21.5% walk rate. I’m trying very hard not to get too excited here, but if he can keep this going he’s a top-5 catcher.

 

  • My apology tour continues this week with a heartfelt mea culpa on Ty France. I haven’t been giving what he’s done this year the attention on the respect it deserves, and for that I feel like a very large Bad Boi. France has showed elite bat control this season, with a 40% line drive rate, a 44% Sweet Spot percentage (that’s nearly 50% above league average), good quality-of-contact metrics, and very balanced performance against all pitch types. I’ll be the first to admit that I was not a believer in his 2020 breakout, but I can’t find a single thing to nitpick in terms of his peripherals this year.

 

  • I’m not sure I expected J.D. Davis to return from a hand injury and immediately catch fire, but as a Davis simp who would do ungodly things if it meant he could blossom into the star hitter he appeared to be in 2019, it’s been a welcome development. He’s up to a .394 average on the year with two home runs in just 33 at-bats. Obviously we don’t have the sample size we need to draw any strong conclusions, but in the early going we’re seeing that high-end hard contact, we’re seeing him steer away from the groundballs a bit, and we’re seeing some good performance against non-fastballs. Again, way too early to know anything at this point with Davis, but we know what the ceiling is, and there could be reason for excitement if these trends hold up.

 

  • The surface numbers aren’t great. He hasn’t looked good in years. But Joey Votto is doing interesting things right now, and I think it’s worth your attention. Because he’s hitting the ball harder than he ever has, and being more aggressive at the plate, and it’s weird, but it also seems like it could work. Some of that aggression and increased hard contact has contributed to an uncharacteristically bloated whiff rate. But the expected stats seem to be digging what he’s doing right now, and he may be close to going on a hot streak.

 

  • Yuli Gurriel has said he’s making a concerted effort to chase less pitches out of the zone, and the numbers certainly bear that out so far, as he’s cut down on his chase rate and his overall swing rate while keeping his zone-swing rate pretty much in line with his career numbers. It seems to be allowing him to see better pitches to hit, which has helped his customarily low barrel rate jump to a respectable 7.9%. I’m tentatively buying into it for now, as he has the batted ball profile and contact ability to post a .290+ average, and if this new approach can get him comfortably above 20 home runs on the year he’s a huge value.

 

  • This is really more of a deep-league, Hail Mary-type speculative grab, but Gregory Polanco has looked pretty interesting in the early going. His 116.2 mph Max EV is tied with Aaron Judge for eighth this year among hitters with at least 25 BBEs. He’s also posting the highest xwOBA he’s posted since 2018. He seems (knock on wood) to be healthy for the first time in awhile, and while he’ll likely be lucky to hit above .250, he possesses a really intriguing power/speed combo that could be really helpful in fantasy leagues. Maybe not somebody to add just yet in 12-teamers, but definitely worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks.

 

Rank Hitter Position Change
1Ronald AcunaT1OF-
2Mike TroutOF-
3Mookie BettsOF-
4Fernando Tatis Jr.SS+5
5Trevor Story
T2
SS
-1
6Trea TurnerSS-1
7Jose Ramirez3B-1
8Freddie Freeman1B-1
9Corey SeagerSS-1
10Bryce HarperOF+1
11Bo BichetteSS+1
12Manny Machado3B, SS+1
13Nelson CruzDH+1
14Xander BogaertsSS+1
15Rafael Devers3B+1
16J.D. MartinezDH+2
17Francisco LindorSS-7
18Jose Abreu1B, DH+1
19Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
T3
1B, 3B
+3
20Aaron JudgeOF, DH+1
21Shohei OhtaniDH+5
22Kyle TuckerOF-2
23Yordan AlvarezOF, DH-
24Anthony Rendon+UR
25Nick CastellanosOF+6
26Pete Alonso1B+4
27Trent GrishamOF+8
28Matt Olson1B, DH+20
29Marcell OzunaOF-12
30DJ LeMahieu1B, 2B, 3B-6
31Nolan Arenado3B-6
32Alex Bregman3B-4
33Randy ArozarenaOF-1
34Byron BuxtonOF+9
35J.T. RealmutoC-2
36Whit Merrifield
T4
2B, OF
-2
37Austin MeadowsOF, DH-1
38Tim AndersonSS-
39Ozzie Albies2B-10
40Paul Goldschmidt1B-3
41Jesse WinkerOF+9
42Franmil Reyes
T5
OF, DH
+3
43Wil MyersOF-4
44Dominic Smith1B, OF-4
45Michael ConfortoOF-3
46Giancarlo StantonOF, DH+8
47Charlie BlackmonOF-3
48Max Muncy1B, 2B, 3B-2
49Ramon LaureanoOF-2
50Yoan Moncada3B-1
51Dansby SwansonSS+2
52Anthony Rizzo
T6
1B
+3
53Jose Altuve2B+UR
54Michael BrantleyOF+5
55Tommy PhamOF-3
56Eric Hosmer1B+1
57Alec Bohm3B+3
58Jared Walsh1B+8
59Javier BaezSS+3
60Justin Turner3B+9
61Matt Chapman3B-10
62Mitch HanigerOF+1
63Tommy Edman2B, 3B, OF+2
64Nate Lowe1B+28
65Carlos CorreaSS+9
66Eugenio Suarez3B-25
67Alex VerdugoOF+4
68Kris Bryant3B, OF+4
69Yermin MercedesDH+18
70Lourdes Gurriel Jr.2B, OF-12
71Rhys Hoskins1B+18
72Brandon Lowe
T7
2B
-2
73Gio Urshela3B-
74Joey GalloOF, DH-6
75Ty France2B, 3B+25
76Cavan Biggio2B, OF-20
77Gleyber Torres2B, SS-16
78Mike Moustakas2B, 3B+UR
79Jorge SolerOF, DH-4
80Mike YastrzemskiOF-13
81Jeff McNeil2B, 3B, OF-4
82Josh Bell
T8
1B
-18
83Travis d’ArnaudC, 1B-5
84Trey Mancini1B, OF-1
85Ian HappOF-9
86Eddie RosarioOF-7
87Dylan CarlsonOF+3
88Josh Donaldson3B+6
89J.D. Davis3B, OF+16
90Yuli Gurriel1B, 3B+22
91Marcus SemienSS-10
92Will SmithC-6
93Mark Canha1B, OF+3
94Willson ContrerasC+UR
95C.J. Cron1B+9
96Clint Frazier
T9
OF
-12
97Dylan Moore1B, OF-15
98Kyle LewisOF-7
99Salvador PerezC-6
100Victor RoblesOF-12
101Jesus Aguilar1B-4
102Nick Solak3B+17
103Manuel MargotOF-4
104Corey DickersonOF+3
105Joey Votto1B+13
106Christian VazquezC-3
107Yasmani GrandalC+UR
108Kyle Schwarber
T10
OF
-6
109Jeimer Candelario3B-3
110David Fletcher2B, 3B, SS+4
111Brandon NimmoOF+UR
112Nick Madrigal2B+4
113Carson KellyC+UR
114Gary SanchezC, DH-19
115Jake Cronenworth1B, 2B-7
116Didi GregoriusSS-15
117Keston Hiura2B-19
118Garrett Hampson2B, OF-5
119Cedric MullinsOF+17
120Andres Gimenez2B, SS-9
121Bryan ReynoldsOF+13
122Justin UptonOF+UR
123Ryan McMahon1B, 2B, 3B+UR
124Akil BaddooOF-7
125Bobby Dalbec1B+UR
126Gavin Lux2B, SS+UR
127Evan Longoria3B+UR
128Eduardo Escobar
T11
2B, 3B
-3
129Kolten Wong2B+UR
130David PeraltaOF+UR
131AJ PollockOF-7
132Austin SlaterOF-6
133Alex DickersonOF-1
134Ryan Mountcastle1B, OF-24
135Andrew BenintendiOF-7
136Kyle Seager3B+UR
137Luis Arraez2B, 3B, SS, OF-4
138Chris Taylor2B, OF+UR
139Hunter Dozier3B, OF, DH-9
140Austin Riley3B, OF+6
141Michael A. TaylorOF+9
142Adolis GarciaOF+UR
143Avisail GarciaOF-23
144Colin Moran3B-4
145Carlos Santana1B, DH+UR
146Randal GrichukOF+UR
147Isiah Kiner-FalefaC, 3B, SS+UR
148Alex KirilloffOF-7
149Gregory PolancoOF+UR
150Aaron HicksOF-23

 

Photo by Keith Gillett/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 Jim says:

    #151 Eaton?
    He’s healthy. He’s batting lead off for a potent offense. He driving in Runs. His statcast may not pop like Joey Votto’s but production doesn’t lie or does it?

    • Avatar Mike Honcho says:

      Yeah…what gives? Especially when you profess to not like kids. Just sayin’…a lot of kids ahead of Eaton who have no track record. D. Moore? the .111 D.Moore? Mountcastle? D.Carlson? N.Madrigal? C.Mullins with the +.400 BABIP? A.Gimenez? Badoo!! Rule 5 Badoo? Dalbec? Lux?

      • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

        Yeah, he’s a solid all-around contributor. I think slotting him anywhere in the bottom tier works. Long-term, I’d rather gamble on every guy you listed over him for their upside, personally, especially in a 12-teamer, but I can see the appeal of the high floor if he stays healthy.

  • Avatar Stefan says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Do you know where TrueHit and DHH% are being tracked/compiled?

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Here’s the link to the 2020 leaderboards (delete the space before “com”, I think the site flags and deletes my comment if I include a working link, haha):

      https://public.tableau. com/profile/connor.kurcon#!/vizhome/DHHandTrueHitfor2020/DHHandTrueHitfor2020

      No update yet for 2021, but hope this helps.

  • Avatar Vlad Sr. says:

    Rank Vladito in tier 1 you cowards!

  • Avatar JR says:

    At this point… would you drop Ian Happ for J.D. Davis??

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Yeah, I’d be okay with that. I think Happ will turn it around eventually, but speculating on Davis and his hot streak for now is a good move.

  • Avatar Hitter List SuperFan says:

    It’s great to see you finally put some respek on Contreras’ name!

    Add/drop question for you for my 10 team H2H categories league: Jeff McNeil was just dropped by an impatient owner. I currently own Mancini who is ranked a few spots below him. I know we are supposed to ignore the rankings within the tiers, but would you drop Mancini for McNeil ROS?

    Thank you sir, appreciate all that you do each week to get these rankings out to us!

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m gonna show this to my wife to justify the hours I spend ignoring her every week while writing this.

      I’m partial to McNeil because his contact and batted ball ability is truly elite, but there’s definitely a gap there between his power and Mancini’s. If you can stomach the 10-15 fewer home runs, I’d go McNeil there: Much higher average floor, better lineup for counting stats, more positional eligibility.

      Hope that helps!

  • Avatar The SSS SS says:

    Wow, Dansby 40 spots higher than Semien. What are you seeing here that I’m not? I think they’re pretty comparable with Semien having the higher upside.

  • Avatar Eddie says:

    Yasmani Grandal is so frustrating to roster right now. He must be the highest-paid pro athlete in sports, per hour worked. His salary is basically half-scholarship, and at the moment he can’t hit his own buttocks with both hands.

    But thank you for validating the idea that he’s still worth holding, if only for the almost-guaranteed regression and the utter lack of options.

    Also thanks to you (and your wife), for all your work, ranking and re-ranking 150 hitters. I watched Nick rank 100 pitchers once, and that seemed agonizing enough.

  • Avatar Orange WHIPs says:

    This is the one list this site needs to work on. It’s just baffling choices up and down with a lot of reliance on hot streaks and little un underlying metrics.

    • Avatar Ted Williams frozen head says:

      I’d have to agree. Even when factoring the tier flexibility, I’m still left scratching my head at this rankings. I wish this guy was in my league, we’d be swinging deals left n right.

    • Avatar theKraken says:

      Underlying metrics feed off of hot streaks. This is a very tough job!

  • Avatar J says:

    Dom. Smith was just dropped in my h2h category league

    I’m loaded at 1b, with Santana, hosmer, cron, and votto

    Even though doms been cold, is he a priority pickup?
    If so… which 1b is the drop? (I love them all :/)

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I’d pick up Dom–he’s been one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball this year, and should turn things around. I’d probably be okay dropping Votto in that format.

  • Avatar TheGZA says:

    Whit Merrifield so low…why?

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    I hate to say it but I am not too broken up to see Kyle Tucker struggle. He really is not that good of a hitter. His 2020 was purely the lineup that he hit in. The run production carried his 2020. Don’t get me wrong, he swings hard and hits it hard when he hits it but he wastes a ton of swings and is rally terrible most of the time. When his isn’t awful he does do damage though. He reminds me of Belly and Joc in that they are embarrassing most if the time, but that they can walk the fine line of taking horrific cuts and having success in spurts.

    Yordan is a much better hitter than Tucker and underrated at this point. Sure the health, eligibility and everything else is terrible, but he is a stark contrast to Tucker. The walks have dried up for Yordan which seems weird to me. Peronally, I have seen him get hosed on some three ball pitches this year, so maybe the walks will come back?

    I think Tim Anderson is Trea Turner, right? The gap in value is not as wide as the placement…unless walks matter.

    I am not buying Votto.

    I am buying Gurriel big time. The dude had more BB than K before yesterday. It sure looks like he made some changes for the better.

    Albies, Dom Smith, and Swanson are way too high IMO. Semien will likely outproduce all of them.

    Alex Dickerson should be far from top 150. I would rather have Aaron Hicks.

    Nice list and yes I am cheating commenting this late.

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