The season is underway and we’ve already got some movers and shakers on the Hitter List! While it’s important to avoid overreacting in April to stat lines, we can still take note of things like playing time, managerial tendencies, and initial responses to the new rule changes.
As always, 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 off-season. 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 doing my best to use 5 starts or 10 appearances as the threshold for positional eligibility. I have not included presumed eligibilities based on likely new positions, but once those eligibilities are earned I’ll add them in. 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 regarding weighing stolen bases, but I still think they’re precious 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.
- 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. Our PL Pro members can use the tools in the Hub, which I’ll also reference as appropriate.
- 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), lineup context, and the skills we can measure using the tools in our PL Pro Tools Hub. 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 feel how my colleagues value 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 neat but also isn’t a huge factor in many 10- and 12-team leagues anymore due to the prevalence of multi-eligible players. 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 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.
- Anyone talented enough to make it to the big leagues can be brilliant or putrid for 50 at-bats regardless of true talent. Heck, it could even last a month with no change in potential or skill. It also could be wildly meaningful. We can’t and don’t know which of these will be true until it’s over, though track record, scouting, and trends give us hints.
- 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!
Check out the Hacks & Jacks podcast 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’m not ready to shuffle this tier up quite yet, but if I did, it’d be to move Ronald Acuña Jr. up. He looks as healthy and dynamic as ever, though health remains a big concern long term.
- I have no concerns about Aaron Judge’s early strikeouts. If it’s still bad in a week and a half when he’s got 50 plate appearances, I still won’t be that worried.
- Yup, not changing this tier either. Maybe next time, if someone is hurt or something weird happens, but they are all batting as often as we expected and in the right spots in the order.
- In formats where Mookie Betts doesn’t have second base eligibility, he’d remain in this tier but might drop somewhere closer to the middle.
- Michael Harris II can hopefully move up in the batting order at some point (he’s been as high as fifth recently). If Harris bats seventh more often than not, he may slide down within this tier. Plate appearances matter.
- Kyle Schwarber runs hot and cold, so try not to be surprised when he’s one or the other.
- Oneil Cruz only has 23 plate appearances, but a 13% walk rate and 17.4% strikeout rate is exactly what I want to see and I’m unreasonably excited about it.
- What an opening weekend for Cedric Mullins. The two home runs are more surprising than the four steals, and I’m curious to see if teams adjust to the crazy aggression on the basepaths the Orioles are showing.
- Matt Olson is another hot-and-cold hitter, so hopefully we see those strikeouts cool off a bit.
- Eloy Jiménez is already on the IL, and while it’s hopefully only 2-3 weeks, it’s a rough omen.
- Adley Rutschman was a star on Opening Day, going 5-5 with a walk, a home run, and four RBI. He hasn’t been quite as explosive since then, but he’s played every day for the Orioles and is hitting second — that combined with his massive potential is enough to remove the gap between him and the other top catchers. I’m not putting Rutschman ahead of Realmuto, Smith, or Varsho yet, but he’s right there with them.
- Xander Bogaerts already has three home runs. It took 34 games for him to get to three home runs in 2022. I don’t think this means a return to the 33 home runs in 2019 (because, you know, 2019), but it’s a great start to a return to 20 home runs or more like we saw in 2021.
- Wander Franco may never hit 25 home runs or steal 20 bases, but it’s easy to see why that hit tool excited so many scouts. When healthy, he’s fantastic.
- I’m a big Taylor Ward believer, so his hot start to the season has me hyped. Ward struggled in the middle of 2022 due to injury, but his healthy moments at the beginning and end of the season were very exciting.
- Tyler O’Neill is playing every day right now, which is great. Now he just needs to stay healthy and keep playing every day when Nootbaar returns.
- Tommy Edman batting ninth against righties is bad news for his run totals and plate appearances. While he spent time in the nine-hole in 2022, a pure platoon with Brendan Donovan would be rough, especially in formats that don’t value his stolen bases as much.
- I’m not actually worried about Christian Yelich’s start — I just had some guys I wanted to move up.
- C.J. Cron was excellent on opening weekend on the road, which is neat, but he also hasn’t been impacted by the Coors effect quite yet since he hasn’t actually played any games in Colorado. The Coors effect, where hitters have to adjust between how pitches move in the altitude at Coors Field versus other environments, doesn’t really kick in until you’ve played in Colorado, and so far the Rockies have only played in Arizona, San Diego, and LA.
- I want to be as patient as possible with Nick Castellanos, but the strikeouts are mildly concerning after he went through a swing change this offseason.
- Max Muncy is striking out a lot, but the home run on Tuesday was a decent sign. If the strikeout rate remains north of 30% two weeks from now, we may need to take a deeper dive.
- Alec Bohm is piling up hits and I love it. The home run totals won’t ever be all that impressive, but he could make a run at 20 of them to go along with a .280 batting average, which would be a huge win for those who took a flyer on draft day.
- Brandon Lowe is one of three Rays with an everyday role so far, which is meaningful on a team notorious for platoons.
- Jake McCarthy takes a tumble due to where he’s hitting in the order. I like that he’s nabbed two bases (three attempts), but batting sixth, seventh, and ninth is not what I was hoping to see. With any luck, he can overtake Josh Rojas for that leadoff gig against righties sometime this month.
- Riley Greene hit the ball hard all spring and continues to do so in the regular season. Projections are down on him (roughly 15 home runs and fewer than 10 steals), but I’ll take the over on both.
- Jorge Polanco may not be back for a few more weeks, but this ranking still feels right. He’ll slide up as we get more (hopefully) good news about his potential return.
- Come back soon, Lars Nootbaar. This ranking assumes he returns to a nearly every day role like I projected in the spring, but the Cardinals have crazy depth in the corners and at DH, so a prolonged absence plus a hot performance from a guy like Nolan Gorman could put pressure on Nootbaar’s playing time.
- Jordan Walker has big upside, but the crowded Cardinal’s roster plus his youth could create a playing time issue. I hope he plays and sticks around, and if he plays all season, this ranking is too low.
- Adam Duvall has been one of the hottest waiver wire adds in the young season thanks to his superfluous power. Boston is a great landing spot for his right-handed pop and also because the threat of a platoon is low (the left-handed bench outfielder for the Red Sox is Raimel Tapia). Like other power hitters, Duvall tends to run hot and cold, so keep that in mind when the inevitable drought kicks in. He’s a guy who can hit 30 home runs in a full season, but injuries and platoons have kept him from getting there more often than not.
- Miguel Vargas is an EXTREMELY passive hitter, and it’s led to nine walks in his first 18 plate appearances. He’s swung at just one pitch out of the zone and 27.4% overall in the tiny sample, but at some point pitchers will likely start challenging him in the zone. That’s when we’ll have a better idea of what Vargas can be in the big leagues.
- Brendan Donovan is leading off against righties for a good St. Louis offense, and his two home runs has him almost halfway to his 2022 total (which was five). I’m still not sure he’s got the pop to hit 15 dingers, but he doesn’t need that many to be a fantasy asset with his positional flexibility and contact skills. If the role continues, Donovan is likely to jump up another tier or two in short order.
- The last two games have been better for Cody Bellinger, and he’s worth watching very closely as he continues to his fourth for the Cubs.
- Ke’Bryan Hayes isn’t striking out much and is making hard contact, which is key, but it’s almost all on the ground. That grounder problem will cap his home run upside to fewer than 10.
- I expanded this tier because I just couldn’t find a place where I felt like it was a tier break.
- The injury to Luis Urías opened a ton of playing time for Brian Anderson, and he’s taken full advantage of it early on. He was a mostly uninteresting stat accumulator as a Marlin, but he’s got more upside in Milwaukee with a better team and a better park.
- Triston Casas is in the bottom third of the order and not playing quite every day, so he falls a bit.
- I was very low on Yoán Moncada in the offseason (I didn’t even rank him in my top-30 third baseman), but the hot start is enough to make him addable as a streamer. I don’t expect it to last as his aggressive approach lends itself to hot spurts like this, but if you’ve got a roster spot to spare, he’s worth watching.
- Garrett Mitchell’s power and speed is worth keeping an eye on, especially while he’s got a regular role in the lineup.
- Jake Fraley deserves every day playing time but he just doesn’t have it right now and that makes me sad.
- Jorge Mateo has tons of speed and decent power and horrible contact skills. I don’t think that’s changed, but when he’s hot he lights up the stat sheet.
- Trevor Larnach is somehow hitting fourth for the Twins, and while I don’t expect that to last for terribly long, it’s notable and stream-friendly.
- Nolan Gorman has found some playing time due to injuries in St. Louis and his power is apparent even in the small sample. More assured playing time will move him up a tier, but who knows if we’ll get that kind of assurance.
- Anthony Volpe is playing every day, and that’s all we care about right now.
- Before his suspension, Anthony Rendon hit fourth, and with how good the top of that lineup is for the Angels, he has to be considered for RBI production. Virtually any hitter in this role would get ranked.
- DJ LeMahieu is leading off for the Yankees semi-regularly and that matters. He won’t be good for much more than decent ratios and runs, though.
- I’m rooting for Joey Gallo and he found himself hitting fifth on Tuesday thanks to three home runs over two games. If he starts taking some walks (just one so far), I’ll be even more interested.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List:
And here’s the Taxi Squad, presented in no particular order:
|Michael Conforto||OF||SFG||It’s been an ugly start for a guy who has been out of baseball for a while.|
|Edward Olivares||OF||KCR||Double-digit power and speed with a plus batting average is doable, but the Royals haven’t exactly seemed interested.|
|Bryson Stott||2B/SS||PHI||Making contact, but not strong contact.|
|Whit Merrifield||2B/OF||TOR||Playing time is sporadic so far.|
|CJ Abrams||2B/SS||Making contact is good, but batting at the bottom of the order is not.|
|Shea Langeliers||DH||OAK||He’ll have catcher eligibility within two weeks. A poor man’s Cal Raleigh.|
|Danny Jansen||C||TOR||Others seem to buy strong 2022 a lot more than me.|
|Kolten Wong||2B||SEA||Low counting stats, but the home runs and steals should be in the double digits if you need them.|
|Travis d’Arnaud||C||ATL||Playing more than Murphy right now, oddly enough.|
|James Outman||OF||LAD||Made the roster and playing a lot so far.|
|Ryan McMahon||2B/3B||COL||Just a guy who will kill you on the road. He’d be ranked in the last tier for roto.|
|Harrison Bader||OF||NYY||Oblique injuries are scary for a guy who already struggles to stay on the field.|
|Trent Grisham||OF||SDP||Now that no one is saying this is the year, does it mean this is actually the year?|
|Jose Altuve||2B||HOU||Get well soon, sweet prince.|
|Patrick Wisdom||1B/3B||CHC||Playing plenty due to demotion to Morel, plenty of power if you can stomach the ratios.|
|TJ Friedl||OF||CIN||Double-digit power and speed upside, batting second so far against righties.|
|Josh Rojas||2B/3B||ARZ||Already sat twice.|
|Vaughn Grissom||2B||ATL||Surprised he didn’t win the shortstop gig, but he’ll be back eventually.|
|Justin Turner||3B||BOS||I expect a repeat of 2022, which is fine I guess.|
|Lane Thomas||OF||WAS||What we saw last season (17 HR, 8 SB, .241 AVG) is probably what he is.|
|Trevor Story||2B||BOS||He’ll be ranked between 50 and 75 when he’s back on the field.|
|Trayce Thompson||OF||LAD||Three dingers in one night is massive, but 0-7 with 4 Ks since highlights the other side of his game.|
|Jose Siri||OF||TBR||Four starts already, and when he plays, he’ll hit home runs and steal bases.|
|Brandon Belt||1B||TOR||Worth streaming from time to time, and who knows, maybe he ends up staying on your roster at some point.|
|Keibert Ruiz||C||WAS||Contact skills are real.|
|Akil Baddoo||OF||DET||Don’t take this away from me.|
|Ji Hwan Bae||2B||PIT||Love the contact ability and speed, and the glove should keep him in the lineup.|
|Austin Hays||OF||BAL||Hot-and-cold hitter due to his aggressive approach, but streamable when hot.|
|Alec Burleson||STL||OF||Hitting second when he’s played, just need to see how often he plays.|
|Jon Berti||2B/3B/SS/OF||MIA||He’ll be worth streaming for steals on occasion but otherwise should be on the wire.|
|Nick Gordon||2B/OF||MIN||He’ll get playing time while Polanco is on the IL.|
|Alek Thomas||OF||ARZ||There’s still upside here, but it’s a crowded roster.|
|Spencer Steer||3B||CIN||More of a deep league play, but there’s some pop in his bat and regular playing time.|
|Michael Massey||2B||KCR||Home park and team caps his upside a bit, but 15-17 home runs and 8-10 steals while batting .250 isn’t out of the question.|
|Charlie Blackmon||OF||COL||Stream against righties on the road.|
|Manuel Margot||OF||TBR||Power and speed are present, but injuries are a regular occurrence.|
|Jorge Soler||OF||MIA||Power-only bat on a bad team.|
|Adam Frazier||2B/OF||BAL||Playing a lot and makes tons of contact, albeit not very hard contact.|
|Trey Mancini||1B/OF||CHC||Easy to root for, but hard to see the playing time.|
|Luke Raley||OF||TBR||Keeps playing and batting in the middle of the order.|
|Eric Hosmer||1B||CHC||The batting average should be good, and will likely hit in the middle of the order when he plays.|
|Jared Walsh||1B||LAA||Thoracic outlet syndrome is tricky, but he could hit 25 home runs if he can get it behind him.|
|Juan Yepez||1B/OF||STL||Called up, but we’ll see how much he plays.|
|Garrett Cooper||OF||MIA||He’s going to hit in the middle of the order for the Marlins and pile up some decent stats, which is quite serviceable in deeper formats and quite uninteresting in shallower ones.|
|Luis Urías||2B/3B/SS||MIL||Bummer of an injury for Urias, especially if Anderson and Turang stay hot and force a platoon.|
|Rodolfo Castro||2B/SS||PIT||Could flash power and speed in a starting role, but needs to win that role first.|
|Brice Turang||2B/SS||MIL||In a full season, he could be a guy who puts up low double-digit home runs and 20 steals, and he’s got an opportunity to win plenty of playing time.|
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)
Gabriel Moreno and Mitch Garver not on your Taxi Squad? Thoughts on both? Also thoughts on Grandal?
Hey Simsbad! No, not right now—but that’s because in 1-catcher leagues I’m not interested in very many catchers. If Moreno can continue to get consistent playing time and start getting some hits, he’d be of interest. Otherwise, he’s just a streamer.
Garver had that nice double-dinger game to start, and if he plays 4 times a week or so, he’d be on that streaming list too. Garver had that big 31 HR season…but that was 2019. We haven’t seen him play a ton since then.
Grandal has been hurt, bad, or both in two of the last three seasons. There’s maybe something there in an OBP format, but he’s a second catcher at best for me right now.
You that low on Wil Myers that he doesn’t even make your taxi squad?
Yes. I guess he could be a taxi squad guy, but he doesn’t move the needle for me in a 12-teamer.
No Joey Wiemer??
Gotta rate a mention more than temp Juan Yepez and guys not even in the bigs.
Probably should have included Wiemer. Power and speed is intriguing, but ratios will likely be rough.
Understood he just hurt his thumb but Darick Halls HR potential isn’t doing it for you?
There’s power there, but I think he’s about to hit the IL with a thumb issue.
How close is Esteury Ruiz? I’ve got a lot of other speed guys and gotta improve average somewhere
Wondering about your thoughts on Logan O’Hoppe?
Since spring training I’ve thought people are sleeping on Conforto. I’ve listened to every PitcherList, Rates & Barrels, FantasyPros, Rotograph, and Fantasy Baseball Today podcast since February and no one has said his name yet. And you said he’s off to a slow start, he’s not! Tomorrow you’ll still be sleeping on him! Don’t. He’s looking good out of the gate even with all that rust. He’ll be one of the top 75 hitters this year or I’ll eat a Conforto jersey.