Hitter List 4/7 – 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:

 

  • We’re shifting over from last week’s pre-season rankings to the in-season ranks. As a result, any player currently on the IL or not in the majors has been removed from the list, including guys like Jarred Kelenic and Luke Voit.

 

  • 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. And something you’ll notice a lot this week, as several players hit the IL or were removed after being optioned to the minors.

 

  • 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’m weighing the shortened 2020 season as little as I can, especially when it comes to players with extensive track records prior. The 2020 season was strange for a lot of reasons. Players’ training and conditioning routines were thrown out of whack due to the delayed season, in-game video review was prohibited due to health/cheating concerns, and several players were dealing with bouts of COVID themselves. Then, on top of all of that, we had just 60 games of data to base our player evaluations off of–hardly a large enough sample size to make any truly substantial determinations in terms of player progress or regression. In cases where 2020 was a player’s first real taste of major league action (e.g. Randy Arozarena, Jared Walsh, Kyle Lewis), I found myself weighing their successful seasons a bit more heavily. But I mostly avoided penalizing rookies or veterans for down years.

 

  • I’ve typically been one of the biggest stolen base lovers around, 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.

 

  • 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

 

 

  • It’s obviously way too early to draw any strong conclusions, but I’m already kind of sold on a Ketel Marte bounceback. There’s really no question at this point that he has an incredibly high batting average floor. I think the only real mystery is where the power can generally be expected to settle in any given year. The key to answering that will be seeing whether Marte can get back to elevating the ball the way he did in 2019, because the quality-of-contact metrics are there. And the very, very, very early returns are promising, as he has kept the ball off the ground so far this season. Marte has two barrels on the year already, and nearly half his batted balls have been hit with an exit velocity above 96 mph. I can see at least a .290 batting average with about 30 homers and a handful of steals, which I think could put him in contention for the title of top second baseman in the game.

 

  • Speaking of second basemen, while the power isn’t nearly on the same level, José Altuve’s contact ability is comparable to Marte’s, and one interesting development in the early going has been the possible return of Altuve’s speed. For those who missed it, Altuve tagged from third and scored on an infield pop-up last week, exceeding a 30 ft/s sprint speed on the play. That’s an elite sprint speed, and though Altuve’s drop-off in the stolen base category over the past few years hasn’t coincided with a huge drop in his overall sprint-speed, it’s at least encouraging to know he can still max out at such a high level at 30 years old. It also gives me hope that some of the recurring leg injuries he’s suffered through in past years may be behind him. Obviously I’m reading way too much into this, and the speed hasn’t manifested itself in the form of a stolen base yet, but it’s at least something I’m keeping an eye on. If he can get back up to at least 15 stolen bases this year I think it changes his value quite a bit.

 

  • As predicted, Joey Gallo is hitting over .300. He’s done a good job of not swinging at pitches out of the zone this year, and as a result his strikeout rate is about 10 percentage points below his career average. I’m still not sure the batting average isn’t going to completely destroy you in a standard league, but if he can continue to make gains with his plate discipline and cut down even a little bit on his whiff rate, it could bring the batting average up to a point that’s at least salvageable by pairing him with a guy like David Fletcher or Nick Madrigal.

 

  • So the exciting thing about Eric Hosmer last year was that he seemed to be consistently elevating the ball for probably the first time in his career. Though he’s off to a white-hot start to the season this year, those elevated batted balls haven’t seemed to return just yet, as he’s running a 70% groundball rate at the moment. Does this really mean anything this early? Absolutely not. But that’s what I’d be keeping tabs of over the next few weeks if I was trying to predict how sustainable his great performance this year is going to be.

 

  • Maybe I’m being a bit aggressive pushing Nate Lowe up so much after only a week, but I just love the guy. The contact’s still an issue in the early going, but the big-time power is still there, and he’s actually gone to the opposite field with over half his batted balls, which is one of the things I always liked about Lowe: his ability to spray the ball to all fields with power. He finally got slotted into the cleanup spot in the Rangers order last night, and responded with a two-homer game, so look for that to continue going forward. I see a potential .275 hitter with 35+ home run power who can rack up the counting stats. I’d be grabbing him in all formats.

 

  • I recently took a look at top prospect debuts, and found that a lot of top hitters tend to struggle in their first seasons, but have a much easier time of things in their second or third go-rounds. This may be what we’re seeing with Gavin Lux this year. Nothing went Lux’s way last season, as he battled for playing time and hit just .175, mostly thanks to a dreadful .195 BABIP. Even in that season though, he showed good plate discipline and decent contact ability. He’s been getting pretty regular playing time this season, albeit towards the bottom of the order. Another week or two of hitting like this could secure the second base job for him if it isn’t secured already, and shift Chris Taylor into a utility role, which would be a boon for his value. I’m cautiously optimistic.

 

  • Andrés Giménez has not been getting regular at-bats to this point, and when he has started he’s been hitting mostly ninth in the order. I’m still optimistic that his incredible defensive skills will help him hold down regular at-bats in the long-term, and I think there’s potentially a 10 HR/20 SB guy here with a decent average.

 

  • Jonathan India is an absolute mystery, as the minor league track record is sparse and unimpressive. But he’s officially claimed the second base gig for the Reds, and has recorded hits in every game he’s played so far, including a three-hit performance last night. Pair that with a spring training that saw him post an OPS above 1.000, and he’s an intriguing speculative add right now. I won’t pretend to know what a reasonable statline is for him at the moment, but it’ll be fun to dig into some of the numbers in a few weeks when things start to reach their stabilization points. The early signs point to him being a skilled contact hitter with a good approach, though his exit velocity has maxed out at just 97 MPH so far.

 

  • Michael A. Taylor was a fairly well-regarded prospect with the Nationals who had some flashes of fantasy upside throughout the years, but never really was able to secure the health or the playing time to live up to his potential. His early audition for a full-time gig with the Royals this year is certainly going well though. Based on the track record, I can squint and see a guy who could hit 15 homers with 20 stolen bases and a .240 average if everything goes right. And there’s definitely value there in a lot of leagues. But his contact issues are going to make him painful to roster once he cools off, so this may be more of a situation where you “juice the orange” and move on in a few weeks.

 

  • When I saw reports that Zack Collins might serve as full-time DH for the White Sox I was very intrigued. He was coming off a great spring where he seemed to address his strikeout issues, and the possibility of full-time at-bats from a guy with catcher eligibility was intriguing. Fast forward two weeks, and Collins has fallen by the wayside as a result of Yermín “The Yermínator” Mercedes‘ incredible week that saw him rattle off 12 hits over his first 18 at-bats. Right now, Mercedes seems to have full control of the DH role with the White Sox, and his track record and early exit velocity returns make him an intriguing add. Unfortunately, on most platforms, Mercedes is DH-only, and until Collins is out of the picture, he likely won’t pick up enough appearances as a catcher to add that eligibility. There’s still some value in his bat though, and at the very least he’s worth an add while he’s on this incredible run.

 

Rank Hitter Position Change
1Ronald AcunaT1OF+1
2Mike TroutOF+1
3Juan SotoOF+1
4Mookie BettsOF+1
5Trevor Story
T2
SS
+1
6Trea TurnerSS+1
7Jose Ramirez3B+1
8Freddie Freeman1B+1
9Christian YelichOF+1
10Francisco LindorSS+1
11Corey SeagerSS+1
12Jose Abreu1B, DH+1
13Marcell OzunaOF+1
14Cody Bellinger1B, OF+1
15Anthony Rendon3B+1
16Bryce HarperOF+2
17Bo BichetteSS+2
18Manny Machado3B, SS+2
19Nelson CruzDH+2
20Kyle TuckerOF+3
21Xander BogaertsSS+1
22Starling MarteOF+2
23Pete Alonso
T3
1B
+2
24DJ LeMahieu1B, 2B, 3B+3
25Ozzie Albies2B+1
26Rafael Devers3B+2
27Yordan AlvarezOF, DH+2
28Aaron JudgeOF, DH+3
29Nolan Arenado3B+3
30Randy ArozarenaOF+4
31Tim AndersonSS+4
32Charlie BlackmonOF+4
33Alex Bregman3B, SS+6
34Luis RobertOF+6
35Ketel Marte2B, OF+9
36Teoscar Hernandez
T4
OF, DH
+1
37J.T. RealmutoC+4
38Whit Merrifield2B, OF+4
39Austin MeadowsOF, DH+6
40J.D. MartinezDH+7
41Michael ConfortoOF-3
42Paul Goldschmidt1B+4
43Tommy PhamOF-
44Eugenio Suarez3B+4
45Vladimir Guerrero Jr.1B, 3B+4
46Yoan Moncada3B+8
47Nick CastellanosOF+3
48Dominic Smith1B, OF+3
49Lourdes Gurriel Jr.2B, OF+4
50Jorge SolerOF, DH+2
51Gleyber Torres
T5
2B, SS
+4
52Max Muncy1B, 2B, 3B+4
53Brandon Lowe2B+4
54Wil MyersOF+4
55Giancarlo StantonOF, DH+4
56Shohei OhtaniDH+4
57Matt Chapman3B+4
58Franmil ReyesOF, DH+4
59Jose Altuve2B+8
60Dansby SwansonSS+4
61Keston Hiura2B+2
62Matt Olson1B, DH+3
63Cavan Biggio2B, OF+3
64Dylan Moore1B, OF+4
65Alec Bohm
T6
3B
+4
66Anthony Rizzo1B+5
67Michael BrantleyOF+5
68Ian HappOF+2
69Javier BaezSS+6
70Mike YastrzemskiOF+3
71Jeff McNeil2B, 3B, OF+3
72Joey GalloOF, DH+11
73Jesse WinkerOF+3
74Mike Moustakas2B, 3B+3
75Ramon LaureanoOF+5
76Gio Urshela3B+6
77Clint FrazierOF+7
78Byron BuxtonOF+13
79Justin Turner3B+7
80Alex VerdugoOF+8
81Marcus SemienSS+8
82Travis d’ArnaudC, 1B+8
83Eric Hosmer1B+16
84Carlos CorreaSS+8
85Eddie RosarioOF+8
86Kris Bryant
T7
3B, OF
+8
87Ryan MountcastleSS, OF+8
88Anthony SantanderOF+9
89Victor RoblesOF+9
90Trey Mancini1B, OF+10
91Christian Walker1B+10
92C.J. Cron1B+10
93Dylan CarlsonOF+10
94Will SmithC+10
95Jesus Aguilar1B+10
96Nate Lowe1B+48
97J.D. Davis3B, OF+9
98Rhys Hoskins1B+9
99Salvador PerezC+9
100Miguel Sano3B+9
101Gary SanchezC, DH+11
102Mark Canha
T8
1B, OF
+8
103Tommy Edman2B, 3B, OF+8
104Andrew McCutchenOF+9
105Didi GregoriusSS+9
106Aaron HicksOF+9
107Hunter Dozier3B, OF, DH+10
108Manuel MargotOF+11
109Gavin Lux2B+31
110Mitch HanigerOF+UR
111AJ PollockOF+5
112Max Kepler
T9
OF
+8
113Alex DickersonOF+8
114Donovan Solano2B+13
115Austin HaysOF+8
116Brian Anderson3B, OF+9
117Andrew BenintendiOF+9
118Nick Madrigal2B+UR
119Jeimer Candelario3B+9
120Austin Riley3B, OF+9
121Corey DickersonOF+9
122Rowdy Tellez1B+10
123Jared Walsh1B+23
124Andres Gimenez2B, SS-
125Ty France2B, 3B+8
126Yuli Gurriel1B, 3B+8
127Andrew VaughnOF-5
128Paul DeJongSS+9
129David DahlOF+10
130Jonathan India3B+UR
131Ha-seong Kim2B+11
132Jake Cronenworth1B, 2B+11
133Jorge PolancoSS+5
134Justin UptonOF+UR
135Yermin MercedesDH+UR
136Bobby Dalbec1B-1
137Lorenzo CainOF-1
138Nick Solak3B+UR
139Willi Castro3B+2
140Kolten Wong2B+8
141Nick SenzelOF+9
142Isiah Kiner-FalefaC, 3B, SS+UR
143Michael A. TaylorOF+UR
144Josh Rojas2B, OF+5
145Bryan ReynoldsOF+UR
146Adam DuvallOF+UR
147Colin Moran3B+UR
148Cedric MullinsOF+UR
149Akil BaddooOF+UR
150Brandon NimmoOF+UR

Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire. Cover Image designed by the great J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign).

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 Eric says:

    I’m intrigued by the Jesse Winker ranking; you have him in a tier with players who are taken in almost any type of league, but yet Winker sits on many waiver wires. Could you elaborate on Winker’s top 75, Tier 7 ranking a bit? Thank you!

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Sure thing. So there was a point in August of last year where Winker looked like he was experiencing a legitimate breakout, posting a wOBA above .500 (!!!) for nearly two weeks. To underscore that point, he hit .369 in August with 10 HR in just 98 plate appearances. He traded some of his customarily elite contact ability for more power, but he still had great plate discipline and overall it was looking really encouraging. He also actually hit lefties really well last year, which was one of his weaknesses in years prior.

      Then, unfortunately, he injured his back, and from that point forward his production dropped off. Now that he’s ostensibly healthy, I see the potential of him retaining some of those improvements from August of last year and becoming a really dangerous hitter (think a .280 average with 35 homers). Time will tell, but he’s a guy I find very intriguing.

  • Avatar PitcherList Superfan says:

    I know that you said not to pay too close attention to the rankings within the tiers, but there’s no way I could ever bring myself to drop Hoskins for Aguilar.

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I might agree with you if the 2020 contact quality gains from Hoskins stick this year. We’ll have to see. As things stand, I see their power as pretty comparable, and they’ll both bat towards the top of the order. The edge for me comes from the fact that I think Aguilar could have ~20 points of batting average on Hoskins.

  • Avatar Lion says:

    How has everyone moved up?
    Are there like 100 batter that completely fell off the list?

  • Avatar Armadillofury says:

    Where are the reliable catchers (Contreras, Grandal)? Or did I miss them?

  • Avatar MIKE G.... says:

    You didn’t want to slot Ryan McMahon in there after last night’s 3 HR outburst?

  • Avatar Mike Honcho says:

    I’m a little surprised about the inclusion of Donovan Solano. Seems like a no power or speed guy w/ an empty batting average in a battle for PT in a non-DH park. If he’s included, why not Cesar Hernandez? Kinda the same guys IMO.

  • Avatar Tristan0823 says:

    How close did C. Vazquez come to making the top 150. Last two seasons .278 avg, 27 HR pace and good counting stats for a C. Is it concern over his expected stats ?

  • It’s criminal that Vlad is still getting rated lower than guys like Tommy Pham. Someone will end up finally eating crow this year after I stomached it for the last 2.

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