Hitter List 5/15: Ranking the Top 150 Hitters to Own ROS
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 be upset with 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 reasons to believe in Joey Votto. And home runs are an abundant resource that are becoming more prevalent, like Yu Darvish walks. 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.
- I lean on track record more than recent performance, unless I see a significant underlying change in approach.
- These rankings apply only to leagues using standard scoring (R, RBI, HR, SB, AVG) and lean more towards rotisserie and H2H categories leagues. 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.
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: Ender Inciarte, Buster Posey, Jose Altuve, Miguel Andujar, and Travis Shaw all started feeling IL this week. Elvis Andrus and Anthony Rizzo also appear to be dealing with potential injuries, and Giancarlo Stanton is reportedly welcoming a new shoulder injury into the world.
- Additions: Keston Hiura, Austin Riley, and Alex Verdugo make their debuts on the list this week. Mallex Smith also makes his triumphant return. Jurickson Profar, Harrison Bader, Dansby Swanson, and Nate Lowe fall off the list as a result. I worry a bit about the long-term playing time outlook for both Riley and Hiura since they both find themselves on fairly crowded rosters, but they’re both well-disciplined hitters that I think could make a difference in all formats.
- Miguel Cabrera has been something of an anomaly to this point. Incredible hard hit rate (50.9%) and a decent launch angle that hasn’t translated to barrels somehow (just 6.4% on the year). I still kind of believe there’s 25-homer power in his bat that he just hasn’t tapped into yet, and I definitely believe in him more than Joey Votto. He drops due to the lack of production to this point, but I haven’t given up just yet.
- Add Josh Bell to the list of guys I was 100% out on in the preseason who have transformed themselves into completely different players this year. My main gripes with him—the lack of hard contact and the plethora of grounders—have all but evaporated this year. He’s posting a 55% hard-hit rate and a 17% barrel rate while still making roughly league-average contact. Is this what love feels like?
- Alex Verdugo is someone who probably should have made an appearance last week, as his hit tool is absolutely elite and he sprays the ball to all fields really well. I run into the same problem with ranking him as I do with someone like Jeff McNeil: How beneficial is the batting average if he’s going to struggle to give you much in home runs or stolen bases? The barrel and hard contact rates are pretty middling to this point, but I think he could hit .290 with something like 15 homers and possibly a handful of steals. Nothing to get too excited about, but solid all around.
- With Jose Altuve I was concerned that the lack of stolen bases indicated that something was still bugging him injury-wise. Lo and behold, he’s gone down with a hamstring strain. The relief here is that it doesn’t appear to be related to the knee injury that hampered him last season. He still takes a big hit due to the fact that it’s a lower body injury and speed is such a huge part of his game.
- Who to watch for: I’m keeping an eye on both Nicky Lopez and J.D. Davis this week. Lopez has excellent contact ability with some pop and speed, and appears to be in line to pick up lots of at-bats as the Royals second baseman. And with Jed Lowrie suffering a setback and Todd Frazier being, well, Todd Frazier recently, I’d like to see if Davis can wrestle away the starting third-base job in New York. If he can, his hard contact rates are off the charts and he could be in line for a breakout.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)