Hitter List 5/22: 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 the number of people hollering for Yordan Alvarez to be promoted. 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: Michael Conforto, Dee Gordon, Willie Calhoun, Andrelton Simmons, and Ender Inciarte fell IL this week. Giancarlo Stanton‘s return appears to be on the horizon, assuming his recent setback is a minor one. We should see Elvis Andrus and Jose Altuve back within the week as well.
- Additions: Willie Calhoun, Nicky Lopez, J.D. Davis, Scott Kingery, and Brendan Rodgers are new to the list this week. Jurickson Profar also makes his triumphant return after a nice bounceback week. Lopez has a clear path to playing time and a great hit tool, which he may be able to pair with mid-teens pop and speed to be a really interesting, under-the-radar pick-up. Rodgers is intriguing as well, though the Rockies have already benched him since his recall, leading me to wonder whether he’ll become yet another second base prospect whose development the Rockies botch. Davis and Kingery are without full-time roles at the moment. But their respective roadblocks—Todd Frazier and Odubel Herrera—are scuffling. And if they seize on an opportunity, I think they both have top-100 upside.
- Welcome to the top tier of hitters Cody Bellinger. Bellinger looks like a completely different player this year, and everything he’s been doing to this point seems totally legit. The hit tool was the one thing missing for Bellinger, and he’s made huge improvements to his contact and swinging strike rates this year without sacrificing any power. If his new floor is that of a .285 hitter with 35+ homer power and the ability to swipe 15 bases, he’s a bonafide fantasy superstar.
- Nick Senzel swiped four stolen bases over the past week, putting to bed any concerns that his ankle injury from earlier in the year is still affecting him. I’ve been really impressed by Senzel’s plate approach to this point. So have the Reds apparently, as he’s been batting leadoff for them with regularity. I’d like to get a sense of where his batting average is likely to settle before bumping him up much higher, but I see a potential top-40 ceiling here.
- Ask not for whom the Josh Bell tolls—it tolls for me. Bell’s 33-spot jump last week clearly wasn’t enough of a bump. As our own Ryan Amore pointed out in the preseason—and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs recently confirmed—Bell has simplified his batting stance and his swing and is reaping all of the benefits. He’s in the 98th percentile or higher in nearly all the quality-of-contact metrics this year, yet is still maintaining league-average contact and swinging-strike rates. I’m completely buying in on him as a top-50 hitter.
- Willie Calhoun‘s quad injury is a bummer, because I was kind of buying in on him this year. He improved his plate discipline by leaps and bounds in the minors this year while flashing his patented elite hit tool with an impressive amount of pop. How legit the power is remains to be seen, but Arlington should help him out in that regard once he’s on the field again. Perhaps some playing time will open up for him while he’s on the mend.
- I’m interested to see how sticky the strikeout rate improvements that Austin Riley made in the minors this year are. If he can replicate the 19% strikeout rate he was posting in AAA without giving back too much of his 70-grade raw power, he could be pretty special. We still need a larger sample size to make any informed judgments though. He’s certainly looked good thus far.
- It’s nice to see the power start to come around for Byron Buxton, who swatted three homers this week. Buxton is posting the best hard hit rate of his career (41.7%), which is contributing to his excellent 9.3% barrel rate. Though he isn’t striking out as much as he customarily has, his contact rate and swinging-strike rate aren’t too far off his career norms. In other words, his batting average should continue to be volatile. Still, his elite sprint speed and improved quality of contact should help him flirt with 15 homers and 25 stolen bases by season’s end.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)