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. 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 Mondesí) 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.
- Let’s start with the good news: Fernando Tatís Jr., Adalberto Mondesí, Carson Kelly, Ty France, Wil Myers, Anthony Santander, and Alex Kirilloff are back from their IL stints.
- Now the bad news: Bryce Harper, Trent Grisham, Mike Moustakas, Pete Alonso, J.T. Realmuto, Cavan Biggio, Harrison Bader, Matt Duffy, Victor Robles, Nick Senzel, and Dylan Moore hit the IL.
- With highly ranked hitters like Mondesí and Tatís Jr. returning to the list, most players this week have a -2 drop baked in. Just something to be aware of.
- Speaking of Adalberto Mondesí, it was an encouraging return yesterday, as he went 2-for-4 with two doubles, one from each side of the plate. In true Mondesí fashion though, he struck out in his other two plate appearances. If you roster Mondesí, just brace yourself for a roller coaster featuring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He’s essentially the Kingda Ka of fantasy hitters. All my Jackson Township, New Jersey homies will get that reference.
- The poor performance of a lot of hitters I liked coming into the season has me teetering on the edge of clinical depression, but at least Jesse Winker panned out and continues to rake. Winker swatted six home runs this past week, pulling his slash line up to .346/.402/.667 with 13 home runs. This is the elite version of Winker that the prophecies foretold, the One True Hitter who could strike a balance between the elite contact quality of his early career and the newfound power that has him posting a 52% Hard Hit rate and 14% barrel rate this year. He’s significantly better against righties–12 of his 13 home runs have come against righties this year with a .370 average. But as long as he continues to mash to this extent against righties, his middling stats against lefties won’t be a major factor in his overall performance. He won’t keep this pace up, but I think he could challenge 40 home runs with a .290+ average if he stays healthy.
- It seems weird to be excited about Max Muncy. I feel like all the excitement about him should’ve been exhausted when he made the jump from middling Oakland Athletics infielder whose name sounded like a brand of potato chips to power-hitting, eagle-eyed Los Angeles Dodger back in 2018. Yet here we are. After a slow start to the year, Muncy has turned his offensive performance up to 11, hitting .438 with five homers over his last 15 games. What’s exciting about Muncy so far is that he’s started to move away from a pull-happy approach. On the surface, that’s perhaps not a great development for his power. But what it’s allowing him to do is avoid losing hits to the shift. His .440 wOBA against the shift this year is a career-high, and roughly .100 points higher than it had been in 2020 and 2019. So while this may result in the power ceiling dropping from 40 to somewhere around 30, it should also result in a much higher batting average than he has customarily posted. So far, the .286 average is supported by a .292 xBA, and it seems like this new approach could help Muncy jump to a higher tier in the category. We’ll see if the change sticks, but it’s an exciting development.
- Who knew that all Randy Arozarena needed to break out was some disparaging remarks from me. Almost immediately after I compared him to Teoscar Hernández last week (I stand by it, goshdarnit), Arozarena went on a week-long tear that has seen him hit .379 with three homers and two stolen bases. That’s awesome, and the good news is that his xwOBA and Sweet Spot rate have both started trending up. The bad news is that even after this great week, he’s still not elevating the ball super well. He’s cut down on his groundball rate pretty significantly lately, but even with those gains it still sits at 52% on the year. Elite quality-of-contact is great, but ask Yandy Díaz how much help it is when that hard contact goes straight into the ground. Oh, you don’t have his number? Okay, I’ll ask him, hold on. Yeah, Yandy says it’s not great. The recent performance is awesome and encouraging, but I think it’ll have to be sustained for a while before it means much in terms of the long-term picture.
- Yoán Moncada is a great example of why you should constantly reevaluate your feelings on players in-season. About a month ago I took a look at Moncada’s peripherals and was pretty underwhelmed. Well, over his last 30 games he’s hitting .330 with nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (32). And now his player page has a lot of encouraging things happening. He’s rocking a 40% line drive rate and 47% Sweet Spot rate, which tells me he’s seeing the ball incredibly well, as those are both elite numbers. He’s got his strikeout and whiff rates at career lows. He’s chasing fewer pitches than ever. And he’s swinging at pitches in the zone nearly as much as he was during his excellent 2019 season. The power hasn’t shown up yet, but with an 11% barrel rate on the year, I have every reason to believe it’s coming.
- Jazz Chisholm may be hurt again, so perhaps it’s a moot point. But it feels necessary to point out that the drop in his strikeout rate that drove a lot of the excitement about him early in the year has started to regress back to where it was in years prior.
I do feel like the combination of top-tier power and speed make Chisholm an incredibly dynamic and exciting player, and there’s no reason he can’t find a way to overcome his contact issues. But it is something to keep an eye on going forward.
- Man, I just continue to disrespect Adolis García, week in and week out. I thought the high chase and whiff rates would catch up to him, and there’s still plenty of time for that to happen. But his strikeout rate has actually been trending down recently, and I’m starting to wonder if he’s managing to adapt to pitchers faster than they’ve been able to adapt to him. The power is legit, the ability to go to all fields is great for offsetting his contact issues, and there aren’t any red flags in terms of his batted ball distribution. I’m notoriously skittish with guys who are free-swingers with contact issues, but man has he been impressive this year.
- In the first weeks of the season, we were like, wait, Austin Riley is a contact hitter now? The plate approach looked solid, but it seemed to be coming at the cost of his power, and it wasn’t clear when or if he’d learn to marry the two. Well, with five homers over the last week, that marriage may be happening… or is it? What’s weird about the recent power outburst is that it has coincided with a huge spike in his strikeout rate, which is now peaking at about the highest point of his career over the last few weeks. That hasn’t quite shown up in the numbers, as he’s hitting .370 over his last 15 games. But it certainly seems like Riley hasn’t managed to reap the rewards of his power without giving back a significant amount of his contact ability. If he can somehow see-saw between the power-hitting version of himself and the strong plate approach version of himself at will, it won’t really be an issue. But I think the jury is very much still out on who the real Austin Riley is at this point.
- Anthony Santander is back, posting offensive performances that you can take…to the bank (Santander Bank does not endorse these articles, but if their representatives are reading this, you’re more than welcome to). As frustrating as IL stints are, sometimes they can be beneficial for struggling players. In addition to rehabbing his ankle injury, Santander was likely also able to give his ailing obliques a long rest to heal up, and he’s looked very good since his return. I think a .270 average with 30 home runs is right around what you could expect from him in a full season.
- Lourdes Gurriel had a rough start to the year but is starting to turn it up, with a .302 average over his last 15 games. His free-swinging ways make him vulnerable to extended slumps, but anyone who has rostered Gurriel in previous seasons knows he can get about as hot as any hitter in the game, and he may just be getting started.
- I try to peruse the leaderboards as much as possible when compiling these to make sure I overlook as few players as possible, but Joey Wendle’s performance this year has occurred in some kind of blind spot for me up until this point, and for that, I apologize to Mr. Wendle and anyone else I hurt when I omitted him in prior lists. Wendle has been unbelievable this year, and particularly over the past week when he bashed three homers while putting up a .478 average. The Statcast numbers are pretty uninspiring–mediocre Hard Hit rate, not a ton of plate discipline, a high groundball rate, and he’s been drastically overperforming against non-fastballs. He’s been incredible so far, but I wouldn’t hesitate to cut bait if/when the production starts to fall off.
- If you’re looking to pick up a hot hitter to boost your batting average for a weekly matchup, Garrett Cooper seems like a great option at the moment. He’s hit an even .500 over his last seven games and has been running hot for a couple of weeks now. I’ve actually been a pretty big fan of Cooper historically–he hits the ball hard enough and makes enough contact that I think 20+ homers and a .280+ average are attainable for him over a full season. Long-term, his playing time picture is a little clouded, with Aguilar blocking him at first base and Adam Duvall and Corey Dickerson blocking him in the corner outfield spots. But they’ll keep getting him in the lineup as long as he’s hitting, so he’s absolutely worth a pick-up in the short term.
- In a similar vein, but in the speed department, Jonathan Villar is someone to look at if you need a stolen base boost. With the Mets on the verge of being forced to field a team of Roombas due to all the injuries they’ve had, they’re doing whatever it takes to manufacture runs, and that includes letting Villar run wild literally any time he’s on base. He’s not the most efficient runner–he was caught stealing twice over three opportunities yesterday alone. But he was pacing towards 40 stolen bases last year and hit that number in 2019, and that’s a plateau that virtually nobody reaches anymore.
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