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 competent relievers on the Baltimore Orioles. And home runs are an abundant resource that are becoming more prevalent, like reasons the New York Mets should fire Mickey Callaway. 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.
[hitter_list_2019 list_id=”31828″ include_stats=”1″]
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: George Springer, Charlie Blackmon, Robinson Cano, and Khris Davis fell IL this week. Giancarlo Stanton also suffered a minor calf strain while on a rehab assignment, and Jose Altuve is having his surgically repaired right knee looked at. Yoenis Cespedes also fell into a hole or something and is done for the year. That last one isn’t really relevant to this list—I just felt like reminding everyone of how bizarre it is to be a Mets fan.
- Additions: Cavan Biggio, Dansby Swanson, Eric Hosmer, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. all make their appearance on the list this week at the expense of Odubel Herrera, Leonys Martin, Jeff McNeil, and Travis Shaw.
- I find Cavan Biggio really intriguing, as I love prospects who have shown elite plate discipline in the minor leagues. I think a refined knowledge of the strike zone really raises the floor for young players in their first season in the majors, and Biggio has posted a 15% walk rate in over 1,500 minor league plate appearances. Not only that, but he significantly cut down on his strikeouts this year, and has flashed 20/20 upside the past two seasons. I’ll be watching him closely over the next few weeks, as I feel like he could be poised for a big jump in the rankings.
- Avisail Garcia has been raking over the past two weeks, with five homers, four steals, and a .295 average in his last 15 games. He’s finally pulled his groundball rate down to a manageable level that’s allowing him to take advantage of his customarily excellent hard hit rates (43.8% this year, and 40% for his career). Statcast metrics back up everything he’s been doing to this point, and he’s even in the 90th percentile in sprint speed, meaning he should easily eclipse double-digit stolen bases if he can stay healthy. I’m all-in on Garcia right now.
- Given that I tend to rely pretty heavily on track record when evaluating hitters, it sometimes takes me awhile to come around on players who appear to be breaking out but never had much success in the past. Ketel Marte is a prime example. High groundball rates and middling hard contact really capped both his power and batting average potential in the past. But he’s pulling the ball in the air more this year, and doing with authority, which has helped his barrel rate jump up to a really impressive 11.6%. I think there’s 20-homer power here with a .275 average and 10 stolen bases.
- Keston Hiura has been walking a tightrope since he was recalled a few weeks back. He’s performed perfectly fine as far as the surface stats go, but he’s currently sporting a 41% strikeout rate, 2.2% walk rate, and .409 BABIP. It’s a small sample, obviously, but he looks outmatched so far, and I would not be surprised if he’s demoted in the near future.
- Odubel Herrera‘s personal issues have opened the door for Scott Kingery to take over as the Philadelphia Phillies‘ full-time center fielder. Kingery’s quality-of-contact and plate discipline metrics have been pretty pedestrian this year, so I wouldn’t be banking on much more than low-teens power and an average around .270 over the course of a full season. But his trademark speed should be useful for a middle-infielder, and I think he’s worth a gamble in 12-teamers.
- Eric Hosmer is continuing his odd-year magic this season, and though I have a tough time really buying in, he definitely deserves a spot on the list for his performance to this point. His high groundball rates make his batting average and power output very volatile, and though he’s not sporting the -1.2 degree average launch angle he did last year (no, that’s not a typo), he’s still not elevating the ball. The result is a pedestrian 6.3% barrel rate despite an excellent 45.6% hard hit rate. I think he ultimately settles in as a guy with 20-homer power and a .270 average with a handful of steals. Which is fine, but nothing worth getting excited over.
- I know some people will be clamoring for Austin Riley to be ranked higher considering his recent performance, but I see a lot of red flags here in an albeit very small sample. The plate discipline and contact gains he appeared to make in the minors this year have completely evaporated so far with the Atlanta Braves, and though he’s been demolishing the ball, I can’t help but wonder where he’ll settle once pitchers adjust and the BABIP gods are no longer smiling down upon him. There’s also the question of where he plays once Ender Inciarte returns further down the line.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)