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 home runs hit off of Chris Archer. 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=”32442″ include_stats=”1″]
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: Buster Posey, Mitch Haniger, Corey Seager, Dwight Smith Jr., and Robinson Cano hit the IL this week. Charlie Blackmon, Yadier Molina, and Fernando Tatis Jr. were activated.
- Additions: Yordan Alvarez, DJ LeMahieu, Jeff McNeil, Tommy La Stella, and Brian Dozier make their debuts/returns at the expense of Maikel Franco, Jose Peraza, Brendan Rodgers, Enrique Hernandez, Yuli Gurriel, and Dwight Smith Jr.
- All Betts are off, as Christian Yelich moves into the second spot in the rankings this week. I’ve been considering making the move for a few weeks now, and decided to finally pull the trigger after Yelich hit .600 with three homers and two steals over the past week. Yelich is actually outperforming most of his peripherals from last year’s MVP campaign, tripling his average launch angle while striking out less, walking more, and making even more hard contact. He’s also 14-for-15 in stolen bases and is well on his way to a 30/30 season (at a minimum). From a “true talent” standpoint, I still think Yelich and Betts are close, but it seems crazy not to lean on Yelich more for rest-of-season value.
- The regression I was expecting from Austin Riley came a bit earlier than anticipated, so hopefully you cashed in while his value was still at its peak. I don’t dislike Riley, and think the power is absolutely legit, but my concerns still hinge on the lack of plate discipline and an inability to make much contact. Ender Inciarte is still a ways away from a return, so Riley should have a long leash, but I’m still relatively bearish on him at the moment.
- Speaking of not making much contact, Michael Chavis‘ penchant for striking out has caught up with him over the past few weeks, as he’s hitting just .192 over his last 15 games without a homer to his name. He’s posting a 47% strikeout rate so far in June, and while he should get most of the first base reps for the Red Sox while Mitch Moreland is on the IL, he’s going to have to start making some adjustments if he hopes to stick around for the long haul.
- I got a little flak last week for not ranking DJ LeMahieu or Tommy La Stella, and after thinking it over some, they absolutely do belong on the rankings, along with Jeff McNeil, who’s cut from a similar cloth. My main argument for keeping these guys off the list was the lack of a standout tool other than their ability to hit for average (I’m still not buying into La Stella’s power being legit). But frankly, if a player can give you a batting average four of five standard deviations above league average while racking up plenty of counting stats, their ability to contribute homers and stolen bases shouldn’t matter as much. I’m probably still lower on them than most, but I’m starting to come around on their value.
- Bryan Reynolds is my new poster boy for the Joe Schmo Effect—a term I coined for when players with boring names get overlooked way longer than they should. Through 164 plate appearances, Reynolds is batting .344 with an absurd 48.6% hard hit rate. While he hasn’t cashed in on that hard contact thanks to the fact that he hits nearly half his batted balls on the ground, there’s still a lot to like here, especially now that the Pirates have committed to making him an outfield regular at the expense of Corey Dickerson and Gregory Polanco‘s playing time. It’s tempting to see the .435 BABIP and assume it’ll all come crashing down soon, but he regularly posted BABIPs close to .390 in the minor leagues, and is posting an xBA of .296 to this point. He’ll likely fall short of 20 homers, but I think he’s definitely worth an add in 12-teamers.
- Kevin Kiermaier has gone off over his last 15 games, hitting an even .300 with three homers and four stolen bases. He’s flashed 20/20 upside in the past—the problem has always been staying on the field for a full season. Considering he plays defense like an adrenaline-fueled maniac, expecting him to eclipse 500 plate appearances is probably a fool’s errand. And the batting average is unlikely to settle any higher than .260. But you should get plenty of everything else as long as he’s on the field.
- I’ve had my eye on Scott Kingery since April, so it’s nice to see him start to break out after starting the year as a bench piece and then getting sidelined with a hamstring strain. He’s homered four times over the past week, and is making plenty of hard contact while elevating the ball well and keeping his strikeouts at a manageable level. My only concern here is the fact that he’s only attempted two stolen bases so far this year. Stolen bases come in bunches, but considering that speed was pegged as Kingery’s standout tool in the minor leagues, it concerns me a little bit that he now has only 12 steals over the course of 600 major league plate appearances. If he starts running over the next few weeks, his rank will shoot up, but for now I think it’s capping his fantasy potential.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)