Hitter List 6/19: 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 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 Cavan Biggio taters. All else being equal, I’ll 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: Hunter Pence, Justin Smoak, Byron Buxton, and Corey Seager hit the IL this week. Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Willie Calhoun, and Robinson Cano were activated.
- Additions: Mitch Garver, Willie Calhoun, Kyle Schwarber, and Yandy Diaz make their debuts/returns at the expense of Travis Shaw, Clint Frazier, Justin Smoak, and Stephen Piscotty.
- It’s shaping up to be a lost season for Lorenzo Cain who’s batting just .254 over his last 30 games with no home runs and four stolen bases. It’s hard to say what the problem is exactly—his quality-of-contact metrics aren’t too far off from his career norms, and his contact rate is only down slightly. This could just be an extended run of poor batted ball luck, as his BABIP sits at .289 compared to his .341 career rate. But until he shows some signs of coming around, I have to keep fading him.
- For those of you who have conditioned yourselves to ignore Ian Desmond‘s existence, take note: Desmond has been an offensive machine over the past month, and it seems like it might be legit. Over his past 30 games he’s hitting .343 with five homers, 19 runs, and 20 RBI. He seems to finally be pairing his excellent hard contact rates with an elevated swing plane, as his average launch angle has shot up to 8 degrees after sitting at 0 degrees for two years. I’m not sure he still has double-digit stolen bases in him, but I think an average around .270 with 20-25 homers is attainable by year’s end.
- I’ve been sleeping on Mike Moustakas this year, but now I’m woke. His batting averages were volatile in the past due to the fact that he hit a lot of fly balls and very few line drives. He’s addressed that this year, posting a 22% line drive rate while still making a ton of hard contact. The 10.9% SwStr and 78% contact rate are super impressive when considering that he’s posting an elite 45% hard hit rate and 12% barrel rate. I’m absolutely buying in on what he’s doing this year, and the fact that he’s eligible at second base is just the cherry on top.
- Cavan Biggio has been smoking the ball since his promotion, posting a 15.4% barrel rate and 48.7% hard hit rate, albeit in a small sample. He’s also posting otherworldly plate discipline numbers, chasing just 11.9% of pitches out of the zone (league average is 30.9%). While his average is sitting at just .222 and his strikeout rate is a bloated 28.6%, don’t be scared off. His contact metrics rate as above-average, and all the tools are there. I think this is a guy that’s absolutely worth a stash in 12-teamers if you have a spot.
- Eugenio Suarez falls this week. I think his slow start to this season has kind of confirmed that an average above .280 isn’t going to generally be in the cards for him, especially since his strikeout rate has gone up and his line drive rate has dipped compared to last year. I do think the 30+ homer power is legit, but if he’s pairing that with a .265 average and only slightly above-average counting stats, it’s tough for me to justify ranking him well inside the top-50.
- Mallex Smith is kind of like what would happen if Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton had a baby. There’s a wee bit of pop in his bat, and he can be an absolute game-changer in terms of stolen bases, but the batting average isn’t likely to help you much. He’s looked slightly better since his return from the minors, swiping 10 bases over his last 30 games.
- Lourdes Gurriel hasn’t really changed his free-swinging ways, but he is elevating the ball more now, and by pairing that with his already impressive hard contact rates he’s managed to unlock a bit of power. You’re going to have to endure some valleys if you want to benefit from the peaks, but I think he could realistically hit around 25 homers over the course of a full season with a .270 average, and that plays for a guy with both middle infield and outfield eligibility.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)