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:
- Given that these rankings are taking place in a vacuum, I tend to 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 sane human beings in the New York Mets organization. And home runs are an abundant resource that are becoming more prevalent, like instances of people attempting to hug Cody Bellinger against his will. 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.
[hitter_list_2019 list_id=”32978″ include_stats=”1″]
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: Adalberto Mondesi, Yandy Diaz, Tim Anderson, Trevor Story, and Gregory Polanco hit the IL this week. Giancarlo Stanton, George Springer, Joey Gallo, Jose Altuve, and Aaron Judge were activated.
- Additions: Oscar Mercado, Garrett Cooper, and Jason Kipnis make their first appearances on the list this week at the expense of Buster Posey, Rougned Odor, and Amed Rosario.
- Yasiel Puig has done a ton to improve his stock over his last 15 games, hitting .339 with five homers and three steals while making a lot of his owners forget about how lost he looked earlier in the season. He’s still a little too aggressive at the plate this year, which is costing him in the contact and batting average departments. But a 25/25 season is still well within reach, and I don’t think too many people would be disappointed with that even if he does only manage a .260 average.
- It’s great to have Jose Altuve back, but I think the jury is still out on whether his lower-body injuries are truly behind him. Clearly they were affecting him before hitting the injured list, as he was just one-for-three in stolen base attempts, and I don’t love that his most recent injury was to his surgically repaired knee. I think you’ll still get elite batting average production and 20-homer power going forward, but so much of his fantasy value is going to hinge on whether he’s comfortable enough to start running again. The next few weeks will be key for assessing what kind of player we can expect him to be this year.
- Dansby Swanson has had a slow week, but frankly he should have been ranked higher last time around, so his rise this week is more a correction than a reflection of his recent performance. His Statcast profile to this point has been really impressive, and points to him having gotten quite a bit unlucky so far, even in light of his offensive breakout. I see a hot streak in his future that will bring his batting average up to the .280 range, and I think he can pair that with slightly above-average power and speed.
- Right now, Manny Machado is the poster boy for why we have to take track record into account when evaluating hitters who are off to slow starts. Plenty of people sold Machado off at a discount a few weeks back, and he’s gone on to hit .308 with eight homers and 49 R+RBI over the past month. There’s a cautionary tale here for guys like Jose Ramirez and Paul Goldschmidt…
- A substantially lower line drive rate and a huge uptick in infield fly balls is costing Eugenio Suarez a lot of base hits this season. I think a .260 batting average is what you have to hope for from him this year, which drags his value down considerably in my opinion, even if he does manage to rack up a decent amount of counting stats and 30 home runs.
- Owning Christian Walker is going to be a rollercoaster ride this year, but right now things are trending up again. He’s hitting .313 with three homers and two steals over the past two weeks and is posting one of the highest hard hit rates in the majors. Again, you’re going to have to endure some lulls with him, but Walker is still probably a lock for 30 homers with an average around .260 and some steals for good measure.
- I think Aaron Hicks is trying to play through an injury, and while I can’t bring myself to be totally out on him considering his upside and the lineup he hits in, he’s going to have to actually string together a few weeks of solid production before I’m willing to trust him long-term.
- Garrett Cooper reminds me a bit of Bryan Reynolds in that they’re both absolutely destroying the ball this year, but they’re not elevating it enough to take full advantage of their power. I think they both may struggle to reach 20 homers as a result, but their batting averages should remain high, and if they ever do learn to lift the ball—watch out.
- Jason Kipnis has actually lowered his average launch angle this year and is hitting more grounders at the expense of his fly-ball rate. Generally that’s not a change that you like to see, but for a guy like Kip—who doesn’t possess a ton of pop—a change like this could actually help him improve his batting average output. I wouldn’t bank on more than 15 homers and 10 stolen bases, but if he can keep his average up around .270 with this new approach, and he continues to bat cleanup, he could be a solid all-around contributor.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)
You’re still way to high on Myers. Could have benefitted going to BAL with the pitching/ballpark, but he’s being sat in those games for Margot. Not even being used in the DH spot.
I hear you–it’s just too hard for me to drop a guy with his upside that much further. Even with his enormous struggles this year he’s pacing towards a 20/20 season, which I still think is enormously valuable (just 10 hitters went 20/20 last year). I think him being benched in Baltimore is more an effort to get him to clear his head than a sign that he’s being moved into a part-time role, though I guess we’ll see how things shake out. I think right around the top-100 is about right.
Hi Jonathan. Nick Senzel at #54 – wow almost top 50 player. I understand you value SB’s but he only has 6 so far. Are you expecting big things across the board from him in the second half? I’m hunting SB’s. He was recently dropped in my 10 team/5×5 league. Worth a swap out for Austin Riley?
Hi Kev. I think with Senzel it’s important to keep in mind that he’s only played 45 games so far this year, so he’d be pacing out towards a 20-SB season at his current rate. If you’re hunting stolen bases, I’d make that swap–I do like Riley, but I think Senzel is a more complete player, and should be able to grab you a healthy amount of steals ROS.
Thx Jonathan. Appreciate your perspective. In the same “hunting steals” vein, would you rather have Senzel or Laureano? Both are acting like 20/20 guys ROS?
I’d rather have Senzel because I think he’s got a more mature plate approach and in most leagues he has infield eligibility too, but you’re right that I think both could flirt with 20/20.
Question about who to drop. It’s a 10 team 6×6 OBP/Slugging h2h league.
Right now I’ve got Biggio, Todd Frazier, Kingery, L Gurriel, Christian Walker, Eaton. All of these are waiver adds, but I’m eyeing Kipnis also. Who would you drop if you were trying to add Kipnis?
Also, I have Gennett and Haniger returning from IL very soon, and will have to drop 2 players. Who would you cut?
You mentioned how great Walker is doing lately, yet I find his playing time very uncertain with Lamb back. Do I hold Walker, or move on?
In that format, I think I’d hold. In terms of drops when Gennett and Haniger return, I’d go Frazier and then wait and see how playing time shakes out with Lamb’s return. If Walker starts losing at-bats, drop him. If he still has regular PT, I’d drop Eaton.
Lourdes Gurriel should be much, much higher IMO
Yeah, he’s been absolutely on fire since he got recalled. I love what the increase in launch angle is doing for his power numbers, but I’m a little concerned that he’s gone a bit too far with it–14% IFFB rate is super concerning considering that his contact and plate discipline peripherals are well below-average. I don’t doubt he’ll get to around 25 homers by the end of the year, but I think there might be an extended cold spell on the horizon that drags his batting average closer to .270.
Someone get this Ken guy a job
Do I drop Matt Carpenter for Lourdes Gurriel? Carpenter’s been painfully worthless this season and I’ve been trying to hold out for a breakout like last season.
I think I’d be okay with you making that swap. Carpenter will likely come around a bit, but last season was the exception, not the baseline we should be expecting from him in a given season.
Your being much too generous to everyone’s favorite Mookie. He hasn’t been able to improve on his 2018 MVP numbers the way Yelich has. He’s a nice player, on a nice team, in a nice ballpark……..but Senator, your no Christian Yelich. No way shape or form should he be in elite status.
I said to myself before reading this “If Eduardo Escobar isn’t top 50”, then Houston we’ve got a problem.
How in the world do you ignore what he’s done thus far. Not only ignore it, but push him down numbers this week????
Dude, sorry, but that’s incredibly silly. Even if you think he’s due for some type of disastrous regression…….he’s a FIRST HALF ALL STAR that you demoted this week!
I certainly don’t disagree that there’s a case to be made for having Escobar much higher in the rankings. But I would like to address a couple of things:
1) His moving down is a byproduct of a few guys moving ahead of him this week. My opinion on Escobar hasn’t really changed at all since last week. Which brings me to my next point.
2) Because these are rest-of-season rankings, past performance is only weighed insofar as I think it will inform future performance. I’d have to be crazy to say that Escobar’s performance up until now has been worse than over 100 other players. But that’s not what I’m saying here. I’m simply saying that I don’t think this level of production is close to sustainable for him rest-of-season.
3) Why don’t I think it will be sustainable? A couple of reasons. Most of the peripheral statistics I look at are equal to or worse than what he posted last year. He still chases WAY too many pitches out of the zone (40%). His SwStr is worse. His contact rate is worse. His hard contact rate is still well below league-average (30%). His batted ball mix (GB/LD/FB) is virtually unchanged. This all indicates, to me, that he’s the same player he’s always been, who happens to be on an incredible hot streak. His bloated HR/FB rate means he’ll likely hit 25+ homers by season’s end, but I think the batting average comes way down to around .270, and he doesn’t have much speed. I’m just not seeing enough under the surface to get excited about.
Like I said, I totally could see a case for moving him up from his current spot, and he probably should have moved up a bit this past week, but if we’re talking about future performance I personally am just not buying into this big run based on what he’s been doing under the surface.
I respect your opinion. At the same time, he just keeps on producing. His average is already down around .280, but he keeps driving in runs and scoring.
Maybe these advanced metrics apply to everyone…….or maybe they aren’t entirely accurate with a seasoned veteran hitter. I guess we’ll see. I just think the dude has shown sustainability for a lengthy period of time this year and should be given some optimism going forward despite what analytics show. Thanks for the response.
I respect your opinion as well, and if I end up being wrong on Escobar I’m fine with taking the L. If these rankings were purely based on production to this point, he’d absolutely be inside the top-50. But like I said, I’m just not sold on this being the new normal for him.
One thing that’s kind of interesting is looking at his rolling wOBA chart over the last few years:
(just delete the space after “playerid”)
As you can see, in 2017 and 2018 he also had an extended period of time where he was absolutely demolishing the ball before things started to correct. This year he’s largely been able to avoid the big fallback he had in both those seasons, but I kind of suspect that’s because it’s still on the horizon.
3-5 with another ribbie tonight ;-) .462 for the week with 6 runs scored, a homer, 6 ribbies and a SB.
All I’m saying is that if they work hard enough, people can get better at what they’ve been doing for years. It’s the same type of philosophy that I gave Nick some sh*t for in a way with Ryu. And believe me, I don’t want the word to spread about him, because for the second straight year I have the best pitching staff in my league because of him. So of course I’d prefer he remain a secret. But completely dismissing someone’s talent early in the year because of their injury history is just not a cool way to approach things. Ryu is an elite talent, and I feel strongly that Nick should have ranked him as such at the beginning of the season, with a disclaimer that he’s injury prone. Instead he waited until everyone owned the guy before jumping on-board.
Look, I think this site is the best kept somewhat secret in fantasy baseball, and I’ve been playing and winning for 20 years and I’m only trying to challenge you guys when I think I have something to add.
I feel you on Eduardo’s past history. But just maybe the elite hitting talent Rotoworld called him tonight, he’s able to sustain even 2/3rds going forward. If he does that, I think he still finishes top 50.
Thanks for the fun banter. But c’mon dude, you have to at least admit dropping him some numbers this week was some stink eye ;-).
I’ll look forward to your next column and have a great rest of your weekend.
I’ll end it with this. Vlad Jr., the hype king of the past decade, is playing below average baseball, yet you have him rated 50 some slots higher than Escobar, who has just been raking consistently for months now. I don’t need Statcast or whatever to think that those two guys should each be in the other’s positions on this list right now. I honestly think you may go off of name recognition a little too much. No offense whatsoever. Just my honest opinion.
That’s why this is Rest of Season rankings, not “The Last Month” rankings
65 RBIs at the turn when his career high is 85 tells a story. I don’t care what he does ROS. He’s going to bag 110 RBIs minimum. And it’s not “last month” it’s been the first 3 months.
OK, I am not ending it with that. But here are Tommy Pham’s stats thus far AVG .294 HR 12 RBI 34 SB 7
How in the WORLD is he 18 with that stuff thus far, while Escobar is demoted to 104?
Past performances? Again, don’t get me wrong, I own Pham, Vlad Jr. and Escobar………and I know which one is deserving of a top 50 spot…..and it’s the guy who has 65 RBIs before the turn with a career high of 84. Honestly at some point you’ve got to move that guy up major slots. He really looks silly with a demotion to 104 this week.
After this rant, I needed to check for myself, so I compared EE to another player with almost identical stats.
AVG HR R RBI SB BB SO
EE .283 18 54 62 3 29 71
?? .287 19 52 52 5 19 97
Past 30 (Mystery player moved up 1 and EE moved down 4)
AVG HR R RBI SB BB SO
EE .274 6 21 22 2 10 25
?? .240 6 15 18 3 5 25
The Mystery player is number 9 ranked Javier Báez. I don’t agree that he is the same player, but Ryan has an argument for moving Escobar much further up.
Thanks for taking the time to put all of that together.
This is a tough job. I don’t see a lot of people doing it. I agree that there are always some things that are way off, but it comes with the job. Some of us are pretty familiar with a handful of the names on the list, but he has to know them all. Comments make the list better.
Agree on every single thing you said. Ranking the top 150 ROS is not hard if that’s all he does each week. My guess is he does much more.
And thank you for the last sentence. We should all be here trying to make this site better, and just hope that the authors realize as much.
You think people sold off Machado? That is hard to believe that people would give up a 1st rd pick with his eligibility. Machado has never been a model of consistency – that would be some bad managing!
Anyways, always love the column…
I think you are overvaluing launch angles and what really is nothing more than meaningless trends. Over huge samples, batters don’t maintain LA or pull rates so a month or two is very close to nothing in most cases. What you really care about are good swings and those may or may not show up in LA – all that xData is just a crude attempt to quantify good swings but its too narrow of a view. I think it is funny how we call everything a swing change and make a huge deal out of player approaches, but it really isn’t a new thing – its the same thing that has always been a result of getting hot. Sure, real changes do happen, but they are not as simplistic as we like to pretend they are. LA is the resulting angle of a round ball bouncing off of a round bat – you don’t just change it for the better because you read a blog about it, glance at a spreadsheet or have a conversation with an “expert”. If a player really takes a step forward it doesn’t really make sense – it just happens… just like it always has. Think about the volume of stories talking about some guys miracle fix he makes to become relevant – it almost always proves to be unsustainable and nobody really revisits those. Scouting the batted ball data really isn’t any more insightful than scouting the stat line – its suffers from all the same flaws as fluky real outcomes – what it makes up for in attempting to cut out fluky hits it misses in real context, like defensive alignments. I think it is worse personally. At least when all you look at is the stat line you don’t have the illusion that what you are doing is insightful. Batted ball data is going to be fluky just like real outcomes… with the exception of EV which is really just a crude proxy for power.
Thanks for reading, always appreciate your input.
I do agree that we tend to give a little too much credence to some Statcast metrics, especially early in the year. However, I do think they’re useful tools for evaluation when used in tandem with other stats. Citing launch angle on its own is, as you mentioned, pretty useless. But it can tell a story if you’re looking at it in the context of things like hard hit rate, BABIP, Pull%, etc.
Might be coming in too late for a reply on this, but where would Hiura and Gennett fit on the list now that they are back in active lineups?
And now I see Scooter on the list. So, just Hiura. Thanks.