Hitter List 6/5: 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 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.
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: Hunter Dozier, Andrew McCutchen, Joey Gallo, and Carlos Correa were lost to the IL this week. But when one door closes, another one opens: Travis Shaw, Nelson Cruz, David Peralta, and Khris Davis all made their returns.
- Additions: Howie Kendrick, Kevin Kiermaier, Bryan Reynolds, Jorge Soler, Ian Desmond, and Travis Shaw make their debuts/returns this week at the expense of Keston Hiura, Jesus Aguilar, Nicky Lopez, Andrew McCutchen, and Ender Inciarte. I have playing time concerns with Kendrick and Reynolds, and injury concerns with Kiermaier and Shaw. But assuming health and consistent playing time, I think they all have the potential to be above-average offensive contributors.
- I still haven’t given up on Manny Machado and Jose Ramirez, but it’s about time they fall out of the top-20 considering how well a lot of the guys who were below them are performing. A hot month from either of them would pull their lines up to about what you expected coming into the year, so I’m still preaching patience.
- We talked a bit about Austin Meadows on the podcast last week, and everything he’s doing right now is amazing. Great plate discipline, an excellent 8.6% SwStr, an elite 28% line drive rate, and he’s nearly doubled his barrel rate this year thanks to the fact that he’s posting a 41% hard hit rate while upping his launch angle a few degrees. I think this might be the breakout of an elite fantasy bat.
- Has Byron Buxton teased us too many times over the course of his career for us to take what he’s doing right now seriously? He’s still swinging a lot, especially at pitches out of the strike zone. But he’s managed to improve his contact rate so far and is performing substantially better against all pitch types–including offspeed pitches and breaking balls–to this point. On top of that, his 41% hard hit rate is nearly 10 points above his previous career-high. If he can hold onto these gains all season and pair them with his elite sprint speed, watch out.
- Trey Mancini has marginally improved as a contact hitter this year while still retaining all of the hard contact he customarily makes and nearly doubling his average launch angle from last season. He doesn’t have the plate discipline of Josh Bell, but I see him as a poor man’s version of Bell that you could probably acquire for a fraction of the cost.
- Austin Riley is probably the hottest hitter in baseball right now, and I know a lot of people will probably be clamoring for me to move him higher on the list as a result. But I just can’t right now, as I’m not convinced the poor contact ability and plate discipline he’s shown to this point is a mirage. The 21% SwStr and 38% chase rate he’s posting are so, so bad, and I can’t help but think he’ll be crippled by them once his 45% (!!!) HR/FB and .378 BABIP normalize. For now, I think having him surrounded by guys like Dan Vogelbach and Hunter Renfroe, who I believe are solid comps, is right.
- It initially seemed like George Springer was going to miss close to two months with a hamstring strain, but recent reports seem positive, and it appears he’ll be back with the Astros much sooner than expected, which is why he’s sliding back towards the top this week.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)