Hitter List 7/29: Ranking the Top 150 Hitters for 2020

Ranking the top 150 hitters in baseball every week throughout 2020.

Hello there, and welcome to Hitter List, where every week throughout the season I’ll be flawlessly ranking the top 150 hitters in baseball.

This season is going to be very, very weird for a lot of different reasons. Most notable is that just 60 regular season games will be taking place. While that may be a merciful change for fans of the Baltimore Orioles, it’s an unprecedented and confounding one for fantasy managers, who are left to figure out how this might affect player values. After all, fewer games means a smaller sample size, which introduces more randomness into the equation. Compounding this is the fact that the National League will be implementing the DH this year, and the virus could claim a player at any time for at least a quarter of the season. It’s a lot to factor in, and nobody truly knows how any of it will impact how we should approach roster construction. But here are some quick thoughts on how I think these changes might impact things on the hitting end as far as rotisserie leagues are concerned:

  • 60-game season
    • Stolen bases: Those who followed Hitter List last year know that I love me some stolen bases. My reasoning is pretty straightforward — they’ve been about as scarce over the past three years as they’ve been during any similar time period in the last 40 years. Obviously they’re not the end-all-be-all, but if we’re talking about players in a vacuum, I think it’s always really helpful to grab a guy who can chip in for the category. Now, truth be told, I’ve softened on this stance a good bit over the past year. But I will say this: In a 60-game season, I believe the value of a hitter with elite speed increases. Why? Because I think you’re more likely to luck into some surprise homers than you are some surprise stolen bases. Consider this: Two months into the 2019 season, Joc Pederson, Derek Dietrich, and Eddie Rosario were all in the top 10 in the league for home runs. But among the stolen base leaders, only Kevin Kiermaier registers as a surprising name — and even he always flashed above-average speed. I don’t think you would really blink if someone with middling power like Amed Rosario or Whit Merrifield popped nine homers this year. But I don’t think you’re as likely to back into above-average steals output from low-tier speedsters like Rougned Odor or Marcus Semien. It’s purely a theory, but I think locking down elite speed will be as important as ever this year.
    • Batting average: Fewer at-bats means making up ground in the batting average category late in the year will be a lot more feasible in roto leagues, especially if you get lucky with some hot-hitting waiver claims. For this reason, I don’t think you’ll need to focus quite as much on laying a good foundation in the category during the draft.
    • Counting stats: I think, in a shortened season, counting stats will be king. If you can draft a talented hitter with a secure spot in the heart of a good lineup, you’re really going to maximize your shares of the limited number of run-scoring and run-producing opportunities that will present themselves this year. I would pay close attention to where hitters are projected to slot into their teams’ lineups as we approach the start of games, because that may be an area where you can find some sneaky values.
    • Home runs: As mentioned in the stolen base section, home runs are tough to predict over such a short period of time, because even those with middling power can sometimes put together two months of elite production. Power is still hugely important, but I think in a shortened season you might be able to get away with not being laser-focused on the category.
  • National League DH: I think this change provides a nice boost to defensively challenged or injury-prone guys like J.D. DavisWil Myers, Ryan Braun and Kyle Schwarber. Whereas I might have dinged these guys slightly in the past due to the potential for them to lose some at-bats to defensive replacements or injury, that’s less of a concern now.
  • Strength of Schedule: Teams will be playing 40 games against their division, and the remaining 20 games against their corresponding division in the opposite league. So, for example, the Mets will play the NL East 40 times, and the AL East 20 times. The schedule has dropped, and it’s worth checking out for exploitable hitter matchups throughout the year. Some team’s hitters will benefit more than others. The Padres, for example, are slated to play seven games–over 10% of their season–at Coors Field.
  • Coronavirus/IL Stints: Players who test positive for coronavirus during the season or hit the IL for any reason will be removed from the rankings until they return. In a short season, most injuries are going to cost hitters at least 15% of their at-bats. Furthermore, it’s to nobody’s benefit if I attempt to play doctor and presume when a player might return from an injury or a battle with COVID-19.

Now, with the weirdness of the 2020 season mostly addressed, a few quick things before we jump into the actual rankings and notes:

  • Though I feel more comfortable going out on a limb with talented prospects this year, in general I tend to lean towards players with proven track records.
  • Statcast is love, Statcast is life. I tend to place a premium on a hitter’s quality-of-contact metrics, especially if they pair favorably with their plate discipline and contact rates. I’m less interested in their surface-level numbers and more interested in the underlying skills that Statcast data can shed light on, as I think they are more helpful at predicting future success. That being said, given the short season, I’m going to try and bump up hot hitters more than I customarily would. Churning through hot hitters on waivers is a more realistic strategy this year, and could catapult teams to a championship if they catch lightning in a bottle a few times.
  • Tiers represent groupings of players I think could all conceivably produce at a similar level in terms of fantasy output. The actual rankings within the tiers are personal preference, but I think you could make an argument for anyone within each tier to be ranked above anyone else within that tier.
  • These rankings apply only to leagues using standard scoring (R, RBI, HR, SB, AVG) and lean more toward rotisserie. I understand that hitter values can vary widely based on league format, but the only way to come up with a consistent way of ranking hitters is to hone in on one league type. Adjust accordingly for other formats.
  • A player’s movement up or down in the rankings can sometimes be a byproduct of other players rising above or dropping below them. For example, if Kyle Schwarber lands on the IL and is dropped off the list, everyone ranked below him will automatically receive a +1 bump in the rankings. Conversely, if a player rises from one week to another, everyone he leapfrogs will take a -1 hit. Just something to keep in mind if you see a ranking change that doesn’t immediately make sense in the context of that particular player.

 

Hitter List Notes

 

  • Injuries/Illnesses: Well, I knew this season would be weird. But I didn’t think it’d get this weird, this quickly. The Marlins’ season has been “paused” until early next week after half their team (and counting) tested positive for COVID. No word on exactly which players tested positive, so it leaves fantasy managers in a pretty tough spot when it comes to rostering Miami Marlins. For the time being, I’m dropping all Marlins (i.e. Jonathan Villar) off the list. I’m not endorsing dropping Villar entirely if he’s on your fantasy team–after all, we won’t know until next week whether he has even tested positive. But his value takes a big hit if he ends up losing more than 10% of his potential at-bats. Juan Soto, Hunter Dozier, and Mike Moustakas also hit the COVID IL. Moustakas has not technically tested positive apparently, but was exhibiting symptoms. Nick Senzel has also been held out recently with an undisclosed illness. Yordan Alvarez and Austin Meadows seem poised to return soon, though their ETA is still unknown. Anthony Rendon and Byron Buxton both returned yesterday after missing the beginning of the year due to injury. Willie Calhoun and Christian Walker are also back in their respective lineups after missing some time.

 

  • This is the perfect season for overreacting, so let’s overreact. Dansby Swanson has been on fire to start the year, smacking two home runs already. He’s already accumulated three barrels this season on just nine batted balls, and seems to be carrying the power uptick he displayed in early 2019 over into 2020. I’ve mentioned it before, but I think an injury derailed a potential breakout season for Swanson last year. I believe he’s a guy who could hit 25 home runs, steal 15 bases, and hit .275 over the course of a full season, making him an incredibly useful fantasy player and someone that a lot of people are still sleeping on.

 

  • Speaking of overreacting, Eric Hosmer is hitting flyballs! This is exciting stuff, because putting the bat on the ball and making quality contact were never issues for Hosmer. His problem to this point has been his penchant for driving the ball into the ground, something that caused his power output and batting averages to fluctuate year-to-year, and left him at the mercy of the BABIP gods. If he’s truly learned to lift the ball more, Hosmer has the ceiling of a .290 hitter who could threaten 30 homers over a full season with great counting stats. He’s definitely worth monitoring over the coming weeks.

 

  • I’ve spilled a lot of ink over last week’s poster boy, Josh Bell, and I’m still onboard the hype train. However, watching a few of his at-bats this season, I’ve noticed his batting stance is a bit noisier than it was last season. This is concerning, as a big part of his breakout last year stemmed from him finding and sticking to a consistent stance that featured fewer moving parts. I might be reading too much into this, but it is something I’ll be keeping an eye on, especially if his struggles over the first few games carry into the next couple of weeks.

 

  • I mentioned Jose Peraza as an interesting middle infield option last week, as he’s gotten off to a good start with the Red Sox, albeit without any power or speed to this point. One nice development is that Peraza has been used in the leadoff spot a few times already, and if he holds onto that lineup spot this year hitting ahead of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez he could rack up a ton of runs in addition to whatever he can chip in in batting average and stolen bases.

 

  • This early in the season, when so many stats aren’t even close to stabilizing, one fun way of finding some potential hidden gems is skimming the maximum exit velocity leaderboards. Two names that stand out are Luis Robert, who currently has the third-hardest hit ball of the season at 115.8 mph, and Kyle Lewis, who has the tenth-hardest hit ball of the season at 110.9 mph. I’m still not quite sold that Lewis’s strikeout issues won’t undermine his potential this year, but he makes an appearance on the list this week on account of his hot start and power upside. Luis Robert, on the other hand, is Luis Robert, and I think this more or less confirms that there’s a lot of latent talent in his bat.

 

  • Kyle Tucker has inexplicably failed to secure regular at-bats while Yordan Alvarez has been on the shelf. He’s got a ton of upside, but with Alvarez potentially returning in the near future, it’s hard to see where he fits into their long-term plans this season. I’d still probably rather roll the dice on him than most of the guys ranked below him, but it hasn’t been an auspicious start to the year for Tucker’s value.

 

RankPitcherPositionChange
1Christian YelichT1OF-
2Ronald AcunaOF-
3Cody Bellinger
T2
1B, OF
-
4Mookie BettsOF-
5Francisco Lindor
T3
SS
-
6Mike TroutOF-
7Trevor StorySS-
8Trea TurnerSS+1
9Nolan Arenado3B+1
10J. D. MartinezDH+1
11Jose Ramirez3B+1
12Freddie Freeman
T4
1B
+2
13Ketel Marte2B, OF+2
14Rafael Devers3B+2
15Fernando Tatis Jr.SS+2
16Anthony Rendon3B-3
17Alex Bregman3B, SS+2
18George SpringerOF-
19Javier BaezSS+1
20Starling MarteOF+1
21Charlie BlackmonOF+1
22Bryce HarperOF+1
23Nelson CruzDH+1
24Ozzie Albies2B+1
25Xander BogaertsSS+1
26Yoan Moncada3B+2
27Keston Hiura
T5
2B
-
28Jose Altuve2B+1
29Adalberto MondesiSS+1
30Eugenio Suarez3B+2
31Pete Alonso1B-
32Aaron JudgeOF, DH+1
33Josh Bell1B+1
34Giancarlo StantonOF, DH+5
35Tommy PhamOF+1
36Jose Abreu1B, DH+1
37Paul Goldschmidt1B+1
38Eloy JimenezOF, DH+2
39Matt Olson1B, DH+2
40Gleyber Torres
T6
2B, SS
+2
41Anthony Rizzo1B+2
42Kris Bryant3B, OF+2
43Manny Machado3B, SS+2
44Marcell OzunaOF+2
45Ramon LaureanoOF+4
46Bo BichetteSS+1
47DJ LeMahieu1B, 2B, 3B+1
48Whit Merrifield2B, OF+2
49Victor RoblesOF+2
50Marcus SemienSS+2
51J. T. Realmuto
T7
C
+2
52Nick CastellanosOF+2
53Gary SanchezC, DH+2
54Vlad Guerrero Jr.3B+2
55Matt Chapman3B+2
56Jorge SolerOF, DH+2
57Max Muncy1B, 2B, 3B+3
58Luis RobertOF+4
59J.D. Davis3B, OF-
60Josh Donaldson3B+1
61Jeff McNeil2B, 3B, OF+3
62Eddie RosarioOF+3
63Tim AndersonOF, DH+3
64Mitch GarverC+3
65Joey Gallo
T8
OF, DH
+4
66Kyle SchwarberOF+2
67Carlos CorreaSS+3
68Michael BrantleyOF+3
69Elvis AndrusSS+3
70Andrew BenintendiOF+3
71Michael ConfortoOF+3
72Franmil ReyesOF, DH+3
73Yasmani GrandalC+3
74Jorge PolancoSS+3
75Cavan Biggio2B, OF+3
76Tommy Edman2B, 3B, OF+3
77Yuli Gurriel1B, 3B+3
78Justin Turner
T9
3B
+5
79Danny SantanaOF+2
80Miguel Sano3B+4
81Khris DavisDH+4
82Shohei OhtaniDH+4
83Edwin Encarnacion1B, DH+4
84Carlos Santana1B+5
85Dansby SwansonSS+17
86Byron BuxtonOF-4
87Giovanny Urshela3B+1
88Max KeplerOF+3
89Willson ContrerasC+3
90Oscar MercadoOF+3
91Amed RosarioSS+3
92Scott Kingery3B, OF+3
93Luke Voit1B, DH+3
94Mallex SmithOF+3
95Bryan Reynolds
T10
OF
+3
96Eric Hosmer+UR
97Corey SeagerSS+2
98David DahlOF+2
99Alex VerdugoOF+2
100Brandon Lowe2B+4
101Shin-Soo ChooOF, DH+5
102Rhys Hoskins1B+5
103Avisail GarciaOF, DH+5
104Salvador PerezC+5
105Adam EatonOF+5
106Lorenzo CainOF+8
107Domingo SantanaOF, DH-17
108Eduardo Escobar2B, 3B+3
109Trent GrishamOF+8
110Jean SeguraSS+2
111C. J. Cron
T11
1B
+5
112Lourdes Gurriel2B, OF+6
113Wilson RamosC+6
114Yoshi Tsutsugo1B, DH+7
115Shogo AkiyamaOF-
116Hunter RenfroeOF+4
117Gavin Lux2B+5
118Ryan BraunOF+5
119Nick SenzelOF-6
120Kyle TuckerOF-17
121Christian Walker1B+UR
122Ender InciarteOF+2
123Wil MyersOF+2
124Didi GregoriusSS+2
125Will SmithC+2
126Luis Arraez2B+4
127Willie CalhounOF, DH+UR
128Andrew McCutchen
T12
OF
-
129Yandy Diaz3B, DH-
130Rougned Odor2B+1
131Justin UptonOF, DH+1
132Yoenis Cespedes+2
133Joc PedersonOF, DH-
134Kolten Wong2B+1
135Mike YastrzemskiOF+3
136Austin HaysOF+4
137Aaron HicksOF+UR
138Daniel Murphy1B, DH-2
139Kyle LewisOF+UR
140A. J. PollockOF-3
141Sam HilliardOF-2
142Evan White1B-1
143Cesar Hernandez+1
144Ryan McMahon1B-2
145Jose Peraza2B, SS+5
146Carter Kieboom3B-3
147Mark Canha1B, OF-2
148Austin Riley3B, OF-2
149Howie Kendrick1B, 2B-2
150Kevin NewmanSS-1

 

Graphic by JR Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter)

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer and content manager with Pitcher List, and co-host of the On the Barrel podcast. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

  • Avatar Eric says:

    Thanks for the terrific article as always! How do you feel about Teoscar Hernandez potential to crack the list? Hitting leadoff, capable of both power and speed. And his baseball savant profile is VERY flashy thus far… lots of dark red.

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Thanks for reading Eric, much appreciated!

      No doubt Teoscar can put a charge into the ball, I just worry his contact issues will undermine that power upside like it has in the past, and his lack of plate discipline will result in him dropping in the lienup. Very interested to see what his profile looks like next week so I can glean if he’s made any exciting changes. I’d be comfortable slotting him in anywhere in that last tier for now, and I’d imagine his upside is that of a guy who could rise to around 110.

  • Avatar Joe says:

    Where would you put Moustakas in this list?I didn’t see him on here… Looks like he is back in action!

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      That’s awesome, I didn’t think he’d be back so soon. I believe he was in the late-50s prior to getting sick so that’s where he’ll likely be next week.

  • Avatar Clinton says:

    Why the big drop on Domingo Santana? You said that Statcast is life and his xwOBA is over 0.580 right now. Are there concerns about his playing time?

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Thanks for reading!

      I’m a huge Santana fan. His drop is solely playing time concerns. I didn’t anticipate Bradley Zimmer getting as much playing time this year, and with Deshields and Luplow coming back soon I’m worried he doesn’t get full-time at-bats, which are so important when the season is this short.

  • Avatar GB says:

    Not buying the resurrection of Joey Votto?

    • Avatar Joe says:

      Wondering the same

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I’d love to see him make a comeback, but after two disappointing seasons I think I need a more sustained run of success before I buy in. I won’t go crazy on such a small sample, but despite the two homers he has 0 barrels this year and a poor Hard Hit rate. Again, too early to read too much into that, but I’d like to see him get back to making hard contact to feel encouraged.

  • Avatar Leo Lambert says:

    What hitters would you drastically move up or down in a points league where steals aren’t as important?

    • Avatar Eric says:

      Assuming strikeouts are NOT -1 pt.
      Move down a tier or two: guys who make their fantasy hay with SBs, ie: more than 20 SB and less than 20 HR in a full season. (Mondesi, Merrifield, Villar, Turner, Andrus, Robles)
      Move up a tier or two: HR hitters who are “penalized” in roto ADP because they never run. Combined with a lower BA means an extra slight bump. Look for ~30+ HR with less than a couple steals. Below .260-ish BA is a bonus. (ie: Khris Davis, Gallo, Sano, Schwarber, Soler, Franmil Reyes, Conforto, Moustakas, Eduardo Escobar, possibly Machado, Stanton, Hoskins, Encarnacion, Olson, CJ Cron). I especially target those types at 1B where the position is deep and these players have a lower pricetag.

  • Avatar Triumph the Dog says:

    Surprised to see Mercado so high. Wouldn’t his ice cold start, bad spot in lineup and lack of pedigree push him down a bunch? on top of that CLE OF has some depth especially once Delino/Naquin return so playing time could be an issue?
    Imo speed can be also overrated here though CLE can be one of the more aggressive teams to run

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