Hitter List 7/3: 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:
- 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 journalists that Jason Vargas doesn’t want to beat up. 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.
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Eddie Rosario, Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, Tim Anderson, and Matt Carpenter hit the IL this week, while Adalberto Mondesi, Trevor Story, Byron Buxton, Scooter Gennett, and Yandy Diaz were activated.
- Additions: Keston Hiura, Yuli Gurriel, and A.J. Pollock return to the list this week at the expense of Jason Kipnis, Gregory Polanco, and Mitch Garver.
- Mookie Betts drops two spots this week. How can something so wrong feel… so… right? If you told me at the beginning of the year that I’d think Betts was the fifth-best player in fantasy by the time the All Star break rolled around, I’d probably ask what kind of traumatic head injury I had suffered. But Betts has looked more like the 2017 version of himself than the 2018 version this year, and while that’s still an elite hitter when you factor in all the runs and RBI he’s racking up, it’s not quite enough offensive production to crack the top-3 anymore. And a large part of that is because Cody Bellinger and Ronald Acuna have made huge leaps forward this year by making more contact and hitting more line drives. I don’t doubt Betts’ ability to get white-hot in the second half and reclaim his spot above both Bellinger and Acuna, but until that happens this just feels like the right move.
- I’ve been touting Cavan Biggio since he was promoted, and I think the window to grab him might soon start to close, as he’s hitting .314 with three homers and 15 RBI over his last 15 games. Those RBIs are largely a byproduct of the fact that he’s been inserted into the cleanup spot lately, which is obviously a big boon to his value. But there’s so much more to love about Biggio than meets the eye. There’s the elite plate discipline (13% chase rate vs. 31% league average). The exceptional contact ability (7.2% SwStr vs. 11% league average). The impressive quality of contact (44% hard hit rate and 91 mph average exit velocity). The 20-stolen base speed. I really think this guy is a diamond in the rough who’s primed for a breakout, and I highly recommend grabbing him in all formats.
- I think Fernando Tatis Jr. was dropped into a pit of radioactive goo as a baby, because his speed is superhuman. Scoring from second on a sacrifice fly. Scoring from first on a single. These are things that no mere mortal should be able to do. And while there’s no doubt he’s a blast to watch, I can’t lie that I’m a little scared for his future. Because so many of the stats that I look to when trying to predict future performance are glaringly out of whack. The .436 BABIP is insane, even for someone as fast as him, and when I look to the line drive rate to try and justify it, I see that he’s hitting nearly half his batted balls on the ground. Now that’s not the worst thing in the world considering his speed, but when paired with his subpar contact ability, I can’t help but think his batting average and power output to this point are due for some major regression. And a lot of that is borne out in the gap between his expected stats and his actual stats (.236 xAVG and .335 xwOBA vs. his .330 average and .419 wOBA). It might not be a terrible idea to shop him, as his value may never be higher.
- Speaking of high groundball rates, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is starting to worry me a bit, as his average launch angle is hovering around 7 degrees and he’s hitting grounders at a 48% clip. You can usually overcome a high ground-ball rate and still hit a healthy amount of homers if you hit the ball hard enough, and Guerrero is certainly no slouch at the moment with his 40% hard hit rate. But I do worry that it may still hamper his ability to produce an above-average batting average and the elite power many of us were expecting.
- I mentioned last week that owning Christian Walker would be a rollercoaster, but I didn’t anticipate it being due to playing time concerns. With Jake Lamb now back in the fold, it appears Arizona will be cycling Walker, Lamb, and Eduardo Escobar between the two corner infield slots. As a Walker fan, this is a bummer, and for now he’ll have to be added to the pile of promising guys who aren’t currently getting consistent reps, along with Jesse Winker and Howie Kendrick.
- Robinson Cano‘s return to the list is largely a byproduct of the fact that he’s hitting .417 over the last week. The power still hasn’t manifested itself yet, but the recent signs of life have me cautiously optimistic that a strong second half may be in the offing now that he appears to have put his injury issues behind him.
- Michael Brantley has hit just one home run and stolen zero bases over his last 30 games, so despite the elite batting average, I have to slide him down. Brantley’s power and speed were always fringe, which is what worries me about him, as even the slightest pullback in ability due to age or injury can tank his value. It could just be an extended cold spell, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)