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.
[hitter_list_2019 list_id=”33317″ include_stats=”1″]
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)
How close is Chris Taylor?
Thanks for the content. I’ll try to contribute something.
I don’t think Austin Riley belongs that high. If we are going to react to recent trends, then he shouldn’t be that high. The league is catching up with him much like Chavis.
Winker is also too high. He really doesn’t offer much outside of BB, but that is a specific format and he has done nothing for a while. The power was a fluke.
I think Biggio is way too high but if he is your guy, then go for it. You made a comment so I think its fine. I wouldn’t take 2 of him for Lourdes Gurriel. Biggio is a posterboy for a stat like wRC+ that overvalues walks. At the end of the day you have to be able to hit or there are going to be massive struggles. His minor league record has a lot of low AVG.
That is the hardest part of the list IMO. Most people don’t go that deep and that is really tough.
As for some guys I would bump, I would just have Segura a lot higher all the time if you value SB. I get that he isn’t running a lot but he is a really good player when he healthy.
Speaking of speed, Dee Gordon is one of a handful of the reasonable sources of SB and he is back. You never know if he is healthy, but if he is, then he is elite by your methodogy IMO.
I would always have Sano on there. A lot of trash gets written about him. Like that he has a tenuous grip on his job but that should be silly. He is OPSing close to .900 right now and that is amidst injuries and struggles. Sano is the best player that nobody champions for. This bust has an OPS north of .800 for his career. I think people with an OPS over .800 get to keep their jobs. MIN is a putrid infield, so they shouldn’t care about his defense. Don’t get me wrong, he has flaws but so do most of these players. We live in a bizzarro world where OPS is underutilized, but Yuli Gurriel has only once had an OPS as high as Sano’s injury-plagued career (just picked a no defense name from the back of the list). In the real world, I like what Sano brings to the table offensively. He goes on monster tears and he just might go on a season long one some day which is why you want him – just make sure he isn’t your only option lol. it is easy enough to drop him when he is out for the second half.. which happens every year and sags his overall line a lot. He does look slimmer this year, so maybe he finishes the season healthy, which will be 30 HR in a partial season or a 40ish HR clip which he is always on. Health-wise, I think last year should be thrown out – they demoted him all the way to A ball and he had some real leg issues – to say it was a lost season is an understatement.
Congrats on moving Tatis Jr. up even though you joined the rest of the fantasy baseball pundit universe over the past 2 months in recommending he be shopped around. I saw it as early as early June. Honestly, Bobby Sylvester is the worst fantasy baseball writer on the planet, and he said it I think before May ended. I’ve seen this regression stance from metric observation from at least 6 different sources…..including 2 on this site. If you traded him on those metric observations in early June, you missed one hell of a June. He homered again tonight. Rotoworld seems to be the only site willing to bet on the guy. Tonight’s summation being: “It’s flabbergasting that he’s on pace to record a 30-homer, 30-steal campaign as a 20-year-old shortstop in his first exposure to major-league pitching. We’ve simply run out of superlatives to describe his remarkable rookie campaign. He’s a legitimate five-category fantasy superstar and a franchise cornerstone for the next decade-plus in San Diego.”
I guess my only response to your article is…..why in the world do you promote him 9 spots into the top 40 and then spend a paragraph about how scared you are and try to trade him? It seems very contradictory to me. I appreciated your responses concerning Escobar last week, and I think you have a right to not value him any more than you did this week (which I think you still have him 40 spots off).
But c’mon man, that’s wishy-washy to move a guy up 9 spots and then tell people you’re scared and look to trade him.
And absolutely agree on your Vlad piece. You may be one of the first to say it. It’s time to be concerned that he may never become this year’s Juan Soto. The hype king has been average in the first half.
But Tatis? No way I’m putting him up on my trade list until he shows these metrics can accurately evaluate the ebb and flow of a guy with his talent and speed.
Thanks for your work. Any thoughts on Adam Frazier joining the list?
Is benintendi in the drop zone? He’s still highly owned but he’s been rough all year.