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 Pittsburgh Pirates that Yasiel Puig hasn’t tried to punch. Meanwhile, home runs are an abundant resource that are becoming more prevalent, like New York Mets pitchers who are on the trading block. 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=”34586″ include_stats=”1″]
Now onto the recaps:
- Injuries: Dansby Swanson, Ramon Laureano, and Joey Gallo hit the IL this week. Gallo’s hamate injury seems likely to keep him out for most of the the rest of the season, so he drops off the list entirely as a result. Meanwhile Eloy Jimenez, Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Willson Contreras, and Tim Anderson were activated.
- Additions: Bo Bichette, J.D. Davis, Willie Calhoun, Kole Calhoun, Michael Chavis, and Anthony Santander make their returns/debuts at the expense of Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Joey Gallo, Brian Dozier, and Jonathan Schoop.
- Cody Bellinger gets leapfrogged by Ronald Acuna this week, mostly on account of the insane month Acuna has had. He’s hit eight homers and stolen 15 (!) bases over his last 30 games, and could very realistically go 35/35 this year. Bellinger on the other hand has gone from elite to just really, really, really good over the past month. I think it’s close enough that you can swap them out based on needs (i.e. Bellinger for power, Acuna for speed). But in the vacuum I’d rather have the all-around production that Acuna seems like he’ll provide rest-of-season.
- There are a couple of interesting things happening with Josh Bell, who’s hitting just .206 over his last 30 games, albeit with seven homers. His recent slump has coincided with an uptick in the number of offspeed pitches he’s been seeing. In fact, Bell has seen more change-ups over the past month than he’s seen at any other point during his career. Not surprisingly, Bell does not perform well against change-ups. Also worth noting is the fact that Bell’s groundball rate has shot up over the last few weeks. His white-hot run earlier in the year saw him posting groundball rates around 30%, but he’s been hitting grounders at a 40%+ clip over the last six weeks. I think this cold spell is the result of an adjustment the league has made to how they approach him. I’m encouraged by the fact that his power is still hanging in there, but don’t expect him to reach the heights he hit earlier in the year until he improves his approach against offspeed stuff and starts lifting the ball again.
- So Jose Ramirez is back. He just posted a four-homer week and is batting .339 with a .638 SLG over his last 30 games. He’s now pacing towards a 20/30 season, and if his hot hitting continues he should be able to lift his average up into the .265 range. That’s not too far off from what you likely should have expected from him to start the year, and this is exactly why I love to hammer home how long the season is; a three-month slump can be effectively erased with one amazing month, and vice versa.
- Just as we were getting ready to accuse Paul Goldschmidt of being fool’s gold, he showed his true mettle and swatted six homers with a .345 average over the past week. So is this the start of another late-season run for him? Maybe–just not to the same degree as the one he went on last year. With the speed element of his game gone, and his plate discipline deteriorating for the fifth straight year, I think Goldschmidt’s days of being an elite fantasy bat are gone. That said, I think he can produce an average of around .275 going forward, and swat another 8-10 homers down the stretch. That’s still plenty useful. But it’s also probably more in line with what you might expect from a Luke Voit than a J.D. Martinez.
- Sometimes you just have to let yourself have a little fun, and that’s what I’m doing with Keston Hiura. Yes, the contact and plate discipline numbers are atrocious–I usually audibly hiss when I see an 18.7% SwStr and 37.3% chase rate in a player’s profile. But man can this kid smoke the ball–his 51.5% hard hit rate is the sixth-best in baseball. And he has enough of an all-fields approach that I’m willing to throw caution to the wind here and buy in.
- Bryce Harper is having what is probably his most disappointing season to date, and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with bad luck. He’s underperforming his expected stats a bit, but not enough to give any glimmer of hope that a hot streak is on the horizon. With a 13% barrel rate, he should have way more than 18 homers, but even if the power comes back I don’t think you can expect much more than a .260 average out of him going forward.
- I wish I knew how to quit you, J.D. Davis. Davis made an appearance on the list earlier this year when it seemed like the Mets might actually do something prudent for a change and make him their starting third baseman over Todd Frazier. That never happened, and he was squeezed out of at-bats in the outfield by a hot-hitting Dominic Smith. Well, with Smith now hurt, the leftfield job belongs to Davis, and he’s doing everything in his power to make sure it stays that way, with a .356 average and .913 OPS over his last 73 at-bats. I’m really a firm believer that all Davis needs is an extended opportunity in order to break out, as his expected stats and overall production to this point have been incredibly impressive. He’s posting a .305 xBA and .379 xwOBA on the year, and he’s pairing an elite 48.6% hard hit rate with a nearly league-average contact rate–something you rarely see in a hitter. I see a poor man’s Justin Turner here, and think he’s worth a flier in 12-team leagues if you have a spot.
- Niko Goodrum has very quietly put together an excellent month, hitting .287 with four homers and four steals in his last 30 games. I wouldn’t expect the batting average to remain this high over the final two months of the year considering his .232 xBA to this point, but with 93rd percentile sprint speed and an impressive 41.8% hard hit rate, he should be a solid source of homers and steals down the stretch.
- I think Khris Davis is playing through an injury. He had nagging hip issues that popped up a few times earlier in the year, and his hard contact and launch angle have taken a nosedive this season. He’s hitting .194 with just one homer over his last 30 games, and if you can find an owner hoping for another late-season surge from him, I’d recommend trying to unload him.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)