Every week during the season, we are releasing a list of the best batters in fantasy baseball that’s designed to be similar to Nick’s list of Top 100 Starting Pitchers that comes out each Monday. Our objective is to give you the most current rankings of who we see as being the top 150 hitters league-wide for the rest of the season. They take into account expectations going into the season and production to this point, as well as recurring trends and streaks, as a way of analytically extrapolating who will bring you the most fantasy dividends throughout the year. Use these rankings to help understand what to expect from batters for all of 2017 and as a tool to gauge trade value in your fantasy leagues.
Note: These rankings have been made with H2H 5×5 12-teamers in mind. They do not take games played on 7/4 into account.
- Freddie Freeman is back!!! We just got the news earlier today that he would be reactivated far sooner than expected, and the lateral move over to the hot corner is real. Matt Adams has been doing a great job at 1B, so Freeman will man 3B for Atlanta. He’s healthy but may take a period of adjustment to get back in the swing of things, no pun intended. When he fractured his wrist back in May, he was a legitimate top-10 fantasy asset. I have him at No. 16 for the moment. So, essentially, a huge promotion from where he was sitting ROS with the injury last week, but conservative enough to account for what may be a necessary grace period to get up to speed.
- Trea Turner, meanwhile, suffered a wrist fracture of his own and will be out until probably the end of August. He still has value as a steals monster and productive scorer in Washington’s robust lineup, but he’s only going to be able to help you for the playoffs, essentially. He’s seen a big demotion because a month of work isn’t much compared to guys that will be mashing through July and August.
- A.J. Pollock (groin) should be back next week. He’s going to be a beast as usual upon returning healthy, so get ready. Same kind of good news regarding Mike Trout, who’s due to start a rehab assignment with High-A Inland Empire in the next week or so. Their value is still going to matter in a resounding way as the second half commences.
- Zack Cozart (quad) is back as well. He has been exceptional for Cincy this year, and I like him to keep enjoying a high-average and fantasy-relevant season.
- Eric Thames has been awful over the last month-plus. He’s nosedived in the rankings because we’re almost at the halfway point of baseball in 2017, and he needs to turn it around to stay fantasy relevant now despite his amazing work back in April.
- Adrian Beltre is inching upward. I’m paying attention to what he’s doing, I promise. When you lose so much time on the DL, it’s hard to devalue what guys have been doing since the jump above him. I’m well aware he is a phenomenal fantasy play, but he’s got to earn his stats and climb back up the old-fashioned way.
- Falling out of the Top 150—with their previously held rank in parentheses—are Aledmys Diaz (117), Odubel Herrera (125), Kyle Schwarber (133), and Aaron Hicks (134).
- Diaz was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday. He wasn’t having a wretched season by any stretch: .260 average, 30 runs, 20 RBI and seven HRs with four SB. However, he’d admittedly not been very productive over the last month, and my thought is that the Cardinals are hoping the sabbatical in the minors is the kind of kick in the pants for Diaz as it was for the now-resurgent Randal Grichuk. I’d certainly expect to see him back in St. Louis within the month, if I had to guess. Until then, he’s taking a break from being a viable MLB fantasy asset on the Hitter List.
- Herrera has just kind of not lived up to expectation. When your counting stats for runs/RBI are middling around 30 at the midpoint of the season, one would hope that your batting average or steals are making up for your inefficiencies on the scoreboard. With Herrera, that is simply not the case. Five HRs, five steals and a .251 average over 307 at-bats just isn’t elite fantasy stuff in the slightest.
- Schwarber was sent down to Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, which makes sense because he’s been abysmal with Chicago this year. Similar to Herrera with his run and RBI numbers, but 12 homers have sweetened the deal…until you look at the .171 batting average and recoil in disgust. No steals for your trouble. Joe Maddon knows how to run a ball club well, so I trust that he’s doing what he feels benefits both his team and Schwarber’s ability to snap out of his funk. Until Schwarber returns and poses value to a fantasy roster, he’s damn sure not going to be present on a Top 150 list.
- Hicks has been on the DL for over a week, and I basically just dread how finnicky oblique injuries are to properly recover from. Plus, Jacoby Ellsbury and recent callup Clint Frazier now have opportunities to carve themselves out some playing time in Hicks’ absence.
- Making a fresh appearance on the Hitter List are Whit Merrifield (132), Orlando Arcia (140), Manuel Margot (145), and Todd Frazier (148).
- Merrifield was not worth a fantasy thought three months ago when he failed to make the Opening Day roster with the Royals. But he has since earned his way back up and solidified his hold on the starting job at 2B. Merrifield has amassed 29 runs, 31 RBI, six homers and 12 steals so far this year, making for a moderately appealing fantasy résumé with its versatility. He owns a .290 batting average as well, so that’s a feather in your cap if you happen to own him.
- Arcia was supposed to be a low-average, mid-range power, cheap steals kind of guy while playing short for Milwaukee this year. Instead, he boasts a .295 average to go along with 33 runs scored, 28 RBI, eight homers and five SB. Similar take as what was said above about Merrifield with regard to the run production: not dynamite, but also not a glaring and lopsided discrepancy. Arcia has been playing so well in between Travis Shaw and Eric Sogard that the infield has collectively forced former fantasy superstar Jonathan Villar out of a starting job for the time being.
- Margot had a great start to the season as a dynamic hitter and ballsy baserunner for San Diego, but a calf injury plagued him for a month and his DL stint cut into his fantasy stock ROS a bit. So while he hasn’t been on the List recently, Margot has been killing it since his reactivation: 10-23, six runs, one HR, four RBI and four steals have rounded out his week of work. He’s worth a grab for sure.
- Oh, Todd Frazier, how you toy with my tender emotions. I’m giving the Toddfather another shot at membership in the Top 150, in spite of the fact that every time I’ve done so this season he’s then gone on to slump and be woefully ineffective for fantasy purposes. Over the last 15 days, he’s batting .279 with nine runs, four jacks and nine RBI. The .217 average overall is still rough, but Frazier appears *knock on wood* to be exhibiting some consistency at the dish lately. He’s hit 15 homers on the year and has tossed in four steals for good measure.
- As referenced with previous editions of the Hitter List, Pittsburgh OF Starling Marte is due back from his 80-game suspension for PED use in the middle of July, which is coming up with a quickness. He offers considerable fantasy value over the second half of the 2017 season, given his top-20 positioning before the suspension took effect. Marte’s spot in the rankings is rising leading up to his reinstatement to the Pirates’ 25-man roster. I see him having roughly a ceiling of Top 50 right now because of the time constraints on what he can do ROS, but that could change and is a very difficult thing to calculate before we see how he performs.
Ian Happ has Ian Kinsler’s “best” and “worst” values, FY