Hitter List 8/12: 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 very, very weird for a lot of different reasons. Most notable is that just 60 regular season games are 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 has implemented the DH this year, and COVID-19 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.

With that said, here are a few general philosophies I try to follow when ranking players:

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Veterans vs. Prospects: 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.

 

  • Underlying Stats: 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: 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.

 

  • Formats: 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.

 

  • Player Movement: 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

 

 

  • Let’s talk about Fernando Tatis Jr., who has picked up right where he left off last season. Coming into the year, it was a commonly held belief that the level of production he showed in 2019 wasn’t sustainable, but that he was still a really good hitter. A lot of attention was focused on how he whiffed a lot last year, and was overperforming a lot of his expected stats. Well that’s all still the case in 2020, to some degree. The difference now is that even those expected stats are otherworldly. We’re talking an xSLG of .659. We’re talking an xwOBACON of .609–over 50% higher than the league average. Lots of these developments are thanks in large part to an astronomical increase in his quality of contact, as he’s posting a 97.6 mph average exit velocity (!!!) at the moment. There are additional reasons to be intrigued too. He’s elevating the ball nearly twice as much, whiffing significantly less, and chasing pitches outside the zone less often than he did in 2019. In retrospect, it may have been foolish to think that a 20-year-old who took the league by storm last season wouldn’t be able to grow his game even further this year. But it appears that that’s exactly what is happening. Tatis Jr. is a superstar.

 

  • It’s tough to know what to do with George Springer right now. He’s missed the last several games with a wrist injury, had been nursing a knee injury prior, and just hasn’t looked like the 2019 version of himself when he’s been on the field. The fact that he’s avoided an IL stint to this point seems encouraging, but wrist injuries can sap a hitter’s power. I’m not doing anything too drastic yet, but I’d probably be shopping him if I can get something like an 85% return on his value.

 

  • Shohei Ohtani makes his triumphant return to this list this week. He dropped off primarily as a result of his forearm strain, which I assumed was either going to result in an IL stint or impact his offensive production. Well he’s been in the lineup every day since, and doesn’t seem to be showing any lingering effects, hitting .318 with two homers and a stolen base so far in August. The fact that he’s been shut down from pitching may actually be a boon to his hitter value, as the Angels won’t need to rest him as regularly. With the potential to contribute in every offensive category, I’d be pouncing on Ohtani if anyone in your league panic-dropped him the way that I did in last week’s rankings.

 

  • I got some flack for having Mark Canha ranked as low as I did last week, and that criticism was 100% valid. I wrote Canha’s 2019 season off as a fluke, mostly because he had been in the league so long and been a thoroughly mediocre bat in seasons prior. But the fact is, he seems to have made a real improvement to his plate discipline and quality of contact that has carried over into 2020, and he’s hitting in the middle of what should be a potent Oakland offense. I’m still not sure the batting average ever gets to the point where it’s helping you out much, but he should be a counting stat machine with decent pop.

 

  • The big bump for Ian Happ is a byproduct of my overlooking him to this point as well. In the same vein as Canha, I was too quick to write off the changes he appears to have made this year on account of how many times Happ had let me down in the past. But there really does appear to be something here with Happ. His Hard Hit rate currently ranks in the 97th percentile, and he’s doing that while striking out less than he ever has–not a combination you see happen very often. He’s also hitting a ton of line drives right now and seems to be a lot more selective at the plate. With less than 50 plate appearances of data to go off of, it’s hard to make too many proclamations. But if he keeps this up, this could be a big breakout for him.

 

  • I wasn’t a big fan of Gleyber Torres coming into the season, as his underlying numbers didn’t support the kind of season he had last year. Unfortunately, those underlying numbers don’t look all that different this season, and he’s also not making the same quality of contact he was last year. The result has been a painfully slow start to the year. Things can change quickly, but I’m not hopeful based on what we’ve seen so far.

 

  • Jo Adell has looked a bit overmatched during his very brief debut in the majors. I’m still holding for another week or so, and think anyone who rosters him should too. There’s too much talent here to give up after such a brief look. But it’s still probably prudent to temper your expectations.

 

  • Super Benintendo? More like Benintendo 0-for-64. Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Andrew Benintendi has been really, really, really bad this year. Like, four hits all season bad. His strikeout rate has continued to rise as his Hard Hit rate has continued to plummet, and coming off a really disappointing 2019, I think I’m abandoning ship. It’s bizarre to watch a talented young hitter inexplicably fall apart over the course of a year and a half, and I really don’t know what could have precipitated this.

 

  • Three guys with really nice Statcast numbers to start the year make their appearance on the list this week: Dylan Moore, Jake Cronenworth, and Anthony SantanderNone of them are spring chickens–Santander is the youngest at 25. But they’ve all been making really good contact thus far while not striking out at a prohibitively high clip. Neither Moore nor Cronenworth seem to officially have full-time jobs, though they have been playing their way into more at-bats this past week. Because Santander is both the youngest and has the longest track record of success, I’m ranking him the highest of the bunch. With him hitting second in a surprisingly decent Baltimore lineup, I could see him racking up good counting stats while hitting .275 with above-average power. Moore has also found himself hitting second in the lineup with regularity, and has flashed some speed early, so he’s also worth a look in most formats. I like what I’ve seen from Cronenworth, but based on his minor league track record I’m not sure how much pop or speed he can provide, and his playing time picture is murkier.

 

  • Jesus Aguilar has looked like the 2018 version of himself so far this year, and has cut down drastically on the strikeouts in the early going. With a prime spot in the Marlins lineup and some apparent swing tweaks having taken place, Aguilar is looking like a nice, cheap source of power and RBI at first base.

 

 

Rank Hitter Position Change
1Mike TroutT1OF-
2Christian YelichOF-
3Ronald AcunaOF-
4Mookie Betts
T2
OF
+1
5Cody Bellinger1B, OF-1
6Trevor StorySS+1
7Francisco Lindor
T3
SS
-1
8Trea TurnerSS-
9Nolan Arenado3B-
10Fernando Tatis Jr.SS+5
11Jose Ramirez3B-
12Juan SotoOF-
13J.D. MartinezDH-3
14Freddie Freeman
T4
1B
-1
15Ketel Marte2B, OF-1
16Anthony Rendon3B-
17Javier BaezSS+1
18Nelson CruzDH+1
19Aaron JudgeOF, DH+7
20Charlie BlackmonOF+3
21Alex Bregman3B, SS-1
22Starling MarteOF-
23Xander BogaertsSS+1
24Yoan Moncada3B+1
25Bryce HarperOF+3
26Keston Hiura
T5
2B
+3
27Austin MeadowsOF, DH+4
28Nick CastellanosOF+11
29Rafael Devers3B-12
30Tommy PhamOF-
31Jose Altuve2B+1
32Pete Alonso1B+2
33Eugenio Suarez3B+2
34Jose Abreu1B, DH+2
35Anthony Rizzo
T6
1B
+6
36Marcell OzunaOF+6
37Bo BichetteSS+9
38Adalberto MondesiSS-5
39Luis RobertOF+4
40Eloy JimenezOF, DH-
41Paul Goldschmidt1B-4
42Ramon LaureanoOF-4
43Matt Olson1B, DH+1
44George SpringerOF-23
45Whit Merrifield2B, OF+5
46DJ LeMahieu1B, 2B, 3B+5
47Manny Machado3B, SS-2
48Josh Bell1B-1
49Kris Bryant3B, OF-
50Marcus SemienSS+4
51J.T. RealmutoC+4
52Max Muncy1B, 2B, 3B+4
53J.D. Davis3B, OF+6
54Jorge SolerOF, DH+4
55Matt Chapman3B+2
56Shohei OhtaniDH+UR
57Jonathan Villar2B, SS-5
58Jeff McNeil2B, 3B, OF+3
59Michael Conforto
T7
OF
+4
60Carlos CorreaSS+8
61Eddie RosarioOF+4
62Joey GalloOF, DH-
633B+1
64Tim AndersonSS+UR
65Victor RoblesOF-12
66Gleyber Torres2B, SS-18
67Kyle SchwarberOF-1
68Michael BrantleyOF-1
69Justin Turner3B+3
70Dansby SwansonSS+3
713B+8
72Jorge PolancoSS+4
73Cavan Biggio2B, OF+4
74Yuli Gurriel1B, 3B+7
75Corey SeagerSS-1
76Gary SanchezC, DH-7
77Max Kepler
T8
OF
+6
78Trent GrishamOF+9
79Wil MyersOF+10
80Willson ContrerasC+5
81Franmil ReyesOF, DH-3
82Tommy Edman2B, 3B, OF-2
83Yasmani GrandalC-8
84Christian Walker1B+15
85Byron BuxtonOF+7
86Luke Voit1B, DH-
87Carlos Santana1B-5
88Miguel Sano3B-4
89Mitch GarverC-18
90Elvis AndrusSS-
91Brandon Lowe
T9
2B
+3
92Alex VerdugoOF+6
93Hunter Dozier3B, OF, DH+UR
94Mark Canha1B, OF+50
95Ian Happ+51
96Mike YastrzemskiOF+13
97David DahlOF-4
98Nick SenzelOF-2
992B, OF+8
100Amed RosarioSS-3
101Salvador PerezC-1
102Shin-Soo ChooOF, DH-7
103Adam Eaton
T10
OF
-2
104Jean SeguraSS+1
105Bryan ReynoldsOF-1
106Eric Hosmer1B+UR
107Teoscar HernandezOF, DH+5
108Jesus Aguilar1B+27
109Didi GregoriusSS+4
110Kyle LewisOF+10
111Avisail GarciaOF, DH-1
112Hunter RenfroeOF+2
113Andrew BenintendiOF-22
114Kyle TuckerOF-6
115Jo AdellOF-27
116Khris DavisDH-10
117Anthony SantanderOF+UR
118Eduardo Escobar2B, 3B-2
119Will SmithC+5
120Edwin Encarnacion1B, DH-18
121Donovan Solano2B+16
122Daniel Murphy1B, DH+7
123Dylan Moore1B, OF+UR
124Colin Moran3B-13
125Rhys Hoskins1B-7
126Wilson RamosC-5
127Oscar MercadoOF-5
128Luis Arraez2B-2
129Joc PedersonOF, DH-1
130Ryan BraunOF+UR
131Mike TauchmanOF+UR
132Domingo Santana
T11
OF, DH
-9
133Mallex SmithOF-14
134Howie Kendrick1B, 2B+13
135Brian Anderson3B, OF+10
136Cesar Hernandez2B-4
137Scott Kingery3B, OF-34
138Jake Cronenworth1B, 2B+UR
139Yandy Diaz3B, DH-12
140Carter Kieboom3B-7
141Kole CalhounOF+UR
142Aaron HicksOF-3
143Victor ReyesOF+UR
144Rougned Odor2B-14
145Sam HilliardOF-5
146Andres Gimenez2B, SS+UR
147Shogo AkiyamaOF-30
148Ryan McMahon1B-5
149Austin HaysOF-7
150Clint FrazierOF+UR

 

Graphic by JR Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter)

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer, content manager, and podcaster with Pitcher List. 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 theKraken says:

    Statcast provide zero insight. The flukes are just as fluky as they have always been. Statcast validates fluky performances the same way everything else does. Few can project as well as I can and I could care less about all of that junk. That said, let’s talk rankings.

    Everyone who is truly special defies the models and I think Tatis is one of those guys. Happ has always been a big leaguer but the Cubs have always been really bad at knowing what they have.

    Back to overvaluing Trea Turner again. Doing it on an annual basis makes it worse! Don’t look now but that is a goose egg in the SB column with 3 CS. The BB rate is sinking as well. I mean I like him.. just not at what he costs.

    Blackmon is the hottest hitter on the planet right now. I think Nellie Cruz should actually be higher – at some point in the past few years he became one of the very best hitters in the game.

    I don’t think Meadows belongs that high or even close. I think Tommy Pham’s best part of his season is behind him – don’t forget that he is always an extreme injury risk.

    Matt Olson is not hitting at all this year. All he does is walk and hit HR which is a decent combo but I think a team can do better. I guess it depends on the needs.

    I don’t know why you are not a lot higher on Whit. He seems like your type of guy.

    I am skeptical that Bichette is a better fantasy player than DJL.

    Swanson’s hot start has already worn off.

    Schwarber doesn’t belong in that tier. Biggio is not a good hitter either. In the real world, those are bad players and both should not be everyday players. Both are excellent examples of a computer overvaluing that skill set which is a real-life liability. Walks are more valuable on paper and the inability to have any consistency hurts a team a lot. The dry spells and sink on AVG make them a bit undesirable.

    If Seager is healthy he is tier 3… but I don’t know that he is healthy right now.

    Franmil is lucky to get ABs.

    You know I am the community Sano advocate but I think he looks pretty washed up.

    Bryan Reynolds looks a lot like a pumpkin at the moment.

    Yaz probably should be way up the list.

    Amed Rosario doesn’t deserve that placement.

    I took a deep dive on Dylan Moore and I can’t find a reason to think anything he is doing is sustainable.

    Dee Gordon is better than Mallex Smith. He isn’t roster worthy.

    Hilliard has been replaced by Matt Kemp, who probably has a legit argument at the back of the list. He hits right behind the heart of the order in a great ballpark. Am I really advocating for him? No.

    Guys maybe worth adding… that is a tough job and I thank you for the work that goes into this. I think Maikel Franco probably belongs at the moment as does AJ Pollock. Mike Trout is looking so locked in that the guys hitting in front of him are getting value. Of course lineup protection doesn’t exist because Fangraphs says it doesn’t but I am stubborn. Thanks again for the work – you have the tough job.

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Always enjoy seeing your input, glad to see you’re back this year.

      Each tier really represents guys that I think could return similar value, so I definitely don’t disagree with a lot of your points here. The only thing I’d probably push back on is Trea Turner, since I’m so smitten with him :) . He had a really great year last season despite missing over a month of the season, and I think his track record should afford him some patience in the SB category.

      Thanks again for reading and sharing your feedback.

      • Avatar theKraken says:

        Yeah.. I am kind of back. Not as into it this year but I really love talking hitter rankings – even more prospects but this isn’t that community. Glad to see you are back at it as well. I am chair of the lower Trea Turner club haha. That is a problem with Trea is that he is hurt a lot. Out of respect for your fandom I will give it a rest. I was pretty surprised to see him that high but I am over the initial shock now.

        • Avatar Pops says:

          What do you mean when you say, “Franmil Reyes is lucky to be getting AB’s?”

        • Avatar Pops says:

          Also, while I agree with you that Statcast isn’t the end all, be all tool to analyze a player… their metrics are helpfully in figuring out who’s hitting the ball hard, and who’s not. If a guy is barreling the baseball and it’s leaving the bat at speeds in the 90th percentile, he someone that I want on my team, or at least on my radar. “Hit the ball hard and good things will happen” is some that I can recall my own coaches saying, and Statcast can certainly validate that.

  • Avatar theKraken says:

    Honestly, I don’t really like publicly airing sleepers – I would rather own them but I am kind of jumping in on Pedro Severino as a super cheap C that might give you some decent production. Its a situation to monitor.

  • Avatar Kevin M says:

    How far off is David Fletcher? I don’t know how sustainable his hot start is but curious if he was under consideration for a spot. Thanks for a great list!

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Thanks for reading! Honestly, the whole bottom tier is full of Hail Marys, so I’d be fine with substituting lots of players in there, including Fletcher. He’s a great resource for AVG and R, but with no pop and not much speed I think his ceiling is probably capped somewhere in the 120-130 range. Similar skillset to an Arraez or Solano.

  • Avatar Pops says:

    You’ve got Tim Anderson listed as OF / DH. He’s the White Sox shortstop, as you probably are aware. What do you think of Trent Grisham as a dynasty assets? Picked him up as a smaller piece in a bigger deal.

    • Avatar Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Thanks for the heads up, just went in and tried to fix some of the positional info.

      I like Grisham quite a bit. Very similar to Cavan Biggio actually–good pop and speed and great plate discipline, but takes a lot of called strikes which will likely result in a high strikeout rate and a diminished batting average. Still, I see 20/20+ potential, and hitting second in that lineup with his on-base skills should result in lots of counting stats.

  • Avatar Johnny C says:

    Is this list based on ROTO or just a general list? If it is based on ROTO would you consider ranking based on points? Seeing as that is the way most people seem to play nowadays.

    Last thing, no Jesse Winker on this list?! Guy can hit!

  • Avatar Ross says:

    Here’s a hail mary guy for the end of the list. Yes, it’s one-time disappointment Garrett Hampson. He appears to just be the Rockies leadoff hitter now. Hitting for average, collecting runs, and swiping bases. We’ll see if it sticks though.

  • Avatar Armadillofury says:

    What about LaStella? Good plate discipline, great bat to ball skills and decent power. He should contribute in all categories but SB’s. Statcast validates his breakout since 2019 (.301 xBA and .495 xSLUG in 2019, .306 xBA and .476 xSLUG so far this season). He’s genuinely good hitter unlike some of the guys the guys on this list who haven’t even proved they can hit big league pitching (Adell) or have an established track record of being atrocious hitters (Odor). He’s been hitting in the #2 spot lately as well.

  • Avatar Meat says:

    How the heck is Mallex Smith on this list but guys like David Fletcher and Kyle Seager aren’t. Mallex is one of the worst hitters in all of baseball!

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