Hello, and welcome back to Hitter List, where every week during the regular season I’ll be sharing updated rankings for the top 150 hitters in baseball. These rankings are geared toward standard, daily, 12-team H2H leagues, as that is typically the most popular fantasy baseball format. They will only factor in the five standard categories: Runs, RBI, Home Runs, Batting Average, and Stolen Bases.
First, let’s get some basics out of the way:
- I would recommend not paying super close attention to the specific ranks of each player, and honing in more on the respective tiers that they’re in. Each tier represents a grouping of players that I think could arguably perform at a similar level, and/or carry similar levels of risk in terms of injury concerns or playing time obstacles. If Player X is ranked at #55 and Player Y is ranked at #65, but they’re in the same tier, it means that I personally like Player X a lot better, but think there’s a valid argument to be made for Player Y performing just as well.
- Player movement (+/-) can be influenced by the movement of players around them in the ranks. You may see a player rise a few spots despite a poor performance, or drop a few spots despite a great performance. This can happen when players above them are moved below them, or vice versa. It could also be the result of injured players returning to the list after coming off the IL, or dropping off the list when they hit the IL. Just something to be conscious of if you see a change that doesn’t initially make a ton of sense.
- Any player currently on the IL or not in the majors is removed from the list.
- Hopefully it goes without saying, but these rankings aren’t an exact science. Every person’s rankings are influenced by their own biases, strategic philosophies, determinations of risk, and projections. It’s why no two rankings are ever exactly alike. My way of evaluating and ranking players has worked out well for me over the years, but it might not be a great fit for you. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and that what makes the game so fun. Please keep that in mind before eviscerating my fragile mental health in the comments.
And now a couple of notes on how I generally evaluate hitters before we dive in:
- I’ve typically weighed stolen bases pretty heavily, but I’ve gradually learned to value the stat less and less over the years. I’m hoping to continue to move in that direction this year, with one caveat: I still think players with truly elite speed (e.g. Trea Turner and Adalberto Mondesí) are worth their weight in gold. As stolen bases have plummeted in recent years, and previous world-class speedsters like Mallex Smith, Dee Strange-Gordon, and Jonathan Villar currently find themselves with declining skillsets and/or no path to full-time at-bats, players who can swipe 30+ bags have become a true rarity. Getting that kind of stolen base output from one lineup slot allows you so much more flexibility in how you put together the rest of your team, and I think that can really give you an edge when it comes to roster construction.
- Batted ball quality is huge for me (as I’m sure it is for most people). Every year the industry takes further strides in how it evaluates contact quality and its relationship with launch angle. Looking at quality of contact in conjunction with a hitter’s plate discipline, contact ability, spray charts, and batted ball tendencies is really where the meat of my player analysis tends to take place.
- Considering the format that these rankings cater towards (standard 12-team H2H), I generally think streaming catchers is a viable strategy, and as a result I’m a bit lower than most on the mid-tier options. That said, a catcher like J.T. Realmuto is essentially in a tier of his own, and as a result I think rostering him gives you a significant edge over your competitors. With this position in particular, I weigh ceiling significantly more than floor.
- I hate kids. As exciting as it is to own a young prospect right as he’s breaking out, I’ve found that trying to pinpoint which prospect will take off and when is a complete crapshoot, and can oftentimes result in spending a lot of playing time and FAAB on young players who don’t return much value. As a result, I tend to lean towards veteran hitters with longer track records.
- If you’d like input on a player or have any feedback, your best bet is to reach out to me on Twitter (@JonMetzelaar). I try my best to respond to comments here, but Twitter is much more accessible for me, and the best place to get in touch for time-sensitive questions.
- At this point in the year, the top couple of tiers are pretty well set. There may be some shuffling around as hitters get hot or cold, or injuries crop up, but for the most part anyone who has demonstrated elite hitting ability to this point is a pretty safe bet rest-of-season. Where the real meat is over the final month is identifying hot hitters on the waiver wire that you can stream, especially in H2H formats, so expect lots of movement in the bottom half of the list in the coming weeks.
- Though Trevor Story has been rather disappointing this year for those who drafted him in the first or second round, he’s still within reach of a 20/20 season, and a hot September could pull the overall numbers up to the point where he’s still a palatable early-round option in next year’s drafts. This Story is hard to read (sorry), given that many of his peripherals are in line with what he’s done in recent years. He’s just struggled to square up the ball this year, as evidenced by his career-low Sweet Spot rate, which has likely contributed to the spike in the number of groundballs he’s produced. We saw something similar with Jorge Soler this season–good peripherals, but an inability to consistently square up on pitches. Soler’s timing has seemingly improved lately, so here’s hoping Story can incorporate a similar fix.
- Having the tools is one thing when it comes to prospects, but often the biggest key to success with young players is the ability to quickly adapt to Major League pitching. We’re seeing that with Wander Franco, who was slow out of the gate but has put together a .297/.359/.475 triple slash over his last 30 games. His strikeout rate continues to trend downwards, and he’s showcasing advanced plate discipline for a player his age, reaching base in 25 straight games. He hasn’t flashed that 89th-percentile sprint speed yet, and the power is still a bit underwhelming. It’s also worth mentioning his extreme platoon splits (.983 OPS vs. lefties, .646 OPS vs. righties) and the fact that he’s performed quite a bit better on the road thus far. But these are all nitpicks that will likely be ironed out in the very near future, as Franco has clearly demonstrated an ability to make quick adjustments.
- Speaking of hot 30-game stretches, Luke Voit has hit .292 with five homers and 23 RBI over the past month, taking full advantage of the playing time created when Anthony Rizzo went down. It’s not really a question of talent with Voit; it all comes down to health. Even during his torrid 2020 season where he led the majors in home runs, he played through a foot injury that made even jogging difficult. With Rizzo back in the fold, playing time becomes a bit of a question mark now too. The Yankees could theoretically move Voit to DH and roll with an outfield of Gallo, Stanton, and Judge. And perhaps Voit will force the issue. But he was already absent from the lineup yesterday, and it’s definitely a situation to monitor.
- Christian Yelich always bore a vague resemblance to McLovin’, but why he decided to lean into the comparison over the past year and display similar athletic prowess to McLovin’ is a mystery. Yelich has looked vaguely more Yelich-like recently, slashing .304/.333/.464 over his past 15 games with two homers and a stolen base. And I know how badly we’d like to believe this is the start of something. But I think we may be jumping the gun in much the same way we were with Bellinger a few weeks back. Even during this hot streak, Yelich’s xwOBA isn’t peaking close to where it had been even earlier this season, and while there’s an encouraging Hard Hit rate spike recently, his Sweet Spot rate remains below-average, capping the potential for those hard-hit balls to do much damage. Be happy for the uptick in offensive output, but don’t bank on it continuing.
- Ty France may be the only France on earth that doesn’t surrender when things are looking grim. Sorry, I know, that’s a tired joke, but I’m secretly jealous of any country that has universal healthcare and values cheese the way that France does. Anyway, back to my point: after a recurring wrist injury tanked France’s early-season production and seemingly sapped him of his power, he seems to finally have gotten back to where he was a few months ago when the future looked so, so bright:
That’s a very nice recovery after the big, injury-related dip, and over his last 30 games he’s slashing an absurd .339/.382/.570 with seven home runs. The contact ability is legit, and France wrings the most out of his borderline mediocre power by squaring up the ball a ton (36.7% Sweet Spot). He’s very selective with his swings, attacking pitches in the zone at an above-average rate, and that really helps him produce at a level above what his Statcast page might imply. He should be owned in all formats right now.
- The Joey Gallo Experience at Yankee Stadium has been quite a disappointment to this point. It’s still very early, but through 54 plate appearances in the Bronx he’s hitting just .156 with two home runs and a near-50% strikeout rate. This is the risk you run with Gallo–huge hot and cold swings and a batting average that could potentially settle around .210 and crater your team. He’s still a potentially league-winning weapon, but he probably belongs on your bench for now until he starts showing some signs of life.
- We mentioned a few months back, pre-rib injury, that Andrew Benintendi was posting the best Hard Hit rate of his career at 43.7%. Some injuries and a long cold spell put the damper on things, but Benintendi has started crushing again lately, hitting .393 over the past week. His Hard Hit rate has been sitting above 50% (!) during that span, and while the home runs and stolen bases haven’t reappeared yet, we should start to see those trickle in over the coming weeks. He’s a very solid all-around option for those who need some pop and speed with a decent batting average.
- Amed Rosario is hitting .352 with three homers and four stolen bases in the second half. And this is a man who is no stranger to hot second halves; he hit .319 with six homers and nine stolen bases during the second half of 2019. Call it a fluke, but there’s no doubting Rosario’s raw tools. He’s flashing 98th-percentile sprint speed and a career-best 42% Hard Hit rate. Unfortunately those raw tools are still exactly that: raw. Rosario only occasionally attempts stolen bases, and his groundball rate still sits above 50%, capping his power potential. He’s still a very useful all-around hitter, but there’s clearly potential for much, much more than he’s given.
- Charlie Blackmon has underperformed a lot of his expected stats for most of the season, so it’s been nice to see him finally break through over the past month, hitting .299 with four homers over his last 30 games. A career-worst 49% groundball rate isn’t helping his production, but his power hasn’t quite waned to the point where he projects as a below-average power hitter over a full season, and he’s still flashing excellent whiff (17%) and strikeout (12%) rates. You can likely depend on Blackmon to keep this level of production up rest-of-season, and he should be a great source of batting average for those in need.
- Anthony Santander has gone from being totally unrosterable to one of the best power-hitters in baseball over the past month, slugging eight homers over his last 30 games (including three this past week). Santander is showcasing some of the best power (43.5% Hard Hit) of his career right now, and doing it while squaring up the ball at an elite level (37% Sweet Spot). He’s still a bit of a free-swinger, but what he’s been doing over the past few weeks points to him likely being healthy once again, and seems mostly sustainable.
- Aledmys Díaz has put on a clinic while filling in for Alex Bregman, hitting .341 with five homers over 124 plate appearances. Bregman’s return seems to be on the horizon unfortunately, though the Astros have put Díaz in left field in recent days, possibly in an attempt to keep his bat in the lineup. His long-term value is a bit dampened due to the playing time concerns, but I wouldn’t be cutting bait until we see how things play out upon Bregman’s return.
- Adalberto who? Nicky Lopez has swiped 10 bags so far during the second half while hitting a cool .311. I wouldn’t expect the batting average to hold up, but he’s an excellent source of cheap speed in a pinch. Jorge Mateo is another name worth considering for those in need of a stolen base boost. He’s hitting .353 since joining the Orioles, and while he only has a handful of steals at the moment, he’s one of the fastest players in the game right now by sprint speed.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)
Did Kelenic drop off? He was 103 last week.
Yeah–I had some faith that a recent swing change he made might result in better offensive output, but he’s looked awful lately and we’re at the point in the year where it’s better to play the hot hand than chase the potential ceiling of guys who aren’t currently performing.