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.
- The time has come. As I mentioned last week, this will be the final entry of Hitter List for the 2021 season. With just over three weeks left in the regular season, most of you are already well into your playoff matchups, and with so few games remaining, there’s only so much I can still really offer in the way of meaningful player analysis going forward. Literally anything can happen over these final few weeks. Frank Schwindel can post a higher wOBA than Juan Soto. Pete Alonso can steal more bases than Adalberto Mondesí. As the season winds down, entropy begins to reign. Now is the time of monsters. That said, as your offensive strategy becomes whittled down to “pick up the hottest hitters with the best matchups,” there are some things you can look to for an edge. Ben Palmer’s weekly “Hitters to Start and Avoid” articles are an excellent resource. And I’ve also gone through every team’s remaining schedule and highlighted what team matchups I think could be beneficial or detrimental for each team’s hitters:
Dark green indicates a strong matchup for hitters, and dark red indicates a tough matchup for hitters, with yellow as neutral. There are also light-green and light-red matchups. I’ve taken into account how each team generally pitches on the road and at home, so you’ll notice that there are some differences based on where the games are taking place. The Mets, for example, tend to pitch well at home, but are pretty mediocre on the road. Cincinnati struggles at home, but pitches pretty well on the road.
Some teams with favorable matchups over the final weeks include the Dodgers (as if they needed any help), the Brewers, and Cleveland. In contrast, the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Tigers have some of the toughest stretches. A lot of this is going to be influenced by who each team’s starters are during their respective series, so this is far from perfect. But at the very least I hope it’s something you can refer to as an extra bit of information when considering free agent pickups or planning out weekly lineups.
- I got a little pushback for ranking Adalberto Mondesí as high as I did earlier in the season, and considering his struggles to stay on the field this year, it was totally warranted. However, my argument has always been that if he’s healthy, he possesses one of the most dynamic skillsets in baseball, and can win you your leagues down the stretch. Last year his incredible final month carried me and many others to a H2H championship, and he’s right back at it again this year, swatting five homers, stealing seven bases, and hitting .321 since his activation from the IL. It’s going to be a lot of “fun” debating his value entering 2022, as rostering him has consistently been equal parts maddening and sublime.
- At one point in the year, after seeing that Josh Bell was once again struggling to keep the ball off the ground, I essentially wrote him off completely. And while the 53% groundball rate and 27% Sweet Spot rate this year are very discouraging for anyone hoping he can reclaim the superstar form he displayed in 2019, he’s actually managed to avoid letting it completely tank his value thanks to one of the best Hard Hit rates (52%) in the league. He’s had his ups and downs–and will continue to as long as his issues elevating the ball stick around. But there aren’t many players who pair elite quality-of-contact with good plate discipline and an ability to avoid strikeouts the way that Bell does. I’m still in love with the raw skills, and considering he’s made the necessary tweak to become an elite bat once before, I’m going to be very tempted to take a late-round flier on him in next season’s drafts.
- It’s fun to come full circle in the final Hitter List of the year by talking about Ian Happ, who I had ranked pretty highly coming into the year. Happ struggled mightily to begin the season, then dealt with a series of injuries, but he’s been making up for lost time recently. Happ has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past month, hitting .321 with nine home runs and two stolen bases. That includes three homers and a .421 average over the past week. Happ is firmly entrenched as the Cubs’ #3 hitter right now, and as I mentioned at the outset, concerns about his passive plate approach and propensity for whiffing can be promptly tossed out the window at this point in the year. He’s performing at an elite level and hitting in a prime spot in the lineup, and that’s all he really needs to do to be a must-add in all formats right now.
- Sometimes you have to read between the lines with player injuries, as not all injuries require an IL stint, and lots of guys play through nagging pains throughout the year. Wil Myers, for example, has been benched fairly regularly throughout the season, oftentimes citing hamstring and knee issues. It’s not enough to give Myers a free pass for what has been a fairly disappointing season, but it is something to store in the back of your mind when evaluating his production and his potential value entering 2022. After being benched pretty liberally for awhile, Myers has been getting more regular at-bats lately at the expense of Tommy Pham, and has been used in the cleanup spot pretty consistently too. While his production has been pretty lackluster over the past week, he’s hitting .289 with four homers over his last 15 games. There’s still a decent all-around fantasy contributor here.
- Over the last 30 days, Frank Schwindel is fifth in baseball in wOBA, just behind Juan Soto. He’s hit .362 with nine homers over that span. I mentioned a few weeks back I didn’t think it was sustainable long-term, because I didn’t wanna get swindled by Schwindel. But he’s looked really solid since he started getting regular playing time. I think over a full season he’d be closer to a .275 hitter with 25-homer pop based on his contact, swing, and quality-of-contact profiles. But again, none of that matters right now. He’s raking, and needs to be rostered.
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. runs about as hot and cold as anyone in the league. This year he produced three months with a wRC+ below 85, and two months with a wRC+ above 130. He’s currently in the middle of one of his heaters, hitting .330 with five homers over his last 30 games. The Toronto lineup is talented enough that he still hasn’t been able to rise much higher than the seventh spot in the order, even with his recent performance. But it has hardly mattered, as he’s been routinely driving in everyone who gets on base ahead of him, with 23 RBI over the past month.
- After a stolen base barrage in August, the speed has fallen off the table for Nicky Lopez, who has just one stolen base over his last 15 games. He’s still been carrying his weight in the batting average department, hitting .286 over the past week, but it’s hard to pinpoint what we can really expect from Lopez going forward beyond that. He’s fully entrenched as the #2 hitter for the Royals, even with Mondesí back, so that bodes well for his run-scoring production. But given his track record, I would not be banking on a ton of steals from him rest-of-season. Consider him a solid source of batting average and runs, and chalk up anything else you get as gravy.
- The knock on Jo Adell in the minors, and during his stint with the Angels in 2020, was that he struck out way too much. Given that, this has been an interesting development:
This dropoff has coincided with a 15-game stretch where he’s hit .302 with two homers and a stolen base. He’s 100% worth scooping up, as there could be a strong finish to 2021 in the offing if this holds up.
- There’s no doubt that Jake Meyers has been a revelation for the Astros this year. He’s hitting .312 with four homers and 21 RBI over just 93 at-bats. The Hard Hit rate (45%) and Sweet Spot rate (41%) are extremely encouraging in an admittedly small sample, and he’s been making the most out of every opportunity he’s been given. It’s the amount of opportunities he’ll get going forward, though, that has me a little hesitant. The Astros have been shuffling their outfield around pretty regularly lately, giving Meyers, Kyle Tucker, and Chas McCormick time in center field. While I think ultimately the team is best-served keeping Meyers in center and sliding Tucker to left field, it’s not totally clear yet that the team intends to do that regularly. It’s never a bad idea to bet on talent, but be prepared for Meyers to be on the bench a few times a week.
- Jeimer Candelario’s performance over the past month has largely fallen off my radar, but he’s been flashing a bit more power than he customarily has over his last 30 games, with five homers and a very solid .282 average. His xwOBA has consistently sat above .370 during that span, and while Detroit has some pretty tough pitching matchups over the final few weeks, Candelario appears to be in a groove and should continue to reap the counting stat benefits of being the team’s cleanup hitter over the final month.
Before I sign off, I just want to thank you all for reading this year. This is my third year writing Hitter’s List, and I feel like you, the reader, have taught me something new and made Hitter List better each and every season. Weekly rankings are, to be frank, an impossible task. Every week I sat down and pored over these rankings for hours, researching recent performance and digging deep on players to try to give you the best rankings that I could. And every week there were things I overlooked, breakouts I didn’t see coming, slumps I wasn’t tuned into. It comes with the territory when trying to keep tabs on hundreds of players. But your support, comments, and questions were always a big help, causing me to reflect on things I might have otherwise never thought about. I guess what I’m trying to say is, there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos, and that’ll be a home run. And so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame.
In all seriousness though, thank you all for reading, and best of luck in the coming weeks. I hope this series was helpful, and don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter with any questions going forward.
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