Hello there, and welcome to Hitter List, where every week throughout the season I’ll be flawlessly ranking the top 150 hitters in baseball.
With about two-and-a-half weeks left in the season, you can throw a lot of your philosophies and feelings about players out the window and try to hone in on guys who are swinging a hot bat. That’s easier said than done, of course. And track record does come into play in some cases–it can be hard to cut bait with a J.D. Martinez knowing what he’s capable of if he starts to get into a groove over the next few weeks. But I’d recommend really trying to get ruthless with your roster decisions right about now.
It’s also not a bad idea to start looking ahead at projected matchups for hitters. There are a couple of writers who have made painstaking and admirable efforts to do just that. One that I personally stumbled upon and found useful can be found in this Twitter thread (shoutout to @RunDMcD for his work). Obviously predicting hitter performances is difficult work, but in leagues that are going to come down to the wire, every little edge can help.
Hitter List Notes
- Injuries/Illnesses/Demotions: Ask not for whom the injury bell tolls; it tolls for literally everyone. Jorge Soler, Eric Hosmer, Teoscar Hernandez, Jose Altuve, Anthony Santander, Max Kepler, Gio Urshela, and JaCoby Jones all hit the IL this week. On the bright side, we got Josh Donaldson, Alex Bregman, Gleyber Torres, and Dylan Moore back. Yay.
- Franmil Reyes refuses to cool down. He hit .400 over the past week, continuing a month of hot hitting that has seen his overall line rise to .313/.377/.527 with eight homers. When you dig around in the numbers, nothing much seems to have changed from last year. He’s striking out a bit less but is still doing most of his damage against fastballs, and the expected stats don’t paint the picture of a slugger who has figured out how to attack other pitch types. He’s also hitting the ball on the ground more than half the time, which may explain why the home run total is slightly lower than you might expect at this point from a guy with 40+ home run power. I know, it’s a lot of knocks for a guy ranked as highly as he is this week. The good news his, his xAVG, xSLG, and xwOBA all line up with their corresponding surface stats, and at this point in the year it’s all about riding the hot hand. Continue to start Reyes with confidence — just don’t bank on this being the new normal heading into 2021.
- It’s been a bit of a lost year for Ketel Marte. The plate discipline disappeared, and he’s not pulling the ball at ideal launch angles the way he was last season, which has caused a precipitous drop in his barrel rate. He’s still hitting for a high average and is a master at avoiding the strikeout. But this is looking very much like the rookie version of Marte, who was pegged as more of a contact-oriented hitter who didn’t have anything close to the pop he flashed during his 2019 breakout. It’s becoming hard not to think that last year might have been an aberration.
- Whit Merrifield has been scuffling hard the last few weeks, hitting just .169 over his last 15 games with one stolen base and no home runs. The counting stats all still look solid thanks to the hot start he had to the year, but he’s looking a bit lost right now. If you’re in need of steals, you may want to consider (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Adalberto Mondesi, who has quietly hit .280 over the past week with a homer and four stolen bases. I’m not even going to pretend to know how exactly Mondesi makes his dreadful peripherals work for him during his hot streaks, but if this is in fact the start of a hot stretch for Mondesi, you’re going to want to get him on your roster. As bad as he’s been, he has the tools to be a big difference-maker down the stretch.
- The great thing about streaky hitters like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is that they can give you weeks of elite production and then, when things start to tail off, you can comfortably cut bait with them in shallower formats. That cooldown period hasn’t shown up yet this year though, as Gurriel is hitting .444 over the past week and .312 over his last 30 games. Like his brother, he’s a bit of a free-swinger that has been making it work thanks to good contact rates both inside and outside the zone. In a full season his power is probably in the 25 home run range, with double-digit speed and a solid average, though getting there will likely be a bit of a roller coaster ride.
- It doesn’t seem like Dylan Moore missed a beat after spending time on the IL the past few weeks, as he has three stolen bases, a home run, and four RBI in his four games since rejoining the Mariners. Hard contact, a prodigious line drive rate, good speed, and an incredibly aggressive approach on the basepaths? Yes, please, I’d like some Moore. He’s definitely been getting some recognition this year, but I’m absolutely looking to him as a potential sleeper in 2021.
- I’ll be honest: I’ve never been a fan of Rhys Hoskins‘ passive, fly ball-heavy approach. In the past he just hasn’t hit the ball hard enough to really make it work long-term, and between the called strikeouts and the ineffectual fly balls and pop-ups, he gave away a lot of at-bats. However, there’s no denying he’s been hitting really well over the past month, and the encouraging thing is that he finally seems to be putting some oomph behind his swings. The pop-ups are still an issue, and I don’t think the batting average will ever be more than mediocre unless he becomes more aggressive, but at the very least he’s making more of those fly balls count. Let’s hope he can finish the year strong.
- It would appear that Andrés Giménez has usurped the Mets’ shortstop gig from Amed Rosario. Giménez is not only a superior defender, but appears to be a more polished hitter as well, hitting .421 over the past week and .309 over his last 81 at-bats. Giménez is a must-add if you’re starved for speed, as he’s managed to swipe seven bags despite very limited playing time to this point, and he should see a big uptick in opportunities in the near future.
- The torrid runs of Robinson Canó, Randall Grichuk, and Kyle Lewis have been losing steam over the past week. I’m not ready to pronounce any of them done based on such a small lull, and Grichuk and Canó have some encouraging peripherals, but consider abandoning ship in redrafts if their cold spells linger much longer.
- The Tigers are a surprisingly fun offense. Victor Reyes, Willi Castro, and Jeimer Candelario are all absolutely on fire right now. Candelario is taking more of an all-fields approach so far this season while hitting more line drives and making A LOT more hard contact. I think that makes his .319 average fairly legit, but considering the lack of fly balls so far, the power might be a bit capped. Castro is sporting a high ground ball rate, an inflated BABIP, and poor plate discipline, so I’m not sure this will work long-term for him, but there’s no harm in enjoying his production while it lasts. Reyes, meanwhile, is looking very legit, adapting an approach that I think fits his speedy skill set really well and should set him up for a 10 HR/20 SB baseline level of production in future years.
- Rowdy Tellez came here to smack baseballs and chew bubble gum; and he’s all out of bubble gum. Tellez has been a one-man wrecking crew over the past month, smacking seven home runs and hitting .305 over his last 30 games. He’s somehow managed to cut his strikeout rate nearly in half this year, as it’s down to just 15.7%, and he’s pairing that elite contact ability with incredibly hard contact. Though he isn’t elevating the ball enough to really tap into his ostensibly high-end power, he’s doing just about everything else right and it’s hard not to buy into this. If the strikeout rate gains stick next year, and he begins elevating the ball a bit more, watch out.
Graphic by JR Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter)