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.
Also, as a heads up, with the All-Star break being upon us, very little is going to happen in the way of regular season gameplay in the coming week. With that in mind, the fantasy landscape isn’t going too change much, so there will not be a new edition of the Hitter List next Tuesday. Check back on July 25 for a list that takes the initial games of the second half into account. Thanks for reading!
- Our Fantasy Baseball Lord & Savior, Mike Trout, will make his return to the Angels after successfully convalescing from surgery on a torn thumb ligament. He played in four rehab assignment games with High-A Inland Empire, and there were no issues. With ridiculous athletes like Trout, when they say the layoff from such an injury will be 5-7 weeks, we should learn to take the under at this point. I’ve promoted Trout back up the list into the No. 2 spot beneath current occupant of pole position, Paul Goldschmidt. The ROS projections for what they each could and should accomplish are startlingly similar, and until Trout shows he’s back in the groove of the season, we’ll leave the presiding Goldy in his deserved station atop the fantasy food chain…for now.
- A.J. Pollock (groin) has also returned to full health and should be considered a cross-category beast all over again. It’s obviously a standing issue for him to stay at 100%, but as long as that is the case, fire him up and respect his production as Arizona’s leadoff hitter. With the rest the All-Star break is going to offer, I don’t imagine the Diamondbacks will need to be as cautious managing his starts and workload too carefully as the second half commences.
- We’ve been talking about it for weeks: Pittsburgh OF Starling Marte is due to be reinstated back from his 80-game suspension for PED use next week. Given his top-20 positioning before the suspension took effect, we’ve slowly promoted him through the Top 150 to what is now a conservative No. 58 spot. 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. I also anticipate a brief period of reacclimation to the flow of the season, but he’s definitely a desirable asset all over again.
- Eric Thames might have finally shaken his slump off. He seemingly turned it around this week with a 5-15, 5 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI effort to close out the first half. Without assuming too much credit for the rebound, Thames is obviously an avid reader of Hitter List, visibly taking the 42-spot demotion last week to heart and then doing what he needed to do to rise six spots this week. /s
- Jonathan Villar may have a window of opportunity with more playing time to redeem himself, as the Brewers placed Eric Sogard on the 10-day DL with an ankle injury. The middle infielder wünderkind had been crushing it since his callup when both Ryan Braun and Villar were absent for a time, to the extent that Villar found himself on the outside looking in when he returned. It was like Cast Away, where Helen Hunt (Milwaukee Brewers) just sort of moves on to a new husband (Sogard) after giving up hope and Tom Hanks (Villar) is just left to say, “Uh, OK, I guess. What the hell?” Anyway, Villar’s got a shot to carve himself back a consistent spot now.
- Eduardo Nunez is slated for reactivation to the San Francisco 25-man roster this coming Friday. He has a rehab game with High-A San Jose tomorrow, and barring any incidents with his hamstring, he should be a go for the weekend series with the Padres. He’s missed three weeks but will be valuable upon his return due to his affinity for stealing bases and registering a high average (currently sitting at .299), but four homers say you can’t expect much power.
- Domingo Santana is my big riser of the week. People are sleeping on what the Milwaukee OF is up to, and I didn’t feel his ranking of No. 81 was commensurate with the work he’s put in. With 54 runs scored, 15 homers, 50 RBI, a .291 average and nine SB, he does not have a single category that’s lacking in value. No clue why he’s only owned in 59.4% of ESPN leagues and 70% of Yahoo leagues. Get there, people.
- Falling out of the Top 150—with their previously held rank in parentheses—are Brian McCann (129), Jose Peraza (129), Austin Hedges (134), Mitch Haniger (136), Welington Castillo (143), Javier Baez (147), Todd Frazier (148), and Mike Zunino (150).
- McCann had an excruciating final month of the first half. He went .222 with seven runs, two homers and 13 RBI. That’s not winning you matchups, that’s for sure. It’s tough picking between him and Evan Gattis at this point, since the latter has a much better average at .284 and more balanced production through 194 at-bats. Meanwhile, McCann only has two more homers for 30 percentage points of average you’re giving up if you opt for him over Gattis. It’s an ugly timeshare on a good team, so while both catchers have fantasy value, it’s sort of a half-hearted recommendation of each of them at this point. Translation? Probably not Top 150 material.
- Peraza isn’t stealing bases anymore, so his limited but specific appeal has dropped off. Fifteen steals sounds awesome, but he’s only swiped one since June 1. A .250s hitter with 31 runs, 26 RBI and four homers who is supposed to compensate for being mediocre in all four of those categories with speed thus does very little for me now.
- Hedges is good, but not great, for fantasy purposes. He’s tapered off over the last couple of weeks, going a horrendous .194 with just two homers over his last 31 AB to conclude the half. I had him as a backup catcher in one league but realized I could use the roster space more effectively by just leaving Willson Contreras plugged in since he pinch-hits frequently when he’s not the starting C; this is a more viable strategy than hoping Hedges would pull it together for a streamed start.
- Haniger batted an anemic .216 during the final 30 days of the season’s first half. He’s a different fantasy player than the one we saw killing it back in April before his DL stint with an oblique injury. Part of me thinks oblique injuries do a number on a guy psychologically, to where his swing mechanics are affected, but that could just be a hunch as I dry my eyes wondering where April Mitch went. Haniger is a useful asset to the Mariners in real life, but he’s not doing a ton for you in this realm of ours right now.
- Castillo’s counting stats through 194 AB are just…blah. He’s batted extremely poorly of late, logging a 2-25 slump going into the break. An eight-homer, .250s hitter with runs and RBI in the 20s at the halfway point—even with DL time—just doesn’t get the job done for me.
- Baez and Frazier aren’t really doing anything terribly wrong to merit emphatic demotion at this point. Like Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green famously said, they are who we thought they were. I’m letting them off the hook because some of the new inductees to the Top 150 are just doing a bit more and pose some positive value that I feel isn’t coming as excitingly from this duo. Frazier has crept into the 40s for runs/RBI and has 16 homers, which is an acceptable pace, but his average is still disappointing; meanwhile, Baez has 10 jacks, a .250s average and runs/RBI in the 30s while other guys are generating more in fewer AB. Value, just not top-150 value.
- Zunino came crashing back down to Earth, as we should have known he would. He slumped hard just like Castillo did, and is the low average and occasional power guy he always has been. Twelve homers and 36 runs are the positives of his résumé, while a .223 average and 25 runs leave something to be desired.
- Making a fresh appearance on the Hitter List are Curtis Granderson (131), Yadier Molina (138), Yuli Gurriel (139), Josh Bell (141), Tommy Pham (143), Scooter Gennett (145), Alex Bregman (148), and Dexter Fowler (149).
- Granderson’s stats sort of crept up on me, if I’m being honest. I had him ranked at No. 144 to start the season, but he got off to kind of a REALLY slow start. In June though, he did well, and suddenly has 42 runs, 13 homers and 37 RBI without me really having noticed. The .232 average is subpar for sure, but I’m willing to give him a shot here. Now this involves perhaps a small amount of risk, since a healthy Michael Conforto (back from the 10-day DL) perhaps relegates Granderson to a backup role since Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes are pretty firmly entrenched in their spots. But Grandy has 263 AB, so we’ll roll with him having playing time and upside as a veteran OF for now.
- Molina is an All-Star for a reason. This is not a pity add, nor is it me attempting to cover my tracks for not having included him in recent weeks just because he’s in Miami right now. He’s been on the cusp/perimeter of the Top 150 for the whole season without doing anything necessarily dynamite in any one category. But the fact of the matter is that Molina is a pretty ironclad, if not flashy, option at C at this juncture in the season. Forty RBI, five steals and a .270 average are all decent for a starting backstop; 30 runs and nine HRs aren’t exceptional by any stretch, but they’re not dealbreakers. At a time when the Castillos, Zuninos and Hedges(es?) of the world are obvious passengers on the struggle bus, Molina is a solid option.
- Gurriel has oscillated in and out of these rankings, and I’m comfortable endorsing his résumé right now. In the final 15 days of the first half, he went .391 with nine runs, four homers and a whopping 14 RBI. Houston gives their batters chances because of the collective strength of the lineup, even for a guy like Gurriel who’s usually in the bottom third of the order.
- Bell has appeared on the Top 150 before, and he closed out he first half with a vengeance by scoring 10 runs and hitting 10 RBI in the last two weeks. As before, his .239 average is the solitary concern, while 16 homers paired up with 45 runs and 46 RBI look pretty rock-solid for a versatile 1B/OF at the moment.
- Pham was on my radar about a month ago, and there’s no denying what he’s been able to generate for St. Louis. He’s basically got run production that mirrors what Mitch Moreland has done for Boston, but Pham has a .299 average and 11 steals while doing it all in 204 AB. His .386 OBP is worth noting, too. Sign me up.
- I lambasted people for hopping on the Scooter Gennett Bandwagon when he went off for 4 HRs in a single game earlier this season because he wasn’t fantasy relevant as a relief utility infielder for Cincinnati at the time. But he’s been a consistent producer ever since and is making Peraza and Eugenio Suarez look increasingly pedestrian. The multiple positions of eligibility are icing on the cake: his stat line is quite similar to that of Conforto, but with a .311 average. I would trust the guy as a really splendid UTIL or 2B/SS role player.
- Bregman had been disappointing here and there throughout the start of the season, but he’s coming around. Just as teammate Gurriel had a strong finish, Bregman went on a tear scoring 12 runs and batting .310 during the past two weeks. I want more power (eight homers) and RBI (just 27), but eight SB are nice to have as aces up your fantasy sleeve. Let’s see how he kicks off the second half.
- Fowler had been injured with a heel issue since June 25 but came back off the DL to finish strong before the break. His composite stats are pretty robust for only having 250 AB with which to work: 41 runs, 14 HRs, 36 RBI and a .248 average all signify to me that he can absolutely function as a fourth OF on mixed-league rosters.