Let’s get some basics out of the way regarding how to interpret these rankings. None of this stuff should come as any major surprise, but it never hurts to provide background:
- It’s still Ronald Acuña Jr. and Shohei Ohtani together at the top. I just don’t see how you’d put anyone above these two for the rest of the season. There’s some guys in Tier 2 who have been fantastic, but I there’s no scenario where I rank one of them above Ohtani or Acuña.
- Bobby Witt Jr. has come a long way in the second half of the season. The strikeout rate is down to 13.5% and he’s hitting harder fly balls, both of which have led to improvements in ratios and power numbers all while continuing to steal loads of bases. Witt Jr. has always shown strong contact ability, but his power was inconsistent due at least in-part to awful decision-making in the second half of 2022 and early 2023. Bobby has been much better at catching himself as the year has progressed, and that will hopefully continue. If Witt Jr. can continue to make league-average decisions at the dish and make adjustments before the bottom falls out, his tools can make him a top-10 hitter in 2024.
- Julio Rodríguez started out as a top-10 hitter, but inconsistency and some slumps finally had him fall out. He’s been baseball’s hottest hitter of late, and the big change I see is simply his bat-to-ball skills taking a big step forward. J-Rod isn’t making better decisions nor is he swinging less – the things that drove his late season surge in 2022. Instead, he’s just making more contact. That’s fine, but I worry about the sustainability of this kind of success for him.
- Welcome back to the big leagues, Mike Trout! I had some concerns that the Angels would baby him now that they’re out of the race (they aren’t technically eliminated but are 10 games behind for the final wild card), but it looks like Trout is here and playing. Since his first full season (2012), Trout has never finished with a wRC+ below 160 (for reference, only 4 players who qualified for the batting title had a 160 wRC+ or better). It currently sits at 134, making this a down year for him, but the Millville Meteor could easily have a fantastic September and get that corrected.
- Bryce Harper didn’t really move, but I did squeeze him into a higher tier because it really does look like that power is coming back. I can’t stress enough that the further he gets from his surgery, the more Harper will be able to tap into his power.
- Michael Harris II has been hitting second in Ozzie Albies‘ absence, though that will likely end soon with Albies due back within a week or two. He is one of the few number nine hitters worthy of a top-50 spot, which is really saying something.
- Sean Murphy continues to sit much more than other top-tier catchers, and that’s a concern as folks approach their fantasy playoffs. I really don’t advise dropping him in most formats despite the slump as the plate discipline looks fine and he has flashed some power this month. That said, desperate points league players may have a different calculus, as very few catchers are all that useful in those formats.
- Cedric Mullins has struggled since coming off the IL, hitting just .205 with a single home run and stolen base in 10 games. It’s certainly not time to panic, though it’s not fun seeing the elevated strikeout rate and zero walks when you go through the box scores.
- Contact has been a huge issue for Jazz Chisholm Jr. this season, connecting with the ball on just 66.4% of his swings. He misses quite a lot in the zone as well, and that’s where my real concern lies. Jazz seemed to have fixed some of this issue earlier this month, but he’s once again missing a lot of balls in the zone he swings at, and that will make it very difficult for him to find any kind of consistency. Jazz is loaded with talent, but his inconsistency combined with his significant injury risk makes me quite uncomfortable.
- Spencer Torkelson! Woo! I’ve been waiting for one of the best college hitters of the last decade to go on a real hot streak, and August has been just that. Tork has been hitting more fly balls and fewer grounders of late, and thanks to his power, that’s turning into home runs and doubles instead of outs and singles. I think this is a sustainable change, at least to some degree, and he should be flying back up any keeper/dynasty rankings where he fell.
- Seiya Suzuki has fooled me a few times into thinking he was finally breaking out. I can’t deny the excellence over the last 11 games, though – it’s a miniscule 9.5% strikeout rate with four home runs, a double, a triple, and 17 combined runs and RBI. He’s climbed up the batting order quite a bit too, going from eighth to sixth and now fifth on Wednesday.
- Jonah Heim has looked awful since his return, and while I do not like to speculate about players still being injured or other things I have no real evidence of, I do know that they have not used Heim at DH, instead opting for Mitch Garver. If that continues into September, Heim may fall much further down these ranks.
- I’ve never been the highest on Esteury Ruiz because I don’t think he can hit enough to be anything except a source of steals. Over his last 50 games, Ruiz does have 24 steals, which is obviously impactful, but he’s also slashing .201/.250/.263 with just one home run and 29 combined runs and RBI. He’s basically dead weight in every category except steals, and that makes his usefulness extremely limited and also makes him extremely tough to rank.
- I haven’t made much of a secret that I see Zack Gelof as the next Mickey Moniak or Christopher Morel because of how much his success is driven by an unsustainable line drive rate and because he is so sub-par at hitting strikes that he swings at. I haven’t dropped him too far in the ranks (his +7 is actually from other players falling off the list) because of how few options there are at second base combined with the fact that he’s starting to show improvement in Z-Contact% and his strikeout rate, but I would be very surprised to see Gelof find any long-term success with his current plate discipline profile.
- Kerry Carpenter has been just as good as Spencer Torkelson in August, but lacks the amazing pedigree. I do think Carpenter has a similar power ceiling as Torkelson, but I think Torkelson has a much higher ceiling in terms of batting average and also is more likely to sustain this success for longer based on his tools, which is why there’s a significant disparity between the two.
- J.D. Martinez should be back with enough time to make an impact, but you may remove him from your list if your league ends early (which is often the case in head-to-head formats).
- Don’t look now, but Daulton Varsho has been very useful over the last few weeks.
- Jeff McNeil actually kind of looks like Jeff McNeil, finally, and that’s a player who can boost some weekly ratio floors and collect plenty of hits.
- Alex Verdugo just can’t seem to turn this season around, and as a result has hit the pine against four of the last six left-handed starters.
- Thairo Estrada seems to be back to hitting second, and he never should have been taken out of that role in the first place.
- I wanted to see what Boston would do with Triston Casas when they faced five lefties in seven games, especially with Justin Turner back in the lineup. Surprisingly, Casas stayed in the lineup. He’s been slower over his last 10 starts, posting just a .235 batting average, but the OBP has stayed strong and he’s smacked a pair of home runs. That gives me a little bit of hope that he can continue to be a useful player, even if he may continue to be streaky.
- I severely underestimated how long Jonathan India would be out.
- Keibert Ruiz has an excellent hit tool and should continue to provide batting average with plenty of plate appearances even if the home runs dry up.
- Josh Lowe has stayed hot and also stayed in the lineup against two of the last three lefties while keeping the strikeouts down. He’s not stealing quite as many bases these days, but that’s fine as long as he’s hitting. A strong September might just be enough to help get the taste of his putrid summer out of our collective mouths.
- Trevor Story may not be on the list next week, and is pretty droppable if there’s a decent second baseman or shortstop out there in your leagues.
- I’ve put Chas McCormick back on the list, but have not really changed my opinion that like Zack Gelof his success is driven by line drives and he’s bad at making contact in the zone. That stuff isn’t really sustainable long term.
- For what it’s worth, Stone Garrett has the same basic issues as Gelof and McCormick. He’s worth a stream, but when he slumps for a week it’s time to move on.
- J.P. Crawford is a contact machine who hits at the top of a Seattle lineup that has scored plenty of runs lately. It’s not a very high ceiling, but it is a very high floor.
- Orlando Arcia has looked completely lost lately, with just four hits in his last 12 games. The plate discipline is fine and it may just be a normal slump, but Arcia isn’t good enough to justify holding if more exciting options are out there at this point in the season while he flounders at the bottom of the order. He’s barely above replacement-level quality in most 12-teamers, especially if you don’t use a middle infield slot.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List:
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