Hitter List 9/18: Ranking the Top 150 Hitters for 2020

Jonathan Metzelaar shares his very, very, very early ranking of the top 150 hitters in baseball for the 2020 season.

Hello and welcome to Hitter List, where every Wednesday I’ve been flawlessly ranking the top 150 hitters in baseball. Since most fantasy leagues have pretty much wrapped up at this point, or are midway through their championship rounds, I thought I’d do something a little different this week in what will be the final Hitter List of the season.

The rankings shown here are my way-way-way-way-way-too-early hitter rankings for the 2020 season. A lot will change in the coming weeks and months, but I thought something like this could be a useful resource for people during the cold, dark, meaningless months ahead, especially for those of you in keeper leagues that are pondering trades. Bear in mind that I’ve limited myself to only ranking players who have already made their major league debuts, as it’s way too early to try and predict which top prospects will be making an impact in 2020.

To truly hate something, you must first understand it, so here’s a general overview of how I go about evaluating players so you can be upset with these rankings more thoroughly:

  • Given that these rankings are taking place in a vacuum, I tend to value stolen bases more than home runs. The 5,585 homers hit in 2018 were the fourth-highest total in modern history. And the 2,474 stolen bases from last year were the lowest total since 1994 and the eighth-lowest total since 1969. In other words, stolen bases are a scarce resource getting even scarcer. Meanwhile, home runs are an abundant resource that are becoming more prevalent. All else being equal, I’ll take the guy with 15 HR/20 SB over the guy with 20 HR/15 SB.
  • I’m generally not a believer in positional scarcity, so position eligibility only comes into play in two instances: as a tiebreaker when two players are fairly evenly matched, or if a player is eligible at catcher, because catcher is a barren wasteland this year filled with adrenaline-fueled maniacs playing guitar riffs while strapped to 18-wheelers. Wait, no, that’s Mad Max: Fury Road, but catcher is just as bleak and weird.
  • I’m an old man who’s afraid of change, so I tend to be low on young players without major league track records.
  • I lean on track record more than recent performance, unless I see a significant underlying change in approach or Statcast metrics.
  • These rankings apply only to leagues using standard scoring (R, RBI, HR, SB, AVG) and lean more towards rotisserie and H2H categories leagues. Adjust accordingly for other formats.


[table id=13 /]


And now some quick notes:

  • While it felt nice to have called Scott Kingery’s breakout way back in April, before he even had a full-time job, I actually feel like I was more lucky than good when it came to that prediction. Obviously the 19 homers and 12 steals are great, and the .259 average is a big improvement from last year, when he hit .223. But it was really a strong first half that buoyed his overall statline, as Kingery hit just .230 after the break with a 31.4% strikeout rate. Statcast wasn’t kind to him this year either, pegging him for a .238 xBA and .310 wOBA. Considering his age, I do think there’s potential for him to take another step forward next year and be a guy who could go 20/20. But I’m definitely concerned by the peripherals and the weak finish to 2019.
  • J.D. Davis was an absolute Statcast darling this year–he finished in the top 10% of the league in xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, Hard Hit rate, and average exit velocity. Unfortunately he was blocked by budding superstar Todd Frazier at third base for most of the year, and didn’t accumulate as many at-bats as most owners would have liked. But with Frazier out of the picture next season, I expect Davis to be the Mets’ everyday third baseman in 2020, and I think he’s primed to do big things.
  • I was wrong in assuming regression would come for Eduardo Escobar at some point this year. While his production did taper off a bit as the season wore on, he had an unbelievable year overall, racking up the sixth-most RBI in baseball. Despite all this, I simply cannot vouch for spending a high draft pick on him next season. Part of it is because his strongest asset this season–RBI–is an incredibly fickle stat that’s highly independent of a hitter’s actual talent. But mostly I’m wary of the fact that his peripherals this year and throughout his career have been pedestrian at best. His swinging strike, contact, and chase rates have all been trending in the wrong direction for four straight seasons now. And there are plenty of red flags in his Statcast profile, including a .252 xBA, .327 xwOBA, and 31.5% Hard Hit rate. I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for taking Escobar early in drafts considering the year he just had, but personally I’ll be avoiding him in the first eight or nine rounds.
  • Nelson Cruz is such a tough guy to value heading into 2020. On the one hand, he was a top-50 hitter this year according to ESPN’s Player Rater, despite accumulating only 422 at-bats. On the other hand, he’ll be turning 40 next year, and suffered a handful of injuries this season that might indicate he’s starting to wear down. This reminds me a lot of David Ortiz towards the end of his career, when he was an incredible value in drafts every season because everyone was afraid he was about to fall apart. I’d be okay reaching for him a bit next year, but he’ll always be a high-risk/high-reward player.
  • Some players I just have huge soft spots for, and Cavan Biggio is certainly one of them. The 28% strikeout rate he posted this year doesn’t tell the whole story, as his swinging-strike and contact rates are both slightly above average. And his 15.5% chase rate is top-tier elite–it would be the lowest chase rate in baseball if he qualified, way below Alex Bregman’s 18.8% rate. It seems, then, that Biggio’s strikeout issues this year have likely been the result of him being too patient, resulting in a lot of called third strikes. That’s something that I think he can easily fix, and with 14 homers and 13 steals on the season over just 89 games, the tools are all there for a potentially huge breakout in 2020.
  • Speaking of huge breakouts, what a year Austin Meadows had. The most impressive thing about Meadows this year has been his ability to barrel the ball consistently while also maintaining a decent contact rate–very few hitters can manage a 12.2% barrel rate while keeping their contact rate at 77.7%.  It’s a shame he missed several weeks earlier in the year with an injury, but he managed to post MVP-type numbers regardless. I really feel that there’s top-15 potential here.
  • I’m kind of loving that Kyle Tucker isn’t getting regular playing time right now, because it’s helping suppress his value in drafts next season, and I think he could be an amazing value pick. Tucker is coming fresh off of a 34/30 season in the minors this year, and has looked great over 42 plate appearances with the Astros. He’s definitely someone I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Finally, before I go, I just want to thank everyone for reading the column this year. Weekly rankings are hard, and there was certainly a learning curve for me, but I appreciated the feedback and discussion that most of you provided throughout the year, and I definitely feel as though it made me better. I hope you all had as much fun as I did this season, and I’m very much looking forward to doing it all again in 2020.


Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)

Jonathan Metzelaar

Jonathan Metzelaar is a writer, content manager, and podcaster with Pitcher List. He enjoys long walks on the beach, quiet dinners by candlelight, and essentially any other activity that will distract him from the perpetual torture of being a New York Mets fan. He's written for Fangraphs Community Research and created Youtube videos about fantasy baseball under the moniker "Jonny Baseball."

14 responses to “Hitter List 9/18: Ranking the Top 150 Hitters for 2020”

  1. Ryan says:


    Sorry, but doing ANYTHING to appeal to the people still fighting for titles would be better than this.

  2. Chris says:

    Semien > Machado next year is a legitimate debate now.

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Semien definitely had the better year. I kind of feel like, at 29 years old, this is his ceiling though. The improvements he made this season are great, but he still doesn’t make enough hard contact to support 30-homer power IMO.

      With Machado, who’s two years younger, I think there’s a chance we still haven’t seen his peak yet. I’m a little more apt to lean on his pedigree and overall track record.

  3. Josh says:

    What’s your reasoning for Tatis at 38? I see him as a legit 25 HR/35 SB threat for next season (even if/when his BABIP naturally regresses), which is upside I would take over the likes of Marte, LeMahieu, Pham, etc in a heartbeat. Is he where he is because you’re low on young players? Seems inconsistent to then have Alonso ranked at 20 as they’ll both be in year 2 next year, but Tatis was a bit more productive when he was active.

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      I think, like Mondesi, he’s going to be an extremely high-risk/high-reward player in drafts next year. There’s no doubt he has the tools to be a potential top-10 hitter. But man, look at some of these numbers:

      .410 BABIP
      29% strikeout rate
      31.9% HR/FB
      67% contact
      15% SwStr
      .255 xBA
      .345 xwOBA vs. .404 wOBA

      It just looks to me like there was a ton of luck baked into his output this year. Maybe some of the potential regression can be mitigated by all the hard contact and elite sprint speed he generates. But I’m usually pretty risk averse with my first few draft picks, so he’s probably not a guy I’ll personally be reaching for.

      I think it ultimately comes down to your risk tolerance though–no doubt he could be a league-winner if things break right.

      • Josh says:

        Thanks for the reply! I appreciate it.

        I’ve seen the advanced numbers and they are…. definitely concerning. The BABIP and xwOBA are terrifying (although a .345 wOBA would be really good in its own right), the strikeout rate is not good, and the HR/FB % is worrisome.

        But as much as I love advanced stats, I just can’t get past his 162-game averages: .317/.379/.590, 204 H, 42 HR, 102 RBI (he was hitting leadoff!), 31 SB. That’s basically Trout’s 2016 MVP season with more power. And even baking in a reasonable amount of regression, I have a hard time believing that Tatis’ 2018 performance will devolve into a performance bested by 37 other players. I do understand your skepticism, but as a Padres fan and a fantasy enthusiast, I hope the skepticism is unwarranted. :)

  4. theKraken says:

    Crazy to see Yordan that high… hard to argue against it though. He has been one of my favorite hitting specs for a while, so you won’t hear it from me but I wouldn’t take him as my 1st rounder.

    Honestly the first thing that really stands out to me is Trea Turner. I would just rather have all of those other guys above him by so much.. but I am a broken record in that regard.

    There is no way I would take Meadows that high. He has been wildly inconsistent – that is usually not a good indicator of sustainability, which is what you should target that high in a draft. He really isn’t a household name which decreases the need to reach as well.

    Baez should be plenty higher I would think.

    How do you figure Bichette is above Tatis? He was not a better prospect and Tatis did a lot more when he was on the field. I would have Bichette much lower. He never did anything in the minors like this and it seems very unsustainable. My take at least.

    If you value SB like you do, then I would have Merrifield higher. I get that he took a step back this year, but he is a good hitter.

    Sleeper pick – Byron Buxton. His XBH production was incredible this year and I think that is one of the more important stats that exists. Couple that with SBs and he could be pretty darn good. Of course, he will miss 1/3 of the season….

    I also like Benintendi at his price. Not long ago he and Bregman were in the same tier. yes, a lot has happened since then.

  5. Ryan says:

    Your articles are “crickets” unless I comment. Does that tell me anything?

    I know what you are after following for months. You’re not capable of providing the hitting aspect to come anywhere close to matching Nick’s pitching aspect.

    Sorry if the truth hurts.

    • Stephen says:

      Well Ryan, that was certainly rude and unnecessary. I’ve never commented on his articles until this one, but I read them every week because I think they provide a good second opinion on how to play this game. If you disagree, either provide points and have a discussion or don’t comment at all please.

      Thank you Jonathan, I’ve found your articles useful and insightful.

      • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

        Thanks Stephen, I appreciate the kind words–I hope your teams did well this year. Don’t mind Ryan, I think he’s going through something :)

  6. Chris Lindhardt says:

    Jonathan, thoughts on Wille Calhoun?

    • Jonathan Metzelaar says:

      Hey Chris:

      I’m a fan. The hit tool has always been legit, and last year it looks like he started making a conscious effort to not only elevate the ball more, but to pull it more as well, which I think bodes well for his power if he can continue doing that. It’ll be interesting to see how the new Rangers ballpark plays–Arlington was one of the more favorable parks for power in recent years so some of his power outburst from last year might have been a byproduct of that. But overall I think something like .280 with mid-20s power is reasonable, with a ceiling for more, particularly in the batting average department.

  7. Chris Lindhardt says:

    Jonathan, thanks for the input. If you don’t mind, I’d also like to ask your opinion of Ryan McMahon. In a bit of perhaps misguided inspiration, I traded Mike Foltynewicz for McMahon in a dynasty league for this eligibility, the fact that he’s young and of course, he hits in Coors Field. Thinking I might’ve been a bit hasty there.

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