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:
- The cheese stands alone. And by cheese, I obviously mean Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuña has at least four home runs, 19 runs scored, a .298 average, and 10 stolen bases in each month so far. There’s a chance that Acuña gets a bit more rest here and there to stay fresh for the postseason (he hasn’t played more than 125 games in a season since 2019), but even missing an extra game per week wouldn’t change these rankings. He’s the clear top overall pick for next season in all formats, even if you only project 130-140 games for Acuna in 2024.
- I’m mildly concerned about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s low hard-hit rate lately, but everything else looks great so I’m thinking it’s just a blip. This season recalibrates the floor a bit for Vladito by moving it down, but the underlying numbers are still quite strong and he’ll be a top-five first baseman in drafts next season despite (likely) finishing outside the top-10 this season.
- Trea Turner continues to perform well, and our PLV metrics give us a bit of insight as to why! This improvement also helps explain how Turner has improved his zone contact rate (by swinging at better pitches) as the season has gone on.
- My caution on Cody Bellinger turned out to be the wrong move as he looks like he’ll finish as a top-10 hitter this season despite contributing very little in May and June (hit .237/.285/.301 in 25 games with no home runs, good for a 54 wRC+). Bellinger will be a tough player to rank for 2024 drafts due to how much he overperformed his Statcast metrics (he outperformed our xwOBA by about 40 points and Baseball Savant’s xwOBA by almost 60 points), the career-low 30.5% hard-hit rate and 6.2% barrel rate, and his moderate injury risk. All that said, the results can’t be ignored and he’ll likely be drafted among the first 25 hitters off the board, if not the first 20.
- Six home runs and 20 combined runs and RBI in eight games, eh? Well played, Jose Altuve. Leading off ahead of a solid lineup certainly has its perks. If the Astros could afford it, they’d probably rest Altuve once or twice a week, but with the Mariners and Rangers both within three games of the division lead, it will be all hands on deck for Houston.
- Adolis García did so well limiting the strikeouts earlier this season, but they came back with a vengeance in August as he sported a 34.8% strikeout rate for the month that also led to a .206 batting average. Garcia’s worst strikeout rate for a month prior to that was 27.2%, so hopefully this was just a slump (he walked more than usual, but not enough to offset the strikeout rate bump. That alone would have moved him down from the top of the tier, but unfortunately, he also left Wednesday’s game with a knee issue.
Hopefully, he’ll be back soon!Looks like he’s hitting the IL, unfortunately, and can now be found near the bottom of the list.
- No actual changes here, apart from Bellinger and Turner’s rise to Tier 3 and Altuve’s rise to Tier 4.
- George Springer seems fully recovered from whatever was ailing him in July. He’s walking at a double-digit rate again and stole six bases last month without being caught. The rebound has also moved Springer back to the top of the Blue Jays lineup, so he’s locked and loaded for a strong September.
- A hot streak like Anthony Santander’s would normally result in a rankings bump, but I never really slid him down that far during his slump because I argued that the hot and cold streaks are just part of his game as a fairly aggressive power hitter, so I probably should keep him where he is for now. Santander may fall a tad bit short of the 33 home runs he hit in 2022, but he’ll score more runs, drive in more runners, and hit for 20 more points of batting average so I suppose we can forgive him.
- Yandy Díaz moves down this tier due to the limited power and speed upside and because the fly balls have never come back, but in points leagues he’s be at least a tier higher, if not two.
- Cedric Mullins has rallied a bit after really struggling when he returned from injury, at least with respect to hitting for power (slugging .513 over his last 13 appearances). He wasn’t in Wednesday’s lineup, though, as the Orioles faced three lefties in a row, and they’ll face two more lefties over the next two series. If Mullins sits against both of those lefties as well, expect another drop in the rankings.
- I’ve never been shy about my love of Isaac Paredes, and he’s just two home runs shy of reaching 30 for the season. Paredes is overperforming his Baseball Savant xwOBA by over 50 points, though that’s because it’s not accounting for his extreme pull rate. There are reasons for that (applying batted ball direction improves how well xwOBA describes the past at the expense of predicting the future), and our Pitcher List xwOBA that includes batted ball direction says the results absolutely match what he’s doing. Pull rate is seen as a somewhat fluky stat, but Paredes has pulled at least 50% of his batted balls in every month this season, and with his overall feel for hitting that he had in the minors, I believe this is an intentional and somewhat sticky change. I’m still a buyer on Paredes, and I imagine many people will just see that Baseball Savant xwOBA and pass on him for too long in 2024 drafts.
- J.D. Martinez should be back this weekend, and that’s what I’m banking on for this ranking.
- Welcome back, Josh Naylor!
- Royce Lewis has been fantastic since returning from the IL, and no one denies that Lewis has tremendous talent. The plate discipline has been strong (10.1% walk rate, 18% strikeout rate in his last 20 games), and really the only hesitation I have is the obvious one – his health. Lewis missed all of 2021 and played just 46 games in 2022, and even if he plays every single game for the rest of the month, he’ll fall short of 80 games in 2023. I think projecting even 120 games in 2024 would be somewhat aggressive, but Lewis could still get to 20 home runs and 15 steals in that short of a season.
- Lars Nootbaar has been plugged back into the top of the lineup, which is good news.
From this point on, assume a net gain of less than 10 is no actual change.
- Ke’Bryan Hayes has been an inconsistent bat ever since hitting the majors, but he’s been on a tear lately and is hitting .306/.356/.587 since coming off the IL at the beginning of August. He strangely hasn’t stolen a base in those 30 games, but his eight home runs in that stretch is actually more than he hit in all of 2021 (96 games) or 2022 (136 games), and his total for 2023 in 105 games is the same as his total for both 2021 and 2022 combined (241 games).
- Mitch Garver is hot and is settled into the DH role whenever he doesn’t catch. That basically makes him what Heim was earlier this season and I’ve ranked him accordingly. The strikeouts have been very much under control as well, which is an excellent sign for him.
- I’ve been skeptical of Chas McCormick up until now because of the historically poor performance, his quickly declining zone contact rate, and the high line drive rate, but he’s done well to improve the former over the last few weeks. That makes what he’s doing more believable to me.
- Nolan Jones may always be a streaky hitter, and thankfully that hot streak is coming at a perfect time. The Rockies will be in Coors for two of the next three weeks including a full slate of seven games next week, and if you’re heading into a head-to-head playoff matchup or need a power boost in your roto league, I can think of few better available options than Jones.
- J.P. Crawford changed his approach coming into the season and it has paid off in spades as he’s already set a new career high in home runs and is not far from personal bests in runs scored and RBI. The strikeout rate is higher than in previous years, but with five home runs, 31 combined runs, and RBI over his last 15 games, while hitting leadoff for one of baseball’s hottest offenses, I’m more than willing to forgive it (the significantly higher walk rate helps as well). He should be added in every league where he’s available.
- Ty France hasn’t benefitted much from the improved performance of the players around him, but I’m still holding out a little hope that he can join in on the fun. It’s not exactly scientific, but the energy that comes from this kind of playoff run is highly contagious.
- Jordan Walker’s big three-dinger day was really cool and showcases the type of potential in this bat. There’s a reason he was a top-three prospect coming into the season, and there’s still plenty of hope that he can finish the month strong and have a breakout in 2024.
- Just when I was done with Jeremy Peña, he sucks me right back in. I don’t know what’s going on, but the guy seems to get rejuvenated late in the season (at least he has in 2022 and 2023). His defense will keep him in the lineup every day, and while Pena is hot it looks like he’ll bat second in front of Alvarez, Tucker, and Bregman.
- Davis Schneider is a true fly ball hitter, so the fact he’s getting under the ball isn’t a surprise. The high walk rate also isn’t a surprise, as it’s something he did consistently in the minors. What is a surprise is the 30.4% home run-to-fly-ball rate, as Davis hasn’t ever shown this kind of power in the minors. Schneider is probably more like a 20-home-run guy over a full season instead of the masher he’s appeared to be so far, and when those fly balls stop leaving the yard they’ll likely turn into outs. The batting average will likely end up somewhere around .240 or .250 over larger samples when that happens, but he should continue to be well worth rostering while he’s hot and for his upcoming seven-game homestand.
- Jasson Domínguez hype train part two is here! He set the card-collecting world on fire when his first Bowman card was released in the 2020 set, only to see the fire dwindle as a few holes appeared in his game in 2021 and 2022. The power and speed are very real for The Martian, but the hit tool creates a long-term question mark for his value. He’s done well to limit the strikeouts in his 14 games in triple-A and the majors, and if he can keep the strikeout rate closer to 25% than 30%, Dominguez should hit enough home runs and steal enough bases to be a fantasy staple for quite some time.
- The Ronny Mauricio hype was at its peak earlier this season, but a slump in the high minors in the summer kept him off the big league roster. Like Dominguez, Mauricio has power and can steal bases, but his raw speed isn’t quite as impressive. That said, he’s already stolen three bases in his first five games and has at least one hit in every game.
- I was made aware of how rough Andrew Vaughn has been lately, and that combined with how disinterested the White Sox seem to be these days, it was time for a drop.
- Tommy Edman isn’t leading off anymore and that sinks his value in a meaningful way.
- Josh Bell was hot for a while but it’s faded more quickly than I hoped.
- Four two-hit games in the last week and Zack Gelof falls again? Yes, because he still stinks at hitting balls he swings at in the zone and everything is still driven by fluky line drives. Gelof has also stopped walking and has just two home runs in his last 22 games
- Christian Encarnacion-Strand seems to be adjusting to major league pitching, finally, so now I am curious about how long it lasts and more importantly, what the next slump looks like.
- The heat has worn off of Wilmer Flores, though if you want him for an upcoming four-game stretch in Coors, go right ahead.
- Tyler O’Neill is playing more than I thought with Nootbaar back, so back on the list he goes.
- The Yankees are actually hitting now, so DJ LeMahieu’s role as a leadoff man is actually worth something, as is the increased power.
- Esteury Ruiz is a steals-only guy to me and that gets less and less valuable by the day for most players.
- Yes, you can cut Sean Murphy if you want. He’s just not going to play more, I’m guessing. No, I don’t know why (this started way back in June, so it’s probably not just rest for the playoffs).
- I snuck MJ Melendez onto the list as an extra catcher to consider, but I’m not a huge fan overall. He plays a lot, which is good for accumulating stats…except for the fact he’s a Royal with contact issues. That said, he’s playing better of late and plays a ton.
- Jordan Lawlar is a top prospect with an exciting future, but we need to find out if he’s going to play every day first.
- Whit Merrifield is back at the bottom of the lineup again. Yuck.
And now, once again, it’s time for the Hitter List: