Fantasy Baseball: Kenyatta's Season-Long Hitter Rankings
Coming up with your own fantasy baseball rankings is a helpful exercise in preparing season-long drafts, though one that can have your head spinning by the end of it. But that's all part of the fun, right? Nothing gets the adrenaline going like splitting hairs between, say, Eric Hosmer and Daniel Murphy!
Er... okay, maybe not. Moving on.
In addition to rankings, I like splitting players into tiers to help visualize how each position shakes out. These tiers are uniform across all positions, so a tier-four shortstop falls under roughly the same bucket as a tier-four third baseman. This is why you'll notice tiers missing at certain positions -- there are no tier-three first basemen, for instance -- which accounts for comparing all players on the same scale.
Below are my positional hitter rankings and tiers for standard-scoring roto leagues, with brief notes highlighting notable players and situations. Any references to average draft position (ADP) are from the past two weeks of NFBC drafts. Pitcher rankings will come later in the week.
Additionally, numberFire's season-long projections are now live, too, so be sure to check those out!
- There aren't any real surprises at the top, though I have Pete Alonso lopped in with the tier-four group despite typically going around pick 30 in NFBC drafts. Alonso led the league with 53 home runs, but he's bound to naturally regress from that this season, particularly if the ball isn't juiced again. Furthermore, he's not going to give you anything in batting average or speed, two scarce categories I prefer to target with early picks.
- DJ LeMahieu is one of the tougher guys to rank in 2020. It would be easy to write off last year's surprise breakout as a fluke -- yet it was backed by his Statcast expected stats. But between the homer-happy ball and LeMahieu's low fly-ball rate (26.2%), it would be safe to expect the dingers to still come back down. Even so, a high batting average and friendly home ballpark lifts his floor, and it doesn't hurt that he also qualifies at second and third base.
- Josh Bell straddles the line between tiers four and five, as much like LeMahieu, his 2019 eruption mostly came out of nowhere. The only problem is most of his production came from an unsustainable white-hot streak over the first couple months, followed by an inevitable second-half course correction, leading many to question who the "real" Josh Bell is. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but his underlying stats are promising enough at a lower ADP than his tier-four brethren.
- In 2019, Yuli Gurriel swatted a career-high 31 home runs with a 15.6% HR/FB rate. And he achieved that off a.... 3.8% barrel rate? Prior to that, his career highs were 18 bombs and a 10.8% HR/FB rate. Sure, he also posted a career-high hard-hit rate (38.6%), but that was actually right around league average last year (hint: juiced ball). He'll give you the batting average as always, which is still plenty useful, but don't be surprised if he drops below 20 dingers -- especially at age 35.
- I just don't trust Danny Santana. Sure, the underlying power metrics back up last year's 28 home runs, but he entered 2019 with a measly 13 over 1165 career plate appearances and has been a below-average bat for most of his career. Last year's 29.5% strikeout rate paired with a 4.9% walk rate don't inspire much confidence, either. I could stomach the red flags at a lower price point, but with an ADP hovering around 130, someone will always like him more.
- C.J. Cron feels like a nice value this season (230 ADP) because I'm not sure he's all that different from Luke Voit or Christian Walker, despite going a few rounds later. Playing for the Tigers won't do his runs and RBIs much good, but check out that drool-worthy 15.0% barrel rate.
- Gleyber Torres is generally the consensus top second basemen, but I give Ozzie Albies, Jose Altuve, and Ketel Marte the slight edge as better bets in the speed and batting average departments. It's close, though. Altuve only swiped 6 of 11 bags last year, so he's hardly a guarantee to get back to double digits, though he did miss time with a hamstring injury.
- Like LeMahieu, Max Muncy is eligible at first, second, and third base, and he's one of the better power sources at the keystone. He won't help your average, but the man suuure can hit. Over the past two seasons, his 146 wRC+ ranks eighth in the league. Eighth.
- The Rockies are maddening when it comes to their young players, but manager Bud Black said Ryan McMahon will start 150-plus games this season. The high ground-ball rate (50.8%) and strikeout rate (29.7%) aren't ideal, but getting a full-time regular in Coors is always welcome. This leaves Garrett Hampson without a position -- at least to start -- though he's still expected to get at-bats in a utility role, so he can still be drafted if you're hurting for speed.
- Starlin Castro or Cesar Hernandez might be in the bottom tier, but they're solid fallback options, who could very well perform like the grouping above them. Castro finished last year on a promising note and escaped the Marlins for both a better ballpark and lineup. Hernandez can provide a decent power/speed/average combination, and perhaps he gets some opportunities to bat high in the order. Both players are going outside the top 250.
- I sort of get the appeal of Luis Arraez as the rare high batting average guy late in the draft. In fact, he projects as a top-three player in the category across pretty much every public projection model, including our own. But those same projections give him single-digit home runs and stolen bases, which is... meh. From a roster construction standpoint, he makes a lot of sense if you really need that boost in batting average (I'm looking at you, Joey Gallo), but outside of those scenarios, I'd rather shoot for more overall upside.
|6||Vladimir Gurrero Jr.||4|
- Putting Jose Ramirez over Nolan Arenado and Alex Bregman might seem like a slightly hot take, but let's not forget that Ramirez was generally viewed as the number three overall pick last year. He suffered from a soul-crushing .234 first-half BABIP, yet still ultimately finished with a 23/24 campaign. Maybe the other two can be viewed as "safer" assets, but Ramirez brings five-category potential that they won't provide -- unless you're convinced Bregman will start running again. And speaking of Bregman, he's likely to take a sizable step back in power after somehow tallying 41 homers off a lower barrel rate in 2019.
- I love Anthony Rendon, and he's coming off a fantastic campaign. Alas, he's now going in the range of guys like Bryce Harper, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Starling Marte, who I all have in the tier above him. I wouldn't be shocked if 2019 ends up being the high-water mark for Rendon, and the power comes down a bit. I was all about Rendon last year, but it doesn't look like I'll have him this time around.
- Once all the top third basemen are off the board, Miguel Sano is a desirable power target outside the top 100 if you can handle the low batting average. Last year's 21.2% barrel rate led the entire league. Now, if he could just stay healthy for once.
- J.D. Davis is another Statcast darling and typically doesn't go off the board until pick 175. Yeah, he probably won't hit above .300 again -- that .355 BABIP sure looks suspect -- but his expected batting average (xBA) suggests he could still hit for average. We just need to hope he hits well enough to outweigh his shoddy fielding.
- Jon Berti is a wild card as a late-bloomer for the Marlins. He's a man without a position but should find playing time a super-utility player. I'm not expecting any miracles from a 30-year-old coming off his rookie season, but he did steal 17 bases in just 73 games last year (85% success rate). Late speed doesn't grow in trees.
|5||Fernando Tatis Jr.||2|
- It's a tight race between Trea Turner, Trevor Story, and Francisco Lindor, but I give the nod to Turner because I can't pass up those wheels. If you go in that direction, he's a perfect pairing with a pure slugger like Freddie Freeman, J.D. Martinez, or Rafael Devers -- and perhaps even Nolan Arenado if you're lucky.
- There's no questioning Fernando Tatis Jr.'s power/speed upside, making him worthy of a second-round choice. But with a 29.6% strikeout rate, I do worry about the ol' batting average, so plan accordingly.
- Between the awful plate skills and injury risk, Adalberto Mondesi has a wide range of outcomes I'm not sure I want to deal with. That being said, he could also lead the league in stolen bases. If you don't address speed with your early picks, then Mondesi and Jonathan Villar are, uh, quick ways to get on track, and they make sense at their respective ADPs. I just don't know if I'll be going in that direction.
- We touched on Carlos Correa in a recent roundtable discussion, and Senior Writer Jim Sannes likes Correa as a value pick this season, pointing out that he's still just 25 years old and has nice power potential if he stays healthy. While I certainly get the argument -- he had strong batted-ball numbers and an improved his barrel rate in 2019 -- I'm just not convinced he can stay healthy. I tend to give "injury-prone" players the benefit of the doubt, but in Correa's case, recurring back problems the past couple seasons are never a good sign. He also doesn't steal bases anymore and is projected to bat around .270 -- fine, but nothing special.
- Dansby Swanson is going outside the top 250, which is pretty much a 50-pick discount from anyone else in tier six. He put up perfectly fine numbers last season, and that's including the fact that he wasn't really the same following a late-July foot injury. He's a solid consolation prize.
|34||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||5|
- We had a roundtable discussion over who should be drafted first overall this season, and Mike Trout was our unanimous choice due to his lengthy track record of excellence. But I won't fault anyone for choosing Ronald Acuna or Christian Yelich first, who are both better bets for stolen bases.
- I'm on record in my support for Starling Marte, and his prowess as a five-category contributor seems to be generally undervalued based on his late second-round/early third-round ADP. He isn't a "sexy" pick, so I can understand the last of enthusiasm, but numberFire's projections give him 91 runs, 23 homers, 76 RBIs, 27 stolen bases, and a .284 batting average. While Marte doesn't stand out in any one category, he achieved better than that stat line over just 132 games in 2019, and securing speed early opens up far more roster flexibility later in the draft.
- How many games will Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton play this season? Your guess is as good as mine. But the upside is obvious, and they're both going around pick 90 in recent drafts. I'm not sure if I'm willing to go here, but the price feels about right.
- Franmil Reyes and Kyle Schwarber are two power bats I like targeting, with both sluggers going well outside the top 100 picks. Reyes and Schwarber ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, in average exit velocity on line drives and fly balls last season. Yes, please.
- I can't figure out why Randal Grichuk is going so late in drafts (270 ADP). If he's healthy, I don't see how he doesn't reach 30-plus home runs and particularly if his barrel rate returns to pre-2019 levels.
- Tier seven is a hodgepodge of boring veterans and intriguing up-and-comers, so the rankings here are much more malleable. It's really more a matter of your team needs, and whether you're shooting for safety or upside. Trent Grisham is a rising commodity as the most likely candidate to start in center field for the Padres. Although Grisham posted modest numbers as a late summer call-up with the Brewers, his combined 2019 Double-A and Triple-A numbers are what have the people excited: 26 home runs, 12 stolen bases, and a .300/.407/.603 line over 441 plate appearances.
- My strategy at catcher is pretty straightforward -- wait as long as possible. J.T. Realmuto is far and away this season's top catcher, but I won't have him anywhere. At his draft price, you could be passing up someone like Keston Hiura, George Springer, Matt Olson, or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -- just to name a few. That's upside I'm just not willing to ignore for a backstop, no matter how good he is. In two-catcher leagues, valuation methods that compare Realmuto to a "replacement-level catcher" will support his ADP, so I get it, but it still feels like you're leaving too many raw stats on the table.
- If you're skipping over the top guys but want a reliable mid-range backstop without breaking the bank, Salvador Perez is a solid choice in the 150 ADP range. Prior to missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, Perez posted back-to-back seasons with 27 home runs and is one of just a handful of catchers who could flirt with 500-plus plate appearances.
- The bottom tier is a mixture of meh veterans and guys with short track records, but if you look across their projections, there isn't a whole lot that separates them. I'm perfectly fine settling on Carson Kelly as my starting backstop, as he has youth (25 years old) and the power potential (48.7% hard-hit rate) to step into the next tier. In two-catcher formats, I don't mind betting on a bounce-back from a healthier Buster Posey or hoping a young Danny Jansen improves.
- Yordan Alvarez is still dealing with knee soreness, and even if he isn't quite ready for opening day, I'm not too worried about it. He doesn't project that differently from Freddie Freeman or J.D. Martinez but is going a round or two later. Take that "utility-only" discount.
- Nelson Cruz is coming off a monster campaign, but age and his lack of a position are presumably the reasons for his ADP in the 70s. According to Razzball's player rater, Cruz was the 35th-best overall player in 2019. Yeah, I'll take my chances with the 39-year-old.
- Shohei Ohtani is difficult to rank because of his unique situation, both in real life and in fantasy. Assuming he's eligible as both a pitcher and utility hitter, he could be a fun player to roster in leagues with daily lineups, giving you the flexibility to move him around every day. On the other hand, he'll likely be too much of a headache to be worth your while in weekly formats.