Categories, eligibility and speed. These are the things that dictate where I rank hitters. Categories: A guy who contributes in all 5 categories is going to be ranked higher than someone who contributes in only 4 — even if those 4 categories are elite. That’s why I’m a bit lower on J.D. Martinez and Nolan Arenado compare to other people. Eligibility: obviously guys with multiple position eligibility or a shallower position will be ranked higher than say an outfielder. “Then why aren’t you higher on catchers?” Because after the top-2 catchers they’re basically all the same and likely to miss time. Speed: the most elusive of 5×5 categories. If you can give me at least 10 steals I’m going to give you a boost in my rankings. That’s why I’m higher on someone like Tommy Pham than others. If Trea Turner gets the 75-80 stolen base attempts that the Nationals want him to get then he has the chance to end the season as a top-3 player.
A good friend of mine asked me recently who I would rather have for 2019: Mike Trout or Mookie Betts. Here’s the deal — a full season of Mike Trout at his best is the best baseball player of all time. A full season of Mookie Betts at his his best is Mike Trout on a good year. “Javier Baez and Trevor Story in the top 10?! Are you mad?!” There is a lot of risk to take here, but you can get across the board production in your 5×5 league instead of just 4 categories. I’m the most nervous about Yelich among these 10. I wrote as much in my “Guys I’m Low On” article. His ground ball rate is still too high — but 20/20/.300 is still definitely possible — just don’t expect another MVP season.
|13||Ronald Acuna Jr.||OF||ATL|
Lindor not in the top 10?! I want to go even LOWER for Lindor. You know who the last guy was who had a bad calf injury in the pre-season? Josh Donaldson last year. And he played (poorly) in 52 games. Maybe I’m being overly cautious, but I drafted Donaldson in some leagues last year and suffered terribly for it. Calf injuries have a tendency to linger and if it hurts his stolen base numbers you’re in trouble. Acuna is someone I could easily see breaking into the Top-10 by week two of the regular season. We’ve seen this story before — there’s tape on him now and teams are going to know how to attack him. He’s an elite prospect though so we’ll see how it goes. Harper’s value is team dependent. If he goes to the Giants I’ll drop him a bit. If he goes to the Phillies I think he moves up a bit — I love their lineup. Freeman actually stole more bases than Goldschmidt in 2018, but I don’t think either of them will pass 12 this season.
Look at all that risk! Soto — like Acuna is going to need to make adjustments. Blackmon saw his stolen base total fall for the third year in a row. 20 stolen bases would now be a gift from him. Bryant and Rizzo took steps backward in 2018, but I think Bryant regains top-15 value while Rizzo stays more or less in this rank range. Davis is going to hit over 40 HRs and a .247 average — it’s almost scary at this point. I feel like people are sleeping on the fact that Marte went 20/33 last year with another solid average. I probably should’ve ranked him over Blackmon to be honest. I had Hoskins as NL MVP last year in our Razzball predictions. He didn’t have a bad year per se and I still think he has room for growth. 40 HRs are happening this year. You could swap Suarez and Rendon and I wouldn’t be mad. If the Reds are competing for a playoff spot — expected some MVP chants to be sent in Suarez’s direction.
I’m being too nice to Correa here. If he has another injury-plagued, disappointing season than the hype is gone and he’s out of my top-100. Merrifield and Mondesi were both in my “Guys I’m Low On” article, but I can’t deny 40 stolen base potential. But when there are a lot of question marks in the other categories — I can’t put them too high. Pham is leading the league over the last 3 years in running his mouth. Can’t stay mad at 20+/20+ though. Albies is someone who moved extremely quickly up my top-100 hitters rankings in April after hitting 9 HRs/3 SBs/.293 average. But he was pretty pedestrian the rest of the way including hitting .226 with a .624 OPS in the second half with only 4 HRs. Votto is something I think a lot of people are going to count out, but the dude is just a professional hitter. He had the worst season of his career, but he’s such a professional that he must’ve been playing through injury or something. I’m expecting 30 HRs and a .300 average again this year. And I think this Reds lineup could be quacktastic.
Haniger was actually on my list of players I’m higher on than most. I think he has 30/15/.290 potential in his bat over a full season. Castellanos has the dubious honor of being the only Tiger on this list. He just produced the highest WAR of his career and is now entering his mythical age-27 season. PLUS — he’s going to be the first guy targeted in trades once an outfielder goes down for a playoff-bound team. Rosario is a very safe OF2 if you grabbed Trout or Betts with your first round pick. He was on pace for a 30 HR/10 SB season last year before injuries got to him a bit. The Twins lineup should be better now too with a full season of Jorge Polanco atop the order and Nelson Cruz and last-chance Miguel Sano hitting behind him. A healthy Daniel Murphy gaining 1B eligibility in Colorado? 30 HRs are on the menu along with that .300+ average. Sign me up. Abreu is the last first basemen you can draft before losing your self respect. He’s healthy heading into the season and should return to his 600+ plate appearance, 30+ HR, 100 RBI, .295 self. Andujar is one of my biggest question marks heading into 2019. 27 HRs is more power than he ever showed in the minors — is he a beneficiary of the Yankee Stadium boost? He had a .913 OPS at home compared to .799 on the road. Well he’s still hitting in the Bronx so I guess we’ll see.
Seager could rocket back up to top-25 status if he returns fully healthy after only playing in 26 games in 2018. But who are we getting? A 25-HR bat with a .300 average? That’s not bad — but boy if he could even just manage 10 stolen bases I’d like him more. I’m going to be buying a lot of Donaldson shares if the price is right. In the 4 seasons bfore 2018’s injury-riddled campaign he averaged 33 HRs, 98 RBI and a .282 average. If he’s fully recovered in 2019 and hitting around Acuna and Freeman? Profit. Realmuto is far and away the top catcher for me. I’m maybe being even unfair by not putting him in the top-50. Last year he scored 74 runs and 74 RBI for the Marlins. THE MARLINS! Now put him in the heart of the Phillies order? 90+ of each are definitely possible. The double-digit steals are long gone though. Conforto’s hard contact rate fell under 40% for the first time in his career. Last year he missed the start of the season with injury and didn’t fully see himself the rest of the season. When he gets that hard contact rate back up and hits more fly balls — we’re talking 35+ HR territory.
This may sound crazy, but Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s peak could be a combination of Justin Turner’s 2016 power and 2017 plate discipline. In 2016 Turner hit 27 HRs and in 217 he had a .322 AVG with a .415 OBP. So why is Vlad in the 70’s and Turner in the 60’s? Don’t know when the Blue Jays will bring up Vlad. Turner always seems to miss games because he has hustling white boy syndrome. He plays so hard every game that he’s bound to get hurt. With over 500 ABs though he’s got 20-25 HR potential with a .300+ average. Shaw and Moustakas were always linked to each other in last year’s rankings because they just remind me of each other so much. 30 HR power with anywhere from a .250 to .280 average and both playing in Milwaukee. Expect the same in 2019. Brantley in Houston could be fun on a bun. He got 570 ABs in 2018 and made the most of them: 89/17/76/12/.309. The plate skills should be there — the 15/15 power/speed should be there and now hitting 5th behind 4 potential All-Stars? Love this value. Sanchez who are you? The 2017 MVP candidate — or the 2018 biggest bust of the year? If it’s somewhere in the middle — that’s pretty boring to me. If he rebounds to 2017 — he’s the best catcher in the league in one of the best lineups in the league.
|75||Vlad Guerrero Jr.||3B||TOR|
Dozier should bounce back in Washington in 2019. The 21 HRs and .215 average were his worst marks since 2013. 40 HR power? Don’t think so anymore. The contact rate just won’t allow it. But 30 HRs and plenty of RBI opportunities in the middle of the Nationals lineup? There is definitely upward mobility here. Muncy was one of the best stories in 2018 — an unhyped everyman coming out and putting up MVP numbers for one of the premier franchises in baseball history? Gotta love it. But is it for real or not? Well in terms of plate discipline — yes! He’s had over a 12% walk rate almost every point in his career. He’s also been pretty adept at putting the ball in the air often surpassing a 40% fly ball rate. And his 47.4% hard contact rate was 9th best in the league. I’m buying. Guerrero would be higher if he was starting his season in Toronto. He could end up in the top-20 once he makes his debut. Mallex Smith, Ohtani and Pollock I’m holding down a little bit until they prove they’re 100% healthy.
This is where the warts start showing up in my top-100. Of these 10 I expected Olson and Ramos have the potential to move up the most. We know the story with Odor. He could hit 35 HRs, he could steal 20 bases, he could hit .200 again. Gallo could hit 50 HRs, could knock in 100 RBI, but DEFINITELY will hit .200 (or less!) Inciarte just bamboozled us. Stealing 18 bases in his first 40 games of the season and then stealing only 10 more in his next 116 games. I’m optimistic about Peraza after his 14/23/.288 season — but his 5/23/.259 2017 is still lingering in my mind.
Some of these guys won’t last on this list very long. Desmond went 22/20 which is always nice, but hit only .236. Hosmer had the worst season of his career since 2012 not even reaching 20 HRs and barely getting his average over .250. All while having the second-worst ground ball rate (60.4%) behind only — Ian Desmond (62.0%.) Devers is still only 22 and I’m expecting a big rebound from him. In 2019. 21 HRs/.240 average as a 21 year old last year really isn’t all that bad. I love Eduardo Escobar as a UTIL guy on my teams. Two position eligibility and a 75/23/84/2/.272 line in 2018? Cornbread! Ain’t nothing wrong with that! Harrison Bader’s speed and power combo are for real, but his 29.3% K/rate was 15th worst in the league among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. However, his speed/power should help his BABIP and keep his average from slipping too far. Depending on his lineup slot Hernandez could move up to the 70’s — or fall off this list entirely. I don’t really understand the Hernandez hatred. 15/15 with 100+ runs and he had a .270 batting average in the first half of the season, but played through a broken foot in the second half leading to a .228 batting average.
What do you think? Which one of your favorite players am I too low on?
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