That’s the question that’s been on my brain as I worked on these rankings the past few weeks. I’m not over the past 10 years, not for next year, not for the next 10 years — right now — is Mike Trout still the #1 hitter this year? Even with a lengthy DL stint, Trout is still one of the top players in the league and is close to surpassing all of his numbers from last year’s (also) injury shrunken season (88 runs/31 HRs/2 SBs in 116 games so far this year vs. 92/33/22 in 114 games last year.) But while he missed 19 games in August this year, three players have kept chugging right along and putting up phenomenal numbers. Let’s take a look at these three challengers for the crown.

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The 10 HR/8 SB/.302 AVG player we saw from AJ Pollock over the first month or so of the season is a top-20 player if that pace continues for a full season. However we know how this story goes, since May 4th (yes I know there was an injury in there because OF COURSE there was) Pollock has 184 ABs with only 6 HRs and 2 SBs with a .261 AVG. However, I keep him on these rankings because peak Pollock is a 20/40 threat. The only problem is peak Pollock is a pretty preposterous proposition. Whatever is hurting him this time seems to be limiting him on the base paths which is limiting you in your standings. 

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I’m going to do something a little different this week. I wanted to do a fun little experiment to show how tricky it can be to rank 100 hitters every week. It can be tough to decide which statistic is more valuable in standard 5×5 leagues while also taking into account: age, injury history, lineup, previous performance, home stadium, position eligibility, splits, etc.

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Matt Carpenter (up 36 spots): In his first 186 ABs: 23 runs, 7 HR, 21 RBI, .215 AVG. In his next 183 ABs: 47 runs, 19 HRs, 36 RBI, .339 AVG. End paragraph. 

There’s a few guys every week who I’m keeping a close eye on who are on the cusp of making the Top 100 Hitters list. This week the guys on the bubble are: Mallex Smith, Kole Calhoun and Ian Kinsler. Smith is looking like everything  we want Billy Hamilton to be. Like Hamilton, Smith had an eye-popping stolen base season in the minors (92  in 2014!) But Mallex is actually getting on base at a great rate (.357) this year, something Hamilton has sworn against. Mallex has all the speed of Hamilton and with opportunity could put together an amazing full season next year. I’m sure you already realized this, but Kole Calhoun was just the worst until the end of May. .162 batting average. That’s worse than some pitchers! Maybe — I don’t know. I’m pro-NL-DH. Haters gonna hate! Well Kole world got demoted and found the ghost of Babe Ruth while hitting for the Salt Lake Bees. (Beads?!) Since his return to The Los Angeles Trouts he’s hitting .302 with 27 runs, 13 HRs, 30 RBI and has even stolen 2 bases just for fun. If this pace keeps up, he’ll be rocketing up this list. Finally, Ian Kinsler has a pretty nice 20 game hot streak. He’s got 15 runs, 2 HRs, 10 RBI, 2 SBs, and a .347 AVG in that span. Now, put those numbers batting 6th behind Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and friends. His value just got a nice shot in the arm.

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When I left Jose Martinez off my Top 100 Hitter rankings earlier in the season people were calling for Grey to take my head. Well maybe this is why I was hesitant: Martinez hasn’t homered since June 30th. Oh wait, let me make that even more shocking — he hasn’t scored a run since June 30th. He also only has 1 XBH since June 30th. I like JMart, really I do. But we all need to pump our brakes on him. If he keeps up this “pace” — he’ll find himself just like Eric Hosmer off my Top 100 list and onto Chris Jericho’s list.

Cody Bellinger was enjoying a fine season until the end of June too. He had 49 runs, 16 HRs, 40 RBI and even 5 stolen bases with a .832 OPS. Like Martinez, Bellinger’s power has disappeared in this past month. He only has 1 HR and 4 RBI in 90 ABs.

You have to wonder if Max Muncy absorbed Bellinger’s power in some Space Jam Monstar style scheme. Bellinger and Martinez owners have to hope that Mike Trout beats the Monstars in Space Slam and gets Bellinger’s powers back. Or would it be Bryce Harper? Mike Trout apparently doesn’t use his personal marketing department enough.

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I started writing this week’s top 100 hitters article the same way I do every week: on the balcony of my penthouse apartment inside One57 skyscraper on West 57th street overlooking Central Park. Sipping a tall glass of Chateau Lafite 1787 while my trained Tibetan Mastiff, Chanel rests her head on my lap. This is the type of lifestyle being a Razzball writer has afforded me.

In reality, I’m sitting on my second-hand couch in north Jersey catching up on this week’s episodes of Big Brother with my wife while drinking flat Mr. Pib as my cat walks across my lapto9oi[p9vgdvc12er2`q.

Perception and reality can change over time. Our perception of a certain player during our draft will become a completely different reality over the course of the season. Since there have only been one full day of games since my last rankings this week I’m going to post last week’s rankings and compare them with where I had them ranked at the beginning of week 1 to see where my perception and the player’s reality were at odds.

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Last week there was an unfortunate hiatus from the Top 100 Hitters column as I was deep in the woods of Central New Jersey for my annual camping trip. Does Central Jersey exist? I was there — so I guess so.

I took a lot of time going player by player on these rankings so there are a lot of shake-ups in the rankings. I took a real close look at everyone’s numbers and tried my best to compare players 1 to 1 to see who I preferred. It can get rough comparing two players side by side. Do you prefer Player A with 60 runs, 5 HRs, 30 RBI, 20 SBs and a .285 average? Or Player B with 45 runs, 20 HRs, 50 RBI, 0 SB and a .245 AVG? In the end, unfortunately for this column — beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and I don’t mean the amazing MS-DOS dungeon crawler from 1991. Beauty is also in your roster construction — Player A might be really useful to you if you’ve got a bunch of slow-footed boobies out there.

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Not a lot of us saw this major league breakout coming from Jesus Aguilar. We were all expecting an awkward OF & 1B battle in Milwaukee between Eric Thames and Ryan Braun. Then here comes Jesus walking on the waters of Lake Michigan from Cleveland to Milwaukee to become an All-Star with the Brew Crew (he should be — stay tuned.) Maybe we all should’ve seen this coming — in 655 minor league at-bats in 2016 Aguilar hit 40 HR and 114 RBI. The average was only .261, but in the Indians minor league system he has some high average seasons (2011: .288; 2013: .291; 2014: .304.) Aguilar has already dropped his strikeout rate from 30% to 24.6% and if that number continues to go down while his contact rate continues to climb — Jesus’s ascension could continue.

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