This won’t be a formal full update of my Top 100 Rankings list. I’m just going to highlight a few players who have helped their cause after the first week of Spring Training. I’m not going to focus on anyone who is falling in my rankings just yet. It’s hard enough to provide a weekly top 100 hitters list during the regular season when the games matter — but I’m not going to overreact to a few spring training games. Dominic Smith is currently leading the league in batting average for Pete Alonso’s sake! Hey…that sounds like a good place to start!
- Dominic Smith: Smith is the modern reincarnation of James Loney or as my friends and I lovingly call him “Singles” Loney. Well “Singles” Smith is right now in the midst of a battle with Pete Alonso for the rights to the New York Mets first base position. In the minors Smith hit .296 across 2,368 at bats, but only had 46 HRs. That’s about 51.5 ABs between HRs or around 11 to 12 games between HRs. Smith hasn’t lived up to that average so far in his 310 ABs hitting only .210 across two seasons. Well Smith has treated his first 7 spring training games like the Mets minor league system and has 8 hits in 16 ABs. However, 7 of those were singles — living up to that nickname. Due to the collective bargaining agreement I’m thinking Smith gets the 1B gig out of spring training and if he can carry over some of these contact gains from spring training he might make a solid 100th ranked player.
- Pete Alonso: On the complete other side of the plate approach coin is Pete Alon-So many GD homers! Like I said above, Alonso will probably not make the Opening Day roster, but that is not due to lack of trying. Last year he hit 36 HRs across 478 AA and AAA ABs. So far through 6 spring training games Alonso is hitting .357 with 2 HRs that I’m going to count as 4 HRs because of how massive they were. If/when Alonso is playing in NY I think he’ll start out ranked in the 60’s near Edwin Encarnacion (63) with a LOT of possibility for upward mobility if he carries over his 2018 performance.
- Lewis Brinson: Lady and gentlemen your spring training HR leader so far — Lewis Brinson?! The same Lewis Brinson who had the lowest OBP in the entire league last year among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances? Yes, 2018 was an unmitigated nightmare for Brinson. One could argue he was the worst batter in the entire league. But let’s not let one awful year completely ruin our opinion of Brinson. Lest we forget he has a pair of 20 HR seasons and a career .398 OBP in 445 AAA ABs. Time will obviously tell if this is for real or just spring magic — but if he keeps this up you can expect his ADP (and top 100 ranking) to skyrocket in your upcoming drafts.
- Byron Buxton: Remember when? He’s back again. The guy we’ve all been salivating about since he was the 2nd overall pick back in 2012 is off to a hot spring start. He’s hit 3 HRs and 11 RBI so far in only 5 games and perhaps most importantly: 0 strikeouts. In his big league career Buxton hasn’t had a K/rate under 29%. Maybe the most recent change to his batting stance (removing his leg kick) is finally the key he needed for his breakout. Or maybe this is just another mirage for Buxton and he’ll struggle once again when the games matter. Buxton is capable of going on otherworldly streaks, so let’s wait until mid-March until we call him a top 100 hitter.
- Garrett Hampson/Ryan McMahon: I didn’t rank either of these guys last week because we don’t know who will even be the Rockies starting second baseman, but Hampson is making a great case for it so far: 5 hits, 2 HR, 3 SB and 3:3 K/BB. However, McMahon isn’t doing so bad himself with 7 hits in 15 ABs with a HR and a matching 3:3 K/BB ratio. Hampson so far has been going much earlier in NFBC drafts (188 ADP compared to McMahon’s 396.) Roster Resource has Hampson penciled in to open the season at 2B while Fangraphs is predicting McMahon will get 490 plate appearances compared to Hampsons 175. Both of these guys are great hitters and whoever wins the job will make a debut on my top 100 hitters list within the first month of games thanks to their pedigree, lineup and home stadium.
- George Springer: He’s yet to hit a HR yet, but something I’m keeping a really close eye on is his SB total. Springer told the Houston Chronicle that he lost 12 pounds coming into camp and he wants to be more active on the basepaths. Four games in so far Springer has snatched 3 bases without getting caught once. Springer has a 45 stolen base season under his belt back in the Astros minor league system. If AJ Hinch continues to give Springer the green light in the regular season and we even get 15 stolen bases from Springer he can vault himself from 36 in my rankings to the low-20s. Any more SB than that and we’re talking a top 20 player.
- Jose Peraza: Peraza debuted at #88 on my rankings last week on the back of his 14 HR/23 SB/.288 AVG season last year with the Reds. Well this spring he already has 4 stolen bases. In 2016 he had 6 spring training stolen bases and ended that season with 21 regular season stolen bases. I can’t say if there is any smoke or fire here — but like with Springer — if Peraza is being given carte blanche on the basepaths, maybe he can start moving closer towards the pair of 60 SB seasons he had in the minors and find himself in Whit Merrifield territory in my rankings (33.)
- Niko Goodrum: I’m going to save the most interesting player for last. Goodrum never showed up on any top prospect lists and not much was expected of him going into his first full campaign with the Tigers in 2018. Well, all he did was hit 16 HRs and steal 12 bases in the most random of playing time. What do I mean by random playing time? He played at least 10 games at 6 different positions last season. I wish I could say “well Goodrum now has the luxury of being locked into one starting position for the Tigers…” but unfortunately after Josh Harrison’s signing with the Tigers on February 24th, it’s looking like Goodrum is back to his super utility role. Fangraphs is projecting Goodrum to get 70 plate appearances at first base, 70 plate appearances at second base, 105 appearances at shortstop, 35 plate appearances at third base, and 154 plate appearances in the outfield. For a grand total of 434 total plate appearances. ZIPS has Goodrum projected for a line of 52/14/50/12/.230 in 435 ABs. So what’s got me excited about him already this spring? He’s slapped 8 hits (3 for extra bases,) scored 7 runs, 6 RBI, crushed 2 HRs and even stolen a base already. If Goodrum continues this momentum we could be looking at something close to a Marwin Gonzalez type season: EVERY position eligibility while giving you solid power and speed. Just don’t expect the same run and RBI total on the Tigers.
Salvador Perez: Salvy debuted at 86 in last week’s top 100 hitters. Low because he plays for what should be a last place team and while 27 HRs/80 RBI/17 BBs in back to back years is nice — the .235 average in 2018 is not. Unfortunately, I think 6 straight seasons of playing the toughest position in baseball has finally caught up with Perez as he’s now expected to miss the entire 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So is there some hot young prospect or sneaky sleeper ready to step in for the Royals? No. His backup is Cam Gallagher and he’s a defensive/pitching staff specialist and can be ignored in all but the deepest of the deep two-catcher leagues.