Fantasy Baseball Hitter Rankings Update – Early June

I’ve finally completed my second in-season rankings update here in early June. There has been a shakeup at the top of the list and for good reason. Over the last two seasons, I’ve only considered Mookie Betts as the potential heir apparent to Mike Trout. That’s not the case. The new leader in the clubhouse is on pace for over 50 home runs and over 30 steals. You guessed, it’s Christian Yelich. Nothing in his profile shows that he will slow down. He’s currently sporting career-bests in K% and BB%, has increased his fly ball rate while maintaining an insane 35% HR/FB rate. That’s unheard of! He’s been able to do this with an increase in pulled fly balls and thanks to a more favorable home park. OK, let’s dig into the rankings, you can sort them by position or overall hitters. The +/- in the ECR column is my rankings compared to the Expert Consensus, not my previous rankings. If you want to see my update from late-April, here it is. Also for reference, here is my update before the season.

 

Catcher

Up

Jason Castro (C – MIN) +25 from 45 to 21
Previously, I had Castro buried in the catcher rankings to start the season. At the time of my previous update, he was hitting under .200 and was splitting time with Mitch Garver and Willians Astudillo. Since Garver went down. Castro really shined in his absence. Unfortunately for Castro, Garver is back and at best, there will be a 50/50 time split. That’s the reason he’s only up to 21st overall for catchers.

Will Smith (LAD) Unranked to 36, Mitch Garver (MIN) +10, Jonathan Lucroy (LAA) +9

Down

Francisco Meija (C – SD) -15 from 20 to 35
Well, 2019 does not appear to be the year of Francisco Mejia. He’s only playing a couple of days a week, doesn’t have a home run, and hitting below the Mendoza line. Why isn’t he lower on this list then? The Padres are playing well but I have a feeling they fall out of contention before August 1st. I think Meija gets a boost in playing time after the All-Star break (hopefully sooner) and produces like a top 15 catcher. A solid second half could boost Meija’s value going into 2020. NOTE: Mejia was sent to the minors, I might drop him a few spots, but not much. 

Wellington Castillo -7; Danny Jansen -7

First Base

Up

Josh Bell (1B – PIT) +16 (23 to 7)
What do you think of this ranking? Not high enough or too high? There seems to be split decisions in regards to Bell from the fantasy community. Bell quieted down his batting stance in the box to eliminate some inconsistencies from past seasons. He’s barreling up balls at an elite rate and is pulling more fly balls than ever. The gains are real and he’s earned his production to date. Then there’s his .372 BABIP which prior to this season had never been higher than .305. Yes, he’s hitting the ball harder and hitting more line drives. The increase is justified but he’s also carrying a BABIP on fly balls that’s almost .100 points higher than league-average. Same with his line drives. So, those are coming down, but so what, he’s not a .330 hitter. That’s OK. I think he finishes around .300 with 35-40 homers, so that means ROS he may hit .285 with 20 homers.

Matt Olson +21 coming off of injury & showing power, C.J. Cron + 17, Miguel Sano +13

Down

Jake Bauers (1B/OF – CLE) -11 (31 to 42)
Bauers looked like a potential sleeper coming into 2019 given his advanced approach and improving quality of contact. He also has above average speed, so envisioning a 20 HR/10 SB season with upside from there was not difficult. He’s managed to hit just .218 this year but has fantastic contact skills. The projections are still bullish on him going forward, he just needs to improve his quality of contact. He’s already going to be a sleeper for me going into 2020. He’s only 23 years old and I think his power will start to develop. Maybe he’s more of a 25 homer, 10 SB guy next year. I don’t know, but I’m still monitoring him.

Travis Shaw, -12;  Jesus Aguilar -12; Joey Votto -8

Second Base 

Up

Tommy La Stella (2B/3B/OF – LAA) (Unranked to 23trd)
The former pinch-hitting specialist for the Braves and Cubs has finally found a home. The Angels are not a deep team offensively so La Stella is getting every day playing time. I recently wrote a piece about power over/underperformers and La Stella topped the list. His power won’t likely continue but he’s made significant gains in contact rate. His 91.4% contact rate is near the top of the leaderboard and it’s helped him cut his strikeout rate in half. All of the stars are aligning for La Stella right now and he’s even underperforming his current BABIP (.287 BABIP vs .302 xBABIP). He’s getting playing time, making a ton of contact, and the properties of the ball are favoring hitters. This season is not repeatable for La Stella but ride it while you can.

Gleyber Torres +8; Cesar Hernandez +8; Brandon Lowe +10; DJ LeMahieu

Down

Ozzie Albies (2B – ATL) -4 (6 to 10)
I had originally moved Albies up after another hot start in April. Since May 1st, he’s slashing just .230/.289/.311 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with one home run and one steal. That’s not great friends. His approach still needs some refinements but his strikeout rate remains solid. He’s due some positive BABIP regression (.321 xBABIP vs .289 BABIP), so I expect at least a modest bump in his batting average. His stolen base potential has also been disappointing. He doesn’t have elite speed and the Braves aren’t giving him the green light. I think he has the ability to steal 25 bases but given what we’ve seen, he’s more of a 10-15 SB guy. .275-20-12 in 2019’s landscape is not something I’m chasing in redrafts.

Jonathan Villar -5; Brian Dozier -7; Kike Hernandez -14

Third Base

Up

Rafael Devers (3B – BOS) +7 (18 to 11)
It’s clear that Devers has worked hard this offseason to improve his game and it’s showing on the field this year. You have to remember, Devers is still only 22 years old. Most players are in Double-A (if they are lucky) at that age. He’s hitting .316 with nine home runs and his exit velocity has jumped more than two MPH from last year. He’s also stolen eight bases to date which is surprising and far from insignificant. He’s not fast by any means but he did steal 18 bases in Single-A back in 2016, so 15 SB is not out of the question. He’s also improved his contact rates which is something I love to see especially when the quality of contact improves. That’s the reason for his elevated BABIP as well. When I see improvements in both quality and overall contact, it means he’s maturing and taking his game to the next level. I think he maintains a near .300 average and pushes 25-30 homers while stealing double-digit bases.

Kris Bryant +7; Carlos Santana +9; Nick Senzel +12, Austin Riley Unranked to 14th

Down

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE) -7 (from 2 to 9)
It’s time to move Jo-Ram down. I left him at number two overall in my late-April update expecting a rebound. He started slow in April 2018 and ended up hitting 39 homers and stealing 34 bases. This year, however, he has not flipped the switch. We are beyond the point when Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt turned their seasons around last year, so the clock is ticking. Ramirez hasn’t completely been useless thanks to stealing 14 bases but he’s on pace for only 11 home runs and is still hitting just over the Mendoza line at .204. He’s never been a Statcast stud, but given elite plate approach and contact skills, he was able to maximize his abilities.

He’s been unlucky for sure, but his expected metrics are still well below where they were in 2018. He’s traded valuable pulled fly balls for pop-ups which are automatic outs. His heavy pulled fly ball approach has lessened this year. Not only is he hitting fewer pulled fly balls but he’s not hitting them as hard either. He’s also yet to homer to centerfield, something did seven times last season. As the weather heats up, I’d expect a power boost given the metrics but he probably finishes closer to 15-18 homers and 30 steals with a .240 average. That’s still top 100 but you drafted him in the top 10 and in many cases, top 5.

Jurickson Profar (1B/2B/3B/OF – OAK) -12 (22 to 34)
I was relatively low on Profar coming into the season as the move from hitter-friendly Globe Life Park to Oakland Coliseum had me concerned about his power output. Then, the ball’s properties changed and balls started flying out at record rates. Alas, fly balls and home runs remained but his profile has killed his batting average. He’s not going to carry a sub-.200 BABIP all season but a 20% infield fly ball rate (IFFB%) and a low line drive rate will suppress BABIP. Just ask Rougned Odor. He’s also been lucky with nine home runs on just 10 barrels. Profar is a deep league utility bat only.

Matt Carpenter -5; Josh Donaldson -7; Maikal Frano -10

Shortstop

UP

Ketel Marte (2B/SS/OF) +8 (18 to 10)
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love Marte. I’ve been on Marte since he was traded from Seattle to the Diamondbacks. He’s always had great contact rates and is a great athlete. His speed has never factored in much in terms of stolen bases but he’s really bulked up this past offseason. He’s already reached his home run total from a year ago and the power metrics back up his bump in power. He’s in the top 20 overall in terms of most balls hit over 95 MPH and has the longest home run on record in 2019!He’s legit and I think he can reach 30 home runs or more this year. I wish he ran more, but I’ll settle for .280-32 HR-8 SB with a ton of counting stats.

Gleyber Torres (2B/SS – NYY) +7; Tim Anderson (SS – CHW) +4; Didi Gregorius +16

DOWN

Jonathan Villar (2B/SS – BAL) -6 (10 to 16)
It’s not that my projections for Villar have changed much at all. He’s essentially on pace for my preseason projection of 16 home runs, 34 steals, and a .250 average. The homers might actually be a little light but I doubt he reaches 34 SBs. It’s more about his peers passing him in the rankings. Gleyber Torres, Ketel Marte, Tim Anderson, and Jorge Polanco have all jumped him in the rankings. Nothing is really different about Villar. He’s still hitting near the top of a poor offensive Orioles club, hitting for some power and providing speed.

Manny Machado -3; Jean Segura -7; Tim Beckham -10

 

Outfield

UP

Austin Meadows (OF – TB) +24 (from 43 to 19)
Every month this year Meadows has hit over .300. That’s not by accident. Since the trade from Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay, Meadows has thrived. He’s making more contact and his overall quality of contact is near elite. He’s a fixture in the top third of the Rays lineup, so he should compile a fair share of counting stats. Given his skills, I’d expect around 25 homers and 15 stolen bases to go with a .300 average. That’s a hell of a deal from a guy who was draft between 150 and 200 overall.

Franmil Reyes (OF – SD) +27 (24 from 51)
Do you realize how impressive Reyes’ start to his career is? He has 19 home runs in only 211 plate appearances (PA) this year. But, in his brief career that spans 496 PA, he already has 35 home runs! That’s a 42 home run pace over 600 PA. The kid is still just 23 years old. He does have some major contact issues but so does Peter Alonso. In fact, they are very similar players and Alonso is actually older than Reyes by seven months. They even have nearly identical expected wOBAs (.389 for Alonso and .390 for Reyes). It’s just that Reyes is carrying a .240 BABIP which 75 points lower than his xBABIP. From this point forward, I think Reyes has a great shot at outproducing Alonso the rest of 2019.

Max Kepler +24; Kyle Schwarber +10; Joc Pederson +15; Byron Buxton +13; Jorge Soler +22; Avisail Garcia +36

DOWN
Wil Myers (1B/OF) – SD) -8 (from 31 to 39)
Myers has provided nice category juice with 11 home runs and six steals thus far but he’s whiffing more than ever before. His strikeout rate of 36.2% is in the bottom one percent in the league. He’s been absolutely brutal against curveballs (62.5% K rate) and changeups (47.4% K rate). Both of which he’s somehow managed BABIPs over .500, so expect regression there. Oh, and he has a .233 batting average with a .333 BABIP, so if you’re expecting an improvement in BA, it’s not coming. He is sporting solid hard hit rates and expected batting average on contact (xBACON) but also 27.8% HR/FB rate that seems very unlikely to maintain. Not only would it be a career-high for Myers, it would be nine percent higher than his previous best HR/FB rate. That’s hard to believe considering an infield fly ball rate that is the worst of his career.

Nicholas Castellanos -7; Ryan Braun -11; Delino DeShields -12

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