The Hitters that Baffle the Rankers: The Top 100

Yesterday, we published our consensus top 300 players, including the breakdown between the five rankers. Naturally, there are some players with more disagreement between us than others. So I decided I would investigate those very players. I calculated the standard deviation of the five rankings and sorted. Unfortunately, players lower in the rankings will almost always have higher standard deviations, even though the difference between a rank of 180 and 220 is much smaller than 1 and 15. As such, I split the group into those inside the top 100 and those outside. What follows is a selection of hitters ranked within the top 100 whose rankings are all over the map.

I have also decided not to discuss players where there was only one outlier ranking, with the other four rather close.

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Evan Gattis 30 154 44 84 110

I debated including Gattis as I didn’t want catcher valuation to become the talking point. But Gattis’ ranking ranged from 30 to 154, so he had to be discussed. The move to the American League and a more hitter friendly home park should boost his playing time and power output. But, the Astros have a glut of catcher, 1B, OF and DH candidates. So the large range in rankings could indicate how little we really know about his playing time potential this season.

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Ben Revere 40 158 66 104 99

It’s hard to imagine we all have drastically different projections for Revere, so I can only assume this is a valuation issue. Speedsters are generally worth less in shallower leagues, as we know how I felt about them in deeper 15-teamers! But still, how could our valuation systems rank what I suppose are similar projections so differently? I could certainly understand a preference for selecting a more balanced players, but if we’re talking pure dollar value, the low rankings surprise me.

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Chris Carter 82 116 173 111 69

Well, I can answer that. Or perhaps I will save that for a future Pod Projections post. Essentially, the question is how much you believe in last year’s 37 home runs and if his power is enough to compensate for his terrible batting average. An optimistic rank suggests that Carter will sustain his fly ball rate spike above 50%. Without that surge, his home run total would have barely crossed the 30 plateau and his 2014 would have looked eerily similar to his 2013. Last, the glut I mentioned in the Gattis commentary above factors in here as well. If Carter slumps, does he lose playing time?

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Brandon Belt 96 139 81 156 76

Belt was limited to just 235 plate appearances in 2014 due to a broken thumb and a concussion. But that long awaited power spike, or better described as home run power spike (his ISO only jumped marginally, but his HR/FB rate surged), finally manifested. It came with a a significant jump in strikeout rate and career high in SwStk% though. Was the home run spike sustainable? Can he strike a better balance between his home run power and strikeouts in 2015? The optimists think yes, the pessimists think not.

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Hanley Ramirez 42 21 9 19 82

Ramirez moves to a new park and joins a potent Boston lineup. Fenway is a known BABIP booster, as it’s heaven for doubles and inflates singles as well. Is an increased batting average assumed by the pessimists here? And how much will he run at age 31? Are the optimists expecting him to continue to swipe mid-teens bases? And are we projecting too much playing time for a guy who has averaged just 424 at-bats over the last four seasons?

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Christian Yelich 34 39 92 75 41

Yelich is becoming a trendy non-sleeper ’round these parts. But how much power should be expected from a guy who hits fewer than 20% fly balls? Is it wise to expect him to sustain such an inflated BABIP? Perhaps, given his drool-worthy batted ball profile and minor league history. Will he run as often hitting directly in front of Giancarlo Stanton? So many questions, so few answers.

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Todd Frazier 87 47 89 54 103

It was a breakout from a fantasy perspective, but Frazier actually posted a better wOBA in 2012. There are two primary questions and those answers determine where on the optimist-pessimist line you sit. How sustainable is his HR/FB rate, which jumped from the low teens to 17%? And more importantly, where the heck did those 28 stolen base attempts (20 of which were successful!) come from? Can he do it again? If not, how much regression should we expect? Does he fall all the way back to the single digits or finish somewhere in the middle like the Fans are projecting?

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Jay Bruce 88 85 101 59 42

Bruce endured his worst season as a Major Leaguer, and it wasn’t particularly close. The optimists must believe he will reverse his increasing strikeout rate and declining fly ball rate trends in a hurry to push his home run total back into the 30 range. But even if he did that, one must also hope that his BABIP remains respectable enough to keep his average in “won’t hurt you” territory. Lastly, does he attempt 15 steals again?

NAME Jeff Dan Mike Paul Zach
Michael Brantley 36 27 19 9 8

One of 2014’s biggest surprises, if not the biggest surprise, it’s actually not a surprise that we disagree quite a bit on Brantley. Did Brantley establish a new level of power, now becoming a perennial high-teen to 20 home run guy? If not, how much of his power output is sustainable? Does he fall all the way back to his pre-2014 levels or does he hold some or most of his power gains? He ran a bit more than previous seasons, but the biggest difference with regards to his steals was his insane 96% success rate. That can’t happen again, right? And what about that career high .333 BABIP? But even if that does regress, a .290-.300 average in a league of declining batting averages is immensely valuable.

The two super optimists are expecting a near repeat of everything that Brantley provided in 2014. The rest of us are clearly expecting different degrees of regression, but still agree that even with a reasonable amount assumed, his all-around contributions make him a top 10 outfielder.

We hoped you liked reading The Hitters that Baffle the Rankers: The Top 100 by Mike Podhorzer!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

newest oldest most voted

To combat the issue of “high SD = low-ranked player”, I figured I’d see if dividing a ranking’s SD by the actual rank would help any. The 5 most controversial players by that metric:

– Hanley Ramirez
– Mookie Betts
– Troy Tulowitzki (though this is mostly due to Zach’s outlier ranking)
– Michael Brantley
– Miguel Cabrera