Welcome to the Hitter Power Rankings, a new feature in which a panel of MLB.com voters will periodically cast their ballots for the best bats of the moment.
Track record and talent certainly count here, but to be clear, this exercise is more about what's happening right now than simply listing MLB's most dangerous sluggers. Who's hot? Who's driving the conversation? And don't forget the fun factor. Early in the season, those criteria can yield some surprises that nobody would have expected to see here even two weeks ago -- along with plenty of more obvious names.
Will those scorching starters stand the test of time? That question will be answered in future polls. For now, enjoy the first edition of the Hitter Power Rankings.
Note: All stats are through Wednesday’s games.
1) Nolan Arenado, 3B, Cardinals
Was Arenado just a product of Coors Field? Um, no. The Gold Glover's first season in St. Louis was solid, but if the early returns are any indication, 2022 is going to throw some ice-cold mountain spring water on that talk, once and for all. Arenado racked up five home runs and 14 RBIs in his first 10 games through Wednesday, when his go-ahead two-run shot in the ninth inning lifted the Cardinals over the Marlins. He leads the Majors in slugging (.895).
2) José Ramírez, 3B, Guardians
The man with the brand-new seven-year contract has been money over the first two weeks of the season. J-Ram is torching opposing pitching, starting off on an 11-game hitting streak, including three three-hit games, four homers (including a grand slam on Wednesday) and an MLB-high 20 RBIs. His video-game-like .429/.479/.881 slash line translates to an absurd (and AL-leading) 298 OPS+ -- that’s nearly three times the MLB average.
3) Seiya Suzuki, RF, Cubs
Even the most talented and accomplished players from overseas face questions about how their numbers will translate to the Majors. Suzuki has done everything he possibly can to put those to rest quickly. Leading the Majors in OBP (.565) and OPS+ (303) through your first dozen games is a pretty good strategy, but this is about more than just results. Suzuki looks completely at home in an MLB batter’s box, and his sharp plate discipline and loud contact suggest he’s the real deal.
4) Matt Olson, 1B, Braves
There was a lot on Olson’s shoulders heading into Opening Day. He was the hometown kid returning to Atlanta to replace a franchise cornerstone who just won a World Series; then he signed an eight-year, $168 million extension. Well, if this is how Olson responds to pressure, the Braves should find a way to apply more. The lefty slugger already has seven multihit games, including four three-hit efforts, is tied for the Major League lead with 20 total hits, and has more walks than strikeouts.
5) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays
It will be shocking if Vlad Jr. doesn’t spend some time atop this list in 2022 and put his name firmly in the AL MVP conversation. After all, it feels like the young phenom is just getting started after a spectacular '21. He already has flashed greatness this year, including a three-homer explosion against Gerrit Cole and the Yankees on April 13. The biggest issue so far is that opponents have thrown him the lowest rate of pitches in the strike zone of any MLB hitter.
6) Juan Soto, RF, Nationals
Just about everything that applies to Guerrero also applies to Soto. The fact that it doesn’t seem as if he has quite hit his stride yet, despite posting a .452 OBP and .962 OPS through his first 14 games, says it all. Like Vlad, Soto isn’t seeing a ton of strikes, putting him on a path to leading the Majors in walks for a second straight season.
7) Owen Miller, INF, Guardians
You’d be forgiven if you’re asking yourself, “Who?” Miller was a third-round pick by the Padres in 2018 out of Illinois State, came to Cleveland in the Mike Clevinger trade and debuted in 2021, producing only a .551 OPS over 60 games. So it would be an understatement to say that his 14-for-28 start with an MLB-best seven doubles came pretty much out of nowhere. But expected or not, a .500 average and 1.510 OPS speaks for itself. Unfortunately for Miller and the Guardians, he was just placed on the COVID-19 IL, hitting pause on his potential breakout.
8) Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Rays
He’s been a solid and highly entertaining contributor on strong Rays squads over the past few years, but maybe 2022 is when Choi will become more of a national name. The 30-year-old native of South Korea leads the AL in OBP (.553), after reaching base safely 21 times in his first 11 games (nine starts) through Wednesday.
9) Wander Franco, SS, Rays
With all due respect to Choi, though, this is the Rays hitter to watch. Don’t be surprised if this is the lowest Franco ranks on this list all year; the uber-talented 21-year-old has already proven himself to be a naturally prolific bat-to-ball artist. With an MLB-high-tying 20 hits thus far in 2022, Franco is now batting .328/.376/.524 with the second-lowest K-rate in MLB (8.8%) since last year’s All-Star break.
10) Steven Kwan, LF, Guardians
Three Guardians in the initial Hitter Power Rankings? You probably didn’t see that coming, but Cleveland leads the Majors in runs per game and OPS+. Kwan, the organization’s No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has been a big part of that, thanks to a .524 OBP and 8-to-3 walk-to-strikeout ratio. The rookie’s season-opening streak of 116 pitches seen and 40 swings taken before his first swing and miss (a foul tip, no less) has been one of the most fun storylines of this young season.
Also receiving votes: Brandon Belt (Giants), C.J. Cron (Rockies), Freddie Freeman (Dodgers), Francisco Lindor (Mets), Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Corey Seager (Rangers), Spencer Torkelson (Tigers), Mike Trout (Angels)
Voters: David Adler, Nick Aguilera, Doug Gausepohl, Thomas Harrigan, Sarah Langs, Ted Lee, Mike Petriello, Shanthi Sepe-Chepuru, Andrew Simon