9 surprising players leading their teams in hitting

May 23rd, 2024

At the start of every season, teams may think they have a good idea of who their best hitters are going to be. But each year brings its share of surprises.

With the end of May approaching, a number of players have emerged as unexpected hitting stars for their clubs, including the nine players below.

In fact, each of these players is currently his team's leading hitter^, which is surely something no one saw coming on Opening Day.

^Rankings based on wRC+ -- a rate statistic that measures a hitter's overall offensive value in terms of run creation while adjusting for league and park effects (a 100 wRC+ is considered league average) -- among hitters with at least 125 plate appearances this season. All stats below are through Tuesday.

, 3B, Phillies
After providing roughly league average production from 2020-23 (99 wRC+), Bohm has a .333/.391/.533 slash with five homers, 19 doubles and 44 RBIs over 48 games in 2024, slightly outperforming two-time National League MVP Bryce Harper (155 wRC+) for the team lead with a 160 wRC+. In terms of Statcast’s run value metric, which takes the result of every pitch thrown and measures its impact on run scoring, Bohm (+24) has been the second-most valuable hitter in MLB, behind only the Astros’ Kyle Tucker.

, C, Twins
After showing his offensive prowess (138 wRC+) in a part-time role a year ago, Jeffers has been a lineup staple for the Twins in 2024. The 26-year-old has produced 10 homers, 31 RBIs and an .888 OPS over 42 games, splitting his time between catcher and designated hitter. His 150 wRC+ is tied for fourth best among players with at least 125 PAs who have played at least half of their games at catcher this season.

, 1B/OF, Pirates
Joe (130 wRC+) is the only Pirates hitter with at least 125 PAs to produce a wRC+ above 109 this season, which speaks to the team’s offensive struggles. The 31-year-old also ranks second on Pittsburgh in homers (six), third in doubles (10) and first in RBIs (22), slashing .277/.345/.466 in 165 PAs. Joe entered 2024 with a lifetime .247/.343/.400 line and a 98 wRC+, so his performance this season has been surprising to say the least.

, UTIL, Mariners
Seattle overhauled its lineup in the offseason, but the team’s offense actually has been worse than it was a year ago. Four of the Mariners’ offseason additions -- Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Haniger and Luis Urías -- have struggled mightily, as have holdovers Julio Rodríguez, J.P. Crawford and Ty France. Meanwhile, Moore has posted a 145 wRC+ to lead the team, hitting .243 with six homers, six steals and an .855 OPS. Five of Moore’s six homers have come in May, and he has a 1.064 OPS during the month.

, DH, D-backs
The D-backs signed Pederson to a one-year, $12.5 million deal in the offseason to provide some pop from the left side at the DH spot. He’s done that and then some, slashing .321/.418/.571 with six homers and a 179 wRC+ over 135 plate appearances, 128 of them coming against right-handed pitching. The veteran’s performance has been crucial for Arizona’s lineup with reigning NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll slumping badly (62 wRC+).

, OF, Padres
Profar is far removed from his days as MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect, entering this season with a lifetime 92 wRC+ over 10 seasons. This year, though, he has performed like the star he was projected to be so long ago, hitting .339 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and a .942 OPS over 51 games for the Padres, who signed him to a one-year, $1 million deal in late February. With a 176 wRC+ on the season, the 31-year-old not only leads San Diego but also has outproduced the superstar slugger the team traded away in the offseason -- Juan Soto, a leading American League MVP candidate with a 171 wRC+ for the Yankees.

, INF, Blue Jays
A 28th-round Draft pick in 2017, Schneider burst onto the scene late last season with eight homers and a 1.008 OPS over 35 games for Toronto. The 25-year-old has continued to produce in 2024, giving a lift to the scuffling Blue Jays, who have gotten just four homers from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a combined 71 wRC+ from Bo Bichette and George Springer. Over 137 plate appearances, Schneider has popped five homers and produced a 130 wRC+ thanks in part to an elite 18.3% barrel rate, which ranks in the 98th percentile.

, 3B, Rangers
The Rangers' lineup has Corey Seager and Marcus Semien and Adolis García and Nathaniel Lowe, plus a pair of highly touted rookies in Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford. However, it's Smith who is currently leading the way for the defending World Series champions with a 124 wRC+, up from 76 over his first two seasons. The 26-year-old has filled in admirably as Texas’ regular third baseman since Josh Jung fractured his right wrist on April 1, hitting .276 with a .364 on-base percentage and 12 doubles over 165 PAs.

, OF, Cubs
Tauchman began this season hitting toward the bottom of Chicago’s lineup, but he has worked his way up while making an impact with his strong on-base skills (14.1% walk rate, .373 OBP in 2024). The 33-year-old owns a 131 wRC+, giving him a slight edge over Cody Bellinger (125 wRC+) for the team lead.