Which slugger sits atop first Hitter Power Rankings of '23?

March 29th, 2023

Baseball is back, and so are the Hitter Power Rankings.

As we did last season, MLB.com will be checking in throughout the season on the sluggers who are grabbing our attention and making pitchers’ lives difficult. For this pre-Opening Day edition, our voters were tasked with picking the top 10 bats in the Majors, considering not only 2022 performance but also expected ’23 success.

Here are the results.

1. Aaron Judge, Yankees

Who else? Judge was one of the most enthralling stories of 2022, and he owned the Hitter Power Rankings, too. On his way to setting the AL single-season home run record, Judge placed atop five of our final six polls, including the postseason edition. Now, he has a new $360 million contract in hand, and while it will be nearly impossible to top his exploits from last season, it will be thrilling to watch him try.

2. Mike Trout, Angels

Once again, the only question with Trout is whether he can stay on the field. Various injuries have limited him to appearing in less than 70% of the Angels’ games since 2017. But over that span, he ranks first in the Majors in OBP (.428), slugging (.630) and OPS+ (185). Eventually, Trout will no longer be among the game’s very best hitters -- but that time has not arrived yet.

3. Yordan Alvarez, Astros

A sore left hand slowed Alvarez this spring, but the 25-year-old looks good to go now. That’s a massive relief for a Houston lineup playing without Jose Altuve -- yet, pitchers will still get headaches looking for ways to get Alvarez out. Injuries have been the only thing that can slow this slugger. He’s remained a formidable presence as one of the game’s elite hitters since he arrived to the Majors in 2019.

4. Juan Soto, Padres

Last season, Soto topped a .400 OBP, posted a 149 OPS+ (making him roughly 50% better than league average), led the Majors in walks and smacked 27 homers. And that went down as a massively disappointing season. Such is the bar Soto has set for himself early in his career (keep in mind: At 24, Soto is younger than 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Award runner-up Adley Rutschman). Clearly, our panel is expecting more in Soto’s first full season in San Diego.

5. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

Goldy put together a career year in ’22, finally nabbing his first MVP Award after three previous top-three finishes. The All-Star first baseman led the NL in slugging (.578) and OPS+ (180) while exceeding the 30-homer and 100-RBI marks in the same season for the fourth time in his career. Now comes the challenge of authoring an encore at age 35.

6. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

As a reminder, we’re only considering Ohtani the hitter here, even though the guy also does a bit of pitching on the side. While he didn’t match his eye-popping offensive numbers from 2021, Ohtani was still plenty productive at the plate last season, slashing .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs. Still, the fact that he could be even better in 2023 is downright scary.

7. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers

As odd as it was to see Freeman wearing Dodger Blue at first, he didn’t miss a beat last season. Steady as ever, he started 159 games at first base and led the NL in plate appearances (708), runs (117), hits (199), doubles (47) and OBP (.407), while batting .325. Freeman is one of only eight players to log at least 450 plate appearances in nine straight seasons and the only one in that group to top a 130 OPS+ in each of them.

8. Manny Machado, Padres

Last season’s NL MVP Award runner-up, Machado had previously logged third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes over the course of his decorated career. Is this the year he takes home the trophy? Even with a star-studded roster, the Padres are depending on the steady Machado to guide them on a championship run, now that he has inked a long-term extension.

9. Julio Rodríguez, Mariners

Plenty was expected from Rodríguez in his debut season, and boy, did he deliver. Among his accomplishments: an All-Star appearance (including an impressive Home Run Derby showing), a 25-25 campaign, an AL Silver Slugger Award and an AL Rookie of the Year Award -- all at age 21. Oh yeah, and he was a catalyst for the Mariners snapping the longest postseason drought in the sport.

10. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals

When adjusting for park effects, last season was the finest of Arenado’s superb career. While his raw numbers didn’t match the totals he notched while playing half his games at Coors Field, his 154 OPS+ was easily a career high. Arenado still reached 30 homers and 100 RBIs for the seventh straight full season (excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020). No other player has more than four such campaigns over that span.

Also receiving votes: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays), Trea Turner (Phillies), José Ramírez (Guardians), Corey Seager (Rangers), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Mookie Betts (Dodgers), Masataka Yoshida (Red Sox), Pete Alonso (Mets), Luis Arraez (Marlins)

Voters: David Adler, Brett Blueweiss, Paul Casella, Doug Gausepohl, Thomas Harrigan, Sarah Langs, Ricardo Montes de Oca, Brian Murphy, Manny Randhawa, Efrain Ruiz, Shanthi Sepe-Chepuru, Andrew Simon, David Venn