New name stands atop Hitter Power Rankings
It’s not easy to keep your place atop the Hitter Power Rankings. To do so, you need good health, good fortune and consistently superb production.
And so it is that for the second straight installment, we have a new No. 1 on the scene.
A trip to the injured list with a right hip strain helped dethrone Aaron Judge. Mike Trout took his spot last time around, only to enter a rare slump in May.
Our latest poll features not only a new leader but also six sluggers climbing up from unranked status -- four of whom are joining the list for the first time in 2023. Here’s a look at the results, which balance track record, season-long excellence and recent performance.
All stats are through Thursday’s games.
1. Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves (Last poll: 2)
Not only is Acuña back, he may be better than ever. The NL leader in runs (34), hits (50), total bases (83) and steals (15) also sports a career-high 173 OPS+. The 25-year-old is blistering the ball, with a 95th-percentile hard-hit rate and four home runs with at least a 113 mph exit velocity and a projected distance longer than 440 feet. (No other player has more than one such homer). Six weeks into the season, he looks like the NL MVP Award frontrunner.
2. Matt Chapman, Blue Jays (5)
Despite strong seasons from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, it’s Chapman who has been Toronto’s best hitter this season, ranking near the top of the MLB leaderboards in most significant offensive categories. A .240 career batter over his first six seasons, Chapman entered Friday nearly 100 points above that (.338), thanks in part to an MLB-best 67% hard-hit rate.
3. Sean Murphy, Braves (not ranked)
When the Braves acquired Murphy in a trade with Oakland during the offseason, it was clear they were getting one of the sport’s top all-around catchers. What nobody was expecting was that Murphy would begin his Braves career hitting like prime Mike Piazza. While a significantly more hitter-friendly home ballpark certainly helps, the 28-year-old is also making much stronger contact, almost doubling his career barrel rate.
4. Randy Arozarena, Rays (not ranked)
Has Arozarena figured out how to make Postseason Randy a year-round fixture? Coming into 2023, he had a 1.121 career OPS in the playoffs, compared with .807 during the regular season. But after making his mark with Team Mexico during the World Baseball Classic, Arozarena has helped carry the Rays to an historic start. He's crushing the ball like never before (96th percentile in hard-hit rate and 97th in barrel rate), and his production has followed suit.
5. Luis Arraez, Marlins (7)
Arraez went 2-for-4 on Opening Day and was still batting .500 after the Marlins’ 15th game. He didn’t drop below .400 until going 0-for-3 on Wednesday to fall to .398, in Game No. 38. Even if Arraez doesn’t get back over the .400 mark again, his bid would stand as the longest by a qualifying hitter, in terms of team games, since Cody Bellinger in 2019.
6. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals (not ranked)
It’s gone a bit under the radar because of the Cardinals’ massive struggles early this season, but Goldy is authoring a more-than-worthy follow-up to his 2022 NL MVP campaign. While his bottom-line results aren’t quite as impressive, his expected metrics (per Statcast) are actually better, thanks to improved quality of contact and a lower strikeout rate. He ranks in the 98th percentile in expected slugging and expected wOBA.
7. Yordan Alvarez, Astros (not ranked)
After mashing his eighth homer in a tight win over the Angels on Wednesday, Alvarez was batting .342/.432/.605 with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in his first 11 games back since missing four contests with a sore neck. That’s pretty much been the Alvarez story throughout his career: When he’s healthy and in the lineup, he’s a difference maker.
8. Wander Franco, Rays (8)
After a stellar first month of the season, Franco has been even better so far in May (.984 OPS). The switch-hitter rarely swings and misses, makes solid contact and already has stolen more bases (12) than he did from 2021-22 combined (10). While there’s a long way to go, Franco’s 161 OPS+ would be tied with Alex Rodriguez (1996) for the third highest by a shortstop at age 22 or younger in AL/NL history, trailing only Rogers Hornsby (169 in 1917), and Fernando Tatis Jr. (166 in 2021).
9. Yandy Díaz, Rays (not ranked)
Díaz always looked like a slugger, but he didn’t necessarily hit like one, thanks to a penchant for putting the ball on the ground. Now his numbers are matching his physique. Díaz is driving the ball in the air more, all while maintaining excellent plate discipline and contact skills -- a pretty nifty combination. He’s already matched his 2022 total of nine homers, while his 180 OPS+ is tied with Chapman for second in MLB.
10. Bo Bichette, Blue Jays (not ranked)
The only player with more hits or total bases than Acuña this season, Bichette has maintained the improvements he made last season, when he batted .406/.444/.662 over the final month. One area where he particularly excels: going oppo. Bichette’s 59 opposite-field batted balls are far and away the most in MLB, and he’s batting .458 on them.
Also receiving votes: Masataka Yoshida (Red Sox), Mike Trout (Angels), Brent Rooker (A’s), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (D-backs), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Shohei Ohtani (Angels)
Voters: David Adler, Brett Blueweiss, Paul Casella, Doug Gausepohl, Thomas Harrigan, Sarah Langs, Travis Miller, Ricardo Montes de Oca, Brian Murphy, Sweeny Murti, Manny Randhawa, Efrain Ruiz, Shanthi Sepe-Chepuru, Andrew Simon, David Venn