B/R's 2023 MLB Skill Rankings: Aaron Judge and Baseball's Top 25 Power HittersDecember 26, 2022
B/R's 2023 MLB Skill Rankings: Aaron Judge and Baseball's Top 25 Power Hitters
The question is simple enough: Who was baseball's best power hitter in 2022?
However, rather than simply looking at home run totals, I decided to take a more analytical approach to compiling my list of the sport's most prolific sluggers.
The first step was to decide what combination of statistics best quantify power.
After some digging and debating, I landed on these four:
- Average Exit Velocity (EV): The average velocity off the bat of all balls in play.
- Hard-Hit Percentage (HardHit%): The frequency with which balls in play travel 90 mph or faster.
- Expected Slugging Percentage (xSLG): Per MLB: "Expected Slugging Percentage is more indicative of a player's skill than regular slugging percentage, as xSLG removes defense from the equation."
- Home Run Total (HR): Since on-field production should still count for something, each player's 2022 home run total was also part of the equation.
The question then became how to use those statistics to best demonstrate the difference between Player A and Player B in terms of overall power.
My methodology and scoring system are outlined on the following slide.
For those of you who read our 2021 Skill Rankings series last year, we're following the same format as last year's version.
First off, the only factor used to narrow the list of candidates was that a player simply had to have at least 100 batted-ball events in 2022. That resulted in 411 eligible players.
From there, players were ranked based on the following scoring system:
- 0.1 point for every 0.1 mph of average exit velocity (EV)
- 0.1 point for every 0.1% of hard-hit rate (HardHit%)
- 0.1 point for every .001 of expected slugging (xSLG)
- 1 point for every 2022 home run
In case of a tie, the player who hit more home runs was given the higher ranking.
No bias. No preconceived notions. Just a set of statistical parameters and a straightforward point system to determine the current 25 best power hitters in baseball.
The full data can be found here.
Let's kick things off with a rundown of the 25 players who fell just outside our rankings and make up our honorable mention list.
These 25 players came up just short of earning a spot in our rankings:
- Anthony Santander, BAL (213.5 points)
- Albert Pujols, FA (212.4 points)
- Adolis García, TEX (211.2 points)
- Salvador Perez, KC (210.7 points)
- Bryce Harper, PHI (210.7 points)
- Bo Bichette, TOR (210.6 points)
- Kyle Tucker, HOU (210.1 points)
- Ryan Mountcastle, BAL (210.0 points)
- Eugenio Suárez, SEA (209.7 points)
- Rhys Hoskins, PHI (208.8 points)
- Willy Adames, MIL (208.4 points)
- Nathaniel Lowe, TEX (208.0 points)
- José Abreu, HOU (207.5 points)
- Anthony Rizzo, NYY (207.5 points)
- Cal Raleigh, SEA (207.5 points)
- Dansby Swanson, CHC (207.4 points)
- J.D. Davis, SF (207.1 points)
- Hunter Renfroe, LAA (206.6 points)
- Willson Contreras, STL (206.6 points)
- J.T. Realmuto, PHI (205.3 points)
- Carlos Correa, NYM (205.0 points)
- William Contreras, MIL (204.9 points)
- Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL (204.5 points)
- Will Smith, LAD (204.2 points)
- Marcell Ozuna, ATL (204.0 points)
25. Matt Chapman, Toronto Blue Jays (213.9 points)
Metrics: 92.2 EV, 50.7 HardHit%, .440 xSLG, 27 HR
In his first season with the Blue Jays, Chapman ranked among the MLB leaders in average exit velocity (93rd percentile) and hard-hit rate (97th percentile), and he managed to overcome a slow start to post a 115 OPS+ in 155 games. Now he enters a contract year with the potential for a significant payday next winter.
24. Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers (214.1 points)
Metrics: 91.3 EV, 48.0 HardHit%, .538 xSLG, 21 HR
Despite his lowest home run total over a full season since 2015, Freeman still earns a spot in the top 25 thanks in part to an MLB-leading 47 doubles and a .511 slugging percentage that was actually higher than a year ago when he slugged 31 long balls. Proof that being a good power hitter is more than just how many balls you hit over the fence.
23. Eloy Jiménez, Chicago White Sox (214.9 points)
Metrics: 92.8 EV, 54.9 HardHit%, .512 xSLG, 16 HR
Knee surgery limited Jiménez to just 84 games in 2022, but when healthy he logged a 140 OPS+ with 28 extra-base hits in 327 plate appearances. His 54.9 percent hard-hit rate ranked fourth among all hitters who qualified for inclusion, behind only Aaron Judge (60.9%), Yordan Álvarez (59.8%) and J.D. Davis (55.6%).
22. Juan Soto, San Diego Padres (215.4 points)
Metrics: 91.0 EV, 47.3 HardHit%, .501 xSLG, 27 HR
Even in a down year by his standards, Soto still finished with a 149 OPS+ and 54 extra-base hits in 153 games while navigating a high-profile midseason trade to the San Diego Padres. It's going to be much harder for teams to pitch around him when he's sharing a lineup with Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts and eventually Fernando Tatís Jr.
21. Julio Rodríguez, Seattle Mariners (216.7 points)
Metrics: 92.0 EV, 50.7 HardHit%, .460 xSLG, 28 HR
Rodríguez put together one of the best all-around rookie seasons in recent memory, posting a 147 OPS+ with 56 extra-base hits, 25 steals and 6.2 WAR in 132 games. The 21-year-old generates his plus power with elite bat speed, and there should be plenty of 30-homer seasons in his future.
20. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (216.7 points)
Metrics: 90.5 EV, 44.7 HardHit%, .465 xSLG, 35 HR
Betts has always been more of a well-rounded, five-tool player than a true slugger, but that didn't stop him from hitting a career-high 35 homers in 2022. He also had 40 doubles and three triples en route to 300-plus total bases for the fourth time in his career, finishing sixth in the National League in that category.
19. Manny Machado, San Diego Padres (217.2 points)
Metrics: 91.5 EV, 49.0 HardHit%, .447 xSLG, 32 HR
Machado did a lot of the heavy lifting in the San Diego lineup with Tatís sidelined and Soto not joining the team until August, and he finished runner-up in NL MVP voting while logging the sixth 30-homer season of his career. The 29-year-old has 283 career long balls, giving him an outside shot of joining the 500-HR club if he stays healthy and productive.
18. Joc Pederson, San Francisco Giants (218.1 points)
Metrics: 93.1 EV, 51.8 HardHit%, .502 xSLG, 23 HR
Despite being used more or less as a platoon player, Pederson led the Giants with 23 home runs in 433 plate appearances. He had a .742 OPS and two home runs in just 57 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, but crushed right-handed pitching to the tune of an .894 OPS with one home run every 17.9 at-bats.
17. Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks (218.4 points)
Metrics: 90.0 EV, 44.0 HardHit%, .484 xSLG, 36 HR
A non-tender candidate last offseason, Walker was given one more shot at Arizona's starting first base job and he responded with a 36-homer, 94-RBI performance. The 31-year-old raised his expected slugging by nearly 100 points from .386 to .484, ranking in the 92nd percentile in that category during the 2022 season.
16. Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers (219.7 points)
Metrics: 91.1 EV, 45.7 HardHit%, .479 xSLG, 35 HR
With a burly 6'4", 255-pound frame, Tellez looks the part of a middle-of-the-order slugger, and in his first season playing more than 120 games he set career-highs in a number of offensive categories. His 15 home runs from Aug. 1 through the end of the season were tied for second in the majors during that span, behind only Aaron Judge (20).
15. Teoscar Hernández, Seattle Mariners (220.4 points)
Metrics: 92.6 EV, 52.7 HardHit%, .501 xSLG, 25 HR
Despite a small dip in his home run total, Hernández once again posted some eye-popping batted-ball numbers, ranking among the MLB leaders in average exit velocity (96th percentile), hard-hit rate (98th percentile) and barrel rate (94th percentile). His contract year comes with a change of scenery after he was traded from Toronto to Seattle in November.
14. Corey Seager, Texas Rangers (220.6 points)
Metrics: 91.1 EV, 45.5 HardHit%, .510 xSLG, 33 HR
Seager sported some of the more dramatic home (.804 OPS, 22 HR) and road (.728 OPS, 11 HR) splits in baseball during the 2022 season, but the end result was another highly productive campaign. It took him some time to get going in the first season of a 10-year, $325 million deal, but he still wound up leading all shortstops in home runs.
13. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (220.7 points)
Metrics: 93.1 EV, 50.9 HardHit%, .497 xSLG, 27 HR
With an 18.6 percent strikeout rate, Devers is not the prototypical slugger who sells out for power, and he remained an extra-base machine even with his home run total dropping from a career-high 38 last year to 27 in 2022. Still only 26 years old for the entirety of the 2023 season, he figures to be the next young star to cash in with a nine-figure payday when he hits free agency next winter.
12. Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals (220.8 points)
Metrics: 90.7 EV, 46.9 HardHit%, .482 xSLG, 35 HR
Goldschmidt actually had better metrics across the board last year when he tallied 231.2 points in our scoring system, but the NL MVP still ranked as one of the game's top sluggers while recording the seventh 30-homer season of his career. The next few years are going to be crucial for the 35-year-old if he hopes to build a legitimate Hall of Fame case.
11. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (221.4 points)
Metrics: 92.8 EV, 50.4 HardHit%, .462 xSLG, 32 HR
The No. 1 player in these rankings a year ago, Guerrero posted gaudy numbers in 2021 with a 95.1 average exit velocity, 55.2 percent hard-hit rate, .591 expected slugging and 48 home runs. Even with a significant dip in all of those metrics, he was still one of the game's top sluggers, and he should be a contender for a top 10 spot for years to come.
10. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (222.0 Points)
Metrics: 92.9 EV, 50.2 HardHit%, .509 xSLG, 28 HR
If Byron Buxton can find a way to stay healthy for a full season, he might just run away with AL MVP honors.
In 153 games over the past two years—roughly one full season's worth of action—he has a 150 OPS+ with 47 home runs and 331 total bases in 636 plate appearances, and he's been an 8.5-WAR player during that stretch.
He had 11 home runs through his first 23 games to begin the 2022 season, and when he's dialed in he can do as much damage as any hitter in baseball.
9. Pete Alonso, New York Mets (223.3 Points)
Metrics: 89.9 EV, 44.6 HardHit%, .489 xSLG, 40 HR
On the heels of a 40-homer, 131-RBI season, it might seem like Pete Alonso should be ranked higher on this list, but he actually has the lowest average exit velocity and hard-hit rate of any player ranked in the top 10.
That stems from his rate of hitting under the baseball rising from 24.4 to 30.1 percent, and while that resulted in more lazy fly balls, he was also strong enough to turn many of those into home runs even without squaring up the baseball.
The 28-year-old has averaged 45 home runs per 162 games during his four seasons in the big leagues, and he should continue to pile up RBI hitting in the middle of a stacked New York Mets lineup.
8. Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves (224.5 Points)
Metrics: 92.9 EV, 50.9 HardHit%, .467 xSLG, 34 HR
After a 39-homer, 111-RBI season and an eighth-place finish in AL MVP voting during the 2021 season, Matt Olson was tasked with replacing Freddie Freeman in Atlanta after he was acquired from the Oakland Athletics during the offseason.
The 28-year-old proved up to the task, posting a 122 OPS+ with 44 doubles, 34 home runs and 103 RBI while playing in all 162 games, and his numbers would have looked even better had he not slumped over the final month of the year.
The lefty slugger has an uppercut swing built for launching home runs, and he should be a perennial 30-homer threat throughout his eight-year, $168 million contract.
7. Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees (225.8 Points)
Metrics: 95.0 EV, 52.1 HardHit%, .477 xSLG, 31 HR
The 2022 season was not the best of Giancarlo Stanton's career by any stretch of the imagination, but he can still hit a baseball as hard and as far as any player in the game when he connects.
The 33-year-old hit .211/.297/.462 for a career-low 113 OPS+ in 110 games, but he still managed to come away with his seventh 30-homer season, and he now sits at 378 long balls for his career.
After dealing with some ankle and Achilles issues in 2022, an offseason of rest and recovery and a clean bill of health on Opening Day could be all he needs to return to elite offensive form for the upcoming season.
6. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (231.9 Points)
Metrics: 92.9 EV, 49.8 HardHit%, .552 xSLG, 34 HR
It's still hard to fully comprehend the fact that the guy who finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting is also one of the game's best power hitters.
Shohei Ohtani was No. 2 in these rankings last season when he slugged 46 home runs on his way to AL MVP honors, and while he came up short of that number in 2022, his numbers were still stellar across the board.
The 28-year-old hit .273/.356/.519 for a 145 OPS+ with 30 doubles and 34 home runs to tie for fifth within the AL in total bases with 304. He also quietly trimmed his strikeout rate from 29.6 to 24.2 percent, and those adjustments should serve him well going forward.
5. Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves (234.4 Points)
Metrics: 92.5 EV, 50.8 HardHit%, .531 xSLG, 38 HR
Austin Riley was one of the breakout stars of the 2021 season, and he backed up that performance with an even better 2022 campaign, solidifying his place as one of the game's elite power threats.
The 25-year-old hit posted a 142 OPS+ with 39 doubles and 38 home runs en route to leading the NL with 325 total bases, and he also saw a significant uptick in his average exit velocity (90.1 to 92.5 mph) and hard-hit rate (45.6 to 50.8 percent).
The Braves locked him up with a 10-year, $212 million extension in August, and after seeing the way teams are spending on stars this offseason, that could prove to be a huge bargain in the coming years.
4. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (240.2 Points)
Metrics: 91.6 EV, 50.3 HardHit%, .583 xSLG, 40 HR
Even after missing 30 games at midseason with a back issue, Mike Trout still launched 40 home runs for the third time in his career, reaching that mark in just 119 games and 499 plate appearances.
The 31-year-old did not qualify for inclusion on our rankings a year ago, as he fell short of the required 100 batted ball events during an injury-plagued season, but there is no question he is still one of the game's elite sluggers when he's on the field.
With 350 home runs through his first 12 seasons, he's well on his way to joining the 500-HR club, among countless other milestones he could track down in the late stages of his career. For now, he's still in his prime and eyeing a long-awaited return to the postseason.
3. Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies (247.2 Points)
Metrics: 93.3 EV, 54.4 HardHit%, .535 xSLG, 46 HR
The four-year, $79 million deal that Kyle Schwarber signed with the Philadelphia Phillies last winter ended up being one of the best moves of the offseason.
The 29-year-old paced the NL with a career-high 46 home runs, recording double-digit long balls in June (12), July (10) and September (10) while hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot in the batting order.
His 13.98 at-bats per home run over the course of his eight-year career rank seventh on the all-time list, trailing only Mark McGwire (10.61), Babe Ruth (11.76), Aaron Judge (11.99), Barry Bonds (12.92), Jim Thome (13.76) and Giancarlo Stanton (13.85).
2. Yordan Álvarez, Houston Astros (259.2 Points)
Metrics: 95.2 EV, 59.8 HardHit%, .672 xSLG, 37 HR
The side-by-side comparison of batted-ball metrics between Aaron Judge and Yordan Álvarez is a lot closer than you might expect given the wide gap in their respective home run totals.
Judge: 95.8 EV, 60.9 HardHit%, .706 xSLG
Álvarez: 95.2 EV, 59.8 HardHit%, .672 xSLG
The Houston Astros young slugger hit .306/.406/.613 with 29 doubles, 37 home runs and 97 RBI in 135 games to finish third in AL MVP voting, and he likely would have had his first 40-homer season if not for a hand injury that cost him time in July.
If anyone is going to knock Judge out of the No. 1 spot, Álvarez might have the best chance.
1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (289.3 Points)
Metrics: 95.8 EV, 60.9 HardHit%, .706 xSLG, 62 HR
Considering Aaron Judge led all 411 eligible hitters in each of the four categories we're focusing on, it comes as no big surprise to see him comfortably out in front for the No. 1 spot in these rankings.
By comparison, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. edged out Shohei Ohtani by 3.2 points for the top spot in last year's rankings, so Judge's 30.1-point edge over the rest of the field in 2022 qualifies as a landslide victory.
The 30-year-old put together a season for the ages with 62-homer performance, and the New York Yankees rewarded him with a nine-year, $360 million deal and a captain's "C" on his jersey.
All metrics courtesy of Statcast via FanGraphs, while other statistical data also came from Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant.