The baseball season is officially over, but the Hot Stove is starting to heat up. Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto are starting to see their names churn through the rumor mill, and many players need a new home for next season. While we wait for things to kick into high gear, let's take a look at 2023's best MLB hitters.
To be considered, players had to accumulate at least 250 plate appearances during the regular season. From there, they were sorted by Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+).
If you're curious as to what exactly wRC+ is, here's the definition from FanGraphs:
"Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) is a rate statistic which attempts to credit a hitter for the value of each outcome (single, double, etc.) rather than treating all hits or times on baseball equally, while also controlling for park effects and the current run environment."
Essentially, wRC+ helps put players who hit in hitter-friendly environments and those who hit in pitcher-friendly environments on a singular scale based on offensive production. The league average is 100. The following 10 hitters were at the top of the totem pole in 2023.
Best MLB Hitters of 2023: No. 10-6
10. Juan Soto: 155 wRC+
There's that man again. Juan Soto could begin 2024 as a member of the San Diego Padres. It'll be an adventure to get to that point, though. San Diego acquired Soto at the 2022 trade deadline, and he struggled in his new surroundings. He posted a 131 wRC+, but it was accompanied by a .236/.388/.390 line.
He was back to normal this past year, slashing .275/.410/.519. Soto hit a career-high 35 homers to go along with 109 RBI and 97 runs scored. The outfielder also played in all 162 games. It's the fourth time he's appeared in at least 150 contests since 2019.
9. Matt Olson: 160 wRC+
Entering the 2023 season, Matt Olson's career-high marks in the power department included 39 homers and 111 RBI. He accomplished both of those in 2021 with the Oakland Athletics. It's safe to say he blew past those numbers, slugging an MLB-leading 54 home runs with 139 RBI. Those dingers also broke the single-season Braves franchise record.
Olson really enjoyed hitting at Truist Park. Across 292 plate appearances, he collected 28 homers and 73 RBI, which helped lead to a 1.046 OPS and 172 wRC+.
8. Freddie Freeman: 163 wRC+
Freddie Freeman's 29 homers for the Dodgers pales in comparison to what Olson did for Atlanta. But, what he didn't do in that department, he made up for it elsewhere. He hit .331/.410/.567 in 730 plate appearances and also added 59 doubles, 102 RBI, 131 runs scored, and 23 steals to his ledger.
Despite being in his age-33 season, Freeman found a way to outproduce what he did for the Dodgers in 2022 for all of the statistical categories mentioned above. After posting a 7.1 fWAR in his debut season with the club, the 2023 NL MVP Award finalist finished with 7.9 fWAR this year.
7. Yandy Diaz: 164 wRC+
This list pretty much includes all the players we'd typically expect to be here. Yandy Diaz was the one surprise, though. He's been a solid hitter throughout his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, but he took things up to a new level in 2023. Diaz hit .330/.410/.522 in 600 plate appearances. The 22 home runs, 78 RBI, and 95 runs scored he produced are all new career-high marks, as well.
The only time Diaz saw his monthly wRC+ dip below 148 was in June when it was 124. So, there were no prolonged slumps of any kind for the corner infielder. Just consistent production across the board.
6. Mookie Betts: 167 wRC+
Not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Mookie Betts has continually increased his production for the Dodgers. From 2021 to 2023, his fWAR has increased from 3.9 to 6.6 to 8.3, while his wRC+ has gone from 131 to 145 to 167. Betts' home run (23 to 35 to 39), RBI (58 to 82 to 107), and runs scored (93 to 117 to 126) production has all followed the same trajectory.
All but two of Mookie's 693 plate appearances came out of the leadoff spot for Los Angeles. He really loved starting the game on a high note at the plate, too. Betts hit .326/.375/.667 with 12 home runs in the first inning.
Best MLB Hitters of 2023: No. 5-1
5. Corey Seager: 169 wRC+
Corey Seager only suited up for 119 regular-season games with the Texas Rangers before leading them to a World Series win. Even though he stepped up to the plate 127 fewer times than in 2022, he either met or surpassed his production in 2023. This includes home runs (33 in '22 and '23), RBI (83 in '22, 96 in '23), and fWAR (4.3 in '22, 6.1 in '23).
He was on some kind of heater between June and August, too. This span of time consisted of just 303 plate appearances. However, Seager used that opportunity to his advantage by hitting .356/.422/.682 with 20 home runs, 27 doubles, 57 RBI, 53 runs scored, and a 193 wRC+.
4. Yordan Alvarez: 170 wRC+
One of these days, Yordan Alvarez is going to be healthy for 150-plus games and his numbers are going to be epic. Despite being limited to 114 games, Alvarez still produced his third straight season of at least 30 homers and 97 RBI. And, a year after posting a career-best 185 wRC+ for the Houston Astros, his encore performance was pretty good. His 170 wRC+ came off the strength of a .293/.407/.583 triple slash.
Houston was a much better team on the road than they were at Minute Maid Park this year, and you can see that in Yordan's numbers. What he produced as a visiting player (196 wRC+ and 1.103 OPS) was much better than what he did at home (114 wRC+ and .847 OPS).
3. Ronald Acuña Jr.: 170 wRC+
Even though some will point to MLB's new rules as a major reason why, Ronald Acuña Jr. had a season for the ages. He's been close to joining the 40-homer, 40-steal club in the past. Since simply reaching that benchmark was too mainstream, he went ahead and created the 40-70 club off the strength of 41 homers and 73 steals.
Acuña also added a 1.012 OPS, 8.3 fWAR, 106 RBI, and 149 runs scored to what very well could be an NL MVP campaign for him. He was an equal-opportunity offensive player in 2023, too. Check out how similar his home/road splits were:
- Home: 176 wRC+ with 20 homers, 52 RBI, 74 runs scored, and 36 steals
- Road: 165 wRC+ with 21 homers, 54 RBI, 75 runs scored, and 37 steals
2. Aaron Judge: 174 wRC+
Aaron Judge entered the year coming off a monstrous 2022 that put some pretty high expectations on him. After all, he broke the AL single-season home run record with 62 dingers, was named AL MVP, and inked a $360 million deal to stay with the Yankees. Oh, and he was named the team captain.
Despite all that, the only thing that slowed him down was a bum toe after running into the Dodger Stadium outfield wall in June. He slugged 37 home runs with 75 RBI, 79 runs scored, and a 1.019 OPS in just 458 plate appearances. While his 50.0% fly-ball rate was a career-high mark, the same could be said for his 53.8% hard-hit rate.
Upon seeing those two stats, it's not surprising to find out that Judge posted a 1.742 OPS and 361 wRC+ on fly balls this past year.
1. Shohei Ohtani: 180 wRC+
Of course Shohei Ohtani is at the top of this list. The dude's a legitimate alien. The two-way superstar is looking for a huge payday this winter, even though he won't be pitching again until 2025. Before he signs on the dotted line, he's all but likely to take home his second AL MVP Award in three seasons.
He played in his last game of the season on September 3rd but still managed to lead the AL with 44 home runs. He added 95 RBI, 102 runs scored, and 20 steals, as well. The 180 wRC+, 1.066 OPS, and 6.6 fWAR he produced as a hitter are all new career-high marks.
This wouldn't have happened if he didn't go off during the month of June, either. In just 106 plate appearances, Ohtani hit 15 home runs with 29 RBI and 27 runs scored. His triple slash settled in at a cool .394/.492/.952 with a 275 wRC+.
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