Shortstop for 2023 is looking pretty stacked from top to bottom. Like many positions, there is a bit of a drop-off after round 10.
There are some names that are going around there, or even before, that I have found myself avoiding in my early drafts. Like always, bust is a strong word, but here are a few names that I would be reluctant to take at their given ADP.
2022 stats (351 PA): .301 AVG, 50 R, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 13 SB
Tim Anderson’s 2022 campaign was cut short due to a torn ligament in his left hand but also had groin injuries at the end of May. A somewhat healthy Anderson in 2021, still only playing 123 games, flirted with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases that year, producing 94 runs and a respectable 61 RBIs.
The expected stats for Anderson are always pretty solid or at least in line with his actual production. TA7 being a bust doesn’t have to do much with his output when on the field. He’s just not on the field enough for a player that is going around pick 80 or round 7/8. These rounds are where there is a bit of an odd gap in production for shortstop but there are names either right before or after that are more appealing (for power, Willy Adames, for points, Wander Franco).
Anderson is one of my favorite players to watch but since 2018 his playing time has been very up and down due to injury. In a few of my mocks, I’ve seen Anderson slide to around the 10/11th round near Amed Rosario, which, there I would take him. But with the first 8 picks of a draft for a team, the best ability is availability unless that player has insane upside. Anderson’s power hasn’t been quite the same since the deadened ball was introduced and his lack of health makes him a bit of a gamble at the shortstop position.
2022 stats (557 PA): .307 AVG, 84 R, 15 HR, 73 RBI, 8 SB
Xander Bogaerts is the anti-Tim Anderson as in he is going to play at least 140 games each year, a feat he has reached except in 2020 (naturally) and 2018 when he played 136 so come on. My issue with Bogaerts is one of the fantasy baseball variety. His power was down last year and he may get a bump in the steals category with the new rules, but probably won’t add a ton, making him a better real-life player than a fantasy player.
Like Anderson, Bogaerts expected stats are in line with his production and he has great (better than TA7), batted ball stats. The top line is 2020, the dark blue is the league average.
There isn’t much ammunition to poke holes in his game and I am not going to do that here. Bogaerts is a premier player in the game and was rewarded for his efforts by the San Diego Padres with a massive 11-year 280 million-dollar contract.
Where Bogaerts is going in drafts is what doesn’t get me excited. If average is what you are after in a categories league, Bogaerts is definitely a nice player to have. My issue is with his power which has been declining a bit over the years and last year he only produced 15 home runs. This could’ve been a fluke but with the change of scenery to the pitcher-friendly air of San Diego, I worry that we see more 15 home run years.
There is a 7th and 8th round clump that both Anderson and Bogaerts are in. O’Neil Cruz, Dansby Swanson, Wander Franco, Willy Adames, and Jeremy Pena are also in this clump. Bogaerts is probably the best bet for average out of those names, except a healthy season of Franco could maybe have him beat.
The lack of power last year from Bogaerts worries me for what is to come with his career. The stolen base totals have never been high so his impact will mostly be felt in average. That is okay if it works well for how a team is constructed, but banking on his power could prove to be detrimental.
2022 stats (517 PA): .281 AVG, 60 R, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 20 SB
Nico Hoerner enjoyed a nice breakout performance at the plate last year and especially on the basepaths. Hoerner will turn 26 in May, so he is entering the prime of his baseball career, meaning better stats could be on the horizon, especially in the power department.
In my previous articles, I’ve brought up launch angle before. Launch angle is something that almost feels dirty because you don’t want to teach a player poor habits if what they are already doing is bringing success. Hoerner falls into this category. His average launch angle is 8.2 whereas the average MLB player’s average is 12.5. A lower launch angle means it may be more difficult to lift the ball over the fence with consistency.
Hoerner also doesn’t have hard-hit data that jumps out at you with all of his stats being either league-average or below.
This means, in order to keep power numbers up, Hoerner is going to have to pull the ball consistently, which he has shown, at least in 2022, that he can do.
If the plan is only to use Hoerner as a means for stolen bases and average, that could work. The issue with that though is there are a few short stops later in the draft that could provide either one or both. Hoerner is right behind the shortstop clump sitting around round 12. I recommend skipping him and taking a chance on the breakout of CJ Abrams or Ezequiel Tovar at round 20. I’ve seen Tovar go higher than this but I like the risk on these two over where Hoerner has been falling.
2022 stats (590 PA): .238 AVG, 64 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 9 SB
Javier Baez has always had a flaw in his game and that was the strikeout. For many years he was able to hide this with power and solid defense. Last year we saw a massive dip in power, which for me, has scared me off of him completely.
Baez used to be a great source of power at the shortstop position hitting at least 20 home runs since 2017 and touching 30 twice. Baez signed a 6-year 140 million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers before the 2022 season, and so far, not so good. The power numbers were expected to go down a bit due to the uber-pitcher-friendly Commerica Park, but dipping to 17 is cause for concern.
We’ve always seen Baez outperform his expected stats, but last year was the first time they fell in line with his production. The top line here is 2015.
It isn’t crazy for a player to outperform their SLG but to do it consistently like Baez did, it isn’t wild that he finally had a year where everything evened out and I think Comerica Park had a lot to do with that.
The center and right field fences have been moved in which will help Baez. But he is someone I am avoiding altogether this year. He is going around the 14th round right now, and I guess that is low enough to take a risk on if needed. But like Hoerner, I’d rather take a chance on Tovar, Abrams, or even Elvis Andrus.
2022 stats (558 PA): .253 AVG, 72 R, 22 HR, 63 RBI, 11 SB
Jeremy Pena was on an absolute tear through the postseason last year leading to an ALCS MVP and a World Series MVP. The young shortstop’s postseason stats after one year are comical, .345/.367/.638 good for 4 home runs, 12 runs, and 8 RBIs. Insane stuff from a player that was paramount to the Astros World Series win.
This bust selection is mainly cause of where his ADP is. Right now he is slotted to go around the 9th round right at the end of the aforementioned shortstop clump.
Entering his second year as a big leaguer, the sophomore slump could definitely affect him as well as his batted ball data. Pena does not have bad batted ball data, it is right in line with the league average and in many cases a touch better. But like Hoerner, his launch angle is a bit suspect. Sitting at 8.7 with the league average being 12.5, this isn’t something to be overly concerned about moving forward, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Much like my Bogaerts pick, this isn’t a player to completely avoid, in fact, I have shares of both. Where they are landing in drafts is my concern. Pena may provide a nice power-speed combo for a team but there is still a bit of an unknown here. If he falls around the 12th round, I’d gladly take the chance. But taking him at his ADP, around the 9th round, feels early to me.