TDG 2022 PLAYERS TO AVOID: SHORTSTOPS
Maybe you’ve heard this before, shortstop is deep in fantasy talent. There are superstars and future stars at the top of the list along with plenty of other multi-category contributors littered throughout the Top 30. While there is such a bevy of talent, some red flags exist on a few players especially in the context of their consensus ranking. Below is a brief look into two shortstops that have large enough red flags that I’ll be avoiding them in my start-up drafts.
JAVIER BAEZ, DETROIT TIGERS
I’ve always rooted for Javier Baez. As a Cubs fan, I still remember the home run he hit in his first game after his call-up to the bigs. Despite my baseline favoritism, I’m nervous that his move to Detroit will bring a drop in his production. Additionally, his strike-out rate is still bad and continues to trend even worse.
Looking back at Baez’s 2021 season, it was on par compared with the rest of his career. The 31 home runs were near his personal best, second only to his MVP level 2018. Using Statcast’s Expected Home Runs by Park, his 2021 count would have decreased his homer total to 24 if he was a Tiger, that’s over a 20% reduction. Granted, that calculation is if he played ALL his games at Comerica Park which obviously isn’t the case but the reduction is notable. Baez does have a HardHit% year over year that stays in the low to mid-40s and potentially this should help maintain some of those home run totals. The concern will remain though every time he steps into the batter’s box at Comerica Park, which rates via Statcast’s Park Factors as the 6th worst for hitting home runs.
Baez has always been known as a free swinger, having multiple seasons with a K% in the 30s and BB% in the low single digits. The real surprise is that his K rate has continued to worsen every year since 2018, not the direction a seasoned vet should be heading. After that 2018 season, Baez ended with a very palatable 25.9% strikeout rate. Since then it has ticked up year after year, culminating last season when he struck out 33.6% of his plate appearances. That number was his worst strikeout rate since his debut year and the worsening trend leaves me worried that a sub-30 rate will not be achievable in the near future. This isn’t a profile that tends to age well.
All in all, there are enough questions that I’ll pass on taking Baez as the 12th shortstop off the board. If I miss out on one of the top 10 players, I’ll wait until taking a shortstop with a better floor a few rounds later.
GAVIN LUX, LOS ANGELES DODGERS
I won’t lie, I fell hard for Gavin Lux after that 2019 campaign. His 2018 and 2019 MiLB numbers were those of dreams, especially the 13 home runs he hit in 49 games at Triple-A. They left many of us dynasty baseball fans hoping for the next 40 homer shortstop. Not everyone bought in and many wondered if Lux benefited from the juiced ball of the Pacific Coast League in 2019.
As time continues to go by, it seems those concerns are more and more well-founded. Since those 13 home runs in 49 Triple-A games, he has hit 12 home runs total in 144 MLB games. His Statcast percentiles further describe power output issues. Lux was in the lower half of the league in HardHit% and was essentially in the top 66% of the league in both Exit Velocity percentiles (Max and Average). Add in a barrel rate in the bottom 15% and xSLG in the bottom quarter of the league and none of this says “big time power”.
Lux is not hitting the ball with authority as many assumed he would and he’s also not racking up the stolen bases he teased in the minors either. Every year that goes by, his 27 swipes in Low-A are more and more the outlier. He stole 3 total bases in the majors in 2019 and 2020 (although in only 42 total games). And last year, even with a 94th percentile Sprint Speed, he stole 4 bases in only 5 attempts.
We know he’s hitting minimal home runs and stealing minimal bases, so it isn’t surprising that his wRC+ has been below league average throughout his time in the majors as well. That wouldn’t help his playing time on any team, let alone an organization like the Dodgers. With Trea Turner around for another year (at minimum) and Chris Taylor resigning through 2025, Lux will need to perform to get consistent at-bats. Even if he does earn playing time, the production questions will continue until he shows us otherwise. With Lux ranked as our 17th shortstop, I’d be passing on him for some of the names almost directly behind him that don’t have the playing time concerns nor the missing fantasy stats.