TDG 2023 PLAYERS TO AVOID: SHORTSTOP
I’m not sure why I signed up to write our shortstops to avoid article. Shortstops are wonderful. This is a deep position loaded with present and future stars. Rather than avoid them, maybe stock up on them and use them in your MI and UT positions as well as SS.
Something to keep in mind, however, is that MLB shortstops are often so freakishly athletic that they manage to succeed despite significant flaws in their approach at the plate. That works great through their 20s, but as they age those flaws can get exposed. I hate to pick on the two players below because they’re both fun as hell to watch, but be wary as they enter their 30s.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox (AGE: 30, RANK: 17)
Tim Anderson has batted over .300 for four straight seasons, which is pretty remarkable considering his K-rate was over 20% for three of them. He’s been able to make up for his whiffing ways with insanely high BABIPs, including a .399 mark in 2019. That number was assumed to be luck-driven, and while perhaps it was a little bit, he’s had BABIPs of .383, .372 and .347 since. His trick is beating out groundballs – his 70 infield hits rank fourth in MLB over that four-year span.
Anderson did one very encouraging thing in 2022, cutting his K-rate to 15.7%. That would be more exciting if it didn’t also come with an .093 ISO and just six home runs, both career lows. His average launch angle declined for the fourth straight year. He made more contact, but not good contact.
Anderson’s sprint speed has taken a slight hit over the past two years, going from the 90th percentile range to around 75th. That’s a problem for someone who relies on his speed not just to steal bases and score runs, but to get on base in the first place. Players generally don’t get faster in their 30s, so he’ll need to improve elsewhere to avoid a steep decline. I hope that happens, but I’m not willing to bet on it.
Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers (AGE: 30, RANK: 27)
Javier Baez has a few things in common with Tim Anderson. He rarely walks, hits a lot of grounders, and relies on his speed to get infield hits. He also strikes out way more often, and hits in a worse lineup in a worse park. His only advantage over Anderson is power, and even that might be fading – his 112.1 max exit velocity last season was the worst of his career.
Baez can still be tempting despite all his flaws. He slashed .293/.322/.509 in September, teasing the possibility of a bounce-back. He’s done it before, following his disastrous 2020 with a 31-homer, 18-steal season. Maybe if he slips far enough in a redraft league I’d take the gamble, but we’re talking dynasty here. Expect any revival to be short-lived.