X
Lost password?

Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

X

Receive free daily analysis

NFL
NBA
NHL
NASCAR
CFB
MLB
MMA
PGA
ESPORTS
BETTING

Already have an account? Log In

X

Forgot Password


LINEUP RESOURCES

Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Pickups & Streamers
Rookies & Call-Ups
24x7 News and Alerts

Fantasy Baseball Hitters That Could Benefit Most From the Shift Ban

corey seager fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB injury news

Major League Baseball is making some big changes ahead of the 2023 season. One of the most significant is the banning of the shift. You can read more about that here, but here's a quick summary from that article:

"With all four infielders needing to be on the dirt, the days of the four-outfielder setup will be over. Even more pertinent, shifting an infielder to play short right field, or simply overshifting three infielders to the right side of the second-base bag, will no longer be legal."

As with all rules changes, we have to be sure to not get ahead of ourselves here. We can feel confident that this will make some difference in the fantasy season, but anybody who is telling you that they know exactly what kind of difference it will make is not to be trusted. We do have some data on this already, as baseball has been testing this out in the minors. Baseball America has a piece up about what differences some of the test rules had, you can read that here. What they found was only a slight difference, as BABIP went up less than five points overall.

And if you look at the data without knowing which levels had added shift restrictions, you wouldn’t be able to easily tell which levels adopted shift restrictions and which did not. Typically, these changes make a smaller difference in reality than people speculate about, so I want to say again that we should not be drastically changing our rankings based on these changes. That said, it certainly will affect certain types of hitters more than others, so that's what I'm here to explore.

 

Theoretical Talk

When approaching these things, I first like to just think about everything logically before doing anything else. We can derive a few truths just from rational thought:

  • This will impact left-handed hitters much more than right-handed hitters.
  • This will impact ground ball hitters at least a little bit more than fly ball hitters.

Left-handers were shifted 55% of the time overall, while right-handers were at just 19%. Here's a matrix of shift rates based on the handedness matchup:

RHP LHP
RHB 19% 20%
LHB 57% 45%

So, the matchups most affected in 2023 should be the right-handed pitcher against the left-handed batter. That makes logical sense as it's easier for a left-handed pitcher to stop a left-handed hitter from pulling the ball since they can get movement away from the batter. If we're getting into the weeds of "what pitchers will be affected," you would probably lean towards right-handed ground-ball pitchers being affected the most – but since the slight minority of hitters are left-handed and pitchers can just change their approaches in certain situations, I wouldn't even factor that into rankings or anything on the pitching side.

As evidence for the ground ball theory, I have put together a good old-fashioned matrix. Here you see league-wide, situational batting averages.

What you see here are the breakdowns of batter hand, shift, and batted ball type (ground balls, line drives, and fly balls). There is a lot here, but here are the key takeaways:

  • Right-handed batters lost six points of batting average when shifted on as compared to not being shifted on.
  • Left-handed batters lost 31 points of batting average when shifted on as compared to not being shifted on.
  • Line drives were affected very little, a line drive still went for a hit more than 62% of the time regardless of shift.
  • Righties benefited from the shift when hitting a fly ball, lefties suffered from it.
  • The shift took away significantly from the batting averages of all ground balls, but it really crushed lefties as they hit just .207 when hitting a ground ball while a shift was on (note that this isn't necessarily hitting the ground ball INTO the shift, it's looking at all ground balls while a shift was on).

So the numbers back up the theory, left-handed hitters are much more affected by this. More specifically, left-handed ground ball hitters are most affected as evidenced by the .207 batting average on shifted ground balls.

 

Which Hitters Benefit Most

Let me say it again, we have to be very careful not to go too far here. We cannot know what effect this will have until we see plenty of data on the matter. I would say it will be a couple of months into the 2023 season before we have any real feel for what's happening. We are going to be looking into which hitters got shifted on the most, and which left-handed batters hit the most ground balls while being shifted on, but it's not a sure thing that these guys will see their batting average come up.

Maybe they won't hit as many ground balls next year, or maybe teams will figure out a way to still shift on them (moving fielders after the pitcher's wind-up starts, stuff like that), there's just a lot we don't know. I'm not going to move any hitters up more than 5-10 spots in my rankings due to this stuff, but let's get into it.

What you will find below is a table of data that shows three things:

  • The number of ground balls each hitter hit when an infield shift was on. Note that these aren't necessarily ground balls that were hit into a shift, it's just overall ground balls (but it's fair to say that most would have been hit into the shift since defenses would only be shifting on hitters who pull the ball a lot).
  • The number of hits each hitter racked up on those ground balls.
  • The batting average for that situation (so Corey Seager hit just .137 when hitting a ground ball when an infield shift was on).

The big standouts here would be the guys near the top of the list that had very bad batting averages. These names seem to be primed to benefit MOST from the rule change, and I would feel pretty good about predicting a higher batting average for them next year:

A list of hitters that will benefit, but less so than the names above (because of a smaller GB% or a batting average last year that wasn't all that bad on those batted balls):

Here's a scatter plot showing all of the GB% and Shift% for hitters with 300 or more plate appearances in 2022. You can hover over each dot to see which hitter it represents.


From that data, I searched for hitters that:

  • Shifted on at or above 40% of the time
  • GB% at or above 45% (league average was 44%)

It's a pretty short list:

Player PA GB% Shift%
Max Kepler 445 46.6% 89.7%
Ji-Man Choi 416 46.6% 83.9%
Josh Naylor 494 49.5% 77.1%
Jared Walsh 450 46.3% 72.2%
Trent Grisham 523 46.1% 64.2%
Jackie Bradley Jr. 370 51.3% 63.8%
Juan Soto 658 47.4% 59.1%
Ronald Acuna Jr. 529 47.7% 58.4%
Tucker Barnhart 308 54.3% 57.8%
Oneil Cruz 360 49.5% 53.3%
Lars Nootbaar 346 46.0% 52.9%
Ian Happ 637 47.4% 50.1%
Jesus Sanchez 343 46.8% 49.9%
A.J. Pollock 527 45.3% 49.1%
Cristian Pache 260 58.0% 47.7%
Alek Thomas 411 57.7% 45.5%
Luis Rengifo 511 48.2% 44.6%
Josh Bell 643 50.5% 44.0%
Andres Gimenez 553 48.2% 42.5%

One last thing, let's take an example and make some educated guesses about how many points of batting average we could be talking about here. We will use our cover boy, Corey Seager.

In 2022, Seager had 145 hits in 593 at-bats for a .245 batting average. He hit 182 ground balls while an infield shift was on, and just 25 of them found a way to go for a hit. 25 divided by 182 gives us that .137 batting average we saw above.

For the sake of it, let's imagine that Seager once again gets 593 at-bats and hits the same number of total ground balls (199), but this time hits the league average batting average on his ground balls (.241). 24.1% of 199 is 48. So now, he gets 48 hits on ground balls instead of 29. That is an additional 19 hits, which would raise his batting average from that .245 the whole way to .277, a huge 32-point gain.

Now, please note that I took an extreme, extreme example here. Seager would almost surely hit higher than the .137 mark on ground-balls next year even if the shift was left in place. There is natural regression to the mean built into this equation. A more reasonable expectation would probably be something like 15-20 points in batting average for the players that are most affected by the rule change.

Still, that is a pretty significant difference and it does justify moving some of these hitters we see above up in the ranks a bit because of it. Not only does the batting average help your fantasy team, but hits also give more opportunities for runs, steals, and RBI.

 

Conclusion

I suppose I have already stated it, but in conclusion – there are certain hitters in the league that we should project for significantly higher batting averages next year because of the change in the rules. A higher projection, of course, is very far from a guarantee, plenty of other things can happen to make that not become the case. However, it is useful for fantasy players to know which hitters are most likely to benefit, and I think I have done that for you here today.

Thanks for reading, reach out to me on Twitter @JonPGH any time with questions!



Download Our Free News & Alerts Mobile App

Like what you see? Download our updated fantasy baseball app for iPhone and Android with 24x7 player news, injury alerts, sleepers, prospects & more. All free!






LINEUP RESOURCES

Articles & Tools
Import Your Leagues
Daily Stats & Leaders
All Pitcher Matchups
Compare Any Players
Pickups & Streamers
Rookies & Call-Ups
24x7 News and Alerts

ROTOBALLER PLAYER NEWS

Spencer Dinwiddie13 mins ago

Returning To Brooklyn
Kyrie Irving35 mins ago

Heading To Dallas
Jordan Romano2 hours ago

Won't Pitch In World Baseball Classic
Jamal Murray2 hours ago

Doubtful Versus Minnesota
Caris LeVert2 hours ago

Questionable Again On Sunday
Nick Plummer2 hours ago

Reds Sign Nick Plummer
Chad Kuhl2 hours ago

Nationals Add Chad Kuhl On Minor-League Deal
Joel Embiid2 hours ago

Questionable Against The Knicks
Jake Faria2 hours ago

Red Sox Sign Jake Faria To Minor-League Deal
Bobby Witt Jr.3 hours ago

Royals Exploring Extensions For Bobby Witt Jr., Others
Kyrie Irving3 hours ago

Could Sit Until Traded
Logan Webb3 hours ago

Giants Discussing Extension With Logan Webb
Miguel Rojas3 hours ago

Dodgers, Miguel Rojas Agree On Two-Year Deal
Max Fried3 hours ago

Loses Arbitration Case
Joey Logano6 hours ago

Facing Different Reality At Los Angeles
Ross Chastain6 hours ago

And The Clash On Sunday
Ty Gibbs6 hours ago

Has To Race Into Coliseum Main Event
Kyle Larson6 hours ago

Bit Of A Wildcard At Los Angeles
Alex Bowman6 hours ago

Qualified Ninth At Los Angeles
NASCAR6 hours ago

A.J. Allmendinger Has Exciting Saturday At Coliseum
Denny Hamlin6 hours ago

Starts Second In Heat Three At Coliseum
Austin Dillon6 hours ago

Continues Chevy Theme In Los Angeles
Aric Almirola6 hours ago

Rises To Fifth In Qualifying Saturday
William Byron6 hours ago

Qualifies Fourth For Sunday At Los Angeles
Christopher Bell7 hours ago

Surprises Some At Coliseum Saturday
Kyle Busch7 hours ago

Loves Los Angeles Again On Saturday
Justin Haley7 hours ago

Heats Up Coliseum Track Saturday
Nikola Jokic7 hours ago

Registers Another Triple-Double
Jamal Murray7 hours ago

Notches Season-High 41 Points In Saturday's Win
Giannis Antetokounmpo8 hours ago

Logs His Third Triple-Double
Jalen Brunson8 hours ago

Returns With 41 Points
Deandre Ayton8 hours ago

Dominates Against Detroit
Brandon Ingram8 hours ago

Scores Game-High 35 Points Against The Lakers
Cam Thomas8 hours ago

Scores Career-High 44 Points
Stephen Curry8 hours ago

Set To Undergo An MRI
De'Aaron Fox15 hours ago

Remains Out On Sunday
Jaren Jackson15 hours ago

Jr. May Miss Another Game On Sunday
Ja Morant15 hours ago

Questionabl Versus Toronto
Seth Curry15 hours ago

Doesn't Return Against Washington
Mo Bamba16 hours ago

Suspended Four Games
Wendell Carter16 hours ago

Jr. Off The Injury Report
Kyle Kuzma16 hours ago

Sprains Ankle On Saturday
Josh Jacobs18 hours ago

Won't Settle In Extension Talks
Aleksander Barkov21 hours ago

Riding A Career-High Point Streak
Steven Stamkos21 hours ago

On An 11-Game Point Streak
Sebastian Aho21 hours ago

Enjoying Career-Best Goal Streak
Connor McDavid21 hours ago

On Track For A 150-Point Campaign
Jake DeBrusk21 hours ago

Ready To Return After The Break
Bowen Byram21 hours ago

Expected To Be Back After The Break
Matthew Tkachuk21 hours ago

Voted MVP At The All-Star Game
Fernando Tatis Jr.1 day ago

Open To Any Position
Luke Williams1 day ago

Dodgers Re-Sign Luke Williams To Minor-League Deal
Nolan Blackwood1 day ago

Twins Sign Nolan Blackwood
Jake McGee1 day ago

Announces His Retirement
Juan Minaya1 day ago

Pirates Sign Juan Minaya To Minor-League Deal
Yusniel Diaz1 day ago

Dodgers Sign Yusniel Diaz To Minor-League Deal
Franklin German1 day ago

White Sox Acquire Franklin German From Red Sox
Aaron Sanchez1 day ago

Twins Re-Sign Aaron Sanchez
Mecole Hardman2 days ago

Doubtful For Super Bowl
JuJu Smith-Schuster2 days ago

Kadarius Toney Questionable
Miguel Sanó2 days ago

Miguel Sano Hosting Workout Next Week
DL Hall2 days ago

Orioles Want DL Hall To Start
Anthony Misiewicz2 days ago

DFA'd By Royals
Eguy Rosario2 days ago

Out Until Summer With Broken Ankle
Jesús Luzardo2 days ago

Jesus Luzardo Wins Arbitration Case Over Marlins
Derek Carr2 days ago

Won't Extend Contract Trigger Date
Derek Carr3 days ago

Expected To Draw Plenty Of Interest
Aaron Rodgers3 days ago

: "I'm Not Going To San Fran"
Joe Mixon3 days ago

Charges Against Joe Mixon Will Be Dropped
Joe Mixon3 days ago

Has Warrant For Arrest
Mecole Hardman3 days ago

Unlikely To Play In Super Bowl
Mark Stone3 days ago

Out Indefinitely Following Back Surgery
Mitchell Marner3 days ago

Reaches 60 Points With Wednesday's Goal
Charlie Coyle3 days ago

Hands Out Two Assists
Alex Tuch3 days ago

Scores Only Sabres Goal In Wednesday's Defeat
Jesperi Kotkaniemi3 days ago

Picks Up Two Assists Against Buffalo
Tage Thompson3 days ago

Exits With Injury
Antti Raanta4 days ago

Shuts Down Sabres Wednesday
Stefan Noesen4 days ago

Picks Up Two Points In Victory
Pavel Zacha4 days ago

Scores Twice In Bruins Win
David Krejci4 days ago

Pockets Assist Wednesday
Jimmy Garoppolo4 days ago

Will Not Return To 49ers Next Season
Gustav Nyquist4 days ago

Set To Miss Rest Of The Season
Linus Ullmark4 days ago

Tries To End A Losing Run Wednesday
Ilya Samsonov4 days ago

Chases Another Home Win
Mattias Samuelsson4 days ago

Available Again Wednesday
Tua Tagovailoa4 days ago

Clears The Concussion Protocol
Dak Prescott4 days ago

Cowboys Open To Extension For Dak Prescott
Daniel Jones4 days ago

Giants Want To Re-Sign Daniel Jones
Justin Fields4 days ago

Bears Sticking With Justin Fields; Set To Trade First Pick?
MMA4 days ago

Sergey Spivak Can Earn A Big Victory Saturday
Derrick Lewis4 days ago

Looking For First Win Since 2021
Devin Clark4 days ago

Hoping To Turn Things Around
MMA4 days ago

Jung Da Un Set For Big Co-Main-Event Spotlight
Will Gordon4 days ago

In The Field At Pebble Beach
Thomas Detry4 days ago

Set For Pebble Beach Debut
Blagoy Ivanov4 days ago

Hoping For Big Start To 2023
MMA4 days ago

Marcin Tybura Set To Improve No. 10 Ranking If Victorious
Jordan Spieth4 days ago

Always An Option At Pebble Beach
Kyle Nelson4 days ago

Hoping To Prevent Three-Fight Losing Streak
MMA4 days ago

Choi Doo-ho Returns To Action After Layoff
Viktor Hovland4 days ago

Set To Play At Pebble Beach
Maverick McNealy4 days ago

A Nice Option At Pebble Beach
Tom Brady4 days ago

Announces Retirement From The NFL
Lamar Jackson5 days ago

Likely To Be Franchise Tagged
Houston Texans5 days ago

Texans Hire DeMeco Ryans As Head Coach
Denver Broncos5 days ago

Broncos Acquire Sean Payton As Next Head Coach
Ben Griffin5 days ago

Set To Make AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Debut
Beau Hossler5 days ago

Looks To Repeat Success At Pebble Beach
Kurt Kitayama5 days ago

Searching For Form
Russell Knox5 days ago

Looks To Stay Consistent At Pebble Beach
PGA5 days ago

Matt Fitzpatrick An Elite Fantasy Option At Pebble Beach
Adam Fugitt5 days ago

Set For A Very Tough Test
Yusaku Kinoshita5 days ago

Japanese Finisher Yusaku Kinoshita Set For UFC Debut
Taylor Pendrith5 days ago

Seeking Better Fortune At Pebble Beach
Justin Lower5 days ago

Sets Up Well For Pebble Beach
Davis Riley5 days ago

Not On Many Radars For Pebble Beach
Matthew NeSmith5 days ago

Trying To Turn Back Clock At Pebble Beach
Justin Rose5 days ago

Needs To Avoid Mistakes At Pebble Beach
Brock Purdy6 days ago

Will Have Surgery On Elbow
Brock Purdy6 days ago

Out Six Months With UCL Tear

RANKINGS

QB
RB
WR
TE
K
DEF
RANKINGS
C
1B
2B
3B
SS
OF
SP
RP