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3 Potential Shortstop Busts For 2023 Fantasy Baseball

oneil cruz fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB prospects

Once upon a time, the shortstop position was comparable to catchers in fantasy baseball in that nobody wanted to roster them, but the rules said you had to. Things couldn't be more different in 2023, as the shortstop position is filled with a blend of established stars and young guns that are literally oozing upside.

Every good fantasy roster will be getting significant contributions from the SS position, which means you cannot afford a bust as your starter in mixed leagues. Nobody rosters busts intentionally, so who should you be avoiding?

This article will provide three names that face significant obstacles to returning value based on their ADP. Let's get started!

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Oneil Cruz

Oneil Cruz might have the best package of physical gifts in the MLB today. He is the largest individual ever to man shortstop at the highest level, is the first person other than Giancarlo Stanton to lead the MLB in Max EV last season (122.4 mph), and boasts an elite Statcast Sprint Speed of 29.9 ft./sec. His 97.2 average airborne EV and 15.5% rate of Brls/BBE were also impressive for a 23-year-old.

Unfortunately, Cruz is still extremely raw and lacks the baseball skills to transform his physical gifts into elite fantasy production. While he cracked 17 HR with 10 SB last year, his overall batting line of .233/.294/.450 was lopsided at best. His biggest issue was contact with a 13.7 SwStr% and 34.9 K%. He hit .288 in September, but his 29.8 K% was still too high while an unsustainable .384 BABIP did most of the heavy lifting.

Swing-and-miss is only one of the holes in Cruz's game. His 23.9% HR/FB suggests that Cruz could get a lot from elevating the baseball, but his 34.5 FB% and 16.5 LD% were too low to take full advantage of his power. His xSLG of .410 was 40 points lower than his actual mark of .450 as well, largely because of grounders.

Furthermore, Cruz had a modest 71% success rate on SB attempts for the Pirates last year. That number declines to 68% if you fold in his 11-for-17 effort at Triple-A, meaning that he may not have a green light forever. Scouts also expect him to lose a step due to his sheer size.

Cruz was even in the third percentile for OAA, suggesting his SS defense was subpar despite his rocket arm. That could lead to lost playing time, especially as the new shift rules make teams more aware of infield defense.

Cruz is expected to lead off for Pittsburgh, a role that won't give him many RBI chances even if he figures everything out. He'll also rely on the Pittsburgh offense to drive him in, meaning he may not tally many runs either.

If Cruz can cut down the Ks, add loft to his swing, become a better base thief, improve his defense, and get some help from his teammates, he's a lock to outperform his ADP of 71.29. Those are a lot of big ifs though, and he's being taken too high for a pure upside play. The floor is abysmal.


Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts is a brand-name shortstop coming off a .307/.377/.456 triple-slash line with 15 HR and eight SB, so it's no surprise to see his ADP at 86.71. However, there are multiple reasons to be leery of him at that price.

First, Bogaerts has only one season of 25+ HR to his credit and hasn't cracked double-digit SBs since 2017. You shouldn't count on him to reach either benchmark in 2023, meaning that Bogaerts' average will largely determine his fantasy value.

Second, there are three separate indications that Bogaerts will see his average decline. Major projection systems such as ZiPS, Steamer, and THE BAT X all project Bogaerts to hit .270 or below based on age (30) and a .362 BABIP far exceeding his career mark of .336.

Bogaerts is a career .312 hitter at Fenway Park, but his career road average is just .271. Petco Park isn't the hitter's haven Fenway is, so Bogaerts won't be able to pad his fantasy stats with favorable home cooking. He'll also have to contend with the pressure of signing a $280 million contract.

Baseball Savant is the most pessimistic on Bogaerts' prospects, pegging him for an xBA of .259 based on his launch angles and exit velocities last season. All of these sources suggest that Bogaerts won't have an average high enough to carry his value or draft day cost.

Bogaerts is projected to lead off for San Diego, a role likely to suppress his RBI total. He should get a fair number of runs scored with the heart of San Diego's order hitting behind him, but he might not get on base enough to reach the century mark if he's hitting .270. Don't pay a brand name price for store brand production.


Javier Baez

What do you get if you combine Cruz's strikeouts with Bogaerts' bland profile? Javy Baez, come on down! Baez was terrible as a Tiger, hitting .238/.278/.393 with 17 HR and nine SB. Optimists may point to dramatically improved plate discipline as evidence of a rebound. His 24.9 K% was by far the best of his career.

It's also a mirage. Baez always had chase rate issues, but last year's 48.7% mark was a career-worst. His 69.1 Z-Swing% was his lowest since 2016, suggesting that Baez had no idea whether any given pitch was a ball or strike. His 18.6 SwStr% was on par with his career 18.4% rate as well, so Baez did nothing to earn that favorable K%.

Meanwhile, his contact quality fell off a cliff. Baez's average airborne EV fell from 95.8 mph in 2021 to 93.3 last season, two and a half ticks. Likewise, his rate of Brls/BBE fell from 13.4% to 8%. The result was a 12.3% HR/FB well off his 19.5% career mark that Baez completely deserved.

The Tigers project as a terrible offense, so Baez will likely struggle to accumulate counting stats even as their third hitter. At an ADP of 165.22, you're passing up on solid arms like Charlie Morton and Pablo Lopez, reliable power from Rowdy Tellez, and upside plays like Ke'Bryan Hayes. Nothing in Baez's profile suggests you should do so.

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