Shifting our focus from shortstops you should be targeting in your drafts, now we look at shortstops you want to avoid. As previously discussed, shortstop is a position that falls off a cliff fast. If you do not snag one or two (for those with a MI slot) early, you are left scrambling. This makes it even more important to avoid those early-round picks that are going to be a disappointment. Last year two early shortstop busts were Fernando Tatis Jr. and Javier Baez. If you drafted one or both of them, you received little to no production and were left relying on the waiver wire. This article identifies two players I think have bust potential and that you should be avoiding in 2023 drafts.
The season is not here yet, but why not get a head start and jump in a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Get a jump on the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to get your baseball on!
Shortstop Busts to Avoid in 2023
Xander Bogaerts- San Diego Padres
After missing out on Trea Turner, the Padres made signing Xander Bogaerts a priority, landing him with an 11-year $280 million dollar deal. Bogaerts was excellent in 2022 posting the second-highest wRC+ of his career. He slashed .307/.377/.456 with a 6.1 WAR and projects to hit in the middle of a loaded San Diego lineup. The question however is: How does the move to San Diego impact Bogaerts’ fantasy value? Labeling him as a bust candidate is no knock on his real-life value, but he is currently going as SS11 inside the top 90 picks. This is way too high for a player that has a chance to be a real disappointment in 2023.
Let’s just start with the park factors. I put out a tweet about this before and now feels like the perfect time to reference that.
Boston was a PERFECT stadium for Xander Bogaerts.
Boston Park Factors(RHH):
Move to SD ⬇️⬇️
His BABIP on pulled balls at home from '16-'22 is .399 compared to .357 away
HR/FB% @ home 14.4% vs. 12.2% away
Huge bust potential‼️
— Matt Heckman (@Heckman_Matt115) January 29, 2023
Boston and the Green Monster were perfect for Bogaerts. The ability to smash balls off the tall left field wall is underemphasized for right-handed hitters. The shallow wall helps turn would-be fly balls into easy doubles for hitters. Since 2018, Bogaerts trails only Nick Castellanos for doubles hit. Three of the top five during that span are all players from the Red Sox(Bogaerts, JDM, and Devers). Add in Mookie Betts who spent time there at seventh and the trend becomes even more apparent.
Boston is an easy place to hit doubles, meanwhile San Diego is one of the most difficult. Using Statcast Park Factors, in a neutral ballpark, Bogaerts would have hit about 30 doubles instead of the 38 he hit in 2022. Moving Bogaerts to San Diego, this number drops to 26. His total number of hits would drop from 171 to about 141 and home runs would drop from 15 to 13. We would be looking at Bogaerts in a totally different manner if he hit .253 with 26 doubles and 13 home runs. Obviously, this is not perfect since players do not play all their games at home, but the point is clear. The move from Boston to San Diego is potentially detrimental to Bogaerts’ fantasy value.
The new home ballpark is concerning enough without even digging into Bogaerts’ recent trends. He has seen his slugging percentage decline in each of the past four seasons. Since peaking in 2018, Bogaerts has seen his average exit velocity on breaking balls and off-speed pitches steadily decline. His HR/FB% has dropped from 18.6% in 2020 to 10.6% in 2022. With every year that passes, Bogaerts’ 33-home-run campaign from 2019 looks more and more like an outlier. Projecting him to hit more than 15 to 20 home runs is a stretch.
Despite batting over .300 last year, his contact skills have regressed since the beginning of his career. From 2016 to 2019, Bogaerts averaged an in-zone contact rate of over 87%. Over the past three years, his contact skills have gone from well above average to right around average. It would not be surprising to see his strikeout rate start to tick up with this decline in skills.
We are at the point where Xander Bogaerts is a better real-life player than fantasy asset. This has always partially been the case, but it has become even more true over the past couple of seasons. Moving away from Boston could expose some of the potential red flags in his profile and lead to some serious struggles. I am not betting on the power or contact skills returning to his prime and neither should you. In terms of players going around him, I would much rather draft Wander Franco or Willy Adames than take Bogaerts in San Diego. Avoid him in drafts as the bust potential is high this season.
CJ Abrams- Washington Nationals
As CJ Abrams was ascending prospect ranks, I was quickly pumping the brakes. The speed was always apparent, but the quality of contact, aggression at the plate, and lack of power were always something that should have been viewed as red flags. Abrams was a major disappointment in his first Major League season. Split between San Diego and Washington, Abrams hit just .246/.280/.324. The change of scenery at the trade deadline did not help as his wRC+ dropped from 76 to 67. He is currently going as SS23 which even at pick 234 is too high. Do not count on Abrams being a fantasy asset in 2023. He has a high chance of being a bust and a major disappointment this season.
The most disappointing part of 2022 was his lack of success on the base paths. He only stole seven bases and was caught four times. Considering he has 91st percentile sprint speed, many were expecting more than a 14/600 stolen base rate. Pure speed is different than base stealing instincts and 2022 might be an indication to lower our expectations.
Abrams’ success rate should increase with the new pitch clock and base rules, but one thing that cannot be overlooked is the inability to run if you do not get on. Of 277 batters with 300+ plate appearances, Abrams ranked 246th in OBP. Overall, Abrams attempted to steal about 13.1% of the time he got on. This is good enough for 32nd overall which is great, but if you are going to get on at such a low clip, that number needs to be over 20% to be useful. Jon Berti and Jorge Mateo are not prolific hitters, but they are reliable for fantasy because they attempt a stolen base over 30% of the times they are on. Projecting Abrams to steal 30 bases is unrealistic unless you are either projecting his attempt rate to dramatically increase or his on-base skills to vastly improve.
There are no indications that we should expect Abrams to suddenly become an on-base machine. In his debut season, Abrams demonstrated just how much of a free swinger he really is. Abrams swung at 57% of pitches he saw last year. The only qualified batter to swing that frequently was Nick Castellanos. Swinging a lot is not necessarily a bad thing if a batter is able to limit their chase rate and make contact at an above-average rate. That however is not Abrams, who chased over 41% of the time. The only qualified player higher than him in that category is Javier Baez increasing bust concerns. The graph below illustrates just how aggressive Abrams is.
Abram’s poor swing decisions are especially magnified with two strikes. He chased nearly 60% of breaking pitches thrown with two strikes and pitchers are understanding that there is no reason to throw him anything in the zone. With swing metrics like these, there is little reason to believe Abrams will ever walk enough to improve his OBP. He will see his 1.7% rate increase, but do not expect anything over four percent.
If he is not going to get on base more by walking, then he will have to get on base more with his bat. Unfortunately, the quality of contact metrics do not inspire confidence. Last year, he posted a barrel rate of just 2.1% and an average exit velocity of 86.5 mph. He does not hit the ball up and is yet to show an ability to consistently square it up. Although is .291 BABIP might seem low for a player with his speed, it is in line for a player with a 50%+ ground ball rate.
Abrams is unlikely to ever hit for much average or power. Projecting him to hit better than .250 with 10 home runs is a stretch. Add to that the fact he is in Washington which projects to be one of the worst lineups in baseball and you get a player unlikely to contribute much to four categories. His fantasy value is dependent on stolen bases which projecting more than 15-20 is difficult to do. Avoid Abrams in fantasy drafts and target cheaper options later if you are looking to add stolen bases to your team.
Bonus Bust Pick to Avoid in Drafts
Similar to the breakout article, this is one that I just feel with my gut. Tim Anderson constantly overperforms his expected metrics and I continue to call for him to fall off a proverbial cliff. One of the other main reasons that I am fading him is the lack of durability. He has not played more than 123 games since 2018 and I am not sure we can bet on more than 130 this season. Anderson will not be drafted to any of my fantasy teams for 2023. Drafting him as SS12 above somebody like Willy Adames feels like a mistake. I am trusting my gut on this one and avoiding Tim Anderson and I think you should do the same.
Got some different shortstop busts than Matt? Throw some shade in the comments below! For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!