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Shortstop Breakouts for 2023 Fantasy Baseball

Some exciting names are at the top of the shortstop list: Trea Turner, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager. This causes many managers to feel relatively comfortable waiting on the position until they realize how quickly the talent level falls off. Shortstop thins out fast making finding a breakout player even more important. Last year it was Jeremy Pena who you were able to draft late and get consistent production out of. This article looks at two shortstops that are going outside the top 200 that have a chance to break out in 2023.

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!

2023 Shortstop Breakouts

Luis Urias- Second Base/Shortstop/Third Base, Milwaukee Brewers

Would you believe me if I told you that Luis Urias is only 25 years old? Urias feels like he has been around forever and is the perfect definition of prospect fatigue. He has not been a prospect for a while, but after underperforming expectations, many have already written Urias off as a bust. Last season, Urias missed the first month of the season before returning to post a .239/.335/.404 slash line with 16 home runs. Since January 1, his ADP is outside of the top 230 as SS22. Healthy heading into 2023, now is the time to get Urias before he finally breaks out.

As a prospect, Urias was given a 65 future hit tool. Since coming to the Major Leagues Urias has hit just .239 including batting that exact average twice over the past three seasons. Why should we expect any of this to change? Is Urias really a breakout candidate for 2023?

Since 2021, Urias has posted BABIPs of .280 and .274. Although his BABIPs are low, he has averaged a 21.5%-line drive rate and an above-average sweet spot percentage. Looking deeper, Urias really saw his average drop on ground balls; specifically pulled ground balls. Last season the league-wide batting average on pulled ground balls was .180. The average hard-hit percentage on these events was 25.6%. Looking back to 2021, Urias hit .209 on pulled-ground balls and then increased his hard-hit percentage on them from 20% in 2021 to 28% in 2022, but hit just .148. With the shift ban coming, Urias should see his batting average on these hits go up and a BABIP increase in 2023. There is average upside here for a hitter who was once given a 65-hit tool projection.

To begin the 2022 season, Urias was dealing with a quadriceps injury. After finally returning, he was removed with a thumb injury on June 3rd. After that, it was a hamstring injury on June 12th. Urias was never able to get right and get comfortable at the plate. Through June 24th, he was slashing .205/.306/.342 while striking out 23.7% of the time. From that point forward it seems like Urias finally got healthy and saw his statistics improve as a result. He slashed .261/.353/.445. The average was up with a .293 BABIP and the power was up with an ISO of .184. The strikeout rate over that period dropped to 19.2% thanks to Urias becoming more aggressive on pitches in the strike zone.

Before the 24th, he was swinging at pitches in the zone only 60.4% of the time. After the 24th, he swung 68.4% of the time which is close to the same rate he posted in 2021. Using the awesome PLV hitter graphs from PitcherList, you can see just how much Urias improved as the 2022 season went on. In specific, his strike zone recognition improved dramatically.

Luis Urias

Urias was never right at the beginning of the season. His plate discipline and willingness to swing at pitches inside the strike zone dramatically helped his overall production at the plate. As is the case with most hitters, Urias does most of his damage on pitches thrown in the zone compared to out of the zone. During the first half, he was not swinging at pitches thrown in the zone and his power numbers showed how little damage he was able to do. As the season went on, Urias became more aggressive, increasing his slugging percentage by over .100 points. The graph below shows just how much more power Urias generates on strikes.

Luis Urias

In terms of a breakout, I am not anticipating Urias suddenly batting .290 or suddenly swatting 30 home runs. There is however small upside in every single category. Urias should see his average improve thanks to a combination of his BABIP increasing and his strikeouts falling. He has well above-average plate discipline and a strikeout rate under 20% should be expected. Urias has shown an ability to barrel up the ball and his increased aggression on pitches in the zone should help his power to continue increasing. Most projections forecast Urias with an average around .240 and a slugging percentage near .410. His slash line from the second half of 2022 is more than realistic and is what you should project in 2023. A .260 with 20-25 home runs going as SS22 would be a steal in drafts. Target Luis Urias for a stable fantasy floor and sneaky upside in your fantasy drafts.

Oswald Peraza- Shortstop, New York Yankees

Most Yankee prospects are overhyped and thrust into the limelight, but this has not been the case for Oswald Peraza. Overshadowed by Anthony Volpe, Peraza quietly ascended through the Minor Leagues before making his Major League debut last season. The 2022 Triple-A slash line is not very impressive, but much of that can be attributed to a slow start. From May 25th forward, Peraza slashed .292/.362/.506 with 15 home runs and 26 stolen bases. During that period his walk rates were up, the strikeouts were down and Peraza had every look of a future Major League star. Peraza is currently going outside the top 300 picks as SS27. That is incredible value for somebody who projects to be the Yankees’ Opening Day starting shortstop. Draft Peraza now before he breaks out in 2023 and it is too late to grab him.

When I am thinking about Peraza, there is one tweet from Eric Cross that sticks out to me:

Peraza is one of the few prospects with a proven track record of power and speed in the Minor Leagues making him a prime breakout candidate. Early in his career, Peraza was not known for his ability to hit home runs. He hit the ball on the ground too often with mediocre exit velocities. During the pandemic, Peraza underwent a swing transformation bringing his ground ball rate down from over 55% in 2019 to under 40% in 2021. Peraza adds to his 6’0” frame by getting around on the ball to tap into his pull-side power. This helps Peraza hit more home runs than his quality of contact would suggest. His brief Major League stint in 2022 saw him revert back to a low launch angle producing high ground ball rates. With a bigger sample size in 2023, Peraza should see his launch angle increase leading to more power.

According to research done by Jon Anderson, Minor League home run rate is correlated to the Major League home run rate. Since 2021, Peraza has averaged an HR/FB% above 15%. Yankee Stadium has the 9th highest HR park factor for right-handed hitters and should play right into Peraza’s strengths.

While the .359 BABIP from his debut is unlikely to stick, the plate discipline and contact skills Peraza flashed were impressive. On top of making in-zone contact over 90% of the time, Peraza rarely whiffed (17.7%) and rarely chased (22.8%). His whiff rate on breaking balls and off-speed pitches were under 20% which is incredibly impressive for a 22-year-old.

Based on his ADP, people must have concerns about either Anthony Volpe or IKF eating into Peraza’s playing time. Peraza has more offensive and defensive abilities than IKF and is going to be given a chance to start on Opening Day. He has enough power to hit 20 home runs in Yankee stadium and enough speed to steal 30 bases. Let me outline it like this:

  • 20 home run, 30 steal potential
  • Will play every day at SS or 2B in a loaded Yankees lineup producing plenty of runs
  • Hit .306 with a strikeout rate under 16% in his Major League debut
  • Going as SS27

Peraza’s profile screams breakout. He has power, speed, and most importantly opportunity. His ADP is very similar to Luis Garcia, and the upside is way higher for Peraza. He is one of the easiest selections in 2023 drafts and should be on your roster.

Bonus Breakout Pick:

I have no cold hard facts to support this one, so I saved it for last. I think this is the year Wander Franco becomes a top-five shortstop. While everybody is hyping up the young players like Oneil Cruz and Gunnar Henderson, we forget that Wander Franco is only going to be 22 this season. In his first two seasons, he has posted a wRC+ of 126 and 116. He makes incredible contact, stole eight bases last year, and has enough raw power to put together a breakout season. At SS11 I am buying in and taking a chance on the former generational prospect who might be progressing just a little bit slower than everybody had hoped. I would much rather have him than Xander Bogaerts or Tim Anderson (more on both to come). This is all based on my gut, but sometimes your gut is the best indicator!

Are you buying in on Matt’s shortstop breakouts for 2023? Share your take in the comments below. For more great analysis check out the 2023 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit!

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