2023 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Middle Infielders

by Ryan Kirksey
2021 Fantasy Baseball: NL West Division Preview

Middle infielders are where we typically look for some of the more difficult hitting stats to acquire. Categories like steals, runs, and batting averages are often filled by middle infielders. But this can also lead to a tendency to overvalue middle infielders if they fill a category need. Not everyone can be a Trea Turner or a Bobby Witt, Jr. In this story we'll discuss which players can trap managers in the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Middle Infielders.

While there are certainly middle infielders who are worthy of a top selection and others who are steals at their draft price right now, some are being overvalued and over-drafted in 2023 based on past performance, outlier seasons, or wild expectations.

The Average Draft Position numbers below are taken from all NFBC drafts conducted since January 1.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Middle Infielders

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Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS/OF, San Diego Padres (ADP: 17.4)

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For a player taken with the 17th pick off the board, he better get me guaranteed, elite-level production that is hard to replicate elsewhere in the draft. Is Tatis that player this year, especially as he is now eligible at two positions? Let's start with what we know.

First, Tatis will miss the first 20 games of the Padres' season as he finishes an 80-game suspension for PEDs. Second, Tatis has now had two surgeries on his left wrist which he hurt in a motorcycle accident he didn't tell the team about. Third, he underwent left shoulder surgery in September that was supposed to have a 4-6 month timeframe to heal. This was supposed to fix the issue of his shoulder consistently coming dislocated while playing or swinging.

Will all that work out for Tatis and will he overcome the 20-game suspension plus several games of rest to once again become the 40-homer, 20-steal player we saw in 2021? Anything is possible, but considering all the medical, mental, and physical headaches Tatis has caused over the past two years, a pick just outside the first round in NFBC drafts is a little too risky for me.

I have no doubt that the defensive transition to the outfield will go well assuming his shoulder is healed. But even at a young age (just 24), Tatis has drifted into "prove it first" territory on my draft board.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 71.8)

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Somehow, despite missing half the season last year and slashing .233/.294/.450, Cruz is the seventh shortstop off the board in drafts. I get it. The 17 homers and 10 steals in 87 games are tantalizing. But this is a young player with major holes in his swing. Not to mention he plays in perhaps the worst lineup in the worst home park in the major leagues.

Among all players with at least 350 plate appearances last season, Cruz had the third-worst strikeout rate in the league (34.9%). That was just slightly worse than Joey Gallo last season if it gives you any indication of how bad that number is. Combine that with a walk rate under 8% and you he better be hitting ropes every time he makes contact.

Cruz did have the single highest max exit velocity hit last year, and his 91.9 average exit velocity ranked 23rd. But his HardHit% was just 47th among all batters which shows you how a high strikeout rank can sink a batter.

Add in the fact that Pittsburgh might have the worst 5-9 hitters in baseball and the ADP doesn't add up to me. Give me Dansby Swanson or Xander Bogaerts over Cruz for a 10-15 pick discount.

Andres Gimenez, 2B, Cleveland Guardians (ADP: 81.8)

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There's no denying that Andres Gimemenz's 2022 season was a massive one in all fantasy formats. He hit .297 with 17 homers and 20 steals while also chipping in more than 65 runs and RBI. He cut his strikeout rate to 20%, his walk rate rose, and he only missed 16 games. That season propelled Gimenez from undrafted last season to 81st overall this year. But his underlying stats tell a story of a player who may have overachieved.

First, Gimenez had a .353 batting average on balls  in play (BABIP) last year. That was about 40 points above the league average. His flyball percentage fell five points to just 32%, while the groundball rate stayed in the upper 40's. According to Baseball Savant, his expected batting average was just .257 and his expected slugging was just .400.

In particular, Gimenez really struggled against fastballs. His expected batting average against them was just .239 (real average was .254). Considering that was 56% of the pitches he saw last season, a trend in that direction could knock off a lot of batting average points plus steal opportunities.

He is an enticing, young middle-infielder who teases power and speed, but we should expect a big of regression heading into 2023.

Max Muncy, 2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (ADP: 131.7)

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In the 2021 playoffs, Max Muncy suffered a torn UCL in his elbow that caused him to have a horrible 2022. He ended up playing 136 games, but the Dodgers all but admitted his elbow was not healthy all season. It certainly showed as the slashed .196/.329/.384 last year. The OBP is fine considering how poorly he hit, but that average and that slugging percentage can wipe out gains in the rest of your roster.

Muncy, who is not exactly fleet of foot, once again had a poor BABIP in 2022 (.227). That should rise some if he can get his line drive stroke back, but Muncy has one season with a BABIP over .283 because he is one of the slower players in baseball. What you're hoping for if you draft Muncy is a return to 30+ homers and a .360+ OBP for leagues that use the metric.

No projection system believes Muncy will have a batting average over .230 or more than 28 home runs. Likely hitting in the middle third of the order, the runs won't be elite, so he will have to rely on RBI to boost his value. Does a 32-year-old with a major injury under his belt get markedly better this year? I'm guessing not.

As the eighth second baseman off the board in drafts, I would rather wait and take shots on Brandon Lowe, Jeff McNeil, or Jonathan India several rounds later.


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