2023 Fantasy Baseball Skill Drills: The Shortstop Problem

by Tim McCullough
2023 Fantasy Baseball Shortstop

During spring Fantasy Baseball drafts, shortstop was considered one of the deeper positions. A spate of injuries to shortstops has created a problem for Fantasy Managers who are now left scrambling to fill a major hole in rosters. Today, the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Skill Drills looks at the shortstop problem a bit closer and offers some options.

We’re just 12 games into the MLB season and the injuries at shortstop are already causing headaches for Fantasy managers. Here’s the current list of injured shortstops and what we know about how long they may be out.

Adalberto MondesiRed SoxKneeJune
Carlos CorreaTwinsBackDay-to-day (In the lineup 4-13)
Carter KieboomNationalsShoulderLate-April/Early-May
Corey SeagerRangersHamstringMid-May
Dansby SwansonCubsObliqueDay-to-day
Gleyber TorresYankeesHip flexorDay-to-day (In the lineup 4-13)
Kyle FarmerTwinsMouthOut indefinitely
Luis UriasBrewersHamstringEarly-June
Miguel RojasDodgersGroin/HamstringDay-to-day
Oneil CruzPiratesAnkleMid-August
Orlando ArciaBravesWristEarly-to-Mid May
Paul DeJongCardinalsBackMid-April
Royce LewisTwinsKneeJuly/August
Tim AndersonWhite SoxKneeEarly-to-Mid May

Granted, some of these injuries occurred in spring training and were known in time to pivot in drafts. But even if you only consider the Opening Day starters that have gone down in such a short time it is a formidable list of the walking wounded.

Five of the players on this list were among the Top-150 players according to ADP data from the NFBC. It also includes six of the Top-30 shortstops according to Fantasy Six Pack's Rest of Season Rankings.

Corey Seager, Tim Anderson, Luis Urias, and Oneil Cruz will all miss a considerable number of games. One also has to take into account that the potential exists for Miguel Rojas, Orlando Arcia, Dansby Swanson, Kyle Farmer, Carlos Correa, and Gleyber Torres to join them. Unfortunately, the likes of Paul DeJong, Carter Kieboom, Adalberto Mondesi, and Royce Lewis offer little comfort that they’ll be able to help Fantasy Baseball managers in a meaningful way. However, there was a clue that Arcia may be worse off than we've been led to believe. Vaughn Grissom is expected to join the team Friday.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Skill Drills: The Shortstop Problem

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Once you get past the Top-15 shortstops (remember, six are injured) and drill down to the next group in terms of playing time (minimum 40 PA), the picture gets quite bleak. Brandon Crawford is the top power threat among this group with a .412 slugging percentage, followed by Bobby Witt Jr. (.396), and Jeremy Pena (.393).

The next best “slugger” is C.J. Abrams at .357 and everyone else is below .325. Heck, four of these guys have slugging percentages that are lower than their on-base percentage!

Speaking of OBP

There are just two shortstops with an OBP above .308 (Gunnar Henderson (.341) and Crawford (.320). There are six players on this list whose OBP stands at .250 or less. Even worse, Jon Berti leads this group with a batting average of .231, while nearly half of them are batting below the Mendoza line.

Put another way, the drop-off in production after the Top-12 shortstops with a minimum of 40 PA, of which half were injured, is incredibly steep. They’re all struggling to hit for any sort of power or even get on base. Here are the numbers for this illustrious group. Be sure to wear eye protection if you look closely.

Brandon CrawfordGiants.206.308.4120.719
Bobby Witt Jr.Royals.229.288.3960.684
J.P. CrawfordMariners.209.320.3260.646
Gunnar HendersonOrioles.147.341.2650.606
Jeremy PenaAstros.214.279.3930.672
CJ AbramsNationals.214.283.3570.640
Enrique HernandezRed Sox.125.255.3250.580
Jon BertiMarlins.231.268.3080.576
Amed RosarioGuardians.204.254.2780.532
Ezequiel TovarRockies.209.227.3020.530
Anthony VolpeYankees.143.250.2290.479
Aledmys DiazA's.158.238.1840.422
Chris TaylorDodgers.091.162.2730.435
Elvis AndrusWhite Sox.146.176.1670.343
Javier BaezTigers.100.163.1000.263

The Other Options Out There

Fortunately, all is not lost. Keep in mind that we’re looking at an incredibly small sample and that it is foolhardy to make any sort of judgment about hitter production before they’ve gotten 100-150 plate appearances. Strikeout and walk rates for hitters don’t stabilize until that point, and it takes much longer for surface stats like batting average and slugging percentage to be meaningful.

Even so, since you need to get at least some production from your shortstop roster spot, it is worth a roll of the dice to replace your injured player with one (or more) of the options below.

Geraldo Perdomo, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Right now, Perdomo is on the strong side of a platoon with Nick Ahmed, who is being eased back into action after recovering from last year’s shoulder surgery. Perdomo is off to a ridiculous .409/.536/.682 start that is fueled by an unsustainable .571 BABIP. Despite his hot start, Perdomo has a career mark of .190/.297/.298 against right-handed pitchers and he’s never hit for power. Even now, his hard-hit rate is an anemic 31.3 percent and he has yet to barrel up a ball this season. Ahmed is a far better hitter, and as he gets stronger, he will start to drain playing time away from Perdomo when he cools off.

Rodolfo Castro, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are going with Castro at shortstop and giving Ji Hwan Bae a shot at playing every day at second base. Castro has some swing-and-miss issues but he’s already shown a decent power swing that will play in the majors. He’ll likely hit for a better batting average than last year’s .233 but I wouldn’t expect much improvement in OBP due to his above-average strikeout rate. Castro is a good choice in deeper leagues that don’t use OBP as a scoring stat, and he could end up producing 20-25 homers with regular playing time.

Josh Smith & Ezequiel Duran, SS, Texas Rangers

The return of Leody Taveras from the IL frees up either Smith or Duran (or both) to move into the shortstop position to cover the loss of Corey Seager. Smith hasn’t hit well in the majors but had a strong campaign in Triple-A last season with a .290/.395/.466 line. There are questions about his power potential but he’s got decent wheels, solid bat-to-ball skills, and he’s shown good plate discipline. In addition, Smith has played more shortstop than Duran.

Duran appears to have more power potential and he runs at least as well as Smith. He hasn’t hit in the majors either but also had a very good 2022 in Triple-A with a .283/.316/.531 line. There are some holes in Duran’s swing and he’s not as disciplined a hitter as Smith.

I’m guessing that Smith sees most if not all, of the playing time at shortstop while Seager is on the IL. He’s not going to hit for power but he could put up a good batting average and I’d expect some improvement in OBP as well. He won’t set the world on fire but could be a good enough placeholder if you’re awaiting Seager’s return.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Skill Drills: The Shortstop Problem - Final Thoughts

New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe has looked overmatched so far, and it’s quite possible that the Yankees decide to send him back to Triple-A. Oswald Peraza is batting .265/.342/.294 at Scranton with five stolen bases. Given the lack of speed in the Yankees’ lineup, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a move to get Peraza up with a big club.

In truth, Volpe is batting ninth, a lineup spot that would be best suited to someone with Peraza’s wheels. If the Yanks pull the trigger and activate Peraza, he’d be worth adding for the stolen base potential alone.

It doesn’t look like Miguel Rojas will need to go on the IL, but Chris Taylor, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers, will likely handle shortstop when Rojas is out. Taylor has struck out 15 times in 37 plate appearances with just three hits and three walks. He just isn’t an option right now in any fantasy league format. At age 32, it’s increasingly looking like Taylor has already entered his decline phase.

If you haven’t figured it out already, the very best strategy to replace your injured shortstop is to make a trade, assuming your league allows them. The waiver wire is as thin as can be and there are very few decent options available. Look for an owner with a shortstop to spare (if such a thing actually exists) and try to cut a deal from your roster strengths. Players like Ahmed Rosario, SS, Cleveland Guardians, and Jeremy Pena, SS, Houston Astros, should improve in the weeks to come. Trying to swing a trade for one of them could pay dividends down the road.

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