Both Willy Adames and Bo Bichette have now played about 10 games and are near the top of the offensive charts among shortstops to start the season. It has been the exact opposite of how each player started in 2022.
Through 10 games in 2022, Adames slashed .189/.302/.324 with an 82 wRC+ (18% below the league average). Bichette was even worse. He slashed .222/.222/.333 with one homer and a 53 wRC+ (47% below league average). For players (especially Bichette) who were drafted very early, it was a miserable experience watching them go 0-for-4 multiple nights in a row.
Adames and Bichette both were able to turn their seasons around and finish near the top of the fantasy shortstop ranks. Bichette was able to finish the year as the SS4 in roto leagues and Adames tied for 10th. With both now starting red hot, can both players keep up the offensive production they have put up in the first two weeks of the season? If they do, we may be looking at two of the best players at their position across the course of 2023.
Let's dive into 2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Willy Adames and Bo Bichette's Scorching Starts.
2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Willy Adames and Bo Bichette's Scorching Starts
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According to the rotisserie player raters on ESPN, Yahoo, and FantasyPros, both Bichette and Adames are top-eight shortstop options through the first week and a half of the regular season. The only players consistently outperforming them at the position this year are Wander Franco, Jorge Mateo, and Tim Anderson. Let's look at the starts from each one of them in order to determine what factors are leading to their success.
Willy Adames' Hot Start Leads The Brewers
The offense for the Milwaukee Brewers - even with incorporating a number of rookies and new faces - is humming in the early going. It ranks fifth overall in WAR, fifth in on-base percentage, 11th in batting average, 10th in home runs, and 10th in RBI. They have seen massive contributions from rookies Garrett Mitchell and Brice Turang. They are getting good production from new players like William Contreras and Brian Anderson. But Willy Adames has been the best offensive player to date and is a rock in the second or third spot in the batting order.
For Adames, his success comes down to his plate discipline. Through these first 11 games, Adames has continued to lower his strikeout rate (21.4%). In fact, it is the fourth straight season that Adames has lowered his K-rate, from a peak of 36% in 2020 to just 21% (below league average) so far in 2023
Small sample size caveats still apply, but Adames also has increased his walk rate to a career-high 11% so far. This has allowed him to make the highest rate of contact in his career (80%), and drop his swinging strike rate to under 10% for the first time since he became a big leaguer. The power hasn't gone away either with a strong 14% barrel rate and a 46% hard-hit rate. season. It's certainly possible Adames is on the verge of a prototypical breakout year at age 27. Keeping these plate discipline gains will go a long way toward making that happen.
Bo Bichette Building Off His Strong End To 2022
It wasn't just Bichette's first 10 or 11 games in 2022 that were well underneath what we expected from him. His whole first half was quite abysmal, slashing .257/.302/.418 with 99 hits in 411 plate appearances. He then proceeded to explode in the second half, hitting .337/.378/.543 with 90 hits in just 286 plate appearances. That hot finish has carried over into 2023 with a .362/.400/.596 start with three home runs and eight RBI. He doesn't have a stolen base yet, but that's because Toronto's offense is third in the league with a 120 wRC+ and they are just slugging everyone around the bases.
In the first half of 2022, it was all about Bichette just being way too aggressive. His first pitch swing percentage was a career-high 47.1%. This led to too many strikeouts, a chase rate of over 35%, and a strikeout rate that was more than five percentage points higher than his second half.
This season, Bichette is being much more selective at the plate. He has a 36% first-pitch swing rate which is allowing him to produce the highest barrel rate of his career in the early going (15%). His ground balls are down this season, his line drives are way up (45%), and his expected batting average (.423) is much higher than his actual average.
Are Willy Adames And Bo Bichette's Scorching Starts For Real?
Both Adames and Bichette are taking wildly different approaches to the start of 2023 than they did in 2022. Both are reaping the rewards of their new approaches as well.
For Bichette, he was coming off a 2021 season that produced one of the best fantasy seasons for a 23-year-old we have ever seen. He hit 24 homers, stole 25 bases, scored 121 runs, and drove in 102 that year all while slashing .298/.343/.484. It appears he might have been trying to top those numbers from the jump last year and it caused him to press too much and swing at too many bad pitches. He has matured in his approach coming into 2023 and it is paying huge dividends so far. He should have no problem paying off his late-first-round, early-second-round draft price tag.
Willy Adames was drafted around pick 90 and was the 13th shortstop taken, on average, this past offseason. At the perfect age of 27, Adames looks poised to fly past that ADP and finish in the top eight of shortstops in 2023. If his gains in strikeout rate, patience, and walk rate can stick for even half a season, or a few months, it will give him more chance to display his prodigious power and perhaps pass his career-high 31 home runs from last season.
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