Every year, fantasy baseball drafters make their lists of must-have players and players to avoid. These are 10 players that I am either fading or avoiding completely in 2023.
10 Hitters to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Baseball)
Christian Vazquez is being drafted as the 17th catcher in early NFBC leagues. Most people may point out his 2019 23-homer season as a sign of his potential. The problem is that 2019 is the only season out of his eight years as a big leaguer that he has hit double-digit home runs.
Another knock against him is that he has never had a double-digit barrel rate or a hard-hit rate over 40%. In his last four seasons, he has had a higher batting average than xBA.
By moving to Minnesota, he moved from the fourth-best park for right-handed batters, according to Statcast’s Park Factors, to the eighth-worst park for righty hitters. Additionally, the rest of the division is also pitcher-friendly regarding right-handed batters, with Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium being the only AL Central park in the top 10 righty hitter-friendly parks.
Vazquez should be avoided in most leagues unless it is a very deep league or one that requires managers to start two catchers.
This might seem crazy after Paul Goldschmidt’s 2022 season in which he was an All-Star and won All-MLB first-team honors, NL MVP, the Hank Aaron Award, and a Silver Slugger, but fantasy drafters should fade Goldy in 2023 drafts.
The first baseman outperformed his .367 xwOBA by .052 points, the largest gap among qualified hitters, with the third-best wOBA in baseball last year (.419).
His .317 batting average was much higher than his .261 xBA, which was the third-largest difference among qualified hitters.
Goldschmidt also had the highest BABIP in baseball among qualified batters at .368, which also happened to be the second-highest BABIP of his career. He did all of this with the lowest LD% of his career and the 4th lowest pull rate of his career – two things that typically lead to a lower BABIP and lower production.
There are many signs that Goldy outperformed his metrics, but he is currently going fourth among first basemen in NFBC leagues and 29th overall. With regression likely coming, fantasy managers should look elsewhere at first base or wait for him until a round or two later.
From 2021 to 2022, Jake Cronenworth has trended the wrong way in several important statistics. His K%, barrel rate, hard-hit rate, contact rate, F-strike%, and SwStr% all worsened from year to year.
His 5.6% barrel and 33.8% hard-hit rates were below league average, and he possessed a higher batting average (.239) than xBA (.221).
Cronenworth is being drafted as the 14th second baseman at pick 190 in NFBC leagues, but there are several players going later than him that I would rather have. I prefer Brandon Drury, Whit Merrifield, Vaughn Grissom, Ketel Marte, Kolten Wong, Jean Segura, Christopher Morel, and Luis Urias over Cronenworth.
Ke’Bryan Hayes has never had more than seven home runs in a season, which he did in 560 plate appearances in 2022. He had a lackluster 3.9% barrel rate last year and has a less-than-impressive 52% GB rate for his career. Another problem for Hayes is a chase rate that has increased every year since 2020, ranging from 28.9% in 2020 to 30% in 2022.
Javier Baez was among the three worst hitters in chase rate (worst), F-Strike (worst), CSW% (worst), and overall contact rate. This is not the first time Baez has received these unfortunate accolades, as he had the worst chase rate, SwStr%, and CSW% in 2021.
Additionally, pitchers seem to have figured him out. Last season, no qualified batter saw more sliders than Baez. The shortstop hit .192 against them.
This is a player that fantasy managers should not feel bad about fading.
New Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson is a player to fade after having a career year in 2022.
Over the last three seasons, Truist Park in Atlanta has been a better hitter’s park for right-handed batters and for batters overall than Wrigley Field.
Last season alone, Truist was top 10 in park factors for righty hitters, while Wrigley was in the bottom five, significantly favoring pitching.
There are signs that Swanson is due for some regression after batting .277, including a .348 BABIP, his highest among his five seasons with at least 500 PAs. This could explain why his xBA was 20 points lower than his AVG.
The shortstop also moved from an offense that was top 10 in runs (third), hits (eighth), doubles (fourth), home runs (second), RBI (fourth), total bases (first), AVG (ninth), OBP (ninth), and SLG (first), to a team that only reached as high as 15th in any of those categories (doubles) and did not do much in the offseason to improve.
Fantasy managers should not rely on Swanson as their starting shortstop in 2023.
Another Cubs addition, Cody Bellinger, had a rough 2022 season. The outfielder had career worsts in both strikeout and walk rates, which have worsened each year since 2019.
Bellinger also had the second-worst batting average (.210), barrel rate (8.3%), hard-hit rate (38.1%), and chase rate (34.5%) in his career.
Over the last few seasons, the Dodgers have been one of the better teams in terms of getting the best out of their players, and the fact that Bellinger has struggled so mightily for years with them is not a good sign.
Wrigley grades as a better hitter’s park than Dodger Stadium overall, but LA is 15 spots better than Chicago regarding left-handed power.
Of all the players that fantasy managers can draft, Cody Bellinger just might be the most high-risk, high-reward, but he is a player I will largely avoid in drafts this year.
Teoscar Hernandez had ridiculous hard contact numbers last season, including a 15% barrel rate that was sixth-best among qualified hitters and a 52% hard-hit rate that was fourth-best.
Despite that, fantasy managers should consider fading the new Mariners outfielder.
Seattle’s T-Mobile Park is the second most pitcher-friendly park in the league over the last three years and last year alone.
For his career, Hernandez has three homers in 60 PAs in Seattle. Prorating him to 600 PAs would give him 15 home runs in his new home stadium. Both Steamer and The BatX projections systems project him for 28 home runs in 2023, but I would take the under on that.
Jesse Winker is full of potential but has largely failed to live up to the hype in his six-year career in the big leagues.
If 2020 and 2021 were one season, Winker would have been an All-Star. In those seasons combined, he would have 36 home runs, 104 runs, and 94 RBI while batting .292. He would have done it with an 11.7% barrel rate and a 47.3% hard-hit rate.
Unfortunately for Winker and for fantasy managers, the rest of his career has been relatively disappointing. Outside of 2020-2021, Winker has never had a double-digit barrel rate or a hard-hit rate above 42.2%. He has hit more than 16 home runs throughout his major league career.
Winker has also struggled to hit lefties for his career, possessing a .205 AVG against them. This makes Winker a platoon risk. He is also an injury risk, as he has failed to stay healthy throughout his career, limiting his fantasy upside. He has never played more than 136 games in a single season.
Additionally, the outfielder has moved to a less powerful offense after being traded from Seattle to Milwaukee. Winker is a player to avoid in most formats that do not reward walks.
Like Winker, Mitch Haniger has struggled to stay healthy over his career, playing more than 96 games in a season twice in his six-year career. This should have fantasy managers skeptical of Haniger being a reliable bat in their lineups.
San Francisco’s Oracle Park was second to last in baseball for right-handed batter home runs over the last three years and was 25th in baseball for home runs last season.
Haniger is also moving into a lineup that is a downgrade from his former lineup in Seattle. Rather than hitting around Julio Rodriguez, Ty France, and J.P. Crawford, Haniger will now likely hit around Michael Conforto (who did not play last year) and Joc Pederson.
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