Which Players Will Be Affected Most by the Rules Changes?

The players that will be most notably affected by the 2023 rule changes

New rules changes are coming to Major League Baseball in 2023 and they are set to have a noticeable impact on the fantasy landscape. Drafters that are aware of these changes and understand how to best take advantage of them will have a major leg up on their competition.

At this time, the best course of action in analyzing the rule changes and who they’ll affect is to understand the new rules and identify the archetypes of players that are likely to benefit or be damaged. Each rule will be broken down, with archetypes being identified below, and notable players receiving closer looks in order to prepare fantasy managers and baseball fans alike for what will be big changes to MLB in 2023.

 

Pitch Timer

 

The new pitch timer will force pitchers to begin their motion to deliver a pitch before the expiration of the pitch timer. There will be a 15-second timer with the bases empty and a 20-second timer with runners on base. Pitchers who violate the timer will be charged with an automatic ball while batters who violate the timer will be charged with an automatic strike. Batters will have less time to regroup in between pitches, but the rule change is likely to have an outsized effect on pitchers.

Pitchers on both ends of the pitch tempo leaderboard will be most notably affected. The average league tempo from pitch release to pitch release (different than the time the pitch clock will be measuring) was 18.1 seconds with the bases empty and 23.3 seconds with runners on base, so the majority of pitchers will have to pick up the pace. Fast-paced pitchers will have a leg up over their constituents because they won’t have to make a big adjustment, or in some cases, any adjustment at all. Slow-paced pitchers will be adversely affected because they must make a noticeable adjustment to their tempos. That could lead to more fatigue, worse command, and lower velocity due to the lack of recovery between pitches. It is yet to be seen how pitchers will adjust, but it likely means throwing softer to maintain stamina and control.

 

Slow Pitchers

 

The following nine pitchers (min. 750 pitches) consistently delivered their pitches outside the parameters of the new pitch clock and landed in the bottom 25 of both the pitch tempo leaderboard with the bases empty and the pitch tempo leaderboard with runners on base. These pitchers will need to make an adjustment to their pacing a could see poorer results due to fatigue, the reduction of velocity, or the loss of control.

Note: The Statcast pitch tempo leaderboard measures a pitcher’s tempo from one pitch release to the next, so we’ll use their “Pitch Timer Equivalent” metric which accounts for the ~six seconds that generally elapses between a pitcher beginning his delivery and receiving the return throw from the catcher.

 

Name Tempo w/Bases Empty (seconds) Tempo w/Runners On (seconds)
José Suarez 16.1 19.7
Shohei Ohtani 15.7 20.9
Luis Garcia 15.2 21.1
Paul Blackburn 14.9 20.2
Jordan Montgomery 14.4 19.5
Aaron Nola 14.2 20.6
Kyle Gibson 13.9 19.3
Josiah Gray 13.7 21.2
Jeffrey Springs 13.6 20.2

 

These pitchers will have the most to worry about in terms of pitch tempo going into next year and will need to forego focusing on improvements elsewhere in order to meet the requirements of the pitch clock. Additionally, their game plans, stuff, or stamina might be affected as a result of changing their routines and having less recovery time. The five pitchers taken inside the top 250 picks of Draft Champions Drafts on NFBC since the beginning of December deserve a closer look.

 

Shohei Ohtani

 

The consensus number-one overall pick, Ohtani doesn’t have many knocks against him. One of them is his heavy workload as a two-way player, but an underrepresented one is his slow pace on the mound. As the second-slowest pitcher in baseball, he was able to deliver the seventh-highest fastball velocity (97.2 mph) from a qualified starter on top of pitching deep into games. With such a deep arsenal, his success on the mound likely sticks, but his stamina might be at risk due to his excessive workload. If anyone is able to put in the work this offseason to offset any detriments from the pitch clock, it’s Ohtani.

 

Aaron Nola

 

As a pitcher with mediocre fastball velocity (92.8 mph), it’s hard to tell at this point whether that hurts or helps Nola. Will a slower fastball due to an increased tempo lead to poorer results or does his track record as a pitcher that doesn’t rely on velocity help him overcome any velocity decrease? It’s also fair to wonder if Nola, one of the premier innings-eaters (200+ IP in three of the last five seasons), doesn’t pitch as deep into games due to fatigue.

 

Luis Garcia

 

This is an interesting case of trying to decipher the culprit of Garcia’s slow tempo. He is well known for his “rock the baby” windup, which adds on a couple of seconds. He likely takes his time to get set as well, but could the new pitch clock see him forego the shenanigans to focus on delivering the pitch in a timely manner? On top of that, he’s struggled with command in the past (career 7.7% walk rate) and could hand out even more free passes if he doesn’t have the time he needed in the past to recover in between pitches.

 

 

Jordan Montgomery

 

One thing working for Montgomery is that he has a plethora of fast-working starters on his team that could give him pointers to counteract any regression. Otherwise, a guy with a solid fastball and multiple whiff-inducing offspeed pitches should be able to overcome having to pick up the pace a little. Though, as a pitcher that relies heavily on his pinpoint control, does his success falter as his command wanes?

 

Jeffrey Springs

 

Springs, a reliever-turned-starter, may see the biggest turnaround in his 2022 success for multiple reasons. First, negative regression is likely due after a breakout campaign despite how enticing his stuff is. Second, having transitioned from the bullpen and pitching just 4.1 innings per game last year, he is likely to have his workload monitored due to the stresses of the new pitch clock. Lastly, his below-average fastball velocity (91.5 mph) may get even worse as he learns to pitch at a faster pace. The one thing he has on his side is pitching for the Rays who always seem to get the most out of their pitchers.

 

Relievers

 

Some of the slowest relievers in the game with the bases empty include Jonathan Loáisiga (19.8 seconds), Giovanny Gallegos (19.8 seconds), and Kenley Jansen (19.6 seconds). The slowest relievers with runners on base are Jansen (25.4 seconds), Gallegos (24.6 seconds), and Devin Williams (24.5 seconds).

 

Fast Pitchers

 

Conversely, the following 14 pitchers (min. 750 pitches) consistently delivered their pitches within the parameters of the new pitch clock and landed in the top 25 of both the pitch tempo leaderboard with the bases empty and the pitch tempo leaderboard with runners on base. These pitchers will be afforded the advantage of going into the 2023 campaign without needing to change anything.

Note: The Statcast pitch tempo leaderboard measures a pitcher’s tempo from one pitch release to the next, so we’ll use their “Pitch Timer Equivalent” metric which accounts for the ~six seconds that generally elapses between a pitcher beginning his delivery and receiving the return throw from the catcher.

 

Name Tempo w/Bases Empty (seconds) Tempo w/Runners On (seconds)
Aaron Ashby 8.5 14.9
Germán Márquez 8.6 15.3
Jakob Junis 8.6 13.2
Brady Singer 8.6 15.1
David Peterson 8.8 15.2
Miles Mikolas 8.9 15.4
Taijuan Walker 9.1 14.7
Alex Wood 9.1 15.3
Austin Gomber 9.1 14.6
Logan Gilbert 9.2 15.1
Marco Gonzales 9.3 14.2
Rich Hill 9.3 14.1
José Berríos 9.4 14.9
Daniel Lynch 9.4 15

 

These pitchers will have the least to worry about in terms of pitch tempo going into next year and will be able to focus on other ways of improving their game rather than being focused on picking up the pace. The five pitchers taken inside the top 250 picks of Draft Champions drafts on NFBC since the beginning of December deserve a closer look.

 

Logan Gilbert

 

A popular breakout candidate heading into 2022, Gilbert was above-average but didn’t ascend to acedom. Without having to worry about altering his tempo, he can continue to focus on perfecting his ever-changing slider while maintaining the aspects of his game that made him successful last year. The 16th-highest fastball velocity (96.1 mph) and an IP/G rate of 5.8 have him primed to at least maintain last year’s pace. Improvements in Gilbert’s game might not be noticeable when compared to himself, but when compared to a league average that is likely to get worse, he could move up the ranks by just maintaining the status quo.

 

Brady Singer

 

Singer is somewhat of an all-around pitcher in that he excels across the board. He had a mini-breakout in 2022 and that breakout may come in full in 2023 because of his ability to work fast. Without having to worry about making any changes to his pace, he will be able to focus on developing the strong third pitch that has been evading him over the past couple of seasons. That could go a long way towards making him more resilient on the mound as well as improving the results of his sinker and slider by keeping hitters off balance.

 

Aaron Ashby

 

My favorite breakout pitcher for the 2023 season, Ashby provides a little bit of everything. He throws hard (95.6 mph fastball velocity), induces soft contact (21.5% hard contact%), gets swings and misses and called strikes (33.2% CSW), forces ground balls (58.8% GB%), and has three amazing secondary pitches to turn to (slider, changeup, curveball). The cherry on top is that now he doesn’t have to worry about any tempo-based regression and can focus on honing his lack of command which resulted in a 9.9% walk rate in 2022.

 

 

Miles Mikolas

 

The least surprising member of this list, Mikolas is well-known for his fast tempo. Not only is he a soft-tossing righty that pitches with a more old-school style than the other players on this list, but he also notably contributed to one of the quickest games in recent memory (broken down in-depth by Bailey Freeman on Youtube). Relying on his pinpoint command and the excellent defense behind him, Mikolas doesn’t blow batters away. Maintaining the skills he does have will go a long way in prolonging inevitable regression as he enters his age-34 campaign.

 

José Berríos

 

Berrios might be the pitcher most in need of a break. He’s getting one in the form of not having to alter his approach or tempo on the mound. It will come in handy as he looks to bounce back from a nightmarish season in which he pitched to a 5.23 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP across 172 innings. It was a clear outlier season for one of the league’s most consistent pitchers from year-to-year. Being afforded the opportunity to focus more on his stuff and game plan instead of his tempo will give Berrios the leg up he needs to get back on track.

 

Relievers

 

Some of the fastest relievers in the game with the bases empty include Brent Suter (6.6 seconds), Jesse Chavez (7.7 seconds), and Keegan Akin (8.4 seconds). The fastest relievers with runners on base are Tim Hill (12.6 seconds), Joel Kuhnel (12.8 seconds), Chavez (13.1 seconds), and Suter (13.1 seconds).

 

Defensive Shift Limits

 

The new defensive shift limitations will force the defensive team to have at least four fielders on the infield with two on either side of second base when the pitcher is on the rubber. Defenders are not allowed to switch sides, so you won’t be seeing any third basemen swapping spots with second basemen. If the infielders are not aligned properly, the offensive team may choose an automatic ball or the result of the play. Outfielders may still shift or join the infield, but a four-outfielder setup is prohibited.

Ground balls to both sides of the field, but more noticeably the right side, will have different results than in past seasons. Pitchers that have previously relied on pulled ground balls resulting in outs may see the opposite effect in 2023. Additionally, batters (both righties and lefties) that have been unlucky on pulled grounders will have more success on balls in play next year.

 

Ground Ball Pitchers

 

It stands to reason that pitchers that induce a large number of ground balls to the pull side would be affected more than others because their previous success relied more on the placement of infielders than their peers. Pitchers leading baseball in ground ball rate and pull rate are the most likely culprits to have less success as a result of the shift limitations.

As a result of GB% and Pull% being measured differently on every outlet, working around possible data subjectivity and discrepancies is essential. The best way to do so is to average the outputs of the three major outlets (Pitcher List, Fangraphs, and Statcast). That produced this list of eight players (min. 100 IP) with a GB% greater than 50% and a Pull% greater than 40%.

 

Name Ground Ball Rate Pull Rate
Framber Valdez 67.8% 41.6%
Alex Cobb 62.7% 42.7%
Logan Webb 57.7% 42.7%
Ranger Suárez 56.2% 42.1%
Kyle Wright 56% 43.2%
Dane Dunning 54.2% 45.7%
Dakota Hudson 54% 42.3%
Shane McClanahan 50.7% 41.1%

 

These pitchers won’t have as much luck on balls in play as they did in the past and may see a regression of their baserunner suppression abilities. They may need to work around it by striking out more batters or giving their outfielders a shot at making some plays. The five players taken inside the top 250 picks of Draft Champions drafts on NFBC since December deserve a closer look.

 

Shane McClanahan

 

One of 2022’s biggest breakouts, McClanahan seems primed to be able to overcome the shift ban because he is one of the league’s elite strikeout pitchers. His 30.3% strikeout rate was 14th among qualifiers and will afford him other avenues to get hitters out rather than relying on pulled ground balls being gobbled up. The fact that he also induces boatloads of weak contact (20.5% hard contact rate) suggests that he’ll still be getting outs on grounders because the grounders likely to make it through a standard defense would be of the hard-hit variety. Don’t fade McClanahan, but keep in mind that he won’t be catching all of the breaks he caught in the first half of last year.

 

Framber Valdez

 

The most likely regression culprit, Valdez is far and away the starter that relies the most on ground balls. He led all qualifiers by a wide margin and that led to a career year in which he set the record for consecutive quality starts. In 2023, he will need to make some changes or risk struggling with baserunners. On top of seeing more grounders sneak through the infield, Valdez has always struggled with the free pass (career 9.6% BB%) and will need to overperform in other areas to overcome a WHIP that could be unappealing.

 

Logan Webb

 

This might be surprising, but Webb may be set to be hit the hardest by the rule change. He relies heavily on balls in play, striking out just 20.7% of batters while inducing swings and misses just 11.4% of the time. That would be fine if the balls he allowed in play weren’t consistently hit hard as he had a well-below-average 28.1% hard contact rate in 2022. All of this adds up to a pitcher that will be walking a tightrope when it comes to avoiding the detrimental effects of the shift ban. However, the Giants’ cheating factory is sure to devise a plan to counteract the side effects.

 

 

Kyle Wright

 

Coming off a breakout season, Wright will have a lot to overcome to continue his success. Not only does a lot of his fantasy value reside in being 2022’s only 20-game winner, but he also relied on his defense to scoop up would-be hits. He was below average in walk rate and hard contact rate and could suffer the same fate as Valdez, surrendering too many baserunners to not feel the blows elsewhere. Having the option to switch between a sinker and a four-seamer may help offset the regression due for the right-hander.

 

Alex Cobb

 

Much of the appeal of Cobb resides in his ability to induce ground balls. With fewer of those ground balls turning into outs in 2023, the shine begins to wear off. Cobb increased his fastball velocity last year by two full miles per hour (to 94.7 mph) but didn’t see the level of success many, including myself, expected. Having underperformed his xFIP (2.85) by nearly a full run, many will be buying back in for an expected breakout, but with a lack of whiffs (11.2% SwStr%), soft contact (28.1% hard contact%), and defense behind him, can we really expect him to be much better than last year?

 

Pull Hitters

 

The effect of the shift on pull hitters will be the most talked about result of the rules changes heading into draft season. That has already been the case, as multiple well-known writers have put out articles outlining who might be affected the most. Instead of using rudimentary methods like observing the difference between batting average and expected batting average or the difference in wOBA with the shift and without it, I figured the best course of action would be to rely on someone that used a much more exhaustive method.

Mike Petriello of MLB.com broke down the hitters likely to see an outsized effect on their results with the shift ban in place. He broke down the case for the most egregious example here, covered a few free agents that could benefit from the ban here, highlighted the complete list of players that would have gained the most hits with the ban here, and outlined the players that won’t see better results contrary to common sense here. Make sure to stay tuned for Pitcher List’s own Taylor Tarter’s article posting on January 25th covering the players most likely to benefit from the shift ban.

With the work done for us, we had a complete list of the players likely to see the biggest positive net change in results with the shift limited. The six players mentioned in those articles taken inside the top 250 picks of Draft Champions drafts on NFBC since the beginning of December deserve a closer look.

 

Kyle Schwarber

 

Schwarber is one of two players on this list that almost everyone had pegged to improve with the rule change. Not only was he shifted on in 91% of his plate appearances, but he also missed out on at least 12 hits due to the non-standard defense used so frequently against him. Even though he strikes out, walks, and homers often, he hits the ball so hard on the ground when he does pull a ball in play, that he deserved much better results. Don’t expect him to become a .300 hitter all of a sudden, but a jump from the .218 average he posted in 2022 closer to the .237 range of his xBA is within reach.

 

Salvador Perez

 

Surprisingly, this list contains three righties and three lefties, making clear the fact that left-handed pull hitters won’t be the only ones affected by the shift ban. Perez was shifted against more than ever (75.6%) in 2022, resulting in a BABIP that was 74 points lower with a shift than without it. With a shift ban, he would have lucked into nine more hits last year despite overperforming his xBA (.254 to .245). He’ll continue to hit for power but may also see a few more singles eek through the left side of the infield.

 

Corey Seager

 

The clearest example of the archetype of a hitter that should take advantage of this rule change, Seager is a left-handed hitting pull-hitter that was exceptionally unlucky on hard-hit grounders pulled into the shift in 2022. Shifted on 93% of the time, he pulled 107 grounders into the defensive alignment, more than 30 more than the next guy (Charlie Blackmon). He batted just .056 on those ground balls and, according to Petriello’s calculations, missed out on upwards of 20 hits because of the shift. With a .283 xBA (96th percentile) for the season, Seager is likely to hit closer to .275 in 2023 than last year’s .245 all while providing the same 30+ home run power.

 

 

Alex Bregman

 

Bregman saw an increase in the shift used against him last year, likely as a result of teams realizing that he hits a significant majority of his extra-base hits to the pull side. That’s a fair strategy for Bregman considering he plays his home games with the Crawford Boxes essentially whispering in his ear. Petriello’s research suggested that Bregman missed out on eight hits because of the shift. Even still, he overperformed his xBA (.259 to .257) and had the slightest difference in his shifted and non-shifted wOBA. Elite plate discipline will make Bregman enticing in points leagues, and he’ll become even more attractive in roto leagues with a slight boost to his average.

 

Mitch Haniger

 

Soon to don new threads for the first time since his rookie season (2016), Haniger will look to parlay the shift ban into a banner year aided by the excellent Giants’ coaching staff and the friendly confines for right-handed hitters. The outfielder has seen an increase in the shift employed against him every year of his career and watched it rise to 71% in 2022, making him one of the most shifted against right-handed hitters in baseball. Having had much less luck on balls in play against the shift, Haniger will be happy to see it go and should benefit from a return to form with a healthy season.

 

Rowdy Tellez

 

A strapping, left-handed hitting power hitter with a low batting average was a likely candidate to benefit from the shift ban. He didn’t change his approach when hitting against the shift and will continue to not have to alter anything as the positioning goes by the wayside. Eight more hits would have come his way had he not been shifted on, and his xBA (.252) suggests he should have hit 33 points higher than he did based off his batted ball quality. We may be in for a treat from Rowdy in Milwaukee this year.

 

Bigger Bases

 

Bases have traditionally been 15 inches square, but in 2023, the size of the bases will be increased to 18 inches square. The primary goal is to keep players safe, specifically at first base, where injuries occur often. However, the 4.5-inch reduction in between bases combined with an addition to the Pitch Timer Rule will have a major impact on stolen bases.

Not only will baserunners have a shorter distance to cover in order to swipe a bag, but they’ll also have to worry less about being picked off. The second part of the Pitch Timer Rule states that pitchers are limited to two disengagements per plate appearance, with that number resetting every time a runner advances. A third pickoff attempt is allowed as long as it’s successful. If it is unsuccessful, the runner automatically advances.

How this will play out is yet to be seen, but we can glean from this information that stolen bases are likely to increase. Baserunners will have multiple avenues for increasing their stolen base success rate. The effects of the shorter distance and larger area of the bases are obvious, but the mind games and strategy involved in the pickoff rule will be fun to watch. The players most likely to take advantage of this rule are wide-ranging The archetypes include players that steal bases at a high volume, players that are aggressive on the bases, players with lots of stolen base opportunities, players that have been unlucky on the bases, and fast runners that don’t take advantage of their speed.

 

High-Volume Base Stealers

 

Baserunners that steal more bases than others likely won’t slow down in 2023. Having an even clearer path to theft will increase the likelihood of the league’s top base stealers taking off. The degree to which they run more won’t be known for quite some time, but if anyone is to benefit from the bigger bases and pickoff limits, it’s the base stealers that have already shown themselves to be elite. The following 11 players had more than 30 stolen base attempts in 2022.

 

Name Stolen Base Attempts Stolen Bases Caught Stealing
Jon Berti 46 41 5
Jorge Mateo 44 35 9
Cedric Mullins 44 34 10
Randy Arozarena 44 32 12
Ronald Acuña Jr. 40 29 11
Bobby Witt Jr. 37 30 7
Tommy Edman 35 32 3
Marcus Semien 33 25 8
Julio Rodríguez 32 25 7
Adolis García 31 25 6
Trea Turner 30 27 3

 

Last year’s high-volume bag swipers will all be drafted in roto drafts where stolen bases are highly valued. The question arising from the rule change is whether the elite base stealers will be more or less valuable. Does the average base stealer come so much closer to the elite that it makes them stand out less or do they take even more advantage of their speed and take an even bigger lead on the rest of the league?

 

Aggressive Base Stealers

 

Another archetype of base stealers that will see better results on the base paths are ones that continue to steal despite mixed results. Having the green light is just the first step in stealing a base and these players have got that taken care of. Additionally, a lack of success didn’t slow them down, so they may get even more greedy in 2023 as bases become easier to swipe. The following 15 players were caught stealing at least seven times in 2022.

 

Name Stolen Base Attempts Stolen Bases Caught Stealing
Randy Arozarena 44 32 12
Ronald Acuña Jr. 40 29 11
Cedric Mullins 44 34 10
Jorge Mateo 35 35 9
Starling Marte 27 18 9
Shohei Ohtani 20 11 9
Marcus Semien 33 25 8
Dylan Moore 29 21 8
Bo Bichette 21 13 8
Bobby Witt Jr. 37 30 7
Julio Rodríguez 32 25 7
José Ramírez 27 20 7
Dansby Swanson 25 18 7
Rafael Ortega 19 12 7
Christopher Morel 17 10 7

 

There is a lot of carryover from the previous list, but that’s understandable given that a high volume would result in more raw caught stealing. We do start to see a few new faces that have shown the ability to steal bases in the past but had less success in 2022. These players have a perpetual green light and should be able to return to form in 2023 because not only does their manager have the confidence to keep sending them, but they also weren’t discouraged and deemed themselves fast enough to steal the next bag.

 

Fast Runners With Few Attempts

 

The most enticing crowd of baserunners in regards to this new rule are players that exhibit blazing speed but don’t put it to good use. These will be the diamonds in the rough for fantasy managers praying for steals. A multitude of reasons played into why these players chose to stay put in 2022, but with stealing becoming easier, they should take advantage of their speed and take off more often. The following 19 players (min. 100 PA) had a sprint speed in the top 10th percentile (28.9 feet per second or faster) and attempted fewer than one stolen base for every 10 games played (less than 10% of games played).

 

Name Sprint Speed (ft/s) Steals/Game% Stolen Base Attempts Stolen Bases
Corbin Carroll 30.7 9.4% 3 2
Jo Adell 29.8 6.8% 6 4
Matt Vierling 29.6 9.4% 11 7
Edmundo Sosa 29.5 9% 7 6
Mike Trout 29.4 0.8% 1 1
Lane Thomas 29.4 8.2% 12 8
Ryan McKenna 29.4 2.9% 3 2
Jeremy Peña 29.4 9.6% 13 11
Alek Thomas 29.4 6.2% 7 4
Bradley Zimmer 29.2 4.6% 5 3
Byron Buxton 29.1 6.5% 6 6
Ezequiel Duran 29.1 8.6% 5 4
Gunnar Henderson 29.1 5.9% 2 1
Stuart Fairchild 29 4.3% 2 0
Owen Miller 29 1.5% 2 2
Brett Phillips 28.9 8.4% 7 7
Michael Chavis 28.9 1.6% 2 1
Oscar Gonzalez 28.9 3.3% 3 1
Jake Meyers 28.9 5.8% 3 2

 

Having displayed exceptional speed, fantasy managers will be counting on many of these players to steal more in 2023. Even if injury, lack of confidence, or lack of ability get in the way, there will be at least some increase in the percentage of games in which these players attempt a steal. The six players taken inside the top 250 picks of Draft Champions drafts on NFBC since the beginning of December deserve a closer look.

 

Mike Trout

 

Ever since he stopped stealing in 2019, everyone has wondered if Trout would ever get back to swiping bags. Considering the fact that he has dealt with a plethora of injuries and is seemingly always struggling to stay healthy, it might not be smart to push him unnecessarily, especially when he hurt himself running the bases in 2021 and wound up missing the entire season. He still has elite speed, but it’s highly unlikely he puts it to good use. If he does, Trout could return to being one of the most dangerous power-speed threats in baseball.

 

Corbin Carroll

 

The fastest man in baseball, according to Statcast Sprint Speed, Carroll took it easy down the stretch for the Diamondbacks in 2022. This was likely a result of a direction from the coaching staff so that he wouldn’t get injured prior to entering what could be a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2023. He has shown the ability to steal, swiping 31 bags between Double-A and Triple-A last year, so there’s a great chance he employs his speed more this season as he looks to enter the mainstream.

 

 

Gunnar Henderson

 

Henderson has never stolen an inordinate amount of bases in his career, topping out at 22 between Double-A and Triple-A last year, but he does own an elite speed tool. If he can turn that speed into thefts of bases next year, he’ll have his own case for Rookie of the Year in the AL. Projections systems such as ATC see him swiping double-digit bags, but given his elite speed and the new rules changes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpassed 20 steals with ease.

 

Byron Buxton

 

While he stole six times more bases than Trout in 2022, Buxton is in a very similar position as the GOAT. He has blinding speed but has always struggled to stay healthy. With incentives in his contract linked to MVP voting, he has all the more reason to remain healthy and perform for the Twins. This is all up to choice, as Buxton is clearly someone who can steal tons of bases with ease, but if he wants to eclipse more than 100 games for just the second time in his career, foregoing swiping bags might be the best course of action.

 

Jeremy Peña

 

How do you top winning both the ALCS MVP and World Series MVP awards? Well, by becoming one of the game’s better base stealers! If Carroll and Henderson are too obvious, then Peña might be the clearest benefactor of the rule change in this group. He’s young and hasn’t dealt with too many injuries, got a taste of stardom, could take a massive step forward in 2023, and is employed by a team that doesn’t feature a lot of speed. All of those conditions could see Peña becoming an unheralded power-speed demon with the green light on the bases and a little more patience at the plate.

 

Oscar Gonzalez

 

Queue the Spongebob theme song! Gonzalez stole just one base in 91 games in his debut campaign despite displaying a Sprint Speed in the top 10% of the league. On a team filled to the brim with speedsters, Gonzalez would fit right in if he started to take off more often. As a popular sleeper, his ability to swipe bags would make him even more enticing to fantasy managers. Maybe someone needs to tell him he can scream “I’m ready!” while running to second in order to motivate him to run more.

 

Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUwasemiller on Twitter)

Jake Crumpler

A Bay Area sports fan and lover of baseball, Jake is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in English Literature. He currently writes fantasy articles for Pitcher List and is the lead baseball writer at The Athletes Hub. Some consider his knowledge of the sport to be encyclopedic. Without baseball, Jake would be a Pokémon master.

One response to “Which Players Will Be Affected Most by the Rules Changes?”

  1. Great article, the clock component which I had not considered. Does the shift ban knock Sandy out of the top tier? Last year, he seemed hellbent on pitching to contact with a high groundball rate to get through innings quickly. Would you rather have a slow Nola or a contact-heavy Sandy as your #1 this year?

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