1. SS Willy Adames
Willy Adames stands out as a player who could see his offensive numbers improve due to the defensive shift change this upcoming season. The defense was shifted on Adames in 24.7% of his plate appearances in 2022, and his wOBA splits were significant.
Last season, Adames posted a wOBA of .248 when a defensive shift was applied. However, when the defense was not shifted against him, he had a wOBA of .347. A difference of about 100 points is enough to raise an eyebrow.
When looking at Willy's defensive positioning chart on those shifts, nearly all of the applied defensive shifts had three infielders between third base and second base- which will no longer be legal in 2023.
One of the reasons the shift is being implemented is to increase BABIP numbers leaguewide. Batting Average on Balls in Play, or BABIP, is a measure of what percentage of batter's balls in play go for hits, removing outcomes not affected by the opposing defense (i.e. home runs and strikeouts). This becomes particularly interesting when digging into Willy's BABIP numbers from last season.
In 2022, Adames had a significantly lower BABIP compared to the rest of his career. He had a BABIP of .278 which was a career low by a wide margin. This means an abnormal amount of his balls that were put into play were not resulting in hits, despite him posting a career high in barrel rate (13%) and an above average hard hit rate (43.6%).
With defenses required to have two infielders on each side of second base in 2023, there is a good chance Adames can post a BABIP number closer to his career average (.325). If he can do so while continuing to make strong quality of contact, I expect Adames to benefit offensively from the shift change this upcoming season.