Change is coming to Major League Baseball, and a few Yankees hitters have reason to be excited.
Starting in 2023, the shift will be significantly limited, one of several changes coming to the sport. The rules limiting the shift will require all four infielders to place both feet within the outer boundary of the infield, and there must be two infielders on each side of second base.
The shift’s demise has already had an impact on free agency, as veteran first baseman Carlos Santana agreed to a one-year, $6.7 million deal with the Pirates on Friday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The 36-year-old is coming off a league-average season (.202/.316/.376, 100 OPS+, 102 wRC+) with Kansas City and Seattle, but no player was shifted against at a higher rate than Santana (98.3%) in 2022, per Baseball Savant.
With that in mind, it’s reasonable to believe Santana is poised for a rebound. It also got us wondering which 2022 Yankees could enjoy a bounce-back year or improved numbers without the shift…
As a left-handed hitter, Hicks faced the shift 92.6% percent of the time over 325 plate appearances last year, the highest percentage on the Yankees and the 11th-highest in MLB. But the switch-hitter only saw the shift 6.5% of the time over 123 plate appearances from the right side. The outfielder was a below league-average hitter in 2022, so Hicks can use all the help he can get (so can the Yankees, who won’t have an easy time getting out of the three years and roughly $30 million left on his contract). With a 47.5% pull rate, Hicks should fare better in 2023 – if he earns a role of significance in New York.
The left-handed Carpenter faced the shift 89.5% of the time over 152 plate appearance in 2022, the 21st-highest rate in baseball. A 60% pull hitter, he took advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch and revived his career by slashing .305/.412/.727 with 15 home runs and 37 RBI over 47 games before breaking his foot. With the shift gone, could Carpenter be even better at age 37? That’s unlikely, but the defensive changes could certainly help the free agent stay productive in 2023.
Rizzo (82.6% over 539 plate appearances, 53rd overall) was the Yankees’ only everyday player who saw the shift more than 80% of the time last year. After tying his career-high with 32 home runs – and re-signing with New York early in free agency – Rizzo should be able to boost his average without the shift in 2023. The first baseman made contact 78.7% of the time and pulled the ball 48.1% of the time last year. Baseball’s new rules should mean more hits for the veteran.
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