One of the most intriguing aspects of next year will be the rule changes and how they affect the game. A pitch clock will be implemented, along with bigger bases, but the most game-changing regulation will be the banning of the shift, which will tremendously benefit many players — particularly left-handed batters — in 2023.
Off the top of my head, Matt Olson is a player currently on the Braves that will benefit the most from the shift change. He peppers balls to the right side of the infield constantly, but those would-be hits turned into outs because of the shift. Without it, he could become one of the best offensive players in the game, and I was right.
Our own Alex Lord recently did a piece on this, so I’ll quote him:
Matt Olson’s 47 hits lost to the shift since 2020 ranks 3rd in the league, which would have improved his average to .288 from .250 — a dramatic difference. As a team, the Braves’ 188 hits lost to the shift since 2020 ranks fifth in the league. If those hits were given back, the team’s batting average would’ve been .267.
Olson should be in for a career year in 2023, but it got me thinking about others who will benefit equally as much, particularly free agents that could be on the Braves’ radar. Here are some lefties left on the market that could see an uptick in production thanks to the rule changes.
When I initially thought of the idea for this article, I thought there would be a lot more candidates. Turns out, there aren’t a ton of quality lefty bats available on the market that fit the Braves’ needs, but I could see all three of these guys as potential options for Atlanta.
Gallo’s strikeout concerns still worry me. He will still be a traditional three-outcome player — strikeouts, walk, or home run. But the banning of the shift should raise his average a tad.
We haven’t seen Conforto on the field since 2021, but he should benefit tremendously from the banning of the shift. It also might entice him to take a one-year contract this offseason and build up his value for next winter.
Belt is someone I haven’t really considered as an option for the Braves before this piece because he’s been a mainstay in San Francisco his entire career. I assume there’s mutual interest in him returning, but if he’s available, the Braves should be in on him. Despite a down 2022 because of injuries, Belt was a monster in 2020-2021, recording a .988 OPS over 144 games. As a platoon DH/left fielder with a championship pedigree, he could be a fantastic low-cost option that will also benefit from the shift being no more in 2023.
Photo: Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire
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