Prior to the events of this past week, ranking the three most overrated shortstops may have been a much tougher endeavor. Now, it’s honestly rather easy. Three guys definitely stand out and fit this category perfectly. Can you guess who they are?
We have already covered catchers, first basemen, second basemen, and third basemen. Just like those lists, the criteria for making this list are as follows: national recognition, contract, injury history, and being held to a standard set previously when that level of ability no longer exists. Now that the housekeeping is out of the way, let’s dive into the most overrated shortstops in the game today.
3 Most Overrated Shortstops
3. Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
I will not even lie with this one, it pains me to put him on this list as I was one of the staunchest supporters on his rise through the minors and throughout his first couple of years in the Majors. Bo Bichette may not be the guy the Toronto Blue Jays hoped he would be.
Debuting in 2019, Bichette has a career line of .288/.330/.481 with 62 home runs and a 120 OPS+ over 348 games and 1,528 plate appearances. This season, however, has been his worst to date as he holds a line of .261/.301/.429 with 17 home runs and a 107 OPS+ across 114 games and 498 plate appearances. The worst part is that this may be the hitter that Bo Bichette actually is.
Bichette’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) for the season currently stands at .317 compared to his career BABIP of .337. This does indicate a slight bit of bad luck, but not enough to make a negligible difference. His home run rate is down, but only by less than a tick (3.4% this year; 4.1% career), his strikeout rate is up by 2.5% (24.5%; 22%), and his walk rate is right in line with his career rate (5.6%; 5.7%). This could indicate a late-season surge, but wait! There’s more!
His exit velocity for the year is the second highest of his career as it currently sits at 91.2 mph. His hard-hit rate is the highest it’s ever been sitting at 48.8% to go along with a barrel rate of 9.2%. He is still hitting the ball hard, if not harder than ever, but he still isn’t seeing the results. His xBA for the year is only .001 lower than his season batting average when in every other season of his career, it has been decidedly lower over a full season’s workload. All of this points to this season’s Bichette, being the actual Bichette and not an ugly outlier.
Bichette also ranks below league average defensively. He has limited range and has committed an average of 11.75 errors a year, with 37 of those coming since the start of the 2021 season. Shortstop is a premium position on both sides of the plate and in the long run, Bichette may be better suited on the other side of second. And that lands him on this list of the most overrated shortstops.
2. Javier Baez, Detroit Tigers
We now move a little further south to a guy that once donned the cover of MLB The Show, Javier Baez. Baez signed a 6-year, $140 million contract with the Detroit Tigers this past off-season as they were hoping they were near the end of their long rebuild.
Javi is highly touted around the league because of his amazing slides and the outstanding plays he makes that are seemingly magic, earning him the nickname “El Mago”. Offensively, however, he rates right around league average with a career OPS+ of 102 and this season he has been worse than league average as his OPS+ for the year sits at 85.
Holding a career line of .260/.302/.465 doesn’t seem awful on the surface, but when you add a career strikeout rate of 28.7% and a career walk rate of 4.8%, it continuously gets worse. Baez is one of the perennial league leaders in strikeouts, and he doesn’t balance that out with good plate discipline. He carries a career chase rate of 44.5% which has gradually climbed year-over-year, and he only makes contact on 54% of those swings. His approach at the plate is awful.
Despite the national recognition for his defensive prowess, he only has one Gold Glove award to show for it. He does have above-average range, but his arm routinely lands him a plethora of errors. Of his 89 career errors committed at shortstop across his 9-year career, 57 have been throwing errors. Throwing errors are much less subjective than fielding errors as they are pretty cut and dry. The throw was on target, or it wasn’t. He has averaged 6.334 throwing errors a season thus far, with 26 of those coming since the start of 2021.
As Baez gets older, his range will gradually decrease. His best years, offensively and defensively, are seemingly behind him and yet the Tigers are on the hook to pay him $42 million between this year and next. He does have an opt-out after 2023, but he would be unwise to use it as the Tigers would owe him $98 million between 2024-2027 and he would not come close to that number on the free agent market because he is one of the most overrated shortstops in the league.
1. Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres
Had this piece been written two weeks ago, Fernando Tatis Jr. may not have even been on this list of most overrated shortstops, much less taken the number one spot. The San Diego Padres signed Tatis to a 14-year, $340 million contract extension in February of 2021. If Padres’ GM AJ Preller could take it all back, I’m sure he would.
At the time of signing the extension, Tatis had played in 143 career Major League games and held a line of .301/.374/.582 with 39 home runs and a 155 OPS+. Those are pretty solid numbers for a full season of baseball, the thing is, that was across two seasons. He missed 78 games in 2019 due to injury but did play a “full” season in the shortened 2020 season with 59 of the 60 games. Over those two seasons, he held a Game Played Rate (patent pending) of 64.4%.
We are almost two full seasons into his contract extension. Tatis only played 130 games last season, and he will now miss the entirety of the 2022 season. Over those two seasons, his GPR (Games Played Rate) is 40.1% which brings his career GPR to exactly 50% without taking into account any of the games he will miss in 2023 as he serves out the rest of his 80-game PED suspension.
Tatis was working his way back from an asinine motorcycle injury that was going to cost him the majority of the season when he was popped for a banned substance that he claims was in something he was prescribed to take for ringworm. It’s a pitiful attempt at an excuse and Tatis joins a long list of baseball players that have refused to take responsibility for their actions and admit their mistakes.
The Padres will be able to recoup 80 games worth of the salary that was owed to Tatis, 48 games of that will be served this year (plus any playoff games the Padres might play) which would be $1,693,121.78 worth of game checks they will not owe Tatis. We will not know how many games he will miss for the suspension in 2023 until the Padres are no longer in the playoffs (or playoff hunt), but they will save $47,619.04 for every game missed in 2023.
This doesn’t change the fact that Tatis is extremely immature and injury-prone and will receive over $300 million through the 2034 season. Until he grows up and figures out how to stay on the field, he will perennially make the list of most overrated shortstops with this year’s ranking being number one.
Padres general manager AJ Preller with some straightforward words about Fernando Tatis Jr. pic.twitter.com/EaRlvuJpMz
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 13, 2022