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2023 Fantasy Baseball: Who Benefits From The MLB Rule Changes?

Nick Roberts Feb 24th 12:11 PM EST.

As baseball’s importance in our cultural landscape has been slipping, the folks in charge of Major League Baseball have seemingly been asleep at the wheel. They’ve watched their ratings slip as the NFL has taken over as America’s new pastime (obsession?) and haven’t really addressed any fan complaints about the game. 

“Games are too long”

“There isn’t enough action”

“Analytics are ruining the game”

We saw some small changes over the past couple of years (checking pitchers for sticky stuff, the new ghost runner in extra innings, replays, etc), but none of those really moved the needle. Are the 2023 rule changes going to be the thing that does? I don’t know. But they’re important for fantasy baseball!

This year, we’ll see the introduction of a pitch clock, bigger bases, and a ban on the shift. Those are three big things that could affect a player’s fantasy value – which means we need to think about them before our fantasy baseball drafts!

Let’s dig into those rule changes and see how (and who) they’ll affect the fantasy baseball landscape.

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The Pitch Clock

This one is probably the most harmless in terms of fantasy baseball impact, but it’s not meaningless either. The biggest real baseball change we’ll see here is that games will be shorter (hooray!), but we could also see some pitchers who previously worked more slowly get sped up to the point where it affects their fantasy numbers. 

I don’t think we can automatically just assume that will happen, but baseball is a game of rhythm and repetition. And we could see new rhythms affect the way some pitchers perform. Here’s a quick list of the most notable slow-tempo pitchers last season (some of them took over 25 seconds between pitches!):

As you can see, most of those players are relief pitchers, so there’s probably something there to be worried about once runners get on base (more on steals in a second). That said, I wouldn’t go downgrading guys like Ohtani, Burnes, or Kopech just because they’ve previously (and legally) worked slowly under an older set of rules. 

What’s my big takeaway here? Mostly that games should theoretically be more fun to watch because they won’t take three and a half hours. But I do think we should probably stay away from guys like Jansen and Kimbrel as they already have some question marks – and this just adds one more.

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Bigger Bases and Less Pick-off Attempts

As someone who grew up watching Rickey Henderson, this rule change excites me. Jon Berti led the league with 41 steals last year. Rickey Henderson stole more than 41 bases during SIXTEEN different seasons in his career. 

I might be getting ahead of myself here, but I think it’s safe to say that steals will be back this year (at least somewhat). When these rule changes were implemented in the minor leagues, we saw more steal attempts AND a higher success rate. I don’t think we’re going to see a 100-plus steal season, but we should see more players getting the green light – and more of them successfully stealing bases (which should theoretically also increase their runs scored totals).

Who does this help? Fast players who are good at stealing bases. Here’s a list of players who should see an uptick in their stolen base (and runs scored) totals this season:

That’s not to say all of those players WILL see a jump in steals, but I wouldn’t be shocked if everyone on that list steals 10 more bases this year than they otherwise would have. And we should (theoretically) see the league leader go over 60 bases this year. 

Limiting The Shift

The shift isn’t totally gone, but the nerds (and I say that lovingly) seem to have lost this battle. Starting this year, infielders will need to have their feet on the dirt when the pitch is released, and teams will be required to have two players on each side of the infield. 

What does this mean for fantasy baseball? We don’t definitively know just yet, but it should theoretically help (mostly left-handed) hitters who have faced a lot of shifts because they typically pull the ball a lot. While this won’t turn .210 hitters into .300 hitters, we should see the following players add some batting average points this year.


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