So early that we haven’t even solved the most important question in the NFL: How many times will Taylor Swift be shown on TV during the Super Bowl?
But it’s not too early for yours truly to have some firm opinions on the upcoming 2024 fantasy baseball season. After spending several weeks creating my personal stat projections for more than 500 players, I have found a few men who are undervalued in the early-season draft market.
Here are 10 players I plan to target.
Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets
I included Alonso in this article to make a macro-level point. Most of my 2023 teams had plenty of speed but not enough power, which is a weakness I hope to address this year. Alonso would be a great early-round fit for my tendencies, as he has hit more homers than any other player since his rookie season in '19. My suggestion is that all managers spend some time assessing their '23 shortfalls while preparing for '24 drafts.
Royce Lewis, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Despite enduring three injured list stints, Lewis showed last season why he was once the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft. Admittedly, he had some good fortune (21.1% HR/FB rate, .354 BABIP), but Lewis could experience regression on his 2023 paces and still have a terrific sophomore season. By staying healthy this year, the 24-year-old could produce 30 homers, 100 RBI, 15 steals and a helpful batting mark.
Jazz Chisholm Jr., OF, Miami Marlins
I’m reluctant to draft Chisholm in some of my deeper leagues. After all, the 26-year-old has appeared in just 157 games across the past two seasons. But Chisholm is the perfect target for Yahoo leagues, in which the waiver wire is usually fruitful. Having accumulated 33 homers and 34 steals since the outset of 2023, Chisholm is a 30-30 player waiting to happen if he can stay off the IL this year.
TJ Friedl, OF, Cincinnati Reds
On a Reds roster that is full of exciting, young hitters, the 28-year-old Friedl could be the best value pick. The outfielder posted a .352 OBP last year, which enabled him to garner most of his plate appearances from the top two lineup spots. Along the way, he produced 18 homers and 27 steals while being so effective against same-sided hurlers (.962 OPS) that he is unlikely to be platooned. You don’t have to squint to envision a 20-30 season with 90 runs scored.
Nolan Gorman, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Gorman’s production was all over the map last season, as he posted an OPS over .870 in four separate months but a mark under .630 in the other two. His overall numbers were strong, as he finished with 27 homers and 76 RBI despite two IL stints that contributed to just 119 games played. Gorman should stay out of a platoon role after achieving balanced splits last year, and at age 23, he is young enough for fantasy managers to expect continued growth.
Logan Webb, SP, San Francisco Giants
Beyond achieving strong surface stats (3.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP), Webb did some things last season that caught my eye when I worked on 2024 projections. Although certainly not a strikeout artist, the right-hander’s whiff rate ticked up by 2.1%. Meanwhile, his walk rate fell to a career-best 3.6%, and he continued to be one of baseball’s best at inducing ground balls (62.1%). Webb is a boring option to many managers, but I would be excited to have him as my No. 2 starter.
Zach Eflin, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Rays pitchers tend to outperform expectations, which was the case for Eflin when he enjoyed a career-best season (3.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 26.5% K-rate) in his first year with the club. I’m projecting an even better campaign on the horizon, as his 2023 xERA, FIP and xFIP were each roughly half a run lower than his actual marks.
Bailey Ober, SP, Minnesota Twins
Starters who consistently produce a low WHIP are great targets, which makes Ober and his lifetime 1.11 mark a viable option for the middle rounds of drafts. The right-hander is disliked by the ERA estimators due to his massive fly-ball rate, but those hits are often cans of corn that keep the bases clean. Many fly-ball-heavy hurlers have enjoyed sustainable fantasy success, and I’ll live with Ober surrendering his share of homers as part of his overall profile.
Chris Sale, SP, Atlanta Braves
Sale holds a tentative spot on this list, as his draft value might skyrocket if he fares well in spring training. But for now, the left-hander is someone I will enthusiastically target during the second half of drafts. Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has had a remarkable track record since joining the organization, and his latest gamble is that Sale has at least two more good seasons in a body that has often betrayed him in recent years. With a lifetime 3.10 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a 30.5% strikeout rate, the 34-year-old has a higher ceiling than the other hurlers who fall to his area of drafts.
Craig Kimbrel, RP, Baltimore Orioles
I’ll take all the Kimbrel shares this year. The right-hander, who hasn’t endured an IL stint since 2019, was effective (3.26 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 33.8% strikeout rate) with the Phillies last year. He now steps into the ninth-inning role on one of baseball’s best teams under the guidance of manager Brandon Hyde, who showed last season that he is willing to lean heavily on an effective closer. Kimbrel won’t require an early-round pick and could lead the majors in saves.