2024 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Hitters who should go higher or lower than expert consensus

ECR stands for “Expert Consensus Ranking,” which means the average ranks of the fantasy baseball industry and is typically similar to ADP (which differs from site to site). This column will highlight some big differences between ECR and my own hitter ranks. Go here for my pitchers.

Hitters I like more than consensus

Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego Padres (No. 7 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 4)

Tatís hit 25 homers, stole 29 bases and scored 90+ runs over just 141 games in something of a disappointing season (while returning from major surgeries) last year. He also hadn’t faced major league pitching since 2021 thanks to a suspension. His first (138 wRC+) and second-half (86) splits don’t perfectly fit the health narrative given his decline after the All-Star break, but it’s safe to say Tatís was nowhere close to 100% throughout 2023. He elected to play in the Winter League during the offseason, and this is someone who went 42/25 in just 130 games as a 22-year-old.

THE BAT X projects Tatís to go .285-37-106-101-31, which translates to a salary-cap-league salary worth about $3 more than Julio Rodríguez‘s and $6 more than Corbin Carroll‘s.

Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds (No. 37 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 20)

De La Cruz is this year’s most polarizing fantasy player, with his range of outcomes including him going 25/50 to being demoted to the minors. De La Cruz posted a .626 OPS and a 62 wRC+ in the second half last season, but the 21-year-old hit 13 homers and swiped 35 bags in fewer than 100 games anyway. De La Cruz’s athleticism is unmatched as he recorded MLB’s top sprint speed, the hardest recorded infield throw in Statcast history and the third-hardest hit ball as a rookie.

The Reds have a bunch of young talent, but De La Cruz has emerged as the face of the franchise, and his strong defense means it’s unlikely he’s sent down to the minors even if his bat slumps. De La Cruz gets to play in one of the league’s most extreme hitter’s parks, yet he somehow performed far worse at home (60 wRC+) compared to on the road (106) last year — something that figures to regress in 2024. De La Cruz made some changes at the plate over the final month of last season, when his BB% shot up thanks in part to him swinging at a league-low rate. He’s a batting average risk and possibly a health one weighing just 150 pounds, so there’s no denying his unsafe floor. But there’s also “league winner” potential if the 22-year-old shows growth and makes further adjustments (or even just plays more than projected).

Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 68 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 52)

Cruz is a reasonable facsimile of De La Cruz at a lower ADP — possessing similar tools and projections — but why not draft both? Cruz owns the hardest-hit ball in Statcast history and a career 600-plate appearance pace of .237-28-79-89-19. He’ll occupy a good spot in Pittsburgh’s lineup and offers 30/30 upside should health cooperate.

Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (No. 81 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 66)

Torres’ power won’t ever return to his 2019 level, but he improved his walk rate while also producing a career-best K% last season. Batting average has become the most underrated category in fantasy baseball, and Torres also provides underrated help in the counting stats. He just turned 27 years old and will be playing for a new contract (he created his own hitting lab during this offseason) while batting in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup.

Triston Casas, Boston Red Sox (No. 85 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 67)

Casas hit .317 and ranked top-five in wRC+ (175) and OPS (1.034) after the All-Star break last season, when he increased his In-Zone aggression without sacrificing his terrific patience. His Statcast numbers feature a lot of red. Casas will benefit from hitting in the middle of Boston’s lineup and in baseball’s best park for left-handed batters. He’ll go much higher in 2025 fantasy drafts.

Teoscar Hernández, Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 114 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 79)

Hernández landed in a terrific spot for his fantasy value, as he gets to hit in a loaded Dodgers lineup and in a park that’s increased home runs for right-handed batters by 26% over the last three seasons. He posted a top-20 wRC+ (133) from 2020-2022 before last year’s disappointing campaign. Projections have him approaching 30 homers and 90 RBI in fewer than 140 games in 2024, yet Hernández is available 100+ picks into drafts.

Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals (No. 126 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 99)

Vinnie P is available at a major discount at draft tables thanks to underperforming before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last year. Pasquantino’s hit tool profile suggests he could bat .300, and Steamer projects him to record a top-25 wRC+ among all hitters this season, one spot behind Austin Riley. Pasquantino hit .290/.374/.524 with seven homers and an 18:19 K:BB ratio over the first 39 games last season, and hopefully surgery finally corrected his ongoing shoulder issue. He’s slated to hit cleanup, and Kauffman Stadium is a favorable hitter’s park that’s increased walks by 9% and decreased strikeouts by 14% over the last three seasons.

My Cousin Vinnie should be going rounds earlier (his Yahoo ADP sits at No. 164).

Wyatt Langford, Texas Rangers (No. 165 in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 118)

Langford put up ludicrous, eye-popping stats last year, including his debut across the minors. The No. 4 pick in the 2023 draft, Langford possesses “70” grades in both speed and power, so he’s fantasy’s top prospect. There’s no guarantee he starts the season in Texas (although news certainly sounds encouraging), and projecting rookies is typically a crapshoot (although Steamer has Langford immediately posting a 122 wRC+). But Langford looks like a special talent whose upside is well worth a pick outside the top 225 in Yahoo drafts. Texas has boosted homers for righties by 12% over the last three seasons, which is the fourth-most in baseball. I’m predicting Langford wins Rookie of the Year and has a better fantasy campaign than teammate Evan Carter, who goes multiple rounds earlier.

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins (No. 204 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 180)

Buxton might be the most likely player to get injured in 2024 given his history, but his upside still makes him worth a 20th-round pick in Yahoo drafts. Plenty of players will be quickly dropped in that range but none are likely to match Buxton’s per-plate production. He struggled while playing compromised last season, but Buxton led MLB in homers per at-bat from 2020-2022; he also recorded the eighth-best wRC+ (144) over that span (if he qualified), sandwiched between José Ramírez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Many will scoff, roll their eyes and possibly mock, but Buxton plans to return to centerfield and steal 30 bases now that he finally feels 100% healthy. I’ll be the fool who buys in again, as Buxton could miss half the season and still provide a strong ROI at his ADP.

Hitters I like less than consensus

Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks (No. 4 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 6)

My ranking is only a minor difference, but a top-10 pick is an extremely important decision. Carroll looks like an immediate star who’s a big-time fantasy producer, but he also has a recurring health issue that shouldn’t be ignored. He suffered multiple scares last year to his surgically-repaired shoulder, including suffering a subluxation that wasn’t addressed during the offseason.

There’s at least some risk of reinjury or of it affecting performance, which should be considered when debating Carroll with Julio Rodríguez, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Strider and possibly others.

Nolan Jones, Colorado Rockies (No. 52 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 93)

Jones was a fantasy revelation last year, going 20/20 in fewer than 425 ABs after destroying Triple-A pitching (183 wRC+). He’s slated to hit in the middle of the Rockies’ lineup and in MLB’s best hitter’s park. But it should be cautioned that Nolan’s .401 BABIP was one of the 10 highest seasons since 1945! While Coors Field boosts batting average on balls play thanks to its spacious outfield dimensions, Jones remarkably owned a .434 BABIP on the road.

To say this is unsustainable (with a near 30% K rate) would be an understatement.

While most Colorado hitters perform abnormally worse away from home (given the differences in elevation), Jones recorded a 148 wRC+ on the road last season compared to 122 in Coors Field.

Jones was hitting .276 (.856 OPS) with 13 homers and eight steals before batting .349 (1.112 OPS) with seven HRs and 12 SBs in September (when pitching often gets softer as rosters expand). THE BAT X projects a 105 wRC+ and modest counting stats (73 RBI) thanks in part to the Rockies’ poor lineup, yet Jones is being drafted nearly as a top-50 pick in Yahoo drafts — between Mike Trout and Manny Machado. That’s a big bet on a player with a short track record coming off an outlier performance.

Cody Bellinger, Chicago Cubs (No. 55 overall in ECR vs. DDD’s No. 94)

Bellinger’s Hard Hit% ranked in the bottom 10% of the league last season, when his average fly ball exit velocity dropped for the third straight year. He had 26 homers on just 26 barrels and the same hard-hit rate as Jon Berti.

Bellinger has missed an average of 39 games over the last three seasons. He ranked dead last by a significant margin in wRC+ (61) among 151 hitters with 900 plate appearances from 2021-2022 before 2023’s contract year. Fantasy managers are counting on Bellinger’s new approach being sustainable while drafting him as a top-55 player, mistakenly ahead of Christian Yelich, Royce Lewis and Oneil Cruz.

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