Fantasy Baseball: All the MLB spring training storylines you need to follow ahead of the 2024 season

It’s finally happening. spring training 2024 is here. Pitchers and catchers are reporting this week, with position players scheduled to trickle in a few days later.

[Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

Fantasy managers are surely licking their chops to follow along with each team as they build their roster, map out roles and manage injuries. Here are the storylines that should be of the utmost focus for those who want to win their league.

Overseas Arrivals

The MLB talent pool got a significant boost in the offseason from a quartet of players.

  • Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the headliner of the group after securing a 12-year, $325M contract from the Dodgers. At 5’10”, the right-hander is smaller than other aces, but his results in Japan were outstanding and Dodgers starters rarely disappoint.

  • Speaking of undersized hurlers, Yuki Matsui arrives in San Diego after accumulating 236 saves during a decade-long career in Japan. Just 5’8”, Matsui nonetheless posted a 12.0 K/9 rate overseas and could become the closer in an unsettled Padres bullpen.

  • Shota Imanaga rounded out the pitcher arrivals when he signed with the Cubs in January. The 30-year-old owns a lifetime 2.96 ERA in Japan and showed additional promise by boosting his strikeout rate during the past two seasons. For fantasy purposes, he is someone who should be drafted as a depth starter.

  • Jung Hoo Lee will bring terrific contact skills from the KBO to San Francisco, where he is expected to serve as the Giants leadoff man. The 25-year-old lacks significant power or speed but could hit .300 with plenty of runs scored.

Premium Prospects

Major League clubs continue to get more aggressive with promoting their prospects, which is a welcome change for fans and fantasy managers alike.

  • Jackson Holliday is widely considered to be baseball’s best prospect and could secure the Orioles starting second base or shortstop job during spring training. The 20-year-old owns a .449 OBP after 145 Minor League games and could produce 20 steals and a double-digit homer total in a full MLB season.

  • Jackson Chourio has a clearer path to the Majors than Holliday after signing an eight-year contract over the winter. Soon to turn 20 years old, Chourio is less likely than Holliday to post a high batting average but more likely to tally plenty of homers and steals.

  • Colt Keith copied Chourio and inked his own long-term contract during the offseason, which paved the way for him to become the Tigers’ second baseman. The prospect is a career .300 hitter in the Minors and ripped 27 round-trippers in 126 games last year. His lack of speed caps his upside.

  • The Rangers may have two of baseball’s highest-ranking prospects in the Opening Day outfield. Evan Carter is somewhat of a known entity after appearing in 40 games between the regular season and postseason. But Wyatt Langford, who logged a .480 OBP with 10 homers and 12 steals in 44 Minor League games last year, could quickly surpass Carter as the preferred fantasy option.

  • If drafting today, I would rank the prospects in this order: Chourio, Langford, Carter, Holliday, Keith.

Back on the Radar

Several players are only a healthy spring away from returning to fantasy rosters after missing all of last season.

  • Edwin Diaz could be the No. 1 closer in 2024 by establishing this spring that he has fully recovered from rupturing his patella tendon in the World Baseball Classic.

  • Gavin Lux missed all of 2023 with a torn ACL. The 26-year-old has yet to make a notable fantasy impact, but he will have an opportunity to do so this year as the starting shortstop on a Dodgers team that is expected to have a terrific offense.

  • Rhys Hoskins is also returning from a torn ACL and could go deep 30 times after switching from the Phillies to the Brewers in the offseason.

  • Shane Baz and Aaron Ashby are two young starters with plenty of upside who missed all of last season. Baz may not start the season in the Majors but should be stashed in many leagues, while Ashby could be a player to monitor from the waiver wire in April.

Position Battles

— The Reds have more options than spots in their infield, and most of the competitors were notable prospects in recent years. Jeimer Candelario is the old man of the group, but he is expected to play regularly after signing with Cincinnati in the offseason. The club also needs to give Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain regular roles, which leaves DH and 3B for Noelvi Marte, Jonathan India and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. The most logical solution is to either trade India or give Marte more time in Triple-A.

Brett Baty is the favorite for the Mets‘ third base job, but he has plenty to prove after recording a .598 OPS in 108 games last season. Fellow prospect Mark Vientos is the same age as Baty and struggled to a similar degree in 2023. But Vientos has plenty of pop and Baty is a well-rounded hitter, which means that the winner of this battle will be a late-round draft option.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

— The Blue Jays lack a clear answer at the hot corner and second base, with Cavan Biggio, Davis Schneider and Isiah Kiner-Falefa ranking as the leading candidates. Kiner-Falefa could be a factor in deep mixed leagues by stealing 20 bases in a full-time role, while Schneider is the name to monitor among the group. The fan favorite was all over the map in his late-season audition, posting a 1.420 OPS in August and a .673 mark in September.

— Carlos Estévez collected 31 saves last year but also posted an unsightly 1.49 WHIP and logged a 6.59 ERA after the All-Star break. He will face stiff competition this spring from free-agent addition Robert Stephenson, who was undoubtedly the better pitcher last year (3.10 ERA, 0.88 WHIP). The club also brought in Matt Moore, who was very effective during the past two seasons.

— The Nationals are another team with a closer conundrum, as Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey would like to lay claim to the role. As is the situation with the Angels, the Nats have one man who had plenty of saves last year (Finnegan, 28) and another who produced better results (Harvey, 2.82 ERA, 0.94 WHIP).

Source link