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Outfield Busts Due To Bounce Back for 2024 Fantasy Baseball

taylor ward fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers waiver wire pickups

Each baseball season features its share of underwhelming performances. Whether due to regression, age, bad luck, injury, or any other number of random factors, every player is susceptible to a bust of a season.

In some instances, a busted season indicates a player’s new normal. Knowing when to cut losses on a declining player is critical to success. However, it’s also crucial for fantasy baseball managers to identify players who are more likely to bounce back the following season as valuable fantasy assets.

This article explores several outfielders who underperformed compared to their ADP in 2023 and unfolds why they might play better this season. The players on this list have seen their ADP drop heading into 2024. They should be considered value picks with a worthwhile shot at exceeding expectations.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Andrew Benintendi, Chicago White Sox

The first year of Andrew Benintendi’s five-year, $75 million contract was a huge disappointment for the Chicago White Sox. Through 151 games played, the lefty slashed .262/.326/.356 with an uninspiring 87 wRC+. While the batting average and on-base percentage were decent enough, Benintendi’s power was completely nonexistent, producing just five home runs and 41 total extra-base hits. However, there is reason to believe his slugging percentage can rebound in 2024.

The reports about Benintendi's health are at the core of the offseason optimism. Following the end of last season, Benintendi revealed that a hand injury plagued most of his 2023 campaign. His hand had apparently never fully healed following a prior injury and subsequent surgery that ended Benintendi’s 2022 season prematurely. Spring training reports about health are notoriously generous, but Benintendi is at full strength for the first time in close to two years if the rumors are to be believed.

2022 was also a disappointing season at the plate for Benintendi from a power-hitting standpoint. Over 126 appearances, he still managed only five home runs. That said, the underlying metrics were significantly more encouraging, featuring a .273 xBA (.270 in 2023), .407 xSLG (.375 in 2023), 89.2 mph average exit velocity (86.6 mph in 2022), and a .334 xwOBA (.310 in 2023).

While Benintendi will never be a prolific power hitter, it’s reasonable to assume that he can settle back into the 13-20 home run range he consistently maintained from 2017-2021.

It was not a long time ago that Benintendi was a perennial 15-home run, 15-stolen base threat. Now entering his age-28 season, and with a debilitating hand injury supposedly in the rearview mirror, it’s not hard to imagine a return to form.

 

Taylor Ward, Los Angeles Angels

Taylor Ward shot up draft boards last year following a promising 2022 campaign featuring a .281/.360/.473 slash line alongside 23 home runs and a 137 wRC+. Instead of delivering the breakout season many had hoped for, Ward generated a middling .253/.335/.421 slash line with 14 home runs and a 107 wRC+. His season abruptly concluded at only 97 games played following a 92 mph sinker to the face, resulting in three facial fractures.

Now healthy, the hype surrounding Ward is significantly diminished. His ADP sits at a budget-friendly 273, well below where he stood this time last season. At 30 years old, Ward is certainly not too old to bounce back, and the nature of his injury does not suggest recurring issues moving forward. While he did underperform during his partial 2023 campaign, there is reason to suspect Ward will be a significant fantasy producer in 2024.

Ward’s underlying numbers last season were ultimately disappointing compared to expectations. He produced a .338 xwOBA (.361 in 2022), .254 xBA (.268 in 2022), .430 xSLG (.474 in 2022), and an 8.2% barrel rate (12.4% in 2022). While the production dip is plain to see, it’s worth noting that he opened the season with a slump and gathered steam with each passing month.

Ward posted a 79 wRC+ across 29 games between March and April, an 85 wRC+ in 24 May appearances, then a 99 wRC+ in 24 June games, and he finally caught fire in July with a 182 wRC+ over 20 games played. If the full season had played out, Ward might very well have put up some big numbers by the season’s end.

Given his current ADP, Ward should be considered an exceptional high-upside value pick. The fluke nature of his injury last season leaves little reason to believe that he isn’t physically up to the task of a bounce-back campaign.

 

Tyler O'Neill, Boston Red Sox

Injuries have plagued Tyler O’Neill during his major league tenure. He’s surpassed 100 games played only once in his career in 2021, and the results that season were spectacular. O’Neill has played 96 games and 72 games in the two campaigns since, and the time off has significantly hindered his ability to find a rhythm at the plate. Now starting over fresh and healthy with the Boston Red Sox, O’Neill is primed for a bounce-back performance this year.

As mentioned above, 2021 was O’Neill’s healthiest season. Across 136 appearances, he generated an impressive .286/.352/.560 slash line with 34 home runs and a 143 wRC+. That success includes some staggering advanced metrics, including a .392 xwOBA, .279 xBA, .582 xSLG, 93 mph average exit velocity, 17.9% barrel rate, and a 52.2% hard-hit rate. Whether O’Neill ever repeats these numbers is increasingly becoming a question mark, but it demonstrates his capability to be one of the league’s better hitters.

O’Neill’s output since has been disappointing. He has missed roughly half of the possible games played with injury and underperformed to a 99 wRC+ in 2022 and a 97 wRC+ last season. The trend is concerning, to be sure, but at only 28 years old, it’s well within the range of outcomes that O’Neill can bounce back as a significant offensive producer.

Further, the change of scenery should be a worthwhile consideration for O’Neill. His effort on the field and relationship to St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol had soured last season, and a new home may be exactly what he needs. Crucially, Fenway Park is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball, and O’Neill will now get to play half of his games there.

With O'Neill, injury remains a constant risk, but his upside is much better than his 258 ADP suggests. It may not work out in the end, but there are many reasons it can, and buying low on Tyler O’Neill could end up being one of the most significant moves fantasy managers make this season.



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