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Five Undervalued Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets for 2024

Ryan Mountcastle fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB injury news

With MLB's spring training coming to a close, we are rapidly approaching the regular season! Fantasy baseball drafts have been underway but carry on through opening weekend.

While nailing those top-end studs is what matters most, identifying sleepers and undervalued players is key to gaining an edge over your league mates and widening the margin for error throughout an arduous 162-game season. If you can correctly identify who to target, it might just lead you to the long-awaited title that’s eluded your grasp.

For all issues with this article, direct your concerns or complaints to @RotoSurgeon on X. With that said, here are five fantasy baseball sleepers heading into 2024.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 

Hunter Brown, SP, Houston Astros

Hunter Brown was one of the unluckiest SPs of the 2023 MLB season. His ERA of 5.09 was fifth highest in the league among pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched while his WHIP was ninth highest. Luckily, we have access to peripheral stats such as xFIP and SIERA via websites like FanGraphs, which indicate something closer to Brown and other pitchers' true value.

Between Brown's 3.52 xFIP and 3.74 SIERA, we can see that his actual skills were not as bad as his ERA. Simultaneously, Brown had the highest home run per fly ball rate in 2023 along with the highest BABIP (tied with fellow unlucky SP Dylan Cease). Both metrics have some skills-based aspect to themselves, but on the whole, the yearly league average is what we should expect them to regress toward as luck is largely in play when HR/FB and BABIP are overpolarized to one end of the spectrum or another.

Brown was still valuable in 2023 despite the egregious ratio stats. He ranked top 30 in strikeouts with 178 and finished with 11 wins. Playing on the Astros (or any top team) has its perks as even on a bad day, Brown could accrue a win if he has at least 5.0 IP. Not only that, for those in Quality Start leagues, Brown pitched at least six innings in 12 of his 29 starts! The breakout could be massive for a pitcher of his talent.

 

Bryce Miller, SP, Seattle Mariners

Over the past few seasons, the Mariners have earned themselves the worthy title of "pitching factory." Between George Kirby and Logan Gilbert, two top-30 starters were ushered into the league and immediately established. Toward the second half of last season, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo were the next crop of the Mariners' featured studs and did so well that the team sold off currently injured former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray for parts this offseason. (Bryan Woo was also a potential breakout candidate for 2024, but sadly he is dealing with elbow inflammation and will start the season on IL.)

Miller struggled against left-handed hitting last season with egregious splits in 2023.

vs. RHP:

74.2IP, .239 wOBA, 3.62 xFIP, 22.0% K-BB

vs. LHP:

56.2IP, .378 wOBA, 5.22 xFIP, 12.2% K-BB

His fastball is already one of the MLB's best and he dominated RHP last season. There is a baseline for Miller to grow and reports of his newly developed splitter could allow him to take that jump by mitigating damage against lefties. There is no guarantee Miller conquers lefties to the degree he does righties, but even so, given his relative success in 2023, even a small jump would be enough to break out as his 4.32 ERA and 1.14 WHIP were solid enough in fantasy.

 

Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

Ryan Mountcastle was one of my 2023 breakout candidates, but another unfortunate year of bad luck struck. Not to mention, Mountcastle was reportedly dealing with lingering light-headedness after his IL stint, which caused the baseball to look "pea-sized" while in the batter's box.

Mountcastle has underperformed his expected wOBA (via Statcast) significantly for two straight seasons.

2022

wOBA: .316/ xwOBA: .362

2023

wOBA: .333 / xwOBA: .356

Factors such as speed affect differentials in wOBA and xwOBA when players cannot leg out the basepaths; however, the Orioles recently adjusted the dimensions of their home park Camden Yards to become more pitcher friendly, and as a consequence, significantly increased the difficulty for right-handed bats.

Nevertheless, Mountcastle has 73rd percentile sprint speed. He should be capable of not only matching his xwOBA but surpassing it! The pendulum of his luck is due to regress, and in an offense as potent and even improving as Baltimore, he could finish as a top-five first baseman given the power he possesses.

 

Tyler O'Neill, OF, Boston Red Sox

Another year, another Tyler O'Neill hype piece online! The good news is that O'Neill has already broken out and he did so in one of the toughest home parks in baseball (St. Louis). O'Neill now plays in Fenway, baseball's second-best hitter's park.

The biggest question mark with O'Neill is not his five-tool skill set, but it is his ability to stay healthy. O'Neill already dealt with a minor calf issue in spring training but returned to the lineup soon after as all of his fantasy managers exhaled a sigh of relief. In 2023, O'Neill dealt with not only back and knee issues, but a team that was frustrated with him. There was a messy divorce between the Cardinals and O'Neill, but he is now free for a fresh start with his second MLB organization.

Should we expect 34 HRs and 15 SBs like O'Neill accrued in 2021 across 138 games? Probably not given that both his wOBA and xwOBA appear as aberrations relative to the rest of his career, but he could certainly become a must-roster fantasy piece after two unlucky hitting seasons in a row akin to the aforementioned Ryan Mountcastle.

 

Jake Fraley, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Jake "Rake" Fraley saw his 2023 fantasy breakout cut short after a toe fracture suffered in early August. He returned to play in September but the injury lingered and he wound up requiring surgery in October. Fraley returned from IL in September with 15 HRs and 19 SBs yet ended the season with just 15 HRs and 21 SBs despite adding 53 plate appearances to his season total. Luckily, Fraley enters the 2024 season at full strength despite dealing with a mild groin issue in the spring.

30 MLB players posted at least 15 HRs and 20 SBs in 2023 and Jake Fraley was one of them. While this accomplishment is not the most exclusive given the newly favorable rules for stolen bases, Fraley did so in just 380 plate appearances. His upside at full strength, even as a strong-side platoon bat, is immense; yet, he is undrafted in most standard fantasy baseball leagues.

The Reds offense is improving and arguably top 10 heading into 2024 and their home park in Cincinnati is one of MLB's best for hitters. Fraley will play most days of the week and potentially build upon his strong 2023 season.



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