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Top Fantasy Baseball Sleeper and Value Picks to Crush RIVAL Best Ball

Jake Burger - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Waiver Wire Pickups, MLB News

The 2024 fantasy baseball season is right around the corner but season-long best ball drafts are still in full swing right up until Opening Day. Fantasy baseball best ball formats are an excellent way to get get the experience of drafting without the hassle of in-season management. RIVAL Fantasy is one of the best formats out there for baseball's best ball drafts.

I recently completed a draft on RIVAL Fantasy and found several players who I could identify as values throughout the draft. RIVAL uses the standard positional format, so some positions naturally see good players fall down the draft board as managers stock up elsewhere.

It is very important to know your league settings and scoring depending on where you play best ball. Be sure and pay attention to your league settings as RIVAL scores differently for best ball than many other sites offering a similar product. Here is the scoring breakdown at RIVAL plus a list of fantasy baseball draft targets for best ball this season. Join a RIVAL Fantasy draft now by visiting their draft lobby.

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

 

RIVAL Fantasy Baseball Best Ball Scoring

For this article, we are going to focus on RIVAL Fantasy best ball scoring, as it is one of the best new popular platforms to play on. The table below shows you how each category is scored for their season-long best ball game.

Scoring Group Category Points
Batter Single 3
Batter Double 5
Batter Triple 8
Batter Home Run 10
Batter Run 2
Batter Runs Batted In 2
Batter Base on Balls 2
Batter Hit By Pitch 2
Batter Stolen Base 5
Pitcher IP 2.25
Pitcher Strikeout 2
Pitcher Earned Run -2
Pitcher Hit Against -0.6
Pitcher BB Against -0.6
Pitcher Hit Batter -0.6
Pitcher Win 4
Pitcher Complete Game 2.5
Pitcher Shutout 2.5
Pitcher No Hitter 5

Pitcher Values for RIVAL Fantasy Baseball Best Ball Drafts

Dylan Cease, San Diego Padres

Draft Spot: 109

Considering the emphasis RIVAL and other best ball sites place on wins in this format, Dylan Cease got a tremendous bump when he moved from the Chicago White Sox to the San Diego Padres. He now has an elite offense and a much better defense at his back, which should allow him to approach his career best in wins set back in 2022 (14).

We know Cease gets strikeouts by the basketful, but his issue has always been too many walks. However, with strikeouts counting for two points and walks only -0.6 on RIVAL, those free passes are minimized if he comes close to his K:BB ratio from 2023 (214:79). Cease is unlikely to get any of the complete game or shutout bonuses (he has two of each the last three seasons combined), but more innings, higher win equity, and elite strikeouts make him a standout after pick 100 in RIVAL drafts.

Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

Draft Spot: 176

Innings eaters who are in line for wins are like gold in RIVAL Fantasy best ball formats. Merrill Kelly has been that for years, throwing at least 178 innings in three of his four full professional seasons. ATC projects Kelly for another 180 innings with 171 strikeouts and 11 wins this season, all coming off a career-high 9.47 K/9 in 2023.

Kelly eased on his usage of his fastball last season (just 41% of his pitches) and increased his more dangerous pitches like his changeup (23.4%) and his cutter (19%). These induced more swings and misses (career-high 12% swinging strike rate) and got him easier innings, allowing him to go deeper in games last year. He has 25 wins the last two seasons combined, and is certainly in line for another 12-14 this year.

 

Infielder Values for RIVAL Fantasy Baseball Best Ball Drafts

Jake Burger, Miami Marlins

Draft Spot: 162

I just can't quit ordering more Burger this draft season. Jake Burger burst onto the scene in his first full season with 34 home runs and 80 RBI split between two teams and in just 140 games. His strikeout rate was a reasonable 27% last season and his .250 batting average was dragged down slightly by a .284 BABIP, suggesting there could be improvement as he turns 28 years old.

After pick 160 in RIVAL drafts, there are not many players available who you would feel confident will hit 30 home runs in 2024, but with 150 games, there is little doubt Burger can get there this season. With improvements last season to his barrel rate, average exit velocity, and launch angle, if Burger can find a few more fly balls in 2024, a season with 35-40 home runs is not out of the question.

Edouard Julien, Minnesota Twins

Draft Spot: 174

The 2024 ATC projections predict that just 17 players will have at least 15 home runs and walk more than 75 times this season. One of those players is Edouard Julien, who should bat leadoff for the Twins this season on most days. Julien, despite being just 24 years old last year, had a 15.7% walk rate and 16 home runs in just 109 games. He strikes out too much (31% last year), but RIVAL Fantasy does not deduct points for hitter strikeouts.

There is certainly room for growth for Julien heading into his second season at second base. He needs to improve on his 50% ground ball rate and 23% fly ball rate to generate more power, but with his patience and discipline at the plate, he could someday look like the player who hit 17 home runs, stole 19 bases, and walked 98 times in the minors in 2022.

 

Outfielder Values for RIVAL Fantasy Baseball Best Ball Drafts

Daulton Varsho, Toronto Blue Jays

Draft Spot: 236

Daulton Varsho is never going to lead the league in batting average or walks, but despite a career .229 average, he only strikes out 23% of the time and is one of the few candidates at the end of drafts who have legitimate shot at a 20-home run, 20-steal season. Varsho already has campaigns of 27 and 20 home runs the last two years, and has exactly 16 steals in each of those seasons. This spring, he has debuted a new plate approach that is already paying off.

Now entering his age-27 season and moving up to a top-five spot in the batter order, this could be a career year for Varsho. Last year, despite the .220 batting average, Varsho improved his swinging strike rate, his contact rate, and his swing rate on pitches outside the zone. Those gains should translate to this season and he will bat behind on-base machines George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Jake Fraley, Cincinnati Reds

Draft Spot: 271

If Jake Fraley stays at this ADP on RIVAL, he might be the best pick of the draft for the remainder of spring training. With Noelvi Marte out for 80 games due to suspension and TJ Friedl suffering a fractured wrist, Fraley is now penciled into the cleanup spot in one of the better offenses in baseball at one of the league's most home-run-friendly venues (first in home run Park Factor the last three years).

But Fraley's 16 projected home runs by ATC are just part of his story. He is also projected for 18 steals and a 10% walk rate. Those extra points become very valuable in best ball leagues, particularly this late in drafts. With a spot in right field now secure for likely the whole season, Fraley is a steal in the last two rounds of a RIVAL best ball draft.



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