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10 Players Better Than Their Slumps (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

10 Players Better Than Their Slumps (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

With Spring Training and fantasy drafts just around the corner, it’s a good time to look back at 2023 to target potential bounce-back candidates. One way to do this is to identify hitters who suffered through an unusually brutal slump (or slumps) and pitchers whose final ERA was marred by a handful of bad outings.

Below are five hitters and five pitchers who fit this profile and could prove to be bargains in 2024 fantasy drafts.

10 Players Better Than Their Slumps (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

Hitters Primed to Exceed Expectations in 2024

Pete Alonso (1B/DH – NYM)

Alonso got off to a strong start in 2023 and, though he cooled in May, he still hit an acceptable .231 with 22 HRs and 49 RBI before his June 7  left wrist injury. Though Alonso’s wrist wasn’t broken, he did a short IL stint before returning on June 18.

Perhaps he returned too soon as Alonso struggled mightily over the next month. From June 18 through July 19, the “Polar Bear” hit only .132 with four dingers and 13 RBI. Alonso finished 2023 with 46 HRs, 118 RBI, and an unsightly .217 average. Outside his 91 at-bat slump, he slugged 42 home runs with 105 RBI and a .233 BA. Alonso is currently ranked as a third-round pick who could provide first-round value.

Fernando Tatis Jr. (OF/SS – SD)

Tatis produced solid numbers in his post-injury, post-suspension campaign in 2023. He slugged 25 HRs, swiped 29 bags and drove in 78 with a mediocre .257 average. Though his power was down, the average could bounce back as he struck out less and walked more than in any other season. His .282 xBA seems like a better barometer of where his average could be heading in 2024, which coincidentally aligns with what his 2023 average would have been outside of three short but brutal stretches:

  • May 21 – May 31: four hits in 36 at-bats (.111 average)
  • August 17 – August 23: two hits in 22 at-bats (.091)
  • September 2 – September 11: five hits in 32 at-bats (.156)

With a preseason ADP of 6, Tatis may not prove a draft day bargain. However, if he slips into the late first or early second round, be ready to pounce.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B/DH – TOR)

Vlad began 2023 on fire, and it looked like he was revisiting 2021. After a torrid April, Guerrero cooled off in May and June but still hit .274 with 13 home runs and 58 RBI at the All-Star break. He had two hits and a homer in his first game back, but then entered a prolonged and uncharacteristic slump. From July 15 through August 5, Guerrero hit only .203 with four HRs and 10 RBIs. He hit a bit better down the stretch but ended the year with a disappointing .264 BA with 26 HR and 94 RBI.

There are a few reasons why a rebound looks likely for Guerrero: His BB% was up and his K% was down from 2023, while his xBA and xSLG were .30 to .50 points higher than his BA and SLG. In addition, Guerrero’s .277. BABIP was the lowest of his career. A return to elite status isn’t out of the question for Vlad, who could prove a bargain at his current ADP.

Willy Adames (SS – MIL)

Adames’ 2023 was similar to Tatis’ in many ways, albeit at a lower level. His BB% was up, his K% down, and his xBA of .242 was higher than his .238 BA from 2022. Yet, he only hit .217 this past season, though he still managed to slug 24 dingers. A .259 BABIP seems to be responsible for his average dip, along with three devastating slumps:

  • April 23 – May 4: two hits in 34 at-bats (.059 average)
  • June 24 – June 29: zero hits in 22 at-bats (.000)
  • August 29 – September 5: one hit in 23 at-bats (.043)

If we remove these three stretches, Adames hit .247, aligning with his career norm. He’s not likely to ever have a high BA, but if he can bring it back to a place that doesn’t tank the category, he could be an excellent source of cheap power, especially since he’s currently being drafted 26th among shortstops.

Carlos Correa (SS – MIN)

Fellow shortstop Carlos Correa also struggled in 2023. After a stellar 2022, his average dropped to .230 from .291 despite a similar walk and strikeout rate. A career-low .272 BABIP seems partly to blame, as was a rough stretch from April 15 to May 9. Correa hit only .155 over 84 at-bats during this period, which dropped his average from .250 to .185. He recovered somewhat but never really got it going last season. Injuries to his back, heel, and foot likely contributed; thus, a bounce-back season seems likely if he’s healthy this year. The two-time All-Star is barely being drafted at this point of the offseason and could provide fantasy value with little risk.

Pitchers Primed to Exceed Expectations in 2024

Spencer Strider (SP/RP – ATL)

Strider is trending to be the top pitcher off the board in drafts and finished 2023 with a VBR of 3 at his position, thanks to an insane K%, 20 wins and a solid WHIP of 1.09. Thus, it’s hard to imagine him being much better in 2024, outside of his 3.86 ERA, which was driven by three bad starts:

  • June 8: Eight earned runs over 4 innings (18.00 ERA)
  • August 7: Six earned runs over 2 and 2/3innings (20.25 ERA)
  • September 6: Six earned runs over 2 and 2/3 innings (20.25 ERA)

These three starts probably cost Strider the Cy Young award, as his ERA was the only blemish on his stat line, and it was 3.04 outside of these outings. His 2.85 FIP and 3.09 xERA provide further evidence that his 2023 ERA was an anomaly. If you still aren’t comfortable drafting him early this season, one of your league mates will surely be grateful.

Dylan Cease (SP – CWS)

After breaking out in 2022, Cease took a step back this past season. His K% remained high, but his ERA climbed to 4.58, his WHIP to 1.42, and he only won seven games as the wheels came off the White Sox. Cease has always had control issues, but this past year his BABIP was a league-high .330, and his strand rate dropped to 69.4%. Even so, if we take out two particularly dreadful starts, Cease’s ERA dips below 4.00, and his season doesn’t look so awful:

  • August 2: Seven earned runs over 1 and 2/2 innings (37.80 ERA)
  • August 25: Eight earned runs over 4 and 1/3 innings (16.62 ERA)

Cease also had two bad outings in late April and early May in which he surrendered 13 runs over nine innings. If we eliminate those two as well, his ERA drops to 3.44. Every pitcher has a few bad outings, but when you give up six or more runs four times in a season, your ERA will show it. Cease’s FIP was only 3.72 last year, and his xERA was 4.07, so there are signs he can turn it around. Fantasy managers drafting early still believe in him, as his ADP currently sits at SP20.

Aaron Nola (SP – PHI)

Nola’s 2023 was more complicated than that of Cease and Strider. He didn’t have any complete meltdown performances, but rather several bad outings couched around mostly good ones. His 4.46 ERA was higher than his 4.03 FIP and 3.77 xERA, but his BB% was up, and his K% was down. However, three stats provide confidence that he can turn things around. First, his 66.4% LOB% was the second-worst in MLB. Second, his 15.6% HR/FB ratio was the fifth-worst. Only four pitchers allowed more than Nola’s nine unearned runs as well. These should even out and bring his ERA back to an acceptable level in 2024.

That said, this article is about slumps and bad outings, of which Nola had his share. Taking out his three worst appearances, his ERA drops to a more respectable 3.94:

  • March 30: Five earned runs in 3 and 2/3 innings (12.27 ERA)
  • July 29: Five earned runs in 4 and 2/4 innings (9.64 ERA)
  • September 2: Seven earned runs in 4 and 2/3 innings (13.50 ERA)

The Phillies are confident Nola will be better going forward. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have given him a seven-year, $172m contract during the offseason. The evidence suggests fantasy managers should believe in a turnaround as well.

Will Smith (RP – KC)

Smith’s 4.40 ERA in 2023 isn’t indicative of his season. He was cruising along, closing out games for the Rangers until late August. Then, on August 20, he surrendered three earned runs in 2/3 of an inning (40.50 ERA). The next day, he blew a save opportunity, giving up two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. He didn’t get another chance to close until September 18, upon which he was lit up for three runs after recording only one out, blowing another save. At this point, Jose Leclerc was the closer.

Excluding these three outings, Smith had a 3.23 ERA on the season and converted 22 of 25 save attempts. This offseason, he signed with the Royals, who have no clear-cut closer on their roster. Smith is far from a sure thing, but is worth a flier for a cheap source of saves in deep leagues. At the very least, he’s someone to monitor.

Dylan Floro (RP – WSH)

Floro is a bit deeper on the depth chart than Smith, but likewise, he is someone to keep an eye on given the closer situation in Washington, whom he signed with in December. Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey are far from sure things, and Floro has experience closing games. This past season, Floro was plagued by a .401 BABIP and 65.3% strand rate, which drove his ERA to an unsightly 4.76. His other peripherals were in line with recent seasons, and his 2.96 FIP and 3.38 xERA indicate he was much better than his ERA.

Floro made 62 appearances with the Marlins and Twins last season and posted a 1.20 ERA in 55 of them. In the other seven, Floro’s ERA was 47.81. His propensity for blowup outings is hardly a comfort to fantasy managers. Still, he could easily remedy this and find himself at the back end of the bullpen for the Nationals before long.

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