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6 Fantasy Baseball Draft Values in NL-Only Leagues (2024)

6 Fantasy Baseball Draft Values in NL-Only Leagues (2024)

Fifty-seven out of the top 100 players in consensus ADP play in the National League. While that isn’t a heavy majority, the talent level of the best of the best favors the National League. That means those who join NL-Only drafts will have a little more wiggle room to deviate from the norm early on. While the scale tends to balance out past the top 100 in NL-Only leagues, potential managers won’t sabotage themselves if they truly believe in a player and reach for him early.

That said, quality starting pitching is scarce in the National League. As of right now, 26 of the top 100 in NL-Only ADP, are starting pitchers. That means, on average, that after round 10 (in 10-team leagues), about half the managers will only have two starting pitchers. Position scarcity is even more prevalent in single-league type of competition, and in the NL, starting pitching is at a premium. If you can score two of the top 15 starters, then you’ll be off to an excellent jump in your draft. With this in mind, I’ve highlighted a few top-quality arms you should focus on early.

So, let’s get to it. After studying the consensus ADP charts, the following group of six have fallen far beyond their worth.

While you can probably still wait on drafting them closer to their ADP, I highly recommend snatching them up a round or two earlier. With the NL being a bit deeper on offense, you can slightly wait on those players and reach a bit for starting pitching. It won’t hurt you from a value standpoint and your roster will still have a very good chance of being balanced.

Without further ado, here are six players to target in NL-Only leagues, broken down into early, mid and late-round classes.

NL-Only Deep Dive (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

Early Rounds

Eury Perez (SP – MIA)

Eury Perez is a 6-foot-8 Dominican 20-year-old who could well be on his way to superstardom. Despite the lack of experience, durability is likely the only thing standing in his way. The Marlins have played it safe with their highly-prized possession, and rightfully so. He’s already had to deal with shoulder, back and arm injuries and had yet to eclipse 78 innings in a season until last year. Perez’s 2023 was also cut short because of an inflamed SI joint, likely leading to his 5+ ERA in September. Before that, he was as good as it gets.

In 47 innings during May and June, Perez allowed just seven earned runs and 31 hits. He finished those first nine starts with a 1.34 ERA, 0.979 WHIP and 54 strikeouts. Then, after a pair of fatigued starts in July, the club sent him down to Triple-A to rest his arm. Perez then returned in August and pitched well until he was eventually shut down with pain in his hip and lower back in September.

With this in mind, Perez does come with some risk. However, if he can start 25 games, which seems to be the consensus on his predictions, then Perez could easily finish as a top-five arm in the National League. His stuff is second to none, and the plane on which he delivers the ball is equally as nasty. If he can throw enough innings, he could satisfy as your SP 1 in NL-Only leagues. Ideally, he’d be your No. 2, but with such a small player pool, Perez is worth reaching for in the middle of round four.

Justin Steele (SP – CHC)

If you miss out on Perez, draft Justin Steele. The Cubs ace finished with 16 wins last year despite having one of the worst bullpens in the National League. This year, the organization has done plenty to improve the pen and lineup, especially if they re-sign Cody Bellinger.

Steele has been dynamite for the Cubs in his three-year career but improved vastly in 2023. He finished with a 3.06 ERA and a career-low walk rate of just 5%. He also continued to strike out opposing batters at a 25% clip. The shutdown lefty also rarely gives up a home run. For his career, Steele has averaged under one gopher ball per 10 innings, and last year he gave up only 14 over 173.1 innings (0.73 HR/9)

He’s arguably a much safer pick than Perez, but he offers a lower ceiling. As long as he stays healthy, Steele could end up supplying you with ace-type numbers in the fifth round. If pitchers are going early, which they likely will, you may also want to reach for him in the early fourth round.

Middle Rounds

Nolan Gorman (2B, 3B, DH – STL)

Nolan Gorman is going past pick 100? This man launched 27 long balls with 76 RBI in 119 games last year. He’ll likely hit directly behind Nolan Arenado and Wilson Contreras again this season, and if he plays 145 games, he’ll have an outside shot at 100 RBIs.

The 23-year-old, former first-round pick was a monster at the dish last year. Gorman finished the season with a 16.5% barrel rate, putting him in the 97th percentile in the Major Leagues. He also hit the ball on the sweet spot 38.8% of the time, placing him in the 91st percentile. The Cardinals’ second baseman is going to mash, and while he strikes out a lot, if his BABIP can reach .300, then his average could tip past .250. A .250-average, 30-home run, 90-RBI season with 10 steals is well within reach for the toolsy infielder. And at 23, he’s only going to get better.

Gorman may sit every so often against left-handed pitching (he bats left-handed), but it will likely just be to catch his breath because he actually hit lefties better than righties last year. Second base is not an easy position to generate power from, and Gorman is projected to finish with the third-most homers at the position in the National League. Target the young up-and-comer no later than the ninth round.

Shota Imanaga (SP – CHC)

The 30-year-old lefty has joined the underrated Cubs rotation in hopes of capturing a division title. Imanaga was dominant in Japan for nearly a decade and will now face an even tougher test in the Major Leagues.

Imanaga isn’t large in stature, but his stats across the seas are monstrous. His ERA over the past three seasons was 2.50, and his WHIP was close to 0.96. He also struck out 188 batters last year in just 159 innings in a league where contract is highly prioritized.

In camp, Imanaga is already impressing his teammates. Steele’s comments went viral on Saturday after witnessing his first bullpen session. Steele said he’s going out and buying all of Imanaga’s baseball cards after witnessing firsthand how filthy his stuff is. We’ve already seen how Kodai Senga‘s game translated to MLB, and while Imanaga doesn’t come with as high of expectations, he finished with similar numbers in the NPB.

Projections have Imanaga down for a 3.60 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, nine wins and 150 strikeouts. I tend to see these numbers as closer to his floor, and with a little luck, Imanaga could blow by those projections. Drafting a player who has yet to step foot onto a Major League field always comes with some risk, but that is why he is still available outside the top 100. With starting pitching being so scarce in the National League, Imanaga is worth selecting in the eighth or ninth round.

Late Rounds

Bryce Elder (SP – ATL)

Bryce Elder had a rough second half of the season last year, finishing with a 5.11 ERA after the All-Star break. He lost his control a bit, issuing 3.8 BB/9 after surrendering just 2.88 BB/9 in the first half. The good news is that his home runs didn’t increase, and most of the extra hits he gave up can be blamed on an inflated BABIP.

Even though his second half left a lot to be desired, Elder’s final stat line was still above average. That’s because he was exceptional over the first three months of the season. Not only did he make the All-Star team, Elder was the most productive pitcher on the Braves staff. He gave up eight fewer runs than Atlanta’s ace, Spencer Strider, and five fewer runs than Charlie Morton despite throwing more innings.

The 6-foot-2, 24-year-old Elder finished 2023 with a 3.81 ERA over 31 starts. His WHIP was 1.27 and he won 12 games. Elder also pitched well in his rookie campaign (2022), finishing with a 3.17 ERA over 10 games (nine starts).

Elder just seemed to get fatigued down the stretch last year. Once he’d enter into the middle innings, he would start to issue a few more walks and leave the ball down the middle of the plate too often. With the way he’s performed in his first 10 games in both Major League seasons, my money is on him repeating those metrics once again. If he starts to lose it in the second half again, you can drop him, but at nearly 200th overall, you cannot go wrong. Target Elder in the late teen rounds and expect close to round 12 or 13 production.

Brendan Rodgers (2B – COL)

Brendan Rodgers is a forgotten man among fantasy circles. He has spent a good portion of his career on the Injured List (IL) and did very little in his time while healthy last year. But managers would do well to remember how productive he was at full strength in 2022. From the beginning of May through the end of August, Rodgers hit over .300 and recorded 59 RBIs and 59 runs scored. He destroyed left-handed pitching and seemed to come through in the clutch time and time again.

While he won’t steal any bases, he is a prime bounce-back candidate who could finish the year with a decent average, and 60-75 RBIs and runs scored. He’ll also likely finish with somewhere in the mid-teens in home runs. Rodgers is hardly a player to get excited about for fantasy purposes, but adding a steady contributor at the back end of an NL-Only league draft is cash in the bank. Rodgers was, after all, the third-overall pick out of high school back in 2015 and still plays his home games in Denver. Target Rodgers as the draft winds down and shore up that middle infield spot as the clock expires.

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Austin Lowell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Austin, check out his archive.

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