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Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets: Yu Darvish, Matt Chapman, Triston McKenzie (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Targets: Yu Darvish, Matt Chapman, Triston McKenzie (2024)

Even though numbers and statistics can tell a clear story about a player, we know that narratives and subjective value play a major role in how we approach draft season. For example, we can argue that a player had a “down year” in 2023 and that it suggests the beginning of a downturn.

Or we can highlight that same player, compare the numbers to the career averages, and look for a return back to the mean.

This is how we identify positive regression and bounce-back candidates. We aren’t picky about how or why those numbers dipped, either. Sometimes, underlying injuries played a role. Other times, we can’t exactly find the cause, but we have the history that suggests it was an outlier. All we care about is the rebound.

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

Fantasy Baseball Bounce-Back Candidates to Draft

Yu Darvish (SP – SD)

Yu Darvish has actually been the perfect example of a regression candidate for both sides of the equation. In the past, he was outperforming his numbers by an extreme level and needed to snap back to the mean. Now, he is underperforming and needs to do the same. Fortunately for him, returning to his averages should mean a move in the positive direction.

Darvish has had wild swings in his numbers over the past few years, but his consistent trend might appear concerning at first. That is, his xERA has risen in each of the last three seasons. The twist in the story is that it is still low enough for him to return to be effective. Even if he matches his 3.89 xERA from 2019 — his personal highest in the last five seasons — he should still see his actual ERA move down from its 4.56 mark of last year.

Historically, Darvish has not easily carried one season’s numbers into the next, but his drop-off in 2023 — he also went from a 16-8 record to 8-10 from 2022 — was so extreme and swift that we should be ready for some type of rebound in 2024. If that is set as his floor, then we might have a pleasant surprise on our hands if he also moves toward his ceiling.

Matt Chapman (3B – SF)

Matt Chapman is quite an interesting case. He entered March unsigned, and there’s a growing belief that he will hardly carry value into 2024 even now that he has a team. If that’s because of his numbers from last year, then he becomes the perfect candidate for this list.

We already noted that Aaron Judge led the league in hard-hit percentage among players with at least 200 plate appearances, but I’ll let you guess the player who ranked second — according to Baseball-Reference. That’s right. Matt Chapman.

Chapman saw a dip in home runs to go with his already-low batting average, but the inspiring future comes from the underlying numbers. His wOBA and xwOBA were just a hair below their respective values from 2022 — .331 vs. .328 and .341 vs. .339 — where it looks like it was simply his lack of power that pulled his fantasy value down. The extremely high hard-hit percentage leads to a major rebound possibility in 2024.

Triston McKenzie (SP – CLE)

If it’s not a decline in numbers that lands a player on this list, it’s injury. In the case of Triston McKenzie, it was everything. 2023 led to multiple ailments for the young pitcher and numbers that were so bad they could only be explained by a small sample size — a 5.06 ERA but in just 16 innings pitched over four starters.

2024 brings a much brighter expectation for McKenzie, if only because of his relative value. It’s easy to see his numbers from last year and forget that, in 31 games and 191.1 innings pitched, he delivered a 2.96 ERA and struck out an average of just under one batter per inning in 2022. Essentially, it appeared as if he had turned a corner, and even if he was struck by some negative regression, he would still deliver as a worthy fantasy asset.

Even if we conservatively ask McKenzie to land somewhere between his career averages and his high point of 2022, we would still gain tremendously from drafting him at his current ADP. He’s the prototypical low-risk-high-reward player who also has the characteristics of a bounce-back candidate.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros and the creator and content editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.

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