2024 Fantasy Baseball: Potential draft busts from every National League MLB team

The term “bust” might be harsh for some, but the following players are being overvalued in fantasy baseball drafts. Go here for my American League fantasy busts.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Zac Gallen, SP

Gallen is a very good pitcher who’s being drafted as an elite one thanks in part to his 2023 volume. He threw the most pitches in a season last year since 2019 — and 200+ more than any other pitcher. Fantasy managers may want to proceed with caution, but he’s being drafted as a top-10 starter. For what it’s worth, Gallen had a 4.03 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP after the All-Star break and finished with an average exit velocity in the bottom 3% of the league last season.

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Corbin Carroll’s shoulder also makes him something of a risk as such an early pick.

Atlanta Braves: Charlie Morton, SP

Morton could prove to be a nice source of wins anyway, but a closer look at 2023 reveals a decline in the 40-year-old. His 3.64 ERA was accompanied by a 4.44 SIERA that ranked bottom-10 among all qualified starters. Morton’s CSW (30.7) was the third highest, but his K-BB% plummeted to 10.7 in the second half, which is Jordan Lyles and Miles Mikolas territory.

Atlanta has multiple pitching prospects ready and waiting for an opportunity should age continue to catch up with Morton.

Chicago Cubs: Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF

Bellinger’s Hard-Hit% ranked in the bottom 10% of the league last season when his average fly ball exit velocity dropped for the third straight year. He had 26 homers on just 26 barrels and the same hard-hit rate as Jon Berti. Bellinger has also missed an average of 39 games over the last three seasons. He ranked dead-last by a significant margin in wRC+ (61) among 151 hitters with 900 plate appearances from 2021-2022 before 2023’s contract year.

Fantasy managers are counting on Bellinger’s new approach being sustainable while drafting him as a top-55 player, mistakenly ahead of Christian Yelich, Royce Lewis and Oneil Cruz among others.

Cincinnati Reds: Alexis Díaz, RP

Díaz posted a 2.03 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP before the All-Star break last season but a 4.61 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP afterward. His dramatic drop in skills was far more worrisome than the ERA crash, as Díaz’s K-BB% fell from 25.8% down to a scary 6.5% in the second half. It’s possible this was all a matter of workload, and Díaz enters 2024 fresh and with recovered velocity, but this is still a risky profile. Díaz ranked bottom-15 in BB% among relievers last season, and his HR/FB% (6.8) was well below league average despite a low GB% and pitching in MLB’s most homer-friendly park by a mile.

Díaz enters 2024 locked in as Cincinnati’s closer with no clear alternative, but there are red flags suggesting he’s a poor fantasy pick while being drafted as a top-10 RP.

TJ Freidl is another Reds player to fade, as his 18 homers last season came with just 13 barrels and an expected slugging percentage in the bottom 2% of the league.

Colorado Rockies: Nolan Jones, 1B/OF

Jones was a fantasy revelation last year, going 20/20 in fewer than 425 ABs after destroying Triple-A pitching (183 wRC+). He’s slated to hit in the middle of the Rockies’ lineup and in MLB’s best hitter’s park. But it should be cautioned that Jones' .401 BABIP was one of the 10 highest seasons since 1945! While Coors Field boosts batting average on balls in play thanks to its spacious outfield dimensions, Jones remarkably owned a .434 BABIP on the road.

To say this is unsustainable (with a near 30% K rate) would be an understatement.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

While most Colorado hitters perform abnormally worse away from home (given the differences in elevation), Jones recorded a 148 wRC+ on the road compared to 122 in Coors Field. He was hitting .276 with 13 homers and eight steals before batting .349 with seven HRs and 12 SBs in September (when pitching often gets softer as rosters expand). THE BAT X projects a 105 wRC+ and modest counting stats (71 RBI) thanks in part to the Rockies’ poor lineup, yet Jones is being drafted as a top-60 pick in Yahoo drafts. That’s a big bet on a player with a short track record coming off a historical outlier performance.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Evan Phillips, RP

Phillips is a solid reliever capable of racking up 40 saves if he closes for the Dodgers all year. But Los Angeles has World Series expectations, so odds are the team trades for a bigger-name reliever to close at some point; the Dodgers reportedly engaged in talks to reacquire Kenley Jansen. Phillips would effectively lose all fantasy value should his role change.

Miami Marlins: Luis Arráez, 1B/2B

Arráez has somehow become overrated despite batting average being the most underrated fantasy category. He’s never eclipsed 10 homers or stolen five bases in any season during his career. Arráez also managed just 71 runs scored and 69 RBI last year despite batting .354 over 600+ plate appearances thanks to Miami’s anemic lineup. His expected batting average last season was .329, which is right in line with his career mark (.326). THE BAT X projects a .311 BA with five homers, five steals and modest counting stats over 600+ PAs; that’s not nearly enough production for a top-125 pick.

Milwaukee Brewers: Willy Adames, SS

Adames saw his numbers drop across the board last season despite setting a career high in plate appearances (638). His .217 batting average was probably a bit unlucky, but Adames’ wRC+ has dropped three straight seasons since leaving Tampa Bay. He had an average exit velocity in the 14th percentile and recorded the worst O-Swing% (35.6) of his career in 2023.

Adames won’t break your fantasy team, but Ezequiel Tovar offers far more upside at the same ADP.

New York Mets: Brandon Nimmo, OF

Nimmo’s floor looks safe, and a move from center to left field could help keep him healthy. But he also possesses modest 20-homer upside and has never reached 10 steals or 70 RBI during any season in his eight-year career. Nimmo is now on the wrong side of 30 with past durability issues, so his ADP shouldn’t be higher than Christopher Morel’s or even teammate Starling Marte’s.

Philadelphia Phillies: Kyle Schwarber, OF

Schwarber’s BABIP dropped to a career-low .209 last season despite the new infield shift rules. That’s almost certain to regress in 2024, but it’s simply hard to build a fantasy team around someone who’s hit .219 over 2,084 plate appearances since 2020. There’s zero chance I’m drafting Schwarber ahead of Christian Yelich or even Teoscar Hernández, who’s available 50+ picks later.

Pittsburgh Pirates: David Bednar, RP

Bednar clearly enters the season atop the Pirates' closer depth chart, but Aroldis Chapman is now breathing down his neck after signing in Pittsburgh. Chapman’s elite fastball returned last season, when he posted a 2.95 SIERA (top-10) and the third-best K-BB% (26.9) among relievers. Meanwhile, Bednar’s K-BB% fell to 17.6 in the second half, and he’s dealt with lat tightness throughout spring, so there are warning signs for the incumbent.

San Diego Padres: Ha-Seong Kim, 2B/3B/SS

Kim was one of fantasy’s biggest bargains last season, swiping 38 bags after being an afterthought at draft tables. But fantasy managers are counting on the stolen bases to repeat while drafting him as a top-85 pick, and projections call for regression to the 25 range. Kim’s average exit velocity was in the bottom 7% of the league last year, and he’ll be moving to shortstop full-time in 2024.

Kim feels like a “paying for last year’s stats” situation to avoid.

San Francisco Giants: Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS

Estrada hit nearly 25 points higher than his expected batting average (.248) last season when he finished with an average exit velocity and walk rate both in the bottom 4% of the league. San Francisco has decreased home runs for right-handed batters by 17% over the last three seasons, and Estrada is at risk of moving toward the bottom of the Giants' lineup after the team added Jorge Soler and Matt Chapman. Counting stats may be lacking for a player going around pick 150.

St. Louis Cardinals: Sonny Gray, SP

Gray finished as the AL Cy Young runner-up last year, but his 2.79 ERA came with a 3.95 SIERA, as he was incredibly fortunate when it came to surrendering homers. Gray reached 180 innings pitched in the final year of his contract last season for the first time since 2015 and has been sidelined in spring with a strained hamstring, so he also carries an abnormally high injury risk.

Washington Nationals: Lane Thomas, OF

Thomas had a fantastic fantasy campaign last year while going 20/20, but it required 682 plate appearances and came with poor defense and a 109 wRC+ (86 in the second half, if you’re into that sort of thing). Projection systems are calling for regression in 2024, yet Thomas is being drafted aggressively as a borderline top-25 outfielder.