Whether your fantasy team is about to finish first, last or somewhere in between, the second half of September is always a great time to look ahead to 2024 drafts. And although many Major Leaguers will see their values shift during the offseason, the true stars generally hold their ranking no matter what happens around them.
The plan next year will be to draft first overall or late in the opening round, as there is a deep pool of options once Ronald Acuña Jr. comes off the board.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (OF, Atlanta Braves)
Unlike many recent seasons, there will be no debate over who comes off the board first in 2024 drafts. Acuña leads the Majors in runs scored, ranks fifth in home runs and places second in batting average. But the main reason that the speedster laps the competition is his steals total (67) which is already the highest of any player since 2010.
Julio Rodríguez (OF, Seattle Mariners)
Rodríguez will join Acuña as the only 2023 players to post a 30-100-100-30 campaign. Not bad for a 22-year-old. After a mediocre start to the season, the youngster posted a 1.014 OPS in the second half and heads into 2024 as a legit 40-40 candidate.
Mookie Betts (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Betts rarely lets fantasy managers down, having posted annual numbers that range from good to great for nearly a decade. This season has been a great one, as he ranks among the top 10 players in runs, RBI, homers and batting average. Already one of the safest options, Betts could be even more productive if the Dodgers make a long-rumored play for free agent Shohei Ohtani (more on him below).
Fernando Tatís Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres)
Tatís is wrapping up a disappointing year but still managed to reach the 25 plateau in both homers and steals. The ultra-talented 24-year-old resembles Acuña from one year ago, having posted substandard numbers after a long layoff. And like Acuña, Tatís will likely perform much better in the following campaign.
Bobby Witt Jr. (3B/SS, Kansas City Royals)
Witt has made a single-season improvement of nearly 100 points on his OPS, and unsurprisingly, his fantasy production came along for the ride. The 23-year-old joins Acuña and Rodríguez on the short list of players who have a legitimate chance at a 40-40 campaign, and he would be higher on this list if the Royals could support him with a lineup that at least ranks in the middle of the pack.
Corbin Carroll (OF, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Although Carroll regressed during the second half of the season, it’s hard to quibble with a player who will produce at least 25 homers and 50 steals in his first full campaign. The lefty hitter could take another step forward by flashing more power against southpaws next year.
Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros)
Although Tucker isn’t taking any steps forward, his level from the past three seasons is plenty good enough to earn a spot in the first round. The 26-year-old contributes heavily to all five standard categories, but his lack of dominance in any single category keeps him from climbing any higher on this list.
Freddie Freeman (1B, Los Angeles Dodgers)
It seems that every year, Freeman exceeds the expectations of those who draft him at the back end of the first round. And then the following year, he slips to the end of the first round once again. Perhaps he will take a step back in his age-34 season, but managers are likely safe to bet on at least one more year of elite production.
Shohei Ohtani (UTIL, Los Angeles Angels)
No one knows where to rank Ohtani right now. The 29-year-old could be drafted as high as No. 2 overall if we know during draft season that he is going to be a full-time hitter in April. But there is a likely scenario where managers will need to bake some IL time into his projection due to a recovery from Tommy John surgery. For now, Ohtani can be slotted in the back half of the first round.
Aaron Judge (OF, New York Yankees)
On a per-game basis, Judge is arguably still the most powerful player in baseball. He has needed just 97 games to go deep 32 times this year, and his .968 OPS would rank seventh if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. A healthy Judge could clear the outfield wall 50 times next year, but his remaining counting stats will be somewhat dictated by the Yankees' ability to remake a lineup that took a major downward turn this season.
Matt Olson (1B, Atlanta Braves)
With nearly all their key pieces locked up to long-term deals, the Braves should once again have the best offense in baseball next year. Olson will be among the top candidates to lead the Majors in homers and RBI, and with more players projected for high steals totals, managers can afford to grab a slow-footed slugger with their first selection before later finding a few speedsters.
Trea Turner (SS, Philadelphia Phillies)
Turner started slowly with the Phillies before returning to his star form (.921 OPS) in the second half. The career .297 hitter will come at a slight discount in 2024, although a case could be made that he still belongs among the top-five picks.
Honorable Mention: Spencer Strider (SP, Atlanta Braves)
As I’m sure you noticed, no pitcher qualified for a first-round pick. This is an unusual situation for me, as I’m typically fond of starting my draft with a star hurler. But baseball lacks a starter who has posted game-changing ratios and a bloated strikeout total this year. The best candidates for Rd. 1 inclusion are Strider, who strikes out batters in bunches but needs to improve his run prevention, or Gerrit Cole, who was strong in all areas but is no longer posting eye-popping strikeout numbers.