2024 Fantasy Baseball: 8 potential draft busts from the outfield

Fantasy baseball analyst Dalton Del Don offers up a series of draft-bust candidates per position — next up, the outfielders.

Robert is one of the best fantasy hitters when healthy, but his services now cost a top-30 pick coming off the first season in which he reached 100 games played during his career. He sprained his MCL late last season, and while Robert should be fully healthy entering 2024, it’s yet another to add to a long list of injuries he’s suffered over the last few years. Hitting in a White Sox lineup projected to be right there with the A’s among the lowest-scoring teams in the league also won’t help, but health is the main reason Robert is a risky fantasy pick.

Trout is going as a top 50 pick in Yahoo leagues, which is too high for someone in decline and with so many health questions. He’s coming off easily the worst season of his career, finishing with his lowest wRC+ (134) and highest K% (28.7) ever. Trout hasn’t appeared in more than 140 games since 2016 and has missed an average of 83 games over the last three seasons. He’s certainly capable of a bounce-back campaign at the plate (for what it’s worth, he has a 39.5 K% in spring), but the 32-year-old is a big risk at his ADP.

Judge is baseball’s best hitter and is favored to lead MLB in wRC+, but just realize you’re accepting added health risk with your top-10 pick. Maybe reports of Judge requiring “constant maintenance” on his toe for the rest of his career were overblown, but he’s entering the season banged up. Judge returned to the Yankees’ lineup Wednesday, but he’s missed 50+ games in three of the past five (full) MLB seasons (and more than half of the COVID year), so he’s a risky top-15 pick.

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.

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.

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 Jarren Duran’s.

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 40+ picks later.

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 top-25 outfielder.

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