2024 Fantasy Baseball: Bounce-back candidates worth targeting in drafts

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels star
Mike Trout has battled injuries for three straight seasons and has a questionable supporting cast, but his discounted fantasy baseball draft price makes him worth the risk. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Whether we like it or not, recency bias plagues fantasy baseball drafters every year. It’s virtually impossible for the human brain to avoid having some attachment to the events that it most recently witnessed. For this reason, players who are coming off disappointing seasons are often the best value picks for those who have enough courage to go out on a limb. Here are a few options who clearly have the skills to rebound from an unimpressive campaign.

Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels)

Mike Trout headshot
Mike Trout
CF - LAA - #27
2023 - false season

Trout has missed a substantial amount of time due to injury in three straight seasons. But the surprising aspect of his 2023 campaign was that the New Jersey native did not play at a superstar level when healthy. Trout logged an .858 OPS in his 82 games, which was the first time since his rookie year that he posted a mark below .939 and ended a string of eight-straight seasons with an OPS of at least .990. The current draft season marks the first time in over a decade that Trout can be acquired for anything less than a premium draft pick, but managers who take the plunge will need to be convinced that he can play at a superstar level at age 32, because his lackluster supporting cast certainly isn’t going to carry him. Still, for a fifth-round pick, it feels wise to bet on the best player of his generation.

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

Edwin Diaz (RP, New York Mets)

Diaz missed all of the 2023 season after suffering a ruptured patella tendon during the World Baseball Classic. The 29-year-old is already back to full health, and in 2022 he produced a 1.31 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP and 118 strikeouts. Diaz was the easiest player to choose for this article and is undervalued at his Yahoo ADP of 62.6.

Aaron Nola (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)

Aaron Nola headshot
Aaron Nola
SP - PHI - #27
2023 - false season

Nola has endured a roller coaster ride in recent seasons, posting an ERA under 3.30 in two of the past four years but a mark over 4.40 in the other two campaigns. The roller coaster doesn’t include volume volatility, as the right-hander has not missed a start due to injury since 2017. And during the past six years, Nola has produced more than 200 strikeouts in all but the COVID-shortened '20 season. Those who see the glass as half full with Nola will note that his 66.4% strand rate from '23 is likely to improve this year. Meanwhile, naysayers will attribute his struggles to a year-over-year 3.6% drop in strikeout rate. Overall, the volume stability makes the 30-year-old a risk worth taking at his Yahoo ADP of pick 50.8.

Carlos Rodon (SP, New York Yankees)

Carlos Rodón headshot
Carlos Rodón
SP - NYY - #55
2023 - false season

It’s fair to assume that injuries derailed Rodon’s debut season in the Bronx before it got started. The southpaw opened the campaign on the IL with a forearm strain and was completely ineffective (6.85 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) across 14 starts after returning in July. Rodon endured a 60.5% strand rate and a 15.2% HR/FB rate, and he should enjoy better fortune in both of those areas this year. More concerning is a year-over-year drop of 11% on his strikeout rate, but those who want to be optimistic will be happy to know that he managed to fully retain the velocity uptick that led to his career breakout in 2021. As a player on arguably baseball's most-discussed franchise, Rodon’s ADP (168.6) could skyrocket if there are improvements during spring training.

[Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

Triston McKenzie (SP, Cleveland Guardians)

McKenzie endured two 60-day IL stints last year, one for a teres major injury at the outset of the season and another for an elbow strain after he made two June starts. The right-hander returned for a pair of outings at the end of September, which raises hope that he will be ready for a heavy workload this year. A healthy McKenzie is an absolute pro at inducing playable fly balls, which is evidenced in his lifetime 1.05 WHIP and .234 BABIP allowed. He’s being drafted more than 100 picks later than last year (ADP of 229.2), and at that price I’m willing to take the plunge.

Cristian Javier (SP, Houston Astros)

Cristian Javier headshot
Cristian Javier
SP - HOU - #53
2023 - false season

Until last season, Javier had consistently excelled throughout his pro career. During his time in the minors from 2015-19, he logged a 2.22 ERA, a 1.03 WHP and a 12.2 K/9 rate. And for three years with the Astros from 2020-22, the right-hander produced a stellar 3.05 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and an 11.2 K/9 rate. Everything fell apart last season, which resulted in a 4.56 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. The struggles can be traced to losing a mile off his fastball and enduring a drop of 9.1% on his strikeout rate. Wise managers will monitor Javier’s radar gun readings during spring training with an intention to pounce on his diminished ADP (163.1).

Rhys Hoskins (1B, Milwaukee Brewers)

Like Diaz, Hoskins missed the entirety of 2023 due to injury but enters 2024 with no lingering health concerns. The 30-year-old joined the Brewers in January, and he should thrive as a power hitter at homer-happy Miller Park. A healthy Hoskins has proven to be a 30-homer player who has a slightly negative impact on a fantasy team’s batting average, which gives managers a good guideline for '24 expectations.