Fantasy baseball cheat sheet: Avoid these potential busts in 2024 MLB fantasy draft

Chicago Cubs first baseman Cody Bellinger (24) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning at Truist Park.
Chicago Cubs first baseman Cody Bellinger (24) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning at Truist Park.

Every rose has its thorns, a cliché that rings true each spring in MLB fantasy drafts. For every incredible late-round find, there's going to be a player selected earlier who doesn't live up to their billing. The only problem? Trying to predict who those busts will be is near-impossible. Not even the world's smartest scientists would stand a chance.

So, we'll give it our best shot based on some data, analytics and a little gumption. Who will it be this time around? Who are the players to let your league mates suffer with for the year? Fortunately, we are here to let you in on the most likely candidates to bust during the 2024 MLB season.

C: Gabriel Moreno, ARI

Don't let his 2023 postseason fool you. Moreno does not have the power necessary to be an elite MLB fantasy catcher. Moreno's power surge in the second half of the season and into the playoffs was nothing more than a flash in the pan. While his batting average alone may be enough to warrant a starting spot, his .284 average from a year ago was 20 points higher than his expected batting average of .264. No matter how you slice it, Moreno will likely take a step back in 2024.

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1B: Cody Bellinger, CHC

There's a reason teams were hesitant to give Bellinger a long-term contract. Although his counting stats were phenomenal in 2023, his advanced metrics left a lot to be desired. Barrel percentage, hard-hit percentage, and average exit velocity were all down in 2023 from where they were in 2022. The only area where Bellinger improved was strikeout rate, which is great, but doesn't bode well for his 2024 output.

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2B: Nico Hoerner, CHC

Much of Hoerner's value from a year ago came in the stolen base department. However, Hoerner more than doubled his previous career-best in that department last season, and expecting that type of production on the basepaths again is a little too optimistic. Hoerner doesn't provide much in many other departments, with a miniscule .383 slugging percentage. At his current ADP, he's not worth it.

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3B: Max Muncy, LAD

If Muncy can get his batting average up, he'd be a phenomenal fantasy baseball player. However, that average has been tumbling and tumbling for far too long and at this point, it would not be at all shocking if the Dodgers opted to platoon Muncy with Miguel Rojas or Chris Taylor whenever lefties are on the mound. Muncy is great, but playing time could be an issues in 2024, so steer away from him at his current ADP.

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SS: Elly De La Cruz, CIN

As hyped a prospect as De La Cruz was a season ago, someone in your league is bound to take him before they should, and that's good news for you. Here's why you don't want to be that fantasy GM: Not only is the Cincinnati farm system loaded with talent at shortstop and third base, but Cruz's insane struggles against southpaws -- slashed .184/.231/.263 with a 40.1% strikeout rate -- also means Cruz could get platooned, or even worse, sent back to the minors.

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OF: Lane Thomas, WSH

Is Lane Thomas worth drafting? Yes. Is he worth drafting in the first 10 rounds? Probably not. Thomas' slugging percentage was far higher than his expected slugging (.436) a season ago. That's not a good sign. Let's also not forget that this is the same guy whose career OPS in the minor leagues was just .755. Thomas isn't a superstar in the making, but can still get 20 stolen bases and a .720 OPS. There is value in that, but not at his current ADP.

OF: Christopher Morel, CHC

Morel is a great power hitter, but not as great as people might think. Outside of the nine home runs he hit in a 12-game stretch last season, Morel was on pace for a 25-30 home run season. Solid, but not the 40-50 home runs that some people are expecting. Morel still has lots of work to do on his plate discipline. He has an abysmal 28.9% chase rate and 37% whiff rate. Pitchers should know not to throw him pitches in the zone this time around, and that could be devastating to Morel's output.

OF: James Outman, LAD

Much like Morel, Outman struggles to make contact, with an atrocious 36.6% whiff rate. That's not the most troubling statistic though. Many of Outman's expected metrics were pretty mediocre, with expected slugging (.396) and expected batting average (.228) being the most paramount. His subpar average exit velo of 87.9 is also worrisome. All in all, just not worth taking the risk on Outman with where he's going at the moment.

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SP: Kyle Bradish, BAL

Keep your torches away. Let the numbers speak for themselves. If there was a pitcher who saw his ERA drop from near-5.0 to sub-3.0 in a year, but also saw the exit velocity against and hard-hit contact rate increase in that same stretch, would you think he got lucky? I haven't even mentioned how that pitcher was the beneficiary of a criminally low .271 BABIP. Bradish checks all of these boxes. Don't touch him at his current ADP.

RP: Alexis Diaz, CIN

Is Diaz a good pitcher? Yes. There's no denying that. However, where Diaz is going currently is too rich. Why? Well, keep in mind that Diaz is a reliever who somehow recorded NINE wins last year! NINE! That's not going to happen again. Furthermore, many experts are predicting the Reds to take a step back as a whole this season, meaning fewer save opportunities for Diaz altogether.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB fantasy 2024 cheat sheet: Biggest busts this season by position