MLB fantasy cheat sheet: Which players carry most risk heading into 2024 baseball season?

Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung (6) hits a single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning in game five of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field.
Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung (6) hits a single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning in game five of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field.

When you are drafting your fantasy baseball team, at some point there will come a time when you need to make a choice. Do you go with the safe option who will provide serviceable production, or do you risk it on a high-ceiling, low-floor player? Veteran fantasy players will almost always go for the home run. Unfortunately, a serviceable player won't win anyone any championships. However, even the most brazen fantasy baseball vets have their limits.

Some players are just too risky for anyone to touch. Of course, that doesn't mean they won't provide a ton of value, but they could also destroy your hopes and dreams. Here are our picks for the riskiest player at every position ahead of the 2024 MLB season.

C: Jonah Heim, TEX

Jonah Heim recorded 95 RBI last season, which is remarkable for the catcher position. However, his second half collapse was ugly. After slashing .282/.338/.474 in the first half, Heim cannonballed back down to Earth, recording a .217/.283/.374 triple-slash in the second half. Of course, as part of a loaded Texas lineup, Heim will always have opportunity to drive in runs, plus his great defense will keep him in games most of the time. However, his offense needs to return to its pre-2023 All-Star break form if Heim is to be a solid fantasy catcher again.

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1B: Vinnie Pasquantino, KC

Prior to his labrum surgery in 2023, Pasquantino was pushing top-100 ADP. He was, and still very well may be, a great fantasy ball player, but that injury could take a serious toll on him. He is still recovering from that surgery as well, so tread carefully. Although there may be 30-homer potential, there may also very well be sub-.220 average potential.

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2B: Ha-Seong Kim, SD

Although Kim saw a breakout last year, his advanced metrics did not match up to what we saw on the field. Kim's average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage actually both took a tumble between 2022 and 2023. Kim's stolen base prowess may also take a step back, as prior to 2023, Kim's previous career-high in that category was just 12. There are just too many question marks to feel great about Kim for the 2024 season.

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3B: Josh Jung, TEX

Jung's outlook varies depending on who you ask. Will he return to his pre-thumb injury form? Who knows? If he does, then 30 home runs and 100 RBI are certainly within the realm of possibility. If not though, Jung could be a sub-.250 hitter with not enough pop to overcome his downfalls. You can expect a lot of strikeouts with Jung, but that's only bad if Jung's power is in fact hindered. Plus, with a full year of data on him now, pitchers should be more comfortable attacking him.

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SS: Ezequiel Tovar, COL

Fifteen home runs and 11 stolen bases as a 21-year-old rookie is very, very solid. There is plenty of reason to feel good about Tovar in 2024, but this is the Rockies we are talking about. They are atrocious at developing young talent. Tovar has the tools to be a great shortstop, but we've seen this story too many times to be tricked by Colorado again.

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OF: Jorge Soler, SF

There's no denying Soler's power. However, in the unrelenting battle between hitter and ballpark, ballpark wins most of the time. Oracle Park is a pitcher's haven, and is notoriously tough against righties. Right-handed hitters have only reached 30 home runs in a season for the Giants three times since Oracle Park opened up in 2000. Soler needs 30 home runs to be a top-tier outfield option in fantasy. However, 22-27 dingers is the most likely outcome.

OF: Nick Castellanos, PHI

Castellanos has been a bit of a question mark in recent years. 2022 was abysmal, but the former Detroit Tiger bounced back nicely in 2023 to the tune of 29 homers and 106 RBIs. It's just too tough to shake the thought of that horrendous 2022 campaign though. Castellanos is entering his age-32 season, and we've already seen what a down season looks like from him. Draft him at your own peril.

OF: Jarred Kelenic, ATL

Ever since Kelenic disappointed his rookie year, people have been waiting for his resurgence. His skill set is just too good for him to stay bad for the entirety of his career, right? Maybe. We saw signs of a bounce back in 2023, but Kelenic has yet to put together a full season of above-average offense. Perhaps a change of scenery is exactly what Kelenic needs to figure himself out. On the other hand, he could get lost in a crowded Atlanta dugout.

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SP: Louis Varland, MIN

Louis Varland isn't a household name, and hasn't put together a great season at the MLB level yet. So, how is he risky if there are no positives? Well, the positives are in his metrics.

In 2023, over 20% of fly balls against Varland were home runs, which was the fourth-highest rate among starters with at least 50 innings pitched a season ago. That will likely come back down. Varland boasts a stellar four-pitch arsenal that should see more success with more experience. The biggest problem is that Varland is competing for a spot at the back end of the Twins' rotation, meaning he'll likely be on a very short leash. At Varland's ADP, he's worth a shot if you're looking for a grand slam, but there is a ton of risk attached to him.

RP: Paul Sewald, ARI

In his first full season as a closer, Sewald broke out for the Mariners and Diamondbacks, recording 34 saves and a 3.12 ERA. There are two issues surrounding Sewald though. For one, the presence of playoff hero Kevin Ginkel.

Ginkel pitched 11.2 scoreless innings during the 2023 postseason and was a big factor in Arizona's shocking race to an NL pennant. If Sewald starts struggling, it wouldn't take long for the team to look Ginkel's way.

Second, although Sewald has been lights out since 2021, his whiff percentage has slowly fallen from 18.2% in 2021 to 14.6%2023. Meanwhile, his expected wOBA has climbed from .253 two years ago to .267 last season. Sewald is slowly losing the ability to strike batters out consistently, which is a trait that most managers look for when determining their closer. Sewald has not provided any reason to doubt him yet, but he'll be 34 next season, so there is certainly some reason for concern.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB fantasy cheat sheet: Riskiest players at each position for 2024