As each baseball season comes to a close, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and storylines that have persisted all season long. And each year, some players surge to the finish line and go under the radar to the fantasy baseball masses. It’s never too early to begin plotting out your next draft, so let’s take an early look at some 2024 draft day bargains; players who will likely be undervalued compared to how they finished last year.
Draft Day Bargains Who Finished Strong in 2023
Seiya Suzuki – OF, CHC
Suzuki finished Sept/Oct with a .370/.434/.685 triple-slash across 122 plate appearances. His second-half triple-slash was good for .313/.372/.566 across 285 plate appearances. Suzuki returned from the All-Star break in a daze and was overshadowed by other Chicago storylines such as the resurgence of Cody Bellinger, Justin Steele in the Cy Young conversation, and the team’s playoff push. On August 8, he received a day off with an emphasis on “mental rest” after starting the second half with a .215/.276/.329 slash across 20 games. From that day off to the season’s end, Suzuki batted .356/.414/.672. He was basically 07′ Magglio Ordonez for the Cubs Stretch run.
2023 started slowly for Suzuki. He injured his oblique in Spring Training and missed the World Baseball Classic. Returning from the injury in the first half of April, he finished the month with zero homers. Toss in a 1-homer June and Seiya spent a third of the season with ‘Esteury Ruiz’ power, which I think makes his final numbers even more impressive. He was by most measures a top-5 hitter for the season’s final two months. Pay attention to him during 2024 Spring Training. I think it goes without saying, that Suzuki will probably not play 2024 entirely at his September pace, however with health provided he isn’t the hitter we saw in April and June of last year.
While I wouldn’t necessarily reach on Suzuki in 2024 drafts, if he is going around pick 100 in redrafts, I think he can provide value 2 rounds ahead of that. With his current “under the radar” appeal, I’d consider him a safe player to plan on after the early rounds pass. I can’t foresee many managers reaching on him where he is ranked.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand – 1B/DH, CIN
Need a first baseman late? How about one that seems primed to ascend to top-10 status at the position? Look no further than the Reds’ under-hyped second-year prospect otherwise known as “CES.” Completely overshadowed by the arrivals of Elly de la Cruz and Matt McClain, CES debuted in Cincinnati without a set defensive position and saw immediate struggles adjusting to Major League competition. Those struggles didn’t last long, as he improved his triple-slash in each month of his rookie campaign. He finished Sept/Oct with a .301/.348/.615 line across 89 plate appearances. Given the success he’s had at every professional level, I see no reason why CES can’t finish 2024 as one of the best bargains in fantasy.
Considering the Reds’ current roster and their log jam of infield talent (having just signed Jeimer Candelario to a three-year deal), CES has the hit tool to outshine them all. If the Reds for some reason re-sign Joey Votto, CES is already the hitter more deserving of playing time. He will slot in at 1B/DH next year, and within the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, he seems like a shoo-in for a 30-homer floor. In 32 games played/122 plate appearances at home last year, CES hit 296/336/522 with 8 homers. He’s safer than Elly and probably going to be drafted 100 + picks after him, if not more. When you’re considering rounding out your infield with names like Alec Bohm or Nolan Gorman, that’s where I’m reaching on Encarnacion-Strand without hesitation.
Zack Gelof – 2B, OAK
Let’s face it, the A’s aren’t exactly the first place you’d look for fantasy talent. But in terms of searching for a 2024 bargain, they just might have the best option in all of fantasy baseball with Zack Gelof. Looking past Gelof’s debut month in July, from August 1 to the end of the season he somewhat quietly put up a .279/.350/.507 finish across 240 major league plate appearances. Extrapolating this two-month pace to a full season, you’re looking at 32 homers and 27 steals. He split his 2023 season almost exactly 50/50 in AAA and the majors, recording 608 plate appearances. Combined at both levels, he hit 26 homers and stole 34 bags. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect 30 home runs from Gelof, but the potential is there. And I’ll gladly draft that potential when it’s easily accessible outside the top 100 picks.
I think there is a safe floor here to reliably expect Gelof to finish 2024 with a 20-20 season. The A’s will be bad and that doesn’t affect my take on Gelof. He spent most of his time batting in the two-hole last year, and there’s no reason for that to change. I’d prefer Gelof over other more established players like Gleyber Torres and Andres Gimenez. Simply put, his ceiling has yet to be determined and he already possesses a more appealing power/speed combo. He is arguably the safest middle infield bargain for 2024 fantasy drafts.