There is a real possibility that fantasy baseball is an addiction. The season is winding down, some teams were a success, others were failures, and here I am already thinking about 2024. Playing in a lot of dynasty leagues is part of the reason that I am focused on next year but then I got to thinking: What is the first round going to look like? So, I decided to write about it. Below is a way too early mock draft of what I think the 2024 first round is going to look like. This will undoubtedly be interesting to look back on in a few months. Here goes nothing!
2024 First Round Mock Draft
1.01: Ronald Acuna Jr. – ATL
This one felt a little bit too easy. Barring a tragic injury, there is very little debate about who will go first overall in next year’s fantasy baseball drafts. Acuna has simply been excellent all season. Not only did he clear 40 home runs, but his speed was on full display as he stole over 70 bases. The new rules surely helped in the stolen base category, but a feat of this magnitude is impressive nonetheless.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Acuna’s 2023 season has nothing to do with his home run totals or stolen bases. Yes, those are crazy numbers. However, throughout his professional career, Acuna consistently posted strikeout rates north of 23%. This has never been an issue because of how talented he is, but it is still not a great thing to see. Well, he has solved his strikeout issue in a big way. His K% dropped all the way down below 12% this season. His whiff rate dropped over six percent helping fuel this success.
Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Acuna is still only 25 years old. He made his debut at such a young age that we forget there is still room for improvement. He showed us that this year in route to what I assume will be a unanimous MVP award. Acuna is the best player in both real-life and fantasy baseball. With Shohei Ohtani’s injury, there is no debating who is going to go at 1.01.
1.02: Julio Rodriguez – SEA
This is where things start to get a little bit difficult. Acuna is in a tier of his own. The tier that follows him is a little bit less defined. I went with Rodriguez at the 1.02 for a few different reasons. First, he is one of the few players who has a chance to post numbers similar to Acuna’s. This past season he managed to go 30/35 and that is after an extremely slow start at the plate. Through May, Rodriguez was slashing just .246/.307/.442 with ten homers and ten steals. These numbers are nothing to scoff at, but for a player taken in the top five, he was a little bit of a disappointment for fantasy managers. Once the calendar turned to July, Rodriguez became a different player. He slashed .323/.375/.580 with 19 homers and 19 steals the rest of the way.
While second halves tend to stick out a little bit more, there is more to slotting Rodriguez at the 1.02. Charisma plays a large role in preference whether we like to think that it does or not. Rodriguez carries more risk than some other players, but we want to like our team. What is not to like about a 22-year-old star who plays with energy and can contribute elite numbers to all five categories? If you are picking at 1.02, you will not get Acuna. So, why not get somebody who can at least remind you of Acuna? I am sure this pick will vary from league to league, but I think the majority of people go with Rodriguez here.
1.03: Fernando Tatis Jr – SDP
Speaking of drafting based on charisma, Tatis Jr. fits that mold. After missing the beginning of this season due to suspension, Tatis Jr. has not had the most consistent return. His 116 wRC+ is well below his career average of 154 entering the year. A decline in his barrel rate is likely the primary reason behind his power decline and batting average drop. That being said, Tatis’ season has still been impressive. 25+ homers and 29 stolen bases is nothing to scoff at especially when you factor in his delayed start.
I fully anticipate the fantasy community getting behind Tatis heading into 2024. This feels obvious that many will predict that without the suspension and delayed start, Tatis will come into the 2024 season locked in. Plus, he does have the upside to finish number one overall. His floor is likely what we saw this year which was still an extremely useful fantasy asset. An added bonus is that he managed to lower his strikeout rate from 2022 by nearly six percent. He is going to be just 25 years old for the 2024 season which creates room for even more upside. If the two most exciting players in baseball go 1.01 and 1.02, then I am sure many will take the third most exciting player at 1.03.
1.04: Bobby Witt Jr. – KCR
Maybe this is me projecting how I would select fourth overall as opposed to what the consensus will do. Either way, the pick here is Bobby Witt Jr. I am not sure enough attention is being paid to just how impressive his first two Major League seasons have been from a fantasy perspective. Part of that is likely because he plays on the Royals. As a rookie, Witt joined the 20/30 club with an impressive 80 runs and RBIs. This year, Witt has been spectacular and is just shy of the 30/50 club. In his second season, Witt has shown improvements in all of the following stats:
- Strikeout rate, walk rate, home runs, stolen bases, runs, batting average, runs, RBIs, exit velocity, barrel rate, chase rate, and whiff rate
Witt will not turn 24 until the middle of next season. There is no reason to believe that Witt cannot continue to get better and better. The Royals are not an exciting team to watch and Witt is not the most captivating player to draft. That being said, he is an already elite fantasy asset who should continue to improve. I think that the fantasy community is smart enough to realize that and not let him fall too far down in the first round.
1.05: Spencer Strider – ATL
After Witt Jr., I have another tier break. While there is still plenty of name value available at fifth overall, the certainty with each player becomes less clear. With there being questions about almost every hitter, this felt like the perfect place for the first pitcher. There are no questions about Spencer Strider. Even with some poor luck in the ERA department, Strider was dominant this season. His strikeout rate remained up at an insane 37.1 percent, while his walk rate showed consistent improvement from last season.
The biggest question mark surrounding Strider entering 2023 was whether or not he would be able to maintain a starter’s workload for the entire season. He has put all of those concerns to rest by eclipsing 180 innings pitched. Strider should see better luck in terms of ERA and is the most dominant pitcher in baseball at generating strikeouts. With the first two tiers of hitters off the board, this feels like an appropriate landing spot to take the number one pitcher in fantasy.
1.06: Trea Turner – PHI
Two months ago, I did not expect to write about Trea Turner in this article. The majority of Turner’s debut season in Philadelphia was one to forget. Through August 4, Turner was slashing an abysmal .236/.289/.387. The stolen bases (21 at the time) were still nice, but everything else was far from what was expected. From that point forward, Turner has been a top-five batter in all of baseball. He has a slash line of .337/.386/.674 with 16 home runs and nine stolen bases.
Despite turning 30 years old, Turner’s speed has not gone anywhere. He has managed to steal 30 bases without being caught and proving that Citizens Bank Park is a great place to hit for his home run totals.
Turner is going to be hitting toward the top of the same elite lineup next season. Batting ahead of Bryce Harper will provide plenty of run-scoring opportunities and he is proving to still be an elite source of power and speed. Age is always a question mark, but we are past the point in the draft of 25-year-old superstars. Turner is a five-category contributor and will be drafted as such next season.
1.07: Aaron Judge – NYY
The 2023 season did not go how the Yankees envisioned. You cannot help but wonder if the season at least looks a little bit different if Aaron Judge does not break his toe at Dodger Stadium. Fantasy managers are surely wondering the same thing as Judge still managed to hit over 35 home runs despite playing in fewer than 110 games. If you prorate his season for the 696 plate appearances he hit in 2022, Judge still would have hit 55 home runs. His 175 wRC+ from this season still ranks toward the top in all of baseball.
The only reason that Judge slides to seven, and could fall further than that, is the fact he only stole three bases last season. Now, a lot of this has to do with his toe but he also turns 32 in April of next year. He is an elite power bat, but you run the risk of losing out in the stolen base department. However, by taking Judge at seventh overall you are guaranteed one of the highest home run totals in baseball (assuming health). This is an excellent base for your team as long as you can draft accordingly in the rounds that follow.
1.08: Mookie Betts – LAD
During the 2023 draft season, it seemed like there were plenty of people who were questioning what value Mookie Betts brought to your team at the back of the first round. He shut the door on any of those comments by posting a new career high in home runs while hitting for his highest average since 2018. Instead of regressing with age, Betts managed to post his best fantasy season since joining the Dodgers and in any other year, he would have a legitimate case for MVP.
At this point in his career, Betts is not going to blow you away with his stolen base totals. That being said, he is not going to be a zero in that category. Batting ahead of guys like Freddie Freeman and Will Smith provides Betts with plenty of counting stats in addition to an already elite fantasy profile. His newfound infield versatility only adds to his fantasy value and makes the case for Betts going higher even stronger. He is not a new and sexy name which will likely lead to him falling a bit in 2024 drafts. If he posts numbers similar to this year, getting him eighth overall will be a steal.
1.09: Bryce Harper- PHI
I thought about going in a few different directions with this pick, but I just kept coming back to Bryce Harper. After making a historic return from Tommy John Surgery, Harper has been excellent for Philadelphia. The more impressive part is how he has continued getting better the farther out from surgery we get.
Harper experienced a bit of a power outage early on in his return, but you would have no idea based on his performances recently. Since July 25, Harper has hit 17 of his home runs with a .298/.421/.620 slash. Prorate those home runs over 600 plate appearances and Harper would be on pace for 40 on the season.
Similarly to Betts, Harper is not going to steal 30+ bases in a season. However, he is going to steal somewhere between 10-15 while providing elite production in the other four categories. By the time 2024 rolls around, Harper will be over a full year removed from surgery meaning his production could get even better. He might not have outfield eligibility until a few weeks into the season, but that does not mean you should avoid him in the first round.
1.10: Yordan Alvarez- HOU
When Yordan Alvarez is healthy, I am not sure there is a better pure hitter in all of baseball. That being said, Alvarez can never stay on the field for a full season. This season has been especially difficult for Alvarez who appeared in under 115 games. Despite missing a significant portion of time, Alvarez still managed to hit 31 home runs with a 172 wRC+. When hunting for elite four-category production, there is not a better candidate than Alvarez at this point in the draft.
Alvarez is not going to contribute anything to the stolen base department, but that is fine with the rates he produces in the other four categories. If we were not worried about health, it is likely Alvarez would be going even higher than 10th overall.
1.11: Gerrit Cole- NYY
There are a lot of times that we see big free-agent signings disappoint. This has not been the case for Gerrit Cole who has been excellent since joining the Yankees. This season has been one of his best since putting on pinstripes as he pitched to a 2.75 ERA. He has been a model of consistency throwing at least 180 innings in six consecutive seasons.
Yes, the innings that Cole has accumulated over the years is a bit concerning, but it is hard to argue with his production. Cole is one of the game’s elite pitchers and he has not come with the durability concerns that so many others have. There have been no signs of decline in Cole’s peripherals, and I expect another big season from Cole in 2024. He is a fringe first-round draft pick but once the hitters start to thin out, he is an excellent option.
1.12: Juan Soto- SDP
Should Juan Soto go at 12th overall? Well, that is a debate I expect many to have throughout the off-season. There are those who think Soto is overrated when it comes to fantasy production, and then there are those who think Soto is criminally underrated during draft season. The one thing that I do know is that everybody knows who he is and his name holds a certain level of value that gives him an edge over other players. He might not steal as many bases as Kyle Tucker (who I considered here), but that is not the only factor when it comes to fantasy drafts.
Not only does Soto have more name value than Tucker, but he also has been excellent in the second half of 2023. Since the All-Star Break, Soto is slashing .286/.395/.571. His stats look even better if you just look at September. Everybody always remembers the end of the season which gives him even more of a boost on draft day. I think Soto sneaks into the first round although this pick could go a number of ways.
If you aren’t playing your dynasty leagues on Fantrax, you’re missing out on the deepest player pool and most customization around. Just starting out in a dynasty league? Then check out Rick Haake’s Top-400 Overall Fantasy Prospects and Tyler Bowen’s Top-500 Dynasty League Rankings.