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Welcome back to Hitter Profiles for the 2024 fantasy baseball season.  With spring training officially kicking off, we are about to get a glimpse of what could be this season.  This week we head over to the NL Central. The Central appears to be open for the taking whereas projections have the division expected to finish within six games from top to bottom.  While top-end talent might be sparse with only one player being drafted in the top 50 picks, there are intriguing players across the board.  Spoiler alert, but that top 50 pick is already on the bust radar for 2024.  With the final week of our division previews, we dig deep into the heartland.  Next week, we start digging into the top 100 hitters for the 2024 fantasy baseball season!  Without further ado, the NL Central boom and bust picks await for this week’s installment of hitter profiles.

Important Notes: All views focus on 5×5 rotisserie formats with NFBC ADP and Yahoo position eligibility.

Boom

Ke’Bryan Hayes – Pirates (ADP 174)

Hayes has always had tools, as he has the ability to hit for a .270-.280 average while making some of the hardest contact in the league with hard hit rates and exit velocity in the top 15% of the league.  He has also shown continued improvement at the plate with a strikeout rate under 20%.  In addition, while not a speedster he has contributed 30 steals over the past few seasons.  The biggest factor driving towards a potential breakout is the shift in batted ball profile.  From 2020 to 2022, Hayes delivered a fly ball rate in the 25-30% range which limited his power upside despite the contact quality.  However, in 2023 he jumped that rate to 39% with it being nearly 42% in the second half.  There is potential for mid-20s power with a strong average and a handful of steals.  Going off the board as the 17th third basemen, we will be talking about him much higher in no time.  Pair the excitement with gold glove defense and he will get as many games as his body will allow to pad those counting stats.  It might be hard to buy a pirate, but Hayes is the right guy to chase.

Tyler Black – Brewers (ADP 411)

Tyler Black emerges as an exciting prospect with an impressive blend of power and speed showcased during his time in the minors.  With seasons launching 30 home runs or swiping 50 bases, he presents a tempting combination of offensive skills.  Moreover, his development in plate discipline is evident from his ability to draw walks more frequently than striking out, as demonstrated in his AAA stint last year.  He has also maintained a batting average of .273 or higher across various levels over the past two seasons.  With little left to prove in the minors, he stands on the cusp of the Brewer’s major league roster.  Based on competition for playing time, notably from Joey Ortiz, the path seems relatively clear for Black to secure a significant role.  Given his potential and an ADP of 400, investing in Tyler Black represents a low-risk, high-reward opportunity.

 

Bust

Nico Hoerner – Cubs (ADP 58)

For Nico, this is the same conversation we recently had around Esteury Ruiz.  Of qualified hitters in 2023, the top 20 stolen base leaders all hit for double digit power besides Nico Hoerner.  He is bottom tier for power metrics sitting bottom 2% of the league in barrel rate and bottom 10% in exit velocity.  The problem for Nico is that he is batting average and speed and little else and is being drafted with expectations for more.  Batting at the top of the Cubs lineup, he is not getting opportunities to bat runs in.  Last season he once went 20 games in a row without knocking in a run.  This is a great opportunity for a blind comparison:

Player A: 98 R, 9 HR, 68 RBI, 43 SB, .283 AVG

Player B: 93 R, 5 HR, 54 RBI, 21 SB, .268 AVG

Player A is Nico Hoerner while Player B is Steven Kwan with an ADP over 200, nearly 150 picks behind Hoerner.  This draft season, pass on Nico and wait more than 10 rounds to find relatively similar results if you want a speed and average combination.

Elly De La Cruz – Reds (ADP 24)

There might not be a more exciting player coming into 2024 than Elly De La Cruz.  As capable of delivering a 10/10 month as any player, there is understandable excitement for Elly especially in what should be a high powered lineup in Cincinnati this season.  He has 100th percentile sprint speed and top quarter of the league exit velocities.  However, there are so many warning signs that investing a pick in the first two rounds is not really wise.  First off, he is worse than 97% of the league with strikeouts and may be poised for a .230 – .240 average with volatility.  Again, let’s do a blind test for Elly:

Player A: 30 G, 29% K, 4 HR, 16 SB, .325 AVG

Player B: 68 G, 36% K, 9 HR, 19 SB, .191 AVG

Now this is cheating, but Player A is Elly De La Cruz in the first half of 2023 and Player B is Elly in the second half.  After taking the league by storm fueled by a .440 BABIP, the league adjusted and the results were a lot more questionable. Are 20 homers with 40 steals but a lot of headaches worth that early draft pick?  The excitement is real, but he is just as likely to be an All-Star as he is to get some more seasoning in the minors.

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Joseph Bautista
Joseph Bautista
1 month ago

The Nico and Kwan stat comparison is absurd. Havent been on here in awhile but seems I haven’t missed much. Nico is VASTLY superior even at their ADPs. This site has fallen off hard

Joey Jenkins
Joey Jenkins
1 month ago

Those stats between Nico and Kwan aren’t even close, especially when you consider Nico has 2B eligibility and Kwan is OF eligible only. Nico is superior in every category and 43 SB to 21 SB is a huge difference. You could find a comparison like that between most players drafted in Nico’s range and drafted in Kwan’s range

California Dreamer
California Dreamer
1 month ago

Personally, I don’t see the closeness in the stats you posted for Hoerner and Kwan. Hoerner substantially better based on those stats.

davidbandy
davidbandy
Reply to  Jeremy Brewer
1 month ago

and one is a middle IF while the other is an OF. Not even close. It’s just a bad comp in my opinion.

Drew
Drew
1 month ago

Thanks for this—pumped for Tyler Black, especially hearing some Zobrist comps. Question: Would you keep Bellinger or N. Lowe as the only UTL in a 16-team OPS keeper?

Homer's got the Runs
Homer's got the Runs
Reply to  Drew
1 month ago

Belly, similar power but better speed. I always lean towards power/speed combo players.