2024 Season Preview: Part I

March 23rd, 2024 by Kevin

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With the two Dodgers/Padres games in Korea earlier this week, the 2024 MLB season is officially underway.  The other 28 teams won’t start their campaigns until next Thursday though.  So it is certainly not too late to preview the upcoming season.  As usual, I will be doing so with the help of projection systems.  I have computed the projected league standings using FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projections, which merges two other projection systems, ZiPS and Steamer, and then adjusts to expected playing time based on each MLB team’s depth chart.

On my end, I incorporate the numbers for all 28 players who were on each DTBL team’s roster at the conclusion of the draft and then scale to a total of 8,285 plate appearances and 1,220 innings pitched to approximate a full season usage of healthy players.  This means that every player on the roster is equally considered (assuming similar PA or IP projections) even if they are not likely to be on the active roster for the full season.  I do not want to be making any assumptions about other team’s roster construction.  These player projections were grabbed from FanGraphs shortly before our draft began.  I then updated each team’s totals as the draft progressed to save time at the end.  This means I’m missing some developments over the past few weeks such as injuries and late free agent signings.  Note that the players who were unsigned free agents *do* have stat projections here, just that they were not adjusted to fit into their new team’s depth chart.  In the team write-ups, I will mention any recent developments that may have changed the projections if fresh data had been used.

Now on to this year’s projections.  As I’m sure you have become well aware, these shouldn’t be taken too seriously as an accurate prediction of what is to come.  Last year’s projected standings had the eventual champion Demigods finishing eighth, for example.  These are best used to highlight each team’s strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.  As usual, I’m chopping this into four parts, trying to keep teams that are expected to finish near each other in total points in the same article.  I’m going to start with just two teams today because the clustered projections are mostly at the top half of the standings this year.  Jay will probably be amused by this particular segment because the two teams covered here are the exact two he called out in our email chain a couple weeks ago.  These are two original franchises who are experiencing decades long title droughts.  Perhaps they should be comforted by the last two champions being teams that had their own decades long droughts before winning their first league titles.  Here are the teams projected to finish in the bottom two spots of the standings.


Kelly’s Cougars

Category – Projected Rank (2023 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 7th (10th)
  • Home Runs – 8th (10th)
  • Runs Batted In – 8th (10th)
  • Runs Scored – 10th (10th)
  • Stolen Bases – 10th (8th)
  • Earned Run Average – 9th (4th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 8th (2nd)
  • Wins – 10th (9th)
  • Saves – 10th (7th)
  • Strike Outs – 8th (2nd)
  • Total Batting Points – 10th (10th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 10th (4th)
  • Total Points – 10th (9th)


This is the second straight year that the Cougars have been slotted in the last spot in our projected standings.  Last year, they were able to avoid actually finishing in that spot thanks to a very solid pitching staff.  Unfortunately, these numbers show them continuing to have the league’s worst offense, but also with a huge drop in pitching.  They did attempt to fix the offense that finished in last place in every category except for stolen bases a year ago.  Their first two draft picks, outfielder Nolan Jones and shortstop Matt McLain actually have the two highest Batting PAR projections on the roster.  The problem is pedestrian projections for pretty much all of the returning hitters.  Infielders Ketel Marte and Ha-Seong Kim were two of their few offensive bright spots in ’23.  They are projected to take a bit of a step back this year, though they should continue to be solid contributors.  McLain gives them another nice boost of power and speed to the middle infield.  Unfortunately, he will begin the season on the IL with a shoulder injury.  Catching and corner infield are clear weak spots, led by past their prime players like Salvador Perez, Josh Bell and Justin Turner.  The outfield lacks star power, but the arrival of Nolan Jones should improve the unit as a whole.  Another newcomer to the outfield is Masataka Yoshida.  The tepid pitching projections are a bit surprising because this looks like a solid group.  Their top four guys from last year:  Corbin Burnes, Kevin Gausman, Merrill Kelly and Jordan Montgomery, are all coming off excellent seasons and there is no reason to think they can’t do it again.  Montgomery needs to sign with a MLB club first though.  The projection systems don’t love Kelly or Montgomery, which dampens the team totals.  The bullpen took a major blow when Josh Hader signed with the Astros, moving Cougars closing stalwart Ryan Pressly to a much less useful setup role.  Evan Phillips and Alex Lange will be counted upon to carry the saves category.  The path for the Cougars to smash these projections is having their pitching staff repeat what they did a year ago and have the offense inch its way towards respectability.  They are looking for their first top half of the standings finish since 2020.


Charlie’s Thunder Choppers

Category – Projected Rank (2023 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 8th (9th)
  • Home Runs – 10th (8th)
  • Runs Batted In – 10th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 8th (6th)
  • Stolen Bases – 4th (5th)
  • Earned Run Average – 7th (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 9th (8th)
  • Wins – 8th (5th-T)
  • Saves – 8th (3rd)
  • Strike Outs – 4th (4th)
  • Total Batting Points – 9th (9th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 8th (2nd-T)
  • Total Points – 9th (6th)


The Choppers projections are very similar, but slightly better than the Cougars.  Once again, they show a team that remains weak offensively, but also showing a pitching staff taking a major step backwards from a year ago.  Short term, the Choppers biggest problem is that almost all of the pitchers they drafted to keep that staff going strong are currently dealing with injuries.  First round draft pick Eury Perez, fourth rounder Gavin Williams and eighth rounder Taj Bradley will all open the season on the shelf.  There is some good news for the pitching staff though.  Blake Snell finally found a new home this week, signing with San Francisco.  Unclear when he will make his debut, but the Choppers should have the reigning NL Cy Young winner anchoring their rotation again soon.  Dylan Cease getting traded to the Padres is probably a positive development for the Choppers rotation as well.  Logan Gilbert joins Snell and Cease to give the Choppers a staff with a ton of upside.  Now if they could just get a couple of those newcomers healthy.  Another bit of upside for the pitching staff is that it appears A.J. Puk and Jordan Hicks will give them a couple extra starters out of relief spots.  My projection system does not give them credit for this since all team totals are scaled to identical innings numbers.  The two actual relievers, Emmanuel Clase and Jordan Romano, are among the league’s best closers.  So this quartet could be a major reason why the Choppers exceed expectations on the pitching side.  There are only five players projected to hit at least 40 home runs this season and two of them play for the Choppers:  Pete Alonso and Kyle Schwarber.  That makes their last place projection in the power categories a bit surprising.  Alonso is joined by Triston Cases to give them a nice power combo at first base.  There is some major upside in the rest of their infield too.  Ke’Bryan Hayes started to break out in the second half last year, as did shortstop C.J. Abrams.  Nico Hoerner has quietly become a fantasy star mixing decent power with a ton of steals and a good average.  If one of their other young infielders, Vaughn Grissom and Zack Gelof, takes another step forward, this could be an excellent infield.  The outfield is where they fall a bit short compared to most teams in the power categories.  Kyle Schwarber being the exception, of course.  Second round pick Evan Carter is an intriguing addition to this group.  Finally, the offense should benefit from another year of elite catcher Adley Rutschman.  There is plenty of potential on this roster.  But the first step will be to get some of their pitchers healthy so they can make a run in this 25th anniversary season of their last DTBL title.

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