2024 Season Preview: Part III

March 27th, 2024 by Kevin

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Happy Opening Day Eve!  Unfortunately, we aren’t going to get a full slate of 15 games tomorrow as originally scheduled since games in New York and Philadelphia have already been postponed to Friday.  But 13 games is still enough to get excited about.  It will be year two of the drastic rule changes that had a major impact on the game a year ago, most notably the pitch clock.  Now that we know what kind of impact those changes had, we pretty much know what to expect from a fantasy perspective now too.  Steals were way up a year ago and figure to level off at a similar total again this year.  A slight boost to hitters as a whole, but not at historic levels.  Just a reversal of recent trends of pitching domination.  However, the game is always changing even when the rules do not.  So we’ll see what this season brings.

We have six more DTBL teams to preview, and these projections show very little separating any of them.  There is just a six standings point gap between the team projected to finish in first place and the two teams pinned to tie for fifth place.  That gap is just two points for the three teams covered in this section.  This includes a pair of teams that consistently find themselves near the top of the standings and a team that is looking for a huge turnaround after an extremely disappointing 2023.  These are the teams project to finish in fourth and a tie for fifth places.


David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2023 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 6th (8th)
  • Home Runs – 9th (9th)
  • Runs Batted In – 9th (9th)
  • Runs Scored – 5th (5th)
  • Stolen Bases – 1st (1st)
  • Earned Run Average – 4th (1st)
  • WHIP Ratio – 3rd (1st)
  • Wins – 3rd (3rd)
  • Saves – 3rd (1st)
  • Strike Outs – 3rd (1st)
  • Total Batting Points – 7th-T (7th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 2nd (1st)
  • Total Points – 5th-T (2nd)


While a majority of the league’s teams were involved in a tight race for the ’23 title for much of the season, eventually the Darkhorses were the only ones who kept within striking distance of the eventual champion Demigods.  They were able to keep it tight because they had by far the best pitching staff in the league.  Unfortunately for them, their offense just wasn’t good enough to win it all.  That was quite surprising because the Darkhorses have almost always been known more for their hitting.  Last year was just the second time since 2010 that they had more pitching points than batting points.  These projections show that trend continuing.  There may be teams with deeper rotations, but Spencer Strider and Logan Webb as a top two is pretty hard to beat.  Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez and Hunter Greene round out the five they figure to roll with early.  The Darkhorses pitching domination last year was especially impressive since they did it without Jacob deGrom for a majority of the season.  It remains to be seen when deGrom will return to action this year.  They have already proven they can be one of the best staffs in the league without him, so he will be a nice cherry on the top whenever he returns.  The bullpen will be without their top performer from a year ago, Felix Bautista, likely for the full season.  But they do still have four other guys who look like good bets to rack up saves:  Andres Munoz, Kenley Jansen, Jose Leclerc and Robert Suarez.  Since it is probably unrealistic to expect 48 pitching points again the year, the offense is going to need to be better.  One reason to think that is likely is because Bryce Harper should be good to go from Day 1 this year, unlike last year when he was recovering from a UCL tear.  He moves to first base in this league this year, joining a stout infield with Alex Bregman, Xander Bogaerts, Andres Gimenez and first round draft pick Royce Lewis.  J.T. Realmuto had a bit of a disappointing ’23 and is a strong bounce back candidate.  Without Harper, the outfield doesn’t have the same star power it once did, but they do have a bunch of guys with solid projections in George Springer, Christian Yelich, Lane Thomas and another bounce back candidate, Starling Marte.  This may not be the juggernaut offense the Darkhorses were once known for, but it sure looks like a better squad than what the results said a year ago.  Combine that with their outstanding pitching staff and you’ve got a team that should contend again this year.


Marc’s Mavericks

Category – Projected Rank (2023 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 3rd (5th)
  • Home Runs – 3rd (1st)
  • Runs Batted In – 4th (1st)
  • Runs Scored – 2nd (4th)
  • Stolen Bases – 7th (7th)
  • Earned Run Average – 6th (10th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 6th (5th)
  • Wins – 5th (1st-T)
  • Saves – 9th (10th)
  • Strike Outs – 1st (3rd)
  • Total Batting Points – 2nd (2nd)
  • Total Pitching Points – 6th (7th)
  • Total Points – 5th-T (3rd-T)


For the last decade or so, it has pretty much been a lock that the Mavericks would be near the top of these projections because they had Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw and nobody else did.  Now, Kershaw’s 15 year run with the Mavs is over (well, I suppose they could pick him up later this summer as he nears a return from shoulder surgery) and Trout is no longer a perennial MVP candidate.  In fact, the Mavericks have six other hitters ahead of Trout’s still very respectable 3.7 Batting PAR projection.  They probably do still have the league’s best outfield with Trout, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Jazz Chisholm all being players every team would want to have.  Soto joining forces with Judge at Yankee Stadium this year should be particularly dangerous for the rest of the league.  The Mavericks middle infield is also in the discussion for best in the league with Ozzie Albies, Bobby Witt Jr and Willy Adames.  Spencer Torkelson finally started to live up to that MLB first overall draft pick hype in the second half of last season.  He will be rejoined by a now healthy Vinnie Pasquantino at first base.  And veteran third baseman Manny Machado remains in the fold as well.  The catching duo of William Contreras and Gabriel Moreno is pretty solid.  The Mavericks pitching staff had a very peculiar season a year ago.  Not too often do you see a team finish dead last in ERA, but near the top of the league in wins and strikeouts.  These projections show them continuing to be the league’s best at inducing whiffs, but leveling off in the other categories.  Basically every pitcher on the roster has elite strikeout stuff.  The rotation will be anchored by Pablo Lopez and Freddy Peralta.  First round pick Bobby Miller will look to replace his Dodger teammate Kershaw.  Hunter Brown should get his first full season in the Astros rotation.  And then there is Chris Sale looking to recapture his old form.  They even nabbed long time Kings ace Max Scherzer to be a mid-season addition once he returns from back surgery.  There are a lot of interesting options for the Mavericks rotation.  The bullpen probably won’t add a lot of saves with Alexis Diaz the only guy in a certain closer role.  But Mason Miller, Abner Uribe and Bryan Abreu all have such great stuff that they could be plus contributors just from their gaudy strikeout totals.  There is certainly enough upside in the Mavericks pitching staff to support an excellent offense to make them title contenders once again.


Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2023 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 10th (7th)
  • Home Runs – 2nd (7th)
  • Runs Batted In – 3rd (3rd)
  • Runs Scored – 6th (7th)
  • Stolen Bases – 9th (6th)
  • Earned Run Average – 2nd (5th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 1st (9th)
  • Wins – 2nd (8th)
  • Saves – 4th (8th)
  • Strike Outs – 5th (7th)
  • Total Batting Points – 7th-T (6th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 1st (9th)
  • Total Points – 4th (8th)


Perhaps the Moonshiners made a deal with the devil to finally win their first DTBL title in 2022, because 2023 was a year from hell.  Their offense took a huge step back and the pitching staff completely cratered.  But boy do these projections show that turning back around this season.  The team that finished with the second fewest pitching points a year ago is pegged to lead the league in that metric this season.  That’s mainly because the Moonshiners drafted two of the three pitchers with the highest projected PAR among those available in the draft with their first two picks:  Tarik Skubal and Zach Eflin.  They immediately become the top two projected starters for the Moonshiners, closely followed by Jesus Luzardo.  There are several solid veteran options available for the final two rotation spots among Yu Darvish, Justin Verlander and Jose Berrios.  Time will tell, but the early indication is that this Moonshiners rotation makeover should be a success.  The bullpen also gets a big time boost with the return of Edwin Diaz, who missed the entire ’23 season.  Clay Holmes and Tanner Scott join him to give the Moonshiners a good shot at being near the top of the league in saves.  It is pretty close to a lock that this team is going to be much improved on the mound.  Whether or not the offense can return to championship form is more of an open question.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Rafael Devers and Max Muncy will once again lock down the corner infield spots.  However, the middle infield and catching positions are huge question marks.  Ezequiel Tovar is the only player at those positions who grades out as at least an average contributor, though J.P. Crawford would also qualify if he proves last year’s breakout wasn’t a fluke.  The outfield is in much better shape with Kyle Tucker and Shohei Ohtani, who is currently entwined in a gambling scandal.  Riley Greene was having a nice breakout season a year ago before getting hurt.  Daulton Varsho will look to bounce back from a disappointing campaign.  Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Moonshiners rolled the dice on infielder Junior Caminero in the third round of the draft.  He will start the season in the minors.  But he is one of the top prospects in the game, so he could provide a huge boost to this team at some point this year.  With the disappointment of ’23 behind them, this looks like a Moonshiners squad primed to return to contender status.

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