2024 Fantasy Baseball Busts – Middle Infielders

by Mike Schneider
2024 Fantasy Baseball Busts - Middle Infielders

The title of this article is 2024 Fantasy Baseball Middle Infielder Busts, but really what we discussing is middle infielders who are going higher in drafts than they should and are unlikely to be on any of my teams this year. There are a variety of reasons why I don't like these players at their current price, ranging from risk avoidance, overperformance in 2023 and playing time concerns.

This is a deep year for middle infielders. Typically there are always a good number of high-end shortstops. This year there are more high-end second basemen than normal.  With second-base eligibility, Mookie Betts is going in the top five.  Ozzie Albies, Marcus Semien, and Jose Altuve are being drafted early.  Nico Hoerner and Matt McLain are eligible at both second and shortstop and are each going around pick 60. Gleyber Torres, Bryson Stott, and Andres Gimenez are going between picks 90 and 120.

With plenty of depth at the position, let's examine some players who carry plenty of risk at their current ADP.

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2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Middle Infielders

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Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Cincinnati Reds

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This all comes down to price and risk tolerance. Elly De La Cruz has 40/40 potential but he also could be sent down to the minors. In the second half of 2023 De La Cruz hit .191 with a 36% strikeout rate. I expect De La Cruz will begin the year as the Reds shortstop but Cincinnati has plenty of infield options if De La Cruz begins 2024 like he ended 2023.

In the second round, I am not willing to take a big risk. Austin Riley and Rafael Devers are a couple of third basemen going around the same spot as De La Cruz. Barring injury, the floor for Devers and Riley is high. They are safe picks. Gunnar Henderson has SS/3B eligible like De La Cruz and has an ADP of 30.49.  While Henderson does not have the speed of De La Cruz I think he is a much safer pick than De La Cruz.

De La Cruz may take a leap forward in 2024 but it is unlikely to be on any of my redraft teams.

Ha-Seong Kim, 2B/SS/3B, San Diego Padres

Since signing a four-year contract with the Padres before the 2021 season, Ha-Seong Kim has shown significant improvement each year.  He had a difficult adjustment to the majors from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) in 2021 with a 71 wRC+. Kim was much better the following year with a .251/.325/.383 line with  11 homers and 12 stolen bases. Kim emerged as a fantasy star in 2023  with 17 homers, and 38 steals after he stole 18 bases in 267 games over his first two years.

Stolen bases were up in 2023 due to the rule changes and Kim likely was more comfortable in the majors than he was in his first couple of years. He does have sprint speed in the 79 percentile.

A big concern is Kim does not hit the ball very hard.  His hard hit percentage of 26.7 and average exit velocity of 86.2 are in the bottom ten percentile. He does have outstanding plate discipline with a chase percentage of 20.4 and a whiff percentage of 17.7 which are in the top ten percentile.

Based on where Kim is going in 2024 the expectation is that he will at least come close to repeating his 2023 season. Kim's muti eligibility is nice and his defensive skills give him real-life value. However, for fantasy purposes, I think his 2023 season was a career year for Kim,

Ketel Marte, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks

For the first time in several years, Ketel Marte managed to stay healthy in 2023 and put together a productive year with 25 homers, 94 runs, 82 RBIs, eight steals, and a .276 average.

Marte had a massive year in 2019 where he hit .329 with 32 homers, 97 runs, 86 RBIs, and stole 10 bases. However, he only hit 30 homers and stole eight bases in the next three years.

Marte's profile does not change. The injury risk does not go away because Marte had a healthy season. Marte was a great value in 2023 at around pick 200. However, it is a mistake to move him up 80 + picks this year.

Zack Gelof, 2B, Oakland Athletics

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Oakland called Zack Gelof up on July 14th.  In 69 games, Gelof was very productive with 14 homers and 14 steals with a 133 wRC+ and a 27.9% strikeout rate. Before getting called up, Gelof played 69 games at AAA in an extremely hitter-friendly environment in Las Vegas where he hit 12 homers and stole 20 bases with a 125 wRC+ and a 27.3% strikeout rate.

Gelof was a 2021 second-round out of the University of Virginia.  He had a decent year at AA Midland in 2022 where in 87 games he hit .271/..456/.438 with 13 homers and nine steals.  He was called up to AAA Las Vegas for the last couple of weeks of the year and hit five homers in nine games.

It is easy to extrapolate Gelof's homers and steals over a full season but I think based on his minor league experience that Gelof played a bit over his head with the A's. In addition, Oakland has a poor lineup which will not help Gelof in the runs and RBI categories.

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Luis Arráez, 2B, Miami Marlins

Luis Arráez hit a career-high ten homers and 69 RBIs in 2023.  His career high for stolen bases is four. In 2022  Arráez scored 88 runs his next highest run total was 71 last year.

Arráez is strictly a one-category player. I believe he is a good bet to hit .300 but probably not to repeat the .354 that Arráez hit in 2023. In the past, Arráez had multi-positional eligibility but now he is only eligible at second base.

Unless an owner is desperate for batting average there are better options at the point of the draft where Arráez is being drafted. Going around the same point in the draft are a number of attractive options at catcher which is a scarce position in a deep two-catcher league (Logan O'Hoppe, Bo Naylor, Jonah Heim, and Keibert Ruiz). Tommy Edman should steal at least 25 bases, be the same or better than Arráez in homers, runs, and RBIs, and has additional eligibility at shortstop and the outfield. Gavin Williams, Chris Sale, and Bailey Ober have the potential to be big contributors to a pitching staff.

More so than any player on this list, I can say with certainty that Arráez will not be on any of my teams this year.

Jackson Holliday, SS, Baltimore Orioles

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Jackson Holliday is my number-one-ranked prospect in baseball.  He will eventually be a star I don't think it will be in 2024. Holliday has an advanced hit tool that will enable him to hold his own in the majors immediately.  However, for this year I do not think there is much upside with homers or stolen bases.  In 2023, Holliday played 54 games in the upper minors hitting five homers and stealing four bases.

Holiday's future teammate in Baltimore, Gunnar Henderson hit 28 homers in his rookie season in 2023.  Henderson is two and a half years older than Holliday and significantly bigger and stronger. While it is possible that Holliday takes a leap forward and the power comes in 2024, it is more likely that he will hit about ten homers this year with the potential for significantly more in a few years.

The Orioles appear to be open to Holliday making the opening-day roster possibly at second base. However, they have plenty of infielders both with major league experience and other top prospects.  Holliday will have to earn his roster spot and a regular role.

Owners that draft Holliday in redraft leagues in 2024 at around pick 200 are paying a tax on his prospect name and on the player he is expected in the future.

Jonathan India, 2B, Cincinnati Reds

Based on a huge year at University of Florida in 2018, the Reds selected Jonathan India with the fifth overall pick in that year's draft. He was expected to excel in the minors and reach the majors quickly. However, his .767 OPS in 2019 was disappointing. India spent the 2020  season at the Reds' alternate training facility.

It was a surprise that India made the  Reds' opening day roster in 2021. He ended up being the National League rookie of the year with 21 homers, 12 steals and a 122 RC+.

The last two years have not gone as well for India. India was limited due to a hamstring injury in 2022. Last year, India had a decent first half offensively but struggled with a foot injury in the second half. India's defense at second base has declined to the point where first base may be his only viable position. In 2023 India's outs above average (OAA) was -6 which was among the worst at second base.

The Reds infield is very crowded. Matt McLain will likely begin the year as the Reds' primary second basemen. Jeimer Candelario, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Noelvi Marte in the mix at 1st base and third base. The Reds paid Candelario a lot of money and he will be playing. Encarnacion-Strand and Marté were promising prospects who were playing well in the majors at the end of 2023.

It appears the Reds tried to move India in the offseason but did not get an offer that they liked.  He signed a two-year contract recently to avoid arbitration. Encarnacion-Strand or Marté could begin the year in the minors, opening up some playing time for India at first base or DH, but that would be more of a temporary situation.

For where India is being drafted, you would expect a player that has a regular role.  India appears to be more of an insurance policy for the Reds based on their current depth chart.

Thanks for reading the 2024 Fantasy Baseball Middle Infielder Busts. Check out the rest of the Fantasy Baseball content from our team of writers.

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