2024 Fantasy Baseball: The No. 1 draft target per category


Remember the Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs Bunny is playing baseball, and he’s announced in every spot in the batting order while also playing all nine defensive positions?

Trying to pick a top target for each of fantasy baseball’s categories could bring a similar refrain.

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Home runs, Ronald Acuña Jr. Stolen bases, Ronald Acuña Jr. Batting Average, Ronald Acuña Jr. You get the idea.

But for variety’s sake, when picking a leader for each of the hitting categories, a conscious effort was made to ensure the great Atlanta right fielder would lead all of baseball in just one of the five offensive categories. Understand, however, that he’ll be in the mix in every category, after coming off one of the greatest fantasy seasons of all time.

If not THE greatest power-speed fantasy season of all time.

On the pitching side, there are some workhorse starters who are going to be at or near the top in multiple categories.

None of these players will last long in drafts, but we wanted to highlight them individually and the category they’re likeliest to dominate. If your goal is to win a category (or two) with a single draft pick (or two, depending on your pick) check out our list of players most likely to give you a decisive advantage this season.

Home Runs

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Dodgers

The top home run target could be any of a number of players, but I’m taking a swing here with Ohtani. For the past three seasons, Ohtani has topped 40 homers twice and hit 34 in the other, all with Mike Trout missing significant time in each season. Surrounded by elite hitters in a stacked Dodgers lineup, Ohtani will have pitches to hit and plenty of runners on base for him.

Ohtani had 30 home runs though June last season, roughly the midway point. Let’s nearly double that up this season and put him to hit 50-something round-trippers and top MLB. His ADP of 12.2 will seem low.

Stolen Bases

Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks

There’s every possibility Carroll gets even better after his NL Rookie of the Year season with 54 steals (along with 25 homers). He’s one of the fastest players in MLB with a 30.1 sprint speed and walked 57 times in 2023, getting caught stealing just five times. The Diamondbacks as a team were second in the big leagues in stolen bases, so running is ingrained in them. With Carroll improving at the plate and running more, Acuña’s 73-steal mark from last year is within reach.

Runs

Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves

On only 46 occasions in MLB history had players ever scored more runs in a season than Acuña’s 149 in 2023. Men with last names of Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and DiMaggio were ahead of him. Quite the company. Everything is set for Acuña to run it back, hitting at the top of the potent Braves lineup that scored a league-best 947 runs. He walked a career-high 80 times with an MLB-best .416 OBP over 735 plate appearances. With Acuña, there are no limits. He could play all 162 games (especially with the recent positive injury news) and average a run a game, and it would seem perfectly normal for the near-unanimous top overall pick in fantasy drafts.

RBI

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

One year removed from driving in 131 runs, Judge is healthy and will now hit behind OBP machine Juan Soto. How many times will we see Soto walk and then Judge drive him in with either a double or home run? The Yankees will score plenty of runs, and Judge is going to be in the middle of a lot of it. In his monster 2022 season, Judge hit .346 with runners in scoring position. With an ADP of 8.4, many are expecting Judge to scale the heights from two years ago.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

This could be a fun competition between Judge and Matt Olson, who is coming off a 139-RBI season with the Braves. Olson plays every day — zero missed games the last two seasons — and hits behind Acuña, so the RBI opportunities will be plentiful. But giving a slight edge here to Judge.

Batting Average

Luis Arráez, Miami Marlins

Arráez flirted with .400 until the second week of May and still managed 203 hits on the way to hitting .354. This is a hitting marvel in the Tony Gwynn mold, as he struck out just 34 times in 617 plate appearances. Average is where Arráez will contribute most, as he does not have much power nor speed. However, he has hit at least .316 in four of his five MLB seasons, becoming the second player since 1900 to win a batting title in both leagues. And Arráez did it in consecutive seasons. Get ready for a three-peat.

ERA

Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles

Burnes has pitched in Milwaukee’s hitter’s park, so going to the AL East grinder will be nothing new for the 2021 NL ERA champion. Burnes is now pitching for a Baltimore team that tied for second in the American League with a .988 fielding percentage, and with an exciting offense that will have him pitching with a lead plenty of days. His 3.39 ERA last year was his only one above 2.94 in the last four seasons.

WHIP

George Kirby, Seattle Mariners

In his first full major league season, Kirby walked just 19 batters and allowed 179 hits in 190.2 innings. He went five starts between July 31 and Sept. 8, 2023 without issuing a free pass. That kind of control would make even Greg Maddux take notice. Pitching in one of baseball’s best pitcher’s parks, Kirby will see plenty of long fly balls turn into outs for the Mariners.

Wins

Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

Going at least six innings in 23 of 32 starts, Wheeler is going to be involved in plenty of decisions. With the Phillies’ offense bludgeoning opposing teams into submission, the righty will head to the showers plenty of times with the lead in hand. He was especially nails on the road last year, going 8-4 with a 3.16 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 102.2 innings across 17 starts. Chalk him up for mid-to-high teens in victories.

Saves

Josh Hader, Houston Astros

Andy Behrens pointed out that saves leaders don’t have to come from dominant teams, and the top four saves leaders in 2023 were from non-playoff squads. Well, this pick is swinging back toward one of the top teams in baseball, with the Astros adding Hader to a squad that came up one game short of the World Series. Hader is among the best, if not THE best, closers in baseball, so he could have a big year in the ninth inning.

Strikeouts

Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

Last year, Strider finished 44 strikeouts ahead of Kevin Gausman to lead MLB in punchouts. He set the record for fewest innings pitched to reach 200 strikeouts. If he makes 30+ starts, Strider is going to run away with the strikeout crown again. He was almost the pick in the wins category too, but that’s no fun to have him double up. With a fastball topping 97 MPH and a terrific slider (and he’s apparently adding a curveball this season, too), look for the right-hander to make a run at 300+ strikeouts. He’s one of the few starters worthy of drafting in the first round instead of an elite hitter.





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