2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Busts: Arizona Diamondbacks

The DBacks to target and avoid this draft season.

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the playoffs on the backs of pitchers like Zac Gallen and hitters like Corbin Carroll. Aside from those players, the D-backs are full of fantasy-relevant players. In early drafting leagues, players like Carroll, Gallen, Paul Sewald, Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, and Eduardo Rodriguez carry reasonable top-200 ADPs. Even some players going later in deeper drafts have reasonable ADPs considering expectations around their playing time and other factors.

While it is still early in the offseason and Arizona may still make moves that could impact playing time, it is never too early for fantasy managers to identify where they can find value and which players to avoid at cost. That being said, here are your Sleepers and Busts for the Arizona Diamondbacks:




Jake McCarthy


2023 stats (312 PA): .243 AVG, 37 R, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 26 SB

2023 was a down year for Jake McCarthy. He hit just two homers with 37 runs and 16 RBI after posting 8 home runs, 53 runs, and 43 RBI in just 40 more PAs than in 2022. Clearly, with the right circumstances, McCarthy could excel.

His current ADP as of writing is 509 in NFBC, the 90th outfielder off the board. Early projections on Fangraphs anticipate McCarthy hitting eight home runs, with 47 runs, 42 RBI, and 24 steals, as well as a .259 AVG that nearly matches his career .261 AVG.

Those projections top Ceddanne Rafaela (482 ADP) and Garrett Mitchell (464 ADP). He compares favorably with Sal Frelick as well, and Frelick has a top-300 ADP. McCarthy also projects for more plate appearances than ever and should get more playing time without Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the lineup.

With his current trends, McCarthy should be a target in fantasy leagues well ahead of the 500th pick. He has improved his strikeout and contact rates for the third season in a row, dropping his K rate under 20% and ticking his contact rate up to 80%. He also improved his walk, z-contact, 0-contact, and swinging strike rates from last season as well.

Our PLV Hitters app also shows that he did a great job making contact last season:

McCarthy is definitely worth consideration in fantasy leagues and could be worth top-300 value, but is going after the 500th pick. He is a clear sleeper in my book.


Merrill Kelly


2023 stats (177.2 IP): 3.29 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 187 K, 12 W

In early NFBC drafts, Merrill Kelly’s ADP is 153, making him the 38th starting pitcher off the board. Kelly finished 2023 ranked 16th in K/9, 9th in LOB%, 12th in GB%, and 11th in ERA. Kelly should be ranked much higher, and maybe as the draft season rolls on. But for now, he is a clear sleeper.

Kelly has tossed at least 170 innings in three of his last four seasons (not including 2020), so fantasy managers can reasonably count on consistent playing time for him. Players getting drafted ahead of Kelly include Max Scherzer, Gavin Williams, Chris Bassitt, Hunter Greene, Dylan Cease, and Justin Verlander – all players that threw fewer innings than Kelly last season, had a worse ERA than Kelly last season, or both. Players like Greene, Scherzer, Verlander, and Jesús Luzardo (also drafted ahead of Kelly) all carry significant injury risk, while Walker Buehler is recovering from Tommy John surgery and may be limited by innings. Others drafted ahead of Kelly include unproven pitchers with upside like Gavin Williams, Bobby Miller, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Others are likely to regress after outstanding 2023 seasons like Justin Steele, Cole Ragans, and Kyle Bradish.

Kelly threw a career-best 187 strikeouts last season, with a career-best 9.47 K/9 rate. Outside of a 31-inning 2020 season, Kelly also possessed career bests in his 77% LOB and 45.2% GB rates. A major reason for this improvement was Kelly’s filthy changeup.

His changeup had a 32% whiff rate and a 22% putaway rate, and he allowed just a .180 batting average against. It also clearly contributed to his improved groundball rate and LOB rate, as it had a -1 degree launch angle. Of his six pitches, three others had whiff rates of 25% or better including his fastball, curveball, and slider. Our PLV data grades two of his pitches – his curveball and slider – as above league average, with his changeup grading as a Quality Pitch.

Kelly has the stuff to put batters away and has proven himself to be a consistent starter. He should be able to rack up plenty of wins for a potential playoff-caliber team. If he falls late into drafts, he will be an absolute steal.




Given the aforementioned lack of fantasy buzz around the Diamondbacks’ roster, it’s surprisingly difficult to identify players who truly qualify as bust candidates. Realistically, only two or three D-backs will crack the top-250 picks. As a result, the following players won’t make or break your team. Consider these players with a degree of skepticism if they begin climbing up boards this preseason.


Gabriel Moreno


2023 stats (380 PA): .284 AVG, 33 R, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 6 SB

Gabriel Moreno had a solid 2023 campaign. Among catchers with at least 350 PAs, he had the second-highest batting average, which has been his calling card throughout the minors. He also was among the 10 best in strikeout rate and tied the Contreras brothers for the third most steals among catchers with the same plate appearance threshold.

Early projections have Moreno adding nearly 200 PAs to his 2023 total, and as such, his home run, run, RBI, and steal totals project to increase from last season as well. Even if those projections come true, he should not be drafted at his current 150 ADP in NFBC leagues, where he is the 10th catcher off the board.

Wilson Contreras, Jonah Heim, Keibert Ruiz, and Danny Jansen all project to outproduce Moreno in at least three of the five roto categories according to the same steamer projections. Heim and Ruiz have ADPs in the 170s, while Danny Jansen has a 264 ADP.

And while Moreno has a chance at possessing the best batting average among all catchers, his flaws in other areas should hold him back from being a top 150 pick. He had a 54% groundball rate in 2023, and pulled the ball just 33% of the time. He had a lackluster 4.8% barrel rate and a four-degree launch angle. Those issues could limit his power and keep him from reaching double-digit home runs. Our PLV data shows a below-average power hitter:

Moreno would be a great draft choice, but closer to pick 200 than his current slot. You can find more value at pick 150 by going in a different direction and picking up someone like Danny Jansen or Ryan Jeffers 100 picks later.


Brandon Pfaadt


2023 stats (96 IP): 5.72 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 94 K, 3 W

This was not the debut season that many expected from Brandon Pfaadt. An offseason darling from 2023, Pfaadt disappointed fantasy managers through most of the season. He had six appearances where he allowed one run or fewer out of his 19 total appearances. After allowing 22 earned runs across 23.2 innings in May, he was demoted back to the minors.

His lone appearance in June resulted in a six-run, two-inning outing, followed by two starts in late July where he also gave up six total earned runs, albeit in 11.2 innings.

Pfaadt struggled to strike batters out at the level he was used to as a prospect, earning an 8.8 K/9 rate in the majors compared to the double-digit K/9 rates he posted through most of his time in the minors.

Part of Pfaadt’s issue on the mound was due to subpar performance from his pitches – aside from his slider.

Most of Pfaadt’s PLV on his pitches qualify them as league average, though his changeup nearly graded as a Bad Pitch. The main outlier is his slider, which Statcast calls a sweeper. That sweeper grades as a Quality Pitch according to our PLV data. It had a .180 batting average against, a 33% whiff rate, and a 25% putaway rate. Outside of that, though all of his other pitches were crushed by batters – with a .294 batting average against as the lowest among them.

Unless Pfaadt can turn things around significantly in 2024 and make some adjustments to either his pitch mix or the pitches themselves, there is no reason for him to have a 218 ADP, making him a top-60 pitcher. This is a bust waiting to happen for fantasy managers who draft him that early.

Taylor Tarter

Taylor is a fantasy baseball champion that has been playing for over a decade. Tune into his podcast, Fastball Fantasy Baseball, every Wednesday for in depth analysis making sabermetrics friendly to the everyday fantasy player.

One response to “2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Busts: Arizona Diamondbacks”

  1. Sam says:

    Great analysis. Do you think the resigning of Gurriel means McCarthy won’t get much playing time? Should we hope for a trade?

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