2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Busts: Kansas City Royals

The Royals players to target and avoid this draft season.

The Kansas City Royals were bad, to say the least in 2023. The club tied a franchise record for losses (106), which wasn’t exactly the plan after the Royals fired Dayton Moore, who had led the organization since 2006.

Granted, last season was an “evaluation” one which made sense with GM JJ Picollo in his first season leading the Royals without Moore’s influence, and Matt Quatraro leading the Royals on the field in his first season as manager. The Royals found their superstar of the future in Bobby Witt, Jr., who hit 30 HR, collected 49 SB, and produced a 5.7 fWAR. Furthermore, Cole Ragans, who came over from Texas in the Aroldis Chapman trade, demonstrated that he could be a long-term “ace” for this franchise, as he produced a 2.64 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 12 starts and 71.2 IP with the Royals.

Other than those two though, it was a bleak year for players in Kansas City, both young and old, though hope and reinforcements seem to be coming for 2024.

Kansas City has had one of the most aggressive offseasons for a team not named the Dodgers. They signed veteran starters Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to boost their rotation, which was one of the league’s worst beyond Ragans. The bullpen struggled after Scott Barlow was traded to San Diego at the Trade Deadline, and this winter, the Royals have added veterans Will Smith, Nick Anderson, and Chris Stratton. Lastly, the Royals added position player depth by acquiring Hunter Renfroe and Garrett Hampson via free agency.

The Royals are looking to at least throw their hat in the ring in a division that looks shaky beyond the Minnesota Twins, who won the division last season despite winning only 87 games. While the new faces should help in that endeavor, the Royals will need some players to step up in 2024.

Consequently, some of those players are also fantasy sleepers who could boost managers’ fantasy rosters in 2024.




James McArthur


2023 Stats (23.1 IP):  4.63 ERA | 0.94 WHIP | 23 K | 4 SV

Closing out ball games was difficult for the Royals in the last couple of months after the team traded Barlow at the trade deadline. One reliever who did step up though was McArthur, whom the Royals acquired from Philadelphia in an early May trade that received little fantasy attention at the time.

It was rough sledding initially for McArthur, who had a rough debut against Cleveland on June 28th. He gave up seven runs on six hits and one walk in one inning of work (which resulted in him being immediately demoted afterward).

In September though, McArthur was borderline elite. In 12 games and 16.1 IP that month, he allowed no runs, only five hits, and zero walks while striking out 19 and posting a CSW% of 35.4 and PLV of 5.56.

His strong finish to the year improved his overall PLV numbers to impressive levels with his curveball not only being his best pitch on a PLV end but his most thrown one as well.

Courtesy of Pitcher List

For context, his curveball ranked in the 97th percentile in PLV last season and it also produced an O-Swing% of 43.6% and a swinging-strike rate of 18.6%. Those percentages ranked in the 92nd and 86th percentile, respectively. And while the numbers and PLV chart are eye-popping, his strikeouts of Houston’s Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the ninth in high-leverage opportunities further show that McArthur has legitimate closer stuff.


McArthur’s ADP is currently 296th, according to Fantasy Pros. That puts him as a 24th-25th rounder in traditional 12-team formats.

Granted, his role is unclear as of now, and he may have to earn the job in Spring Training (especially from proven veterans like Smith and Anderson). That said, the skills from McArthur are solid and he should be worth a late-round flyer if available.


MJ Melendez


2023 Stats: (602 PA): .235 AVG | 65 R | 16 HR | 56 RBI | 6 SB

Last season, Melendez got a lot of hype as a fantasy hitter who possessed catcher and outfield eligibility. Unfortunately, he struggled out of the gate in 2023 and it was likely that many fantasy managers who drafted Melendez ended up cutting him by June.

While Melendez’s overall numbers from 2023 weren’t impressive, his second half certainly was worth noting, which can be seen in the table below.

MJ Melendez Splits-2023

After posting a 68 wRC+ before the All-Star Break, Melendez posted a wRC+ that was 56 points higher in the second half. In addition, Melendez cut his K rate by 3.6% while improving his walk rate by 0.4% after the All-Star Break. Down the stretch, Melendez suddenly looked like the player who was getting so much hype during the draft season.

PLV metrics also support that Melendez was better in 2023 than his surface-level metrics indicated. That is especially true in his decision-making at the plate and power. Both of those PLV categories for Melendez were fine overall, even though the results weren’t necessarily reflected in traditional metrics.

Melendez’s decision value chart shows that his runs adder per 100 pitches mark sat above the league average for the season. However, his decision-making was exceptional down the stretch, as he was in the 90th percentile by the end of the season.

As for power though, he touched the 90th percentile in expected extra bases added per BBE multiple times, including at the beginning of the year. Therefore, while his decision-making at the plate needed some maturing throughout the 2023 season, his power had been there throughout, which shows that it’s a skill set that will likely transition into 2024.

It may be tough for fantasy managers to re-invest in Melendez in drafts this year, especially if they did last year and got burned. However, while his catcher eligibility is questionable, he’s got 20-25 HR potential for next season, which isn’t a bad skill set to have for a corner outfielder.




Brady Singer


2023 Stats (159.2 IP):  5.52 ERA | 1.45 WHIP | 133 K | 8 W

Singer ranks 135th in Nick Pollack’s Top 200 Starting Pitchers for Fantasy Baseball in 2024 and is categorized in the “Late Round Dart Throw” tier. He is ranked ahead of arms like Frankie Montas and Jordan Wicks but behind Tanner Houck and Alex Cobb. Hence, fantasy managers may wonder why Singer would be categorized as a “bust” when expectations for him are so low, especially after a disappointing 2023 campaign that saw him shelved at the end of the year due to a back injury.

Well, it is easy to get tempted by what Singer did in 2022 when he appeared to be on the cusp of being one of the best young starters in baseball.

Here’s a look at Singer’s career numbers since he debuted in 2020 and his FIP from 2023 demonstrated that he may not have been that far off from his 2022 numbers had he gotten more batted-ball luck.

Singer Career-2020 to 2023

Singer was particularly hampered by a .329 BABIP and a 64.9% LOB%, with the latter being a career worst. Thus, it’s not surprising that Singer’s 4.29 FIP last year was 1.23 points lower than his ERA. If the BABIP and LOB% stabilize a bit in 2024, it isn’t out of the question to think that Singer could produce an ERA in 2024 that’s closer to his 2023 or 2021 FIP.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to buy into Singer’s outlook in 2024 when one looks at the PLV metrics on his pitch repertoire from the past two seasons. Singer relies heavily on his sinker (51% usage) and slider (43% usage) and his sinker saw a major decline in PLV from 2022 to last year.

Singer’s sinker went from a 4.91 PLV and 3.56 PLA in 2022 to a 4.66 PLV and 4.88 PLA in 2023, which are both significant declines. The decline in pitch quality, as well as velocity (93.7 MPH in 2022; 92.1 MPH in 2023), are both concerning signs for Singer and his ability to bounce back as a dependable fantasy starter in 2024.

Fantasy managers may be tempted to pick up Singer in the late rounds as a dart throw. However, there are better dart throws out there in those final rounds, including on the Royals team (Daniel Lynch and/or Angel Zerpa have a much better upside though much more risk than Singer).


Nelson Velázquez


2023 Stats: (179 PA): .235 AVG | 35 R | 17 HR | 34 RBI | 0 SB

Velázquez came over to the Royals from the Cubs in a trade that sent reliever Jose Cuas to the North Side. After failing to get much consistent playing time in Chicago, the Royals gave Velázquez an opportunity for everyday at-bats and he took advantage in a big way.

Over 40 games and 147 plate appearances in Kansas City, Velázquez hit 14 home runs, scored 27 runs, and collected 28 RBI. The Puerto Rican-born hitter also produced a barrel rate of 22% and an HR/FB rate of 29.8% with the Royals in his short stint in 2023. Those eye-popping numbers suddenly got him on the radar among fantasy managers down the stretch.

Velázquez’s power appears legitimate, which can be seen in his PLV power chart from a season ago.

Courtesy of Pitcher List

Yikes. Look how far his expected extra bases added per BBE trend line is above that 90th percentile. That’s elite power, plain and simple.

On the other hand, while Velázquez can belt the ball a long way, his ability to make consistent contact is a different story.

Last year, he struck out 29.5% of the time with the Royals and only produced a meager 0.26 BB/K ratio. Furthermore, his 67.5% contact rate is also a major red flag, especially since it was nearly 10% lower than the league average last year.

Velázquez’s major issue was making contact against breaking and offspeed pitches. His whiff rate hovered between 40 and 50% against both pitches over his last two months in 2023.

Courtesy of Baseball Savant

The good thing is that Velázquez doesn’t chase much (31.7% O-Swing% in KC). If he can improve his batting eye even a little bit in 2024 he could turn into a Jorge Soler-esque hitter. That could make him an intriguing later-round pickup in fantasy drafts.

That said, he will probably go earlier than expected in drafts (ADP of 305 according to Fantasy Pros). To make matters more complicated, his playing time is unclear after the Royals acquired fellow right fielder Renfroe this offseason.

There are just too many question marks with Velázquez right now to trust him with any kind of reasonable draft pick.

Photo by Scott Winters, Bob Kupbens | Icon Sportswire
Adapted by Kurt Wasemiller (@KUWasemiller on Twitter / @kurt_player02 on Instagram)

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien is a high school educator and baseball blogger based in the Kansas City metro area. In addition to writing for Pitcher List, he writes about the Kansas City Royals at his own blog, the Royals Reporter, which can be found at royalsreporter.com.

One response to “2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers & Busts: Kansas City Royals”

  1. John Sheets says:

    Would love to hear your take on Nick Pratto. I don’t want to go as far as calling him the next Billy Butler, but I just don’t see, sans an injury to Vinnie, how he cracks the lineup in anyway other than DH. What is his future in KC? Thanks!

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