5 Outfield Busts for 2024 Fantasy Baseball

Outfielders to avoid in fantasy drafts.

Discovering players you adore in fantasy drafts is delightful and rewarding, especially if your convictions prove to be fruitful at the season’s end. It’s equally important to label players you’ll avoid – at least at their current draft position.

When it comes to the players that roam the outfield grass, there are plenty of options, affording ample opportunity for managers to fill up their rosters with confidence-inducing players. Most leagues, though, force fantasy managers to fill out an expansive list of outfielders which can lead to the consideration of players they may not be as comfortable drafting.

With so many options yet an equally abundant number of roster spots to fill, it can be difficult to write players off. For the sake of your fantasy teams, doing so can provide you with an edge and can educate your draft strategy. It’s not particularly enjoyable to label players as busts, but understanding which players to avoid can keep you from fretting throughout the season. It can also highlight pockets of the draft to avoid or diverge from the consensus strategy.

Below are five outfielders that should be avoided in fantasy drafts ahead of the 2024 campaign. These players shouldn’t be completely removed from fantasy managers’ draft boards (I’m bound to be proven wrong with at least a couple of them), but expectations for them should be limited, and thus, managers should be cautious and conscious when drafting them.

All ADP data has been taken from NFBC Draft Champions drafts since the new year.


Josh Lowe


I feel obligated to mention that Lowe had an incredible 2023 campaign. The 2016 first-round pick finally broke out at the major league level with 20 long balls to go with 32 swipes all while batting .292 (501 PA). That’s all well and good and the managers that capitalized on the depressed draft position he had last year will be able to tell their grandkids that they didn’t give up on Lowe when everyone else did.

That being said, there are almost too many factors fighting a repeat of his 2023 success. Lowe strikes out a lot, struggles against left-handed pitchers, severely outperformed his expected metrics, and is due for negative regression to the mean.

Beginning with the first factor, Lowe’s strikeout rate (K%) was 24.8% last year, placing him in the 35th percentile among major league hitters. It was a huge step forward from 2022 when he struck out in a third of his plate appearances. It’s still not enough to portend a batting average north of .290, let alone .280. His ability to make contact was tested all year long, and while he aced those tests with flying colors, the underlying metrics portray a hitter who will continue to struggle to put the bat on the ball.

The key alteration he made to his approach was being more aggressive. He swung more than 7% as often, mostly doing so out of the zone (+9.1% O-Swing), however, his contact metrics didn’t improve as much as the reduced strikeout rate and sky-high batting average would suggest. He merely boosted his contact rate by 2.4%, with most of his improvements coming on pitches in the zone (+6.1% Z-Contact). In fact, he swung and missed more often (+1.1% swinging-strike rate) but made up the ground by being more aggressive, leading to fewer called strikes (-4.7% called-strike rate).

So while there is a clear change in Lowe’s approach and there were minor improvements, it’s not convincing enough to suggest he’s now an elite contact hitter. Statcast would agree. Lowe’s Pitcher List expected batting average (xAVG) proves that Lowe was still an advanced hitter. His .273 xAVG was in the 87th percentile, though it was still nearly 20 points below his actual average. Furthermore, with all-encompassing batted ball metrics that don’t particularly stand out (i.e. 27.5% hard-contact rate, 40.3% ideal-contact rate) and a fly ball exit velocity (86.8 mph) that was below average, Lowe shouldn’t be expected to keep up his luck on balls in play nor should he hit for as much power.

Those are all of the fancy numbers, but if we look at surface-level stats like pitcher handedness, Lowe’s future struggles become more apparent. Versus right-handed pitchers, he slashed a robust .300/.343/.511 with a 24% strikeout rate, good for a 136 wRC+. Against southpaws, his numbers were much less appealing: .238/.284/.429 slash line, a 29.9% strikeout rate, and a 97 wRC+. Due to his diminished production against same-side pitchers, the Rays are likely to platoon him. There is a silver lining that comes with a possible platoon: Lowe’s per-game numbers are likely to be better as they’re not dragged down by his poor numbers against lefties. However, it does limit his impact on your fantasy teams as he’s sure to be limited to 500 or fewer plate appearances.

That’s where projections can be misleading. Here are the projected plate appearance numbers from three major project systems accompanied by their home run and stolen base projections.

System PA HR SB
Pitcher List 528 18 28
ATC 545 17 26
BAT X 540 16 23
Average 537.7 17 25.7

Those home run and stolen base totals look great, but if Lowe is limited to 50 or so fewer plate appearances, those numbers are likely closer to 15 and 20 in the home run and stolen base categories respectively. That’s not even mentioning the massive batting average decline all three systems are projecting (PL: .267 | ATC: .257 | BAT X: .243). All signs point to a downturn in production for Lowe in 2024, but it remains to be seen how steep.

If we take all of the information provided and place it in the context of his ADP, the “Bust” label becomes clearer. Lowe is being drafted as the 18th outfielder, inside the top 80 picks. Players drafted after him on average include Christian Yelich, Bryan Reynolds, and Kyle Schwarber. Lowe’s combination of power and speed along with the precedent he set last year makes him difficult to avoid. However, with projected production similar to that of Cedric Mullins (33rd OF, 149.7 ADP), drafting him inside of the top 100 is taking on more risk than fantasy managers should be bargaining for. If he drops closer to pick 125, take a shot on Lowe, but don’t make him your number-two outfielder in 15-team leagues by drafting him within the first 75 picks.


Lane Thomas


Thomas is similar to Lowe in that he had a breakout season providing power and speed while striking out a bit too much. The difference is that he didn’t display the batting average ceiling that Lowe hinted at in 2023. Thomas’ 2023 felt a lot more realistic than Lowe’s, and still, I’m tending to avoid him in drafts heading into 2024.

The problem that Thomas presents is that his batted ball metrics don’t stand out. They all point to a player that’s more mid than standout. His barrel rate (8.8%), ideal-contact rate (39.7%), and hard-contact rate (27.2%) were all above average, but only by the slimmest of margins. They don’t point to a player that is destined to repeat a 25/20 season and his expected metrics support that sentiment.

Thomas’ Pitcher List-powered xAVG was more than 30 points lower than his actual average while his expected slugging percentage (xSLG) and expected weighted on-base average both suggest he overperformed at the plate. His increased production in the dinger department can be attributed to a 7.1% increase in his rate of pulled batted balls, but they should have been counteracted by his decreased rate of fly balls (-3.3%). The onus for a 2024 slump can’t be solely placed on metrics that shouldn’t be used to project future performance, but it’s a sufficient place to start.

Systems that should be counted on to project future performance (read: projection systems) agree with the notion that Thomas overperformed in 2023 and is due for negative regression to the mean in 2024. Pitcher List (.249), ATC (.250), and BAT X (.246) all agree that Thomas is due to bat somewhere between .245 and .250 after batting nearly .270 in 2023. It’s a product of those uninspiring batted-ball metrics as well as his second-half slump.

Thomas batted .302 (383 PA) with 14 homers and eight stolen bases before the All-Star break but saw his numbers decline in the second half. He hit .223 but increased his power (14 HR) and speed (12 SB) outputs. The tendency to go all in for homers while becoming more aggressive on the basepaths is likely the reason he’s projected for around 20 long balls and 15 swipes, but the tumble he took in the batting average department is what will hold him back from being an elite fantasy contributor once again.

I’m also bearish that he’ll continue to produce runs at the same rate he did last year. Thomas scored 101 times and knocked in 86 runs in 2023. I don’t expect that to continue in 2024. With a less-than-stellar lineup and an OBP that will be closer to the .274 mark he posted in the second half, Thomas won’t have enough opportunities on base to score and won’t have the support behind him to drive him in. The projection systems seem to think he’ll score close to 78 times while driving in around 70 runs. Runs and RBI are categories that can easily be overlooked, but Thomas’ position on a bottom-of-the-barrel roster with poor on-base skills will limit his run-producing opportunities.

Now, we get to his position in drafts. Thomas is going off the board as the 25th outfielder with an ADP of 114.8. That’s way too early for a player that I expect to produce more similarly to the Chicago duo of Ian Happ (35th OF, 157.5 ADP) and Christopher Morel (46th OF, 206.9 ADP). Make sure to consider the entire picture of Thomas’ roller-coaster campaign and his lack of a supporting cast when drafting him closer to pick 150.


TJ Friedl


It pains me to say this, but Friedl is a bust in my book. He was an entertaining breakout last year who was going super late in drafts, making everyone who touted his skills and doubled down by drafting him look like geniuses. The production he provided at that point in drafts was almost unmatched.

2024 is likely to be a different story. I may be going against the grain with this bust pick, but I don’t buy into Friedl’s power potential, his batting average ceiling, or his grasp of the center field job in Cincinnati.

Projection systems agree that Friedl should produce power/speed numbers comparable to what he finished with last year. 15 homers and 20 steals seem to be the general consensus following an 18-homer, 27-steal campaign. While I don’t expect him to be slowed down on the bases, I can’t fathom another double-digit home run season.

The left-handed hitter sports batted ball metrics that wouldn’t stand out at the collegiate level. His 2.5% barrel rate was in the seventh percentile, his 32% ideal-contact rate in the tenth, and his 20% hard-contact rate was one of the worst in the league. Those metrics played a key role in the 100+ point difference in his expected and actual slugging percentage. Despite his innate ability to maximize his power potential with an above-average fly-ball rate (36.5%) and elite pull rate (49.6%) a la Isaac Paredes, his noodly bat has me betting the under on his 2024 home run total.

If we can’t count on him to hold his own in the power department, we should at least hope that he can repeat, or come close to, the .279 batting average he attained in 2023. Therein lies the problem, as while I’m going against projections to suggest Friedl won’t keep up his long ball pace, they do agree that he’s due for a reduction in the batting average department. The severity of that downturn in production is hotly contested but both Pitcher List and ATC see him more as a .255 hitter while BAT X’s outlook is even more negative (.246).

A more realistic outlook for Friedl is a hitter that bats .250 with 20 steals while struggling to surpass 10 dingers. If he falls off further than that already diminished expectation, his job in a crowded Reds lineup may be in jeopardy. Friedl hasn’t fallen victim to disparate platoon splits, so he’s not at risk of being benched versus southpaws, but with plenty of options to take his place, the Reds won’t hesitate to give someone else a chance if he struggles. Jonathan India is likely to see more time in the outfield and Christian Encarnacion-Strand currently doesn’t have a spot in the lineup. The same can be said for Jake Fraley who produced a 15/20 season in 2023. They have plenty of depth and positional flexibility to reduce Friedl to a bench role.

As can be expected by the format of the previous two entries, let’s take a look at Friedl’s ADP. He’s going off the board as the 34th outfielder with an ADP of 155.7. I see his production being a lot closer to that of Leody Taveras (60th OF, 268.4 ADP) than Friedl stans would like to admit. If you buy into the projections, Friedl should still be drafted 50 picks later and if you’re as nervous about drafting him as I am, I’d wait to take the risk until around pick 250. The floor is just so low while the ceiling is limited by his putrid batted-ball metrics and the glut of offensive options in Cincinnati.


Chas McCormick


What a surprise! Another breakout that I don’t expect to be repeated in 2024. McCormick finally got a shot to put his skills on display within one of the best lineups in baseball and made the most of his opportunity. He nearly missed out on a 20/20 campaign (22 HR, 19 SB) and sported a career-high .273 batting average.

While I love that he’s maintaining his standing in a deadly lineup and has little competition in the outfield, I don’t expect him to repeat those numbers in 2024 (obviously, because I’m labeling him as a bust). Nonetheless, it’s worth diving into the advanced metrics to get an idea of where I’m coming from.

McCormick does an incredible job of hitting the ball hard, sporting a barrel rate (10.8%) and ideal-contact rate (43.9%) inside the top 25% of hitters, though he curiously lands 239th in hard contact rate (24.3%). It’s due to the fact he hits most of his hard-hit balls (95+ mph) in the air, which is a good thing. I expect his power metrics to mostly stick around, leading to another 20 home run season.

The downside to hitting the ball hard only when he gets it in the air is that his line drives and grounders are usually weakly hit. Hard-hit grounders are usually looked at negatively because they often come at the cost of hard-hit fly balls. However, they can be good at producing high BABIPs. McCormick’s BABIP was somehow north of .331 despite an above-average fly ball rate and weakly hit grounders. Pitcher List’s expected BABIP doesn’t think that good luck was earned. His .247 xBABIP was in the eighth percentile and portends a downturn in his luck with balls put in play.

That BABIP luck also explains why his xAVG (.213) was in the 14th percentile. It certainly doesn’t help that he strikes out at an above-average 25.6% clip which is supported by terrible contact metrics (26th percentile Con%, 19th percentile Z-Con%). These underlying metrics have forced projection systems to forecast a steep fall in the batting average department. The consensus among the three aforementioned projection systems is .250 – a 23-point drop from 2023.

Meanwhile, McCormick is still being drafted inside the top 175 picks as the 40th outfielder off the board. I’m more comfortable with that draft slot than I am with any of the outfield busts mentioned previously, though I still think it’s too early. If McCormick has a season that’s closer to .250 with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases with run-production numbers that don’t stand out (2023: 59 R/70 RBI | 2024 Projections: 66 R/63 RBI), he may be a worthwhile pick inside the top 200. If his production on balls hit in the air subsides or he slows down on the basepaths, you’re looking at a player that’s easily replaceable on the wire in 12-teamers and can be found later in drafts in 15-teamers. It’s projected production similar to that of Lars Nootbaar (45th OF, 206.5 ADP) going more than 30 picks later and with a seemingly higher upside. McCormick is a solid pick around the 200 range, but moving him up draft boards is a risk I’m not willing to take.


James Outman


Okay, I know I’m not an unbiased baseball journalist. My disdain for the Dodgers might have outgrown my adoration of the Giants following this nightmarish offseason. That’s not the reason I’m labeling Outman as a bust (at least not the only reason).

The young outfielder had an admirable first full season during which he eclipsed 20 home runs, 15 stolen bases, and a .245 batting average. Those are clearly positives. On the negative side, Outman struck out nearly 32% of the time, struggled against left-handed pitchers, and didn’t consistently hit the ball hard.

If you thought McCormick’s contact metrics were abysmal, wait until you check out Outman’s. Things were bad across the board. Whether it be in the zone, out of the zone, or just in general, he was in the fifth percentile or worse in terms of contact. Not to mention his third-percentile whiff rate and fifth-percentile CSW%. These metrics are all to say that the 30%+ strikeout rate is here to stay and that his batting average is set to plummet to a Gallo-esque mark south of .230.

There’s actually quite a bit of disagreement on how far his batting average will fall (and it was already below .250). Pitcher List views him as a .235 hitter, ATC a .233 hitter, and The BAT X a .221 hitter. Given his .223 xAVG, sub-.300 xBABIP (.343 BABIP in 2023), high FB% (37.3%), and sub-optimal hard contact rate (21.3%), I’m leaning more towards The BAT X’s projection.

At least the power is here to stay…not so fast. His 10.1% barrel rate and 42.2% ideal-contact rate suggest future success in the home run department. However, this is a player heavily reliant on pulled-fly balls. Unlike Friedl and Paredes who display poor batted ball metrics but make up for it by aiming the ball in the air to the pull side, Outman has both. That should mean he’s a guy that has even more power potential than those players with similar batted ball profiles but worse hard-hit metrics. What has me leaning toward projecting him for a power outage is an inkling that he becomes more intent on fixing his contact woes. Whether that leads to increased production in both the contact and power departments or to a leveling out remains to be seen, but I think the latter is more likely and would make him even less appealing.

To my surprise, Outman is going inside the top 200 picks as the 43rd outfielder off the board. That’s way too early if he performs closer to his BAT X projection and probably still too soon if he’s closer to the more bullish projections via Pitcher List and ATC. This is all without mentioning that those systems don’t expect him to be platooned despite below-league-average production against southpaws and plenty of outfield depth to support such a strategy. His projected power and speed totals should be lower given that they all see Outman surpassing 500 plate appearances once again. I don’t expect that to happen, especially if he continues to struggle with the punchouts. The Dodgers are intent on winning it all this year and they won’t think twice about supplanting him in center if he struggles. This may seem harsh, but go get Seth Brown (116th OF, 464.9 ADP) instead. His .230/20/7 projection is a lot closer to Outman’s projection than you’d expect. All he’s missing is the run production numbers, but that 250-pick difference in the draft room will make up for it.


Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Jake Crumpler

A Bay Area sports fan and lover of baseball, Jake is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in English Literature. He currently writes fantasy articles for Pitcher List, is the lead baseball writer at The Athletes Hub, and does playing time analysis at BaseballHQ. Some consider his knowledge of the sport to be encyclopedic.

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