Four Second-Year MLB Players to Watch in 2024
As spring training approaches, optimism abounds for players entering their second MLB seasons. These four promising yet flawed sophomores have evident areas to address if they hope to take the next step in 2024. All four players showed potential in their rookie years but also exhibited clear flaws that hindered their overall performance. With opening day fast approaching, there is still time for these four to make improvements before the 2024 season gets underway.
Our top online sportsbook has the odds for which of these second-year players will take the biggest leap. Taj Bradley has the most well-rounded arsenal and could develop into a frontline starter if he curbs the home runs. Jordan Walker offers the most enticing power/speed combo and projects as an All-Star slugger if his defense becomes merely adequate. Brenton Doyle and Nolan Schanuel face steeper climbs at the plate but can carve out larger roles by making more contact and tapping into raw power, respectively.
Reining in the Long Ball for Taj Bradley
Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Taj Bradley was thrust into action sooner than expected last season, compiling a mediocre 5.59 ERA over 104 innings. The main culprit—the long ball. Bradley was one of nine hurlers to allow over two homers per nine frames.
However, Bradley did post the highest strikeout rate of that group, fanning more than 11 batters per nine. His above-average arsenal and impressive 3.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio indicate a potential mid-rotation starter. The question is whether Bradley’s home run issues stem from skill deficiencies or sheer misfortune.
The 22-year-old deserves the benefit of the doubt in just his first big-league exposure. With continued refinement of his quality of contact measures, Bradley should land between 2022’s excessive homer rate and a league-average mark. That would portend a breakout sophomore effort.
Making More Contact for Brenton Doyle
Colorado Rockies center fielder Brenton Doyle claimed a Gold Glove thanks to sensational defense, baserunning, and speed. But his bat proved woefully unproductive, even accounting for the hitter’s haven of Coors Field. Doyle batted just .203 with nearly seven times as many punch outs as walks.
Rather than overhaul Doyle’s entire offensive approach, the focal point should be improving contact skills. He’ll never provide power, but leveraging his wheels as a slap hitter could make Doyle less of an automatic out. It’s a tall task, but the 26-year-old’s elite glovework allows ample opportunity to hone his plate skills.
Unlocking Power Potential for Nolan Schanuel
Nolan Schanuel, the Los Angeles Angels’ 2023 first-round pick, reached the big leagues just weeks after being drafted from Florida Atlantic University. The first baseman showed quality contact and on-base abilities in 29 games, with strong chase and whiff rates.
However, Schanuel’s complete lack of power raised concerns about his offensive profile. He mustered just one home run and four extra-base hits, resulting in a slugging percentage that would have ranked last among qualified first basemen. His max exit velocity of 103.5 mph also ranked at the bottom of the league.
Schanuel’s power capacity has always been a divisive subject among evaluators. But after his early MLB returns, the skeptical camp seems correct thus far. Still, the 23-year-old’s meteoric rise allows leeway to unlock his strength over a full season. Bolstering thump is vital for sticking at first base long term.
Smoothing Out the Rough Edges for Jordan Walker
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker will go as far as his thunderous bat takes him. But the potential slugger could improve his underwhelming defense that placed near the bottom of MLB in advanced metrics. Although Walker has impressive speed for his 6-foot-6 frame, he sometimes displayed indecision and tentativeness in the grass.
In fairness, 2022 was Walker’s first full season roaming the outfield after previously playing third base. So added experience should help the 21-year-old smooth out his defensive game. He may never resemble a Gold Glover, but marginal upgrades could complement Walker’s special offensive talents.
As spring training commences, these four ascending yet flawed sophomores have evident areas requiring attention before the 2024 MLB season. How well Taj Bradley, Brenton Doyle, Nolan Schanuel, and Jordan Walker address their respective deficiencies will go a long way toward determining if they make the vital leap in their second big-league years. If able to properly develop, all four have the raw abilities to become impact regulars.
Now comes the time for unchecked optimism and positive projections before cold reality sets in. As part of our ongoing MLB free predictions and analysis, be sure to monitor these four young talents throughout spring training and into the 2024 campaign. We’ll soon find out if they can turn their potential into production by correcting the flaws in their developing games.