2024 Fantasy Baseball: 24 last-minute draft tips ahead of MLB Opening Day

It's been a full fantasy baseball preseason at Yahoo Sports. We've ranked and we've mocked. We've given you sleepers and picks and pans, broken down the positions, offered up long-form strategy.

Today's goal is something different. Quick-hitters. Cliff notes. Imagine you and I bumped into each other at the airport or the local market and you had just a few minutes for some last-second tips. These are the things I would likely share with you before we parted, my 24 best swing thoughts for fantasy baseball 2024.

Let's get moving. I don't want you to miss that flight, or miss out on your glorious run to a championship.

[Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

1) Injury optimism is not your friend, especially with pitchers who got hurt (or revealed fresh injuries) in the spring.

Unless the discount is gigantic with these players, I will not draft them. Gerrit Cole is the most obvious name that applies here.

2) The AL Central is a division filled with soft, pillowy landings. The Twins are the nominal favorite, but it's a roster filled with notoriously brittle players. Everyone else in the division would be thrilled to merely climb over .500. Although divisional matchups don't dominate the schedule like they once did, I want pitchers in this cushy division. I will also attack the AL Central with in-season streaming decisions.

3) In most mixed-league Salary Cap drafts, I'll lean towards a stars-and-scrubs approach, for two reasons. Obviously, the top of my roster will be filled with high-end talent. But the second aspect is I want the bottom 15% of my roster to be fluid, a group that I can easily cut from as new players emerge. The most significant free-agent portion of any fantasy season is the early weeks.

4) There are no real cheat codes when it comes to fantasy baseball picks — your roster requires too many players for anyone to carry a league-winner tag. But the best cheat-code strategy I have is to share a team with a trusted friend. This will work best if the tandem has a similar commitment level and view of the MLB landscape, but when the fit is right, you've significantly improved your chances to win. You also have someone to share the journey with, and someone to share the work with.

5) The six offenses I most want to invest in: Dodgers, Braves, Phillies, Astros, Rangers and Orioles. The five I most want to avoid: White Sox, Athletics, Royals (Bobby Witt Jr. obviously an exception), Marlins and (sadly) the Rockies. And please stop drafting Kris Bryant. The cheese has gone bad.

6) The Cleveland offense will probably be just a little bit below average, but it scares me from drafting José Ramírez at ADP. Your early picks should excite you, and your early picks should be tied to plus offenses. (Witt again is an exception, because he doesn't need teammates to help when he's piling up stolen bases.)

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

7) You can wait on catcher, even if your league requires two starters. Let that position come to you. I'd love to see what a healthy Mitch Garver could do with a full season of at-bats; he's catcher eligible but will be DHing primarily, and perhaps batting cleanup.

8) You can be patient with closers, even as most mixed-league teams will want at least two solid guys. I prefer to let the top-tier stoppers go, then aim for relievers in the 5-12 range. Camilo Doval fits this idea nicely; Jordan Romano was an early plan, but that elbow injury pushed me away.

9) George Kirby is the primary target, but I like all five members of the Seattle starting rotation. The run-suppressing ballpark doesn't hurt, either. Yes, please.

10) Batting average and runs scored are generally the two most under-appreciated offensive categories. I want all of my mixed-league teams to be dynamic in runs scored, which probably means I landed a bunch of high-slotted hitters (and OBP sources) in quality lineups.

11) Only name-brand recognition is keeping Mike Trout inside the top 50 of ADP. He's no longer a runner, his batting average keeps creeping down and we have to assume he'll miss a month of playing time, at minimum. Trout used to clobber fastballs up in the zone; now, they're his swing-and-miss pitch. The lineup around Trout is also a problem.

12) Sometimes Trea Turner sneaks into the second round, and that's a snap call. Last year's slow start made sense, given the move and big contract. He was back to his overlord ways down the stretch. I also want some Bryce Harper shares before my draft season is over.

13) Sometimes Marcus Semien steals into the third round, and that's a snap call. Some will frame Semien's remarkable games-played log as a fluke, but that misses the point. Sure, Semien has been fortunate not to have a fluky injury fall his way, but his full-season record reflects how well he takes care of his body, prepares for the schedule, and wants to play every game possible. The 162 drumbeat on his stat page is a feature, not a bug.

14) Aaron Nola is probably around the plate a little too much for his own good, and the Phillies outfield defense generally concerns me. I haven't considered him once all draft season.

15) Logan Webb is the most underrated pitcher in the National League. His strikeout rate is ordinary but it's mitigated by his microscopic walk rate; K/BB ratio is still the purest pitcher metric we have. Webb doesn't have a blazing fastball, but with his ground-ball tilt, it doesn't matter. The Giants will offer even better defensive support this year, adding third-base wizard Matt Chapman. And you can argue that Webb's heater sitting in the 91-92 range makes him less likely to break down, putting less strain on his body. Throw in the roomy dimensions of the home ballpark and I want as many Webb shares as I can get.

16) Plausible upside is what matters with your late pitching picks; it's the wrong time to target older pitchers who are more defined by floor. Brandon Pfaadt has crept inside the top 200 but I still want you to circle him; he figured things out down the stretch last year and was outstanding in the playoffs. He has breakout written all over him.

17) There's nothing hidden about Tarik Skubal (his 2023 finish was too electric), and there's helium baked into that top-50 ADP. Generally, I'm allergic to this sort of buzz, but he's the type of pitcher I want to go the extra buck on.

18) Whenever possible I want to draft offensive players who have broad skill sets, guys who are good at several things even if they're not truly outstanding in any one column. If you select a specialist in the middle of the draft, you might back yourself into a corner later. Bill James tried to tell us so long ago: subtle versatility is often underrated, and specialists are often overrated.

19) Platoons suffocate the mixed-league value of any hitter. Jarred Kelenic's fantasy value took a bath when the Braves added Adam Duvall a week ago. And even when Kelenic plays, he's probably in the bottom third of the order. At the moment, he looks like the No. 9 man for Atlanta.

20) Don't watch your closers live, it will only spike your blood pressure. I don't care who it is or how many saves in a row they've converted.

21) Although I want to build an offensive foundation early (I won't even look at a pitcher for the first 2-3 rounds), I accept that through about 15 rounds, I should have four or five pitchers. I've seen some experienced managers make extreme draft strategies work, and you know your setup better than I do — perhaps you can throw a knuckleball at your room and get away with it. But I would advise most managers to consider something more balanced. And if I'm one of the last teams to take my SP1, I'll probably try to be early for my SP2.

22) If you're in the middle of a Yahoo draft and unsure who to select, open a different window and look at the free-agent tab from the main commissioner page. You can sort by roster percentage and get a good "wisdom of crowds" suggestion.

23) Whatever your draft plan is, sketch it in pencil. Allow yourself to be flexible in-draft, ready to take advantage of whatever surprise nuances and values that come your way. A rigid plan is a bad plan.

24) Listen to everyone you respect, but make your own decisions. Measure several times, cut once.