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10 Bold Predictions For The 2024 MLB, MiLB Seasons


Image credit: (Photo by Yankees/Getty Images)

With the 2024 season quickly approaching, let’s make some bold predictions. We dive into all levels of the game (including plenty of data) to identify potential breakout stars, the potential No. 1 pick in the draft, a pair of rising Yankees prospects to know and even a debut date for Padres star Ethan Salas. Looking for even more MLB preview content? Preorder our upcoming double issue here.

MLB Predictions 2024: Baseball America’s Ultimate Season Preview

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Juan Soto Re-Signs For 15 years, $701 Million With The Yankees

It’s been over a decade since Robinson Cano shocked the baseball world and left the Yankees to sign a free agent contract with a different team. This happens very rarely to the Yankees, as they tend to do what it takes to retain their marquee players. It would be a rather shocking outcome if the Yankees were to let a 25-year-old future hall of famer walk away in free agency.

Does this really count as a bold prediction, projecting Juan Soto will get the biggest contract in history? Perhaps not, if you assume the Yankees do whatever it takes to keep him. However, Juan Soto is only a batter, and doesn’t pitch, so in any other situation, it would be unlikely he’d command as much as Shohei Ohtani. However, with a top-shelf talent like Soto, making history with the largest contract in history will be a key priority for Scott Boras.

Luken Baker Is The Cardinals’ Starting 1B By August

If RoboScout included 26-year-olds, Luken Baker would have been the No. 1 player. He clearly figured something out last year. He went from a 25-year-old who hit .228/.288/.394 in AAA in 2022 (good for a 78 wRC+) to an astonishing .334/.439/.720 (180 wRC+). He’s actually very similar to Michael Busch in age and career trajectory, though Busch’s 2023 wasn’t quite as spectacular.

Michael Busch has been a mainstay on Baseball America’s Top 100 since 2021, ranking No. 87 in 2021, No.76 in 2022, No. 54 in 2023 and No. 40 this year. It’s quite possible that Baker is a better hitter than Busch, albeit with more question marks.

A simple way to project MLB hitters is to look at their Swinging Strike Rate (swings and misses per pitch) combined with their ability to do damage. Generally speaking, you want to be in the magic quadrant (top right). The color indicates the launch angle that the hitter produced, with higher being better, up to around 20 degrees.

Let’s dig a little deeper on Busch and Baker:

luken bakerFastballSliderCurveballchangeupsinker
Home Runs79356
Slugging on Contact.7951.1111.1881.036.814
EV90th (104 = AVG)107105107107108
Average Exit Velo9293978891
Launch Angle1722141110

We see that Baker does most of his damage against non-fastballs, and absolutely crushes sliders. Baker looks like a very well-rounded hitter, without any clear weaknesses in his offensive profile. I’d chalk up the poor MLB performance to an adjustment period.

Michael BuschFastballSliderCurveballchangeupsinker
Home Runs107134
Slugging on Contact.730.915.773.789.813
EV90th (104 = AVG)106103102104105
Average Exit Velo9589859090
Launch Angle172811133

Busch doesn’t quite hit the ball as hard as Baker does, but he makes a little more contact, especially against fastballs. He also has a lot more defensive value, which is a large reason he is ranked much higher, though it might be closer than you think. Paul Goldschmidt is in his final year of his contract, so depending on how the Cardinals do this year, Baker may be the starting first baseman sooner rather than later.

Kyle Hurt Is The Dodgers’ Closer By Season’s End

If we filter for pitchers who threw at least 90 innings last year, Kyle Hurt led all minor leaguers with a 39.2% strikeout percentage (Wikelman Gonzalez was second at 35.2%) and a 27.8 strikeout-to-walk percentage, just edging out Drew Thorpe. Hurt ranks as the Dodgers’ No. 6 Prospect entering 2024, squeezed in between Josue De Paula and River Ryan, two very strong prospects. While Hurt has a chance to be a starter, he’s only thrown more than 80 pitches four times in his career, and he’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher.

The knock on Hurt is that he has a “dead-zone” fastball. Specifically, that his fastball has about average movement, which hitters are very used to seeing and can do a lot of damage against. This makes him rate poorly on most public stuff models. But there’s a certain pitcher who just signed a massive three-year contract with very similar fastball shape:

FOUR SEAM FASTBALLKyle hurt (AAA+MLB)Zack wheeler
Height6′ 3″6′ 4″
Release Height5.6′5.4′
Release Side-1.1′-2.0′
Induced Vertical Break14.5″14.8″
Horizontal Break-7.9-6.1
Height Adjusted VAA+0.45°+0.47°
Spin Rate (RPM)1,9652,494

This is not saying Hurt will suddenly become Wheeler. But their fastballs have very similar shapes and performance, which supports the notion that Hurt’s fastball performance is better than the raw IVB numbers would suggest. I ran these numbers by a couple of people who build Stuff+ models, and it would appear that the big difference is the release. It will be interesting to see if the models got it right, or if Kyle will hurt the models.

Joe Boyle Is The New Spencer Strider

In 2022, Spencer Strider ranked as the No. 5 Prospect in the Braves system on the strength of his plus-plus four-seam fastball and vertical slider. His scouting report at the time questioned whether Strider could become a viable starter.

This year, Joe Boyle ranks as Oakland’s No. 8 Prospect. His report describes his elite fastball and a slider that may be even better. Sound familiar?

There’s actually another pitcher that I want to compare Boyle to, specifically the incomparable (pun intended) Eury Perez.

Height6′ 7″6′ 8″
Release Height6.3′6.1′
Release Side-0.6′-1.8′
Induced Vertical Break16.6″17.8″
Horizontal Break-4.8-8.8
Height Adjusted VAA-0.07°+0.16°
Spin Rate (RPM)2,4562,634

I picked Perez since he’s of a similar physical stature to Boyle with similar release points, velo, spin and movement profiles. In fact, they also shared a lot of performance metrics, both with surprisingly middling results, compared to what the shape and velo would suggest. Boyle’s slider makes him special. He throws it at 88 mph with bat-missing depth (-2.5 IVB is exceptional), a dominant 19.1 swinging strike percentage and a 45% whiff rate. If there’s a pitcher out there who can dominate with two pitches the way Strider does, it could just be Boyle, who has made enormous strides (pun intended) with his command.

Henry Lalane Reaches Triple-A And Becomes A Top 10 Prospect

Prospect buzz has an interesting way of percolating through the baseball world. If you listen and follow people who cover the games at ballparks, they’ll often share what people inside baseball are telling them, and you can pick out the guys that the industry is buzzing about. One of those guys is Henry Lalane, who is universally praised and has the type of profile that can make a huge leap, with enough of a stateside track record to have confidence in the projection. Plus command, with good shape and velo on the fastball, a present breaking ball, and a tall athletic frame all point toward a player with a lot of upside.

Geoff Pontes covered him in his 10 MLB prospects who impressed, and he just missed the RoboScout top 100. Josh Norris covered him here.


Henry Lalane is a long ways away from the major leagues… But his combo of power and command is rare for a 19-year-old, even more rare from a 6-foot-7 lefthander 👀 #mlb#baseball#prospect#baseballszn#baseballprospects#baseballprospect#pitcher#pitch#mlbdraft#mlbdraft2024#milb#minorleaguebaseball#fastball#yankees#yankeesbaseball

♬ original sound – Baseball America

Shane Bieber Returns To 2019-2020 Form

Shane Bieber is still a young pitcher in his prime at 28 years old. When he was at his best, he was sitting 93-94 with his fastball, which helped his other pitches play up and turned him into a strikeout machine. What’s interesting about Bieber is that despite the decline in fastball velo over the last three seasons, his slider and curveball maintained their velo. Breaking balls and offspeed pitches are much more effective when they have an optimal velo separation from the primary fastball, and for Bieber, that means he needs his fastball to sit around 94.

Over the offseason, Bieber went to Driveline and was sitting 93-94 in his first spring training start. If that velo holds, and he stays healthy, we could be looking at Prime Bieber, and a potentially huge payday for him next offseason.

Charlie Condon Is the Consensus No.1 Pick And A Top 5 Prospect

As of March 5, Charlie Condon is averaging over 100 MPH on his exit velocities. More importantly, he’s exhibiting elite zone contact and elite plate discipline, all in an athletic 6-foot-6 frame. Players like Oneil Cruz, Elly De La Cruz, James Wood and Spencer Jones are proving to the baseball world that you can excel as a tall athlete. Chase rates, exit velocities and contact rates are very good predictors, even in small sample sizes, which strongly suggest that Condon has made a leap going into his draft year.

Defensive fit was Condon’s big question mark entering the season. The early signs on defense are very positive, as he might be able to hold down third base. If he continues to hit the way he has early on, he’ll be on a Wyatt Langford trajectory and this prediction won’t feel quite so bold.

You can read more about Charlie Condon in our 2024 Draft Rankings.

Bryce Miller Gets Top 3 in Cy Young Voting

The stuff models are multiplying! The most public pitch quality model is the one managed by Eno Sarris of The Athletic, with the old version currently hosted on FanGraphs. If we filter Eno’s model to pitchers with at least 1,000 fastballs and 300 sliders, we get this chart:

That’s an elite group of pitchers, along with Michael Kopech and Yusei Kikuchi. He’s now added a splitter in the offseason, which could be the tool he needs to improve against lefties.

Pitchers with good enough command of a fastball-slider combo have a very high floor of performance. If Miller can add a viable third pitch to help against lefties, he’s going to be an ace.

Ethan Salas Makes His Debut On June 1, 2024

The Padres have been extremely aggressive with Ethan Salas, pushing him all the way to Double-A last season. For context, Ethan Salas is more than 2.5 years younger than Jackson Holliday, and will be younger than pretty much every single batter selected in the upcoming draft. Salas turns 18 on June 1, which would make for an excellent debut date.

Spencer Jones Becomes The No. 1 Prospect In Baseball

Spencer Jones gets compared a lot to Aaron Judge, for good reasons. I think a better comp is actually Elly De La Cruz, as they share the same weaknesses: less than ideal swing and miss, and less than ideal launch angles. They also share the same strengths, top-end speed, athleticism and true 80-grade raw power. Jones did not swing and miss at any pitches tracked by Statcast during his time in major league camp this spring, demonstrating a keene eye at the plate.

He also did this:

The biggest part of Jones’ game that is often missed is his speed, not necessarily the quick acceleration, but the kind of speed that allows a player to cover a ton of ground in center field. This tweet from Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) tells you want kind of athlete he is.

If the improvements Jones showed early in spring training are real, we may see him patrolling center field in the Bronx sooner rather than later.

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