The 7 players we're most excited to watch in 2024

December 28th, 2023

, , and are just some of the many players who dazzled and shined in the 2023 season.

As the new year approaches, it’s time to look forward to the 2024 season and the teams, players and storylines we’re looking forward to. With that in mind, we asked seven writers about players they are excited to watch next season. The list provided a blend of established superstars, two potential impact rookies and a veteran who might find himself in Cooperstown someday.

Here are the seven players that we’re looking forward to seeing in action during the 2024 season.

Juan Soto, LF, Yankees

A generational talent joining the most storied franchise in sports? Get your popcorn ready. Soto has proven himself on the big stage time and again, from his five homers and .554 slugging percentage as a 20- and 21-year-old in the 2019 postseason with the World Series-champion Nationals to winning the 2022 Home Run Derby amid swirling trade rumors.

What do we mean by generational? Soto is one of six players with multiple seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 walks before turning 25. The others: (three such seasons), , , and . Soto is one of just 44 players to amass at least 3,000 plate appearances through his age-24 season, a selective group already, requiring a young debut and staying power. His 157 OPS+ ranks fifth among that group through his age-24 season, behind only (176), (170), Mantle (166) and Foxx (166).

Soto is a three-time All-Star and just turned 25. On Opening Day, he’ll play for his third MLB team. Soto will be the first player to make at least three All-Star teams and change teams twice all before turning 26, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Nobody had ever been traded twice this young while being this good. And now we get the joy of seeing a third fanbase become enthralled with Soto’s game. Baseball is the best.

-- Sarah Langs

Zack Greinke, RHP, FA

We need one more season of Greinke.

One of the best pitchers of his generation and one of the most interesting men in the baseball world deserves to cap off his career with one of pitching's greatest milestones: joining the 3,000-strikeout club. Greinke has 2,979 K's. He's just 21 away. And you couldn't pick a more deserving pitcher to do it. Reaching 3,000 strikeouts could put Greinke over the top as a Hall of Famer. And after him, (2,944 K's) and potentially  (2,152 K's), we might not see another 3,000-strikeout pitcher for a while.

It looked like Greinke might retire, but now the latest reports are that the 40-year-old is ready to pitch another year. Let's find him a team and make Greinke 3,000 happen. Greinke getting his 3,000th strikeout would be one of the best moments of the 2024 season.

-- David Adler

Paul Skenes, RHP, Pirates

We have enjoyed a lot of highly anticipated, thrilling debuts in recent years. But how many of those involved pitchers? Not many. That’s why Skenes feels like a breath of fresh air. The top overall pick in 2023, Skenes is right up there with Stephen Strasburg as one of the best pitching prospects in Draft history. (It just so happens Strasburg authored an especially compelling debut.)

Skenes has pretty much everything you could want in a pitcher: an imposing, sturdy frame (6-foot-6, 235 pounds), a power fastball, a wipeout breaking pitch (his slider), a solid changeup and the control to make all that stuff work. He was overwhelming at LSU, where he won a College World Series title, and he flashed his top-of-the-rotation ability during a brief pro debut this past summer. Skenes has already moved quickly in the Pirates’ system, and as long as he is healthy, he figures to stand a good chance of reaching Pittsburgh by midseason. Whenever that happens, there will be a lot of eyes on a pitcher who could lead the next generation of MLB aces -- and perhaps help bring playoff baseball back to the Steel City.

-- Andrew Simon

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP, Dodgers

Few MLB offseasons followed the futures of individual players quite like this one. From the Ohtani sweepstakes that ended with the two-way superstar signing with the Dodgers to Soto getting traded to the Yankees, the sheer star talent on the move has dominated headlines.

Next up on that list was Yamamoto, the Japanese phenom who signed a record-breaking 12-year, $325 million deal with the Dodgers. After weeks of intense competition for the right-hander's services from other big market teams like the Mets, Yankees and Giants, Yamamoto ultimately agreed to a deal with the Dodgers mere days after Ohtani officially signed with the club. The 25-year-old ace is one of the most decorated pitchers in Japanese baseball history and had a lengthy list of suitors looking to sign him this winter.

The Dodgers are the lucky winner for the Yamamoto sweepstakes and should be rewarded with a potential Cy Young Award candidate who blends elite stuff with plus-plus command. With Ohtani sidelined as a pitcher for next season, Yamamoto might be the single-most watched pitcher in 2024 -- and for good reason.

-- Brent Maguire

Elly De La Cruz, SS, Reds

How could you not be gobsmacked by what we saw from De La Cruz in his debut season? Think of the superlatives he earned in 2023. He is MLB’s fastest player. He’s so fast that he can steal three bases in a figurative blink

Among infielders, his throws are the strongest. De La Cruz turns routine groundouts into must-watch moments.

He hits the ball the hardest -- or just about. This 119.2 mph home run against the Guardians in September represented the third-highest exit velocity on any batted ball last season and the second-highest on a homer, trailing this no-doubter from National League MVP Ronald Acuña Jr.

Yes, De La Cruz is a flawed player. His 55.3% groundball rate is much too high, and his 33.7% strikeout rate is rather unsightly. However, he’s still just 21 years old. There is plenty of time for him to adjust and improve. Seeing how he can build upon his rookie year should be atop any baseball fan’s list of most anticipated things for 2024.

-- Brian Murphy

Spencer Strider, SP, Braves

Strider’s strikeout stuff is simply unparalleled among Major League starters. The Braves right-hander fanned 281 batters in 186 2/3 innings in 2023, leading all of MLB in strikeouts and setting a Modern Era single-season franchise record in the process. There’s no denying Strider wasn’t at his best in 2023 -- he posted a 3.86 ERA despite strong Statcast metrics -- but the 25-year-old is in a class of his own among MLB starters.

For one thing, Strider throws just three pitches: a fastball that averaged 97.2 mph with strong vertical movement, a slider with a ridiculous 55.3% whiff rate and a little-used changeup that held hitters to a .122 average and a .184 slugging percentage in 2023. His 36.8% strikeout rate led all qualifying starters by a large margin -- was second at 33.4% -- and the only four players ahead of Strider in that metric were elite relievers: , , and .

Not only is he backed by a fun (and stacked) Braves lineup, but Strider has a realistic shot to hit the 300-strikeout mark in 2024 (Cole and in 2019 were MLB’s most recent 300-K pitchers). Even if he doesn’t reach that number, Strider is always a joy to watch, and 2024 should be another great year for him.

-- Theo DeRosa

Nolan Jones, OF, Rockies

There aren’t many players in the game who, on any given day, have the potential to smash a 500-foot home run and throw a runner out at the plate with an arm strength over 100 mph. Add speed on the base paths, and you’ve got the makings of a star. 

Jones fits that profile. In 106 games last season, the 25-year-old posted a 138 OPS+with 20 home runs and 20 steals. His barrel rate, according to Statcast, was 15.7%. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts, but he posted an impressive 12.5% walk rate.

Defensively, despite being placed into “on-the-job training” in left field (he primarily played third base in the Minors), Jones set a franchise record with 19 outfield assists thanks to his MLB-best 98.9 mph average arm strength

Jones’ all-around excellence in his first season with the Rockies made history: he became the first rookie in AL/NL history to hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases and record 19 outfield assists in a season.

It’ll be fun to see what this guy can do over a full campaign.

-- Manny Randhawa