10 players who could bounce back in 2024

March 3rd, 2024

Each spring, as players gear up for a new season, the possibilities for that season abound. Whether it’s a prospect looking to make his mark in the Majors or a rising talent looking to take the next step toward superstardom, the goals are diverse.

For several stars, the objective will be to bounce back after subpar performances the prior year. This spring is no exception -- here are five hitters and five pitchers who are hoping for a rebound performance in 2024:


1. , 3B, Cardinals
Key stat: .851 OPS in first half of 2023

Despite a poor start to 2023, Arenado finished the first half with an .851 OPS and was on pace for his eighth straight full season (excluding 2020) with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs. A late-season back injury prevented him from reaching either mark and contributed to his OPS dropping to .774 on the year. Arenado will turn 33 in April, but with better health, we should see him get back to his typical production -- 30-plus homers, 100-plus RBIs and an OPS north of .800 -- in 2024.

-- Thomas Harrigan

2. , 1B, Blue Jays
Key stat: .378 xwOBA (94th percentile)

Arguably no superstar slugger has been more enigmatic than Guerrero the past two seasons following his jaw-dropping 2021 (48 HR, 167 OPS+) at 22 years old. He’s been plenty good since, but his production dipped in nearly every meaningful category for a second straight year (26 HR, 117 OPS+), leaving many wondering whether he could return to that MVP-runner-up level. Pretty much all of Guerrero’s underlying metrics -- including an elite .378 xwOBA -- indicate that he should have seen better results last year, and given that he’s not even 25 yet, the thought here is that he’ll restore some of the luster that’s been lacking even if he doesn’t quite reach those 2021 heights.

-- Jason Catania

3. , SS, Twins
Key stat: career-best 45.9% hard-hit rate

Correa’s 2023 season was sidetracked by plantar fasciitis in his left foot; the ailment messed with his swing mechanics and contributed to his forgettable .230/.312/.399 slash line. Although he often played at far less than 100%, Correa still had healthy outputs in hard-hit rate, barrel rate (9.6%) and maximum exit velocity (114.2 mph, 91st percentile). His expected stats were 20-25 points higher than his actual numbers. Now healthy, Correa sounds determined to rebound in his age-29 campaign.

-- Brian Murphy

4. , C, Phillies
Key stat: 11.2% barrel rate in 2023 (74th percentile)

That 11.2% barrel rate from last season was nearly identical to Realmuto’s 11.3% from 2022, when he posted an .820 OPS with 22 homers and finished seventh in NL MVP Award voting. But in ’23, his OPS was nearly 60 points below that and his lowest in eight years, thanks in part to a career-high 25.6% strikeout rate.

Realmuto also had an uncharacteristic 22% caught-stealing rate from behind the plate, his lowest mark since his rookie year in 2014. Stolen bases were up across the board, but just the prior season, Realmuto threw out 44% of would-be basestealers. If the barrel rate is an encouraging underlying metric for Realmuto on the offensive side, many of his Statcast defensive metrics were again strong in ’23 -- he was among the top five backstops in blocks above average (4th) and pop time (1st).

Was the Realmuto we saw in 2023 the real Realmuto? Or was last season an aberration? Expect a bounceback in ’24.

-- Manny Randhawa

5. , 2B, Mets
Key stat: 13.4% whiff rate, 10.0% strikeout rate in 2023

McNeil dipped from a .326 hitter and MLB batting champion in 2022 to .270 and … not the batting champion in '23. But he was still a king of making contact. McNeil ranked in the 98th percentile of MLB hitters in swing-and-miss rate in 2023, and in the 99th percentile in strikeout rate. All those balls in play will turn into hits again if McNeil can just make one key adjustment: He needs to get back in the line drive sweet spot. That's the one big area where he fell off from 2022 to '23. If McNeil can find those lost line drives in 2024, he'll be in the batting race again.

-- David Adler


1. , RHP, Blue Jays
Key stat: 2.60 ERA across 2021-22

There’s really nothing to point to from Manoah’s 2023 performance as a source of optimism heading into this season. He didn’t throw an MLB pitch after Aug. 10, and he finished the year with a 5.87 ERA, a 6.01 FIP and a 6.1 BB/9 over 87 1/3 innings. But assuming he’s not injured -- the Blue Jays cleared him of any health issues after putting him through a litany of tests last summer -- it’s hard to believe a guy who posted a 2.60 ERA over his first 51 career starts is simply going to lose his ability to pitch in the Majors at the age of 26.

-- Thomas Harrigan

2. , LHP, Braves
Key stat: 3.16 ERA and 0.95 WHIP from April 30 on

A rough start and yet another injury took their tolls on Sale last year, but his 2023 actually was mostly good even if that 4.30 ERA might make you think otherwise. From April 30 on, he posted a 3.16 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and 95 strikeouts over 79 2/3 innings -- essentially half a season -- and showed that his slider still has bite (.249 xwOBA for the year). That was enough for the Braves to trade a promising Vaughn Grissom for the soon-to-be 35-year-old lefty. Throw in Sale’s impressive first spring outing, in which he touched 97 mph, and there’s very likely plenty in the tank if he stays healthy enough to make 20-25 starts.

-- Jason Catania

3. , RHP, White Sox
Key stat: .330 BABIP (highest among qualified SP)

We’re likely never going to get a repeat of Cease’s splendid 2022 season, when he was the Cy Young Award runner-up. But last year, which saw his ERA vault from 2.20 to 4.58, also looks like an outlier. Cease still missed plenty of bats in '23, but it would behoove the 28-year-old to lean more on his slider, which was baseball’s most valuable pitch in ‘22.

That offering produced equally strong whiff and K rates over the two years, but Cease’s slider usage declined by about five percentage points last season. He instead spent more time throwing a four-seamer that lost 1 mph of velocity from the previous season. Cease’s results should also improve with better luck, as noted in his BABIP as well as a strand rate (69.4%) that was fifth-lowest among 44 qualified starters.

-- Brian Murphy

4. , RHP, Astros
Key stat: 4-seam fastball run value of +12 (89th percentile)

Javier enjoyed a breakout season in 2022, posting a 2.54 ERA and 33.1% strikeout rate over 30 appearances (25 starts). But he took a step back last year, seeing his ERA increase over the previous season by more than two runs (4.56). Opposing batters hit 64 points higher against him (.170 in ’22, .234 in ’23) and his strikeout rate was a career-low 23.1%.

Despite those struggles last season, Javier has a lot going for him. He’s still just entering his age-27 season, so he’s right in the middle of his prime. He also made some mechanical tweaks and he’s in great shape this spring, having lost 15 pounds over the offseason. Houston pitching coach Bill Murphy said Javier is “primed for maybe the biggest year of his career.”

-- Manny Randhawa

5. RHP, Phillies
Key stat: 2.35 postseason ERA in 2023

This is such an easy bounceback pick. It's so weird that Nola had a 4.46 ERA last season, when otherwise he was his usual workhorse self, striking out over 200 batters and pitching nearly 200 innings. But forget that regular season ERA. The ace Nola we know and love was back for the playoffs. Nola cut his ERA almost in half in October, posting a 2.35 mark during the Phillies' postseason run. Now he's projected to be a top-five pitcher in baseball in 2024 by Steamer … and a top-one pitcher by ZiPS.

-- David Adler