#40: Nolan Arenado
ESPN projects Arenado to slash .265/.320/.479/.799 with 28 homers and 96 RBI after posting career-worst numbers in many categories in 2023. It's a slight improvement from Arenado's disappointing season last year, but certainly not the heights we know he's capable of reaching. After all, his numbers in 2023 were down mainly due to back injuries. He's expressed confidence that he'll bounce back in 2024, and he's hungry to prove himself after many have questioned if he'll regress further as he continues to age.
Third base is a particularly deep position for fantasy baseball, but ESPN currently has Arenado ranked below Jose Ramirez, Rafael Devers, Alex Bregman, Austin Riley, Manny Machado, and Gunnar Henderson. Seems fair to rank him below Ramirez and Riley, who have been consistently productive in recent seasons, but Devers, Bregman, Machado, and Henderson have all been less productive than Arenado barring 2023.
Let's not forget that Arenado finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022 after recording a 151 OPS+. Bregman hasn't put up offensive numbers close to that since 2019, Devers and Henderson have never done that, and Machado is coming off a similarly down season after finishing one place ahead of Arenado in MVP voting in 2022. While MLB Network's rankings had Arenado similarly ranked amongst third basemen, I'd bet on him to bounce back into the top 5 at least. These projections are putting too much stock into a down year in 2023.
Sure, 40th of all hitters isn't a bad ranking, but ESPN is certainly down on the 10-time Gold Glove winner, and he could be a sneaky good value pick in the early rounds of a draft.