MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Kansas City Royals
Denny Medley / USA TODAY Sports

Love is in the air at Fantasy Baseball Today headquarters too. It's Valentine's Day, and that means it's time for one of our absolute favorite FBT traditions: Players we love!

We do a lot of flag-planting on the FBT show. Sleepers! Breakouts! Busts! Etc.! But this is our opportunity to let our audience know the players who have captured our hearts the most as we prepare for the upcoming season. These are probably the players we'll have on most of our teams this season, and their success will determine how our seasons go to a large extent. 

And, of course, it's also an opportunity to have some fun. You really need to listen to today's episode -- or watch it on the Fantasy Baseball Today YouTube channel! -- because it's one of our most fun shows of the year. Scott White was in especially rare form in expressing his undying devotion to Cole Ragans and Jake Burger -- and his wandering eye for one other pitcher you might be overlooking in your drafts. 

We're hitting pause on our position previews today to focus on the players we love, but in case you missed any of our recent newsletters, you can catch up below: 

  • Position Strategies: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF
  • Position Previews: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF
  • Position Tiers: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF

There's also plenty to catch up on from the FBT team on, so before we get to the players we love, here's a quick rundown of everything we've published this week:

Alright, now let's light some candles, set up some mood music, and get ready for the players we love for 2024: 

Players We Love


Scott White's Loves: Cole Ragans and Jake Burger

"I'm attracted to an arm so exquisite that it fired a ball in at 101 mph during his stay in the Royals rotation. A mind so cunning that he devised the perfect pitch to round everything out once he moved into the rotation: Batters take one whiff of that slider, and are headed back the other way. But for me it's like pheromones. I'm drawn to the five swing-and-miss pitches, one for each of my clawing fingers. Is it any wonder that Ragans could put together a 2.70 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 11.6 K per nine in his eleven starts, with his point-per-game average during that stretch trailing only Gerrit Cole and Spencer Strider among full season marks."

"Burger is strong like an ox, with only five players having a harder hit ball than him. He's clever like a fox, actually making an effort to tone down his swing in his 53 games with the Marlins, taking his strikeout rate from 31.6% to 21.7% and his batting average from .214 to .303. You might think the softer touch would relegate his true animal nature, but no: Of his 17 hardest hit balls all year, 11 came with the Marlins. His time with them was the perfect marriage of force and feelings."

Chris Towers' Loves: Eury Perez and Riley Greene

"Eury Perez went out and struck out 108 batters in 91.1 innings in the majors, with a 3.15 ERA, and 1.13 WHIP would be impressive enough. If that was all you could say about Eury Perez, that he made that impact as a rookie, that would be impressive enough. But he did it while navigating that incredibly difficult situation where he got sent down to manage his innings. And, he did it as a 20-year-old. He's armed with a curveball that had the second highest whiff rate among all pitchers; his slider had the ninth-highest whiff rate; and his changeup had the eighth-highest. That is three secondary pitches that ranked in the top 10 among all pitchers in whiff rate. And, again: He does not turn 21 until two weeks into the upcoming season. I think it's pretty much impossible to overstate how high the ceiling is for Eury Perez."

"I've talked a lot about Riley Greene over the last month or so, and I'll continue to talk a lot about Riley Greene because I think he's just an incredibly, incredibly talented hitter. What we saw last season was a player who recognized the limitations in his game as a rookie -- he hit the ball on the ground too much and wasn't maximizing his raw power. Well, last season's average velocity jumps to 91.6 mph. His max exit velo is in the top 10% of the league, and his hard hit rate is up to 47.3%. Ground ball rate down to 48.9% from 57% as a rookie. We've got plus raw power. We've got a plus athlete -- 71st percentile in sprint speed. There is room for 10 to 15 stolen bases." 

Frank Stampfl's Loves: Bryan Woo and Bryce Harper

"Woo with the Seattle Mariners. Solid rookie season last year. He gets a good amount of whiffs, 12.5% swinging strike, rate tied for second among rookies with at least 80 innings pitched. His expected ERA, according to Statcast, was 3.45. He kind of has this Lance Lynn impression going on where he relies on three different types of fastballs, a four-seam, sinker, and a cutter. That four-seam fastball is really good, with a .208 batting average against and 14.6% swinging strike rate -- higher than Spencer Strider's in a limited sample size. And he has a slider that looks like a really strong pitch when looking into the metrics on that pitch. I like what I saw from the slider, and I just trust the Mariners pitching development with what they've done the past couple of years with George Kirby and Logan Gilbert."

"It's Bryce Harper. He is the hitter that I love. He's the hitter I've always loved. You always go back to the ones you love. We know what happened last year. He got off to a slow start. He had elbow surgery. He was the fastest player ever to come back from Tommy John surgery, and it took him some time to to get going. He flipped a power switch in August, and over the final two months hit .299 with 16 home runs and a 1.067 OPS. 93.3 average exit velocity. A near 21% barrel rate, which was the second best in baseball during that time. And then what did he do in the playoffs? More of the same, hitting .286 with five homers, three steals, and an OPS approaching 1.100. Bryce Harper is still awesome, and I think he proved that over the final three months."

Chris Welsh's Loves: Michael King and Oneil Cruz

"King threw 100 innings, and we know a lot of it was in relief. He was stretched out as a starting pitcher later, and that's where things got super exciting. He ended up in his seven  starts where he was getting more than a couple innings, only had one start with more than one run allowed. He became a better pitcher as a starter. The K rate was phenomenal. K-BB% went from 19.8% when he was a reliever to over 25%, which is ridiculous as a starter. I started to try to find some comps and I settled on a guy like Pablo Lopez. And these guys actually have really similar paths and just kind of similar repertoires."

"Apparently my love runs the deepest with Oneill Cruz. You know, Cruz is like the 12th shortstop right now in the consensus rankings right now, which is crazy to me. Yes, if you are playing this game of comparison to Elly De La Cruz, you have both with batting average problems. But we saw the improvement there with Cruz. We saw him lower the strikeout rate. We saw him make better contact hitting against fastballs. I believe we will get more power out of Cruz. While you'll get a little less stolen bases if we're continuing with that comp, every projection system still has him in a shorter amount of games around 25-25. I don't need the projection systems to tell me that I'm going to take the shot on him. I am very comfortable taking two shortstops this year, and dropping one in the middle infield. I think that's the position to double up if you're going to this year, and Oneil Cruz, whether he is the middle infielder, the starting shortstop, it doesn't matter if you're chasing speed, you want power, he qualifies at every marker."