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There’s no one way to win your fantasy baseball league. If you were fortunate enough to use your first-round pick on Ronald Acuna, he could cover up some of your other draft day mistakes. If you built your pitching staff around Spencer Strider, he was a good deodorant for some of your stinky picks.

As a general rule, though, your best shot at winning your league comes when some of your late-round fliers provide early-round production. For this series, let’s break down some of the hitters who fell into that bucket in 2023 and determine how likely they are to repeat that performance in 2024.

For the purposes of this article, I got some help from our friends over at FantasyPros. The Hitter ADP you see referenced below is where the player ranked among position players in terms of ADP across six sites (ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!, RT Sports, NFBC, FanTrax). The Hitter VBR (value-based ranking) is where they wound up finishing among position players.

Ha-Seong Kim, 2B/3B/SS, Padres
Hitter ADP: 171
Hitter VBR: 38

Kim was a useful roster piece to have in fantasy leagues in 2022. He reached double digits in home runs and stolen bases, didn’t hurt you in average and, perhaps most importantly, was eligible at three positions. It’s a profile that’s especially helpful in deeper leagues where you can slot Kim into spots where injuries inevitably strike.

Fantasy managers were still viewing him as a late-round flier in deeper leagues and waiver wire fodder in shallower formats heading into 2023, as his overall ADP just inside the top-300 can attest. It was understandable, particularly since we weren’t sure Kim would have a set starting spot once Fernando Tatis returned from suspension.

Playing time never wound up being an issue for Kim this season, though. He started 144 games and finished with 626 plate appearances, primarily playing second base but also seeing action at third base and shortstop.

Kim was among the biggest beneficiaries of the new pickoff rules and bigger bases, exploding for 38 stolen bases while being caught nine times. Only six players pilfered more bags than San Diego’s super utility player. He ranked in the 79th percentile in sprint speed and fifth in BRR, so Kim is a legitimately excellent baserunner who should continue to be a major asset in the stolen base category. Sure, it’s a skill that doesn’t stand out as much as it did pre-2023 since everyone runs now, but 38 steals are 38 steals.

The 17 home runs Kim popped in 2023 came as a bigger surprise to me, as it was exactly double his previous career total and it came over 254 fewer plate appearances. As you can see in the chart below from Baseball Savant, Kim does not hit the ball hard. As in, he’s among the worst in baseball in terms of impacting the ball.

Working in Kim’s favor is that he’s pretty good at pulling the ball (45.1%, per Fangraphs) and also hitting it in the air (38.8%). That’s the recipe for getting the most out of limited power. Marcus Semien has become a master at it. And, sure enough, the overwhelming majority of Kim’s home runs in 2023 were pulled down the line.

In a rather bizarre statistical anomaly, Kim had the exact same number of batted balls (424) and barrels (18) in 2023 as he did in 2022. Managing to hit 17 home runs with just 18 barrels is very difficult to do. It’s a major reason why Kim’s HR-xHR was 3.7, which was the 14th-highest among 572 batted ball qualifiers. Maybe he gets lucky again in finding the first and second rows of the left-field seats in 2024, but the smart money would be against it.

The thing is, I’m not sure a likely dip in home runs for Kim matters all that much? His plate discipline has become terrific, with a walk rate in the 86th percentile, a chase rate in the 90th percentile and a whiff rate in the 91st percentile. Those factors, along with his plus speed, should allow Kim to hit for an acceptable average, even as his weak quality of contact and flyball tendencies work against him in that regard. We’ve already gone over how his stolen base chops are likely to carry over into 2024, and he’ll again offer triple eligibility. The 28-year-old also has a good shot to bat at or near the top of the Padres’ batting order.

You’re going to have to pay a lot more for Kim in drafts this spring than you did last spring, of course. His early ADP in NFBC drafts sits at 78, just behind Josh Lowe and just ahead of Oneil Cruz among position players. He went as high as 50th in one league. That might be a tad high, but his skill set and multi-position eligibility is going to be a fit on any fantasy roster.

Thank you for reading

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