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Four underdog stories in Major League Baseball to watch out for in 2024

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Photo credit:Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer
Veronica Chung
3 months ago
Guessing the Titans is always easy, especially this offseason. In case you haven’t noticed (there’s no way you would have, though), the Los Angeles Dodgers signed two of the biggest free agents Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and brought in elite starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow. On the East Coast, the New York Yankees are attempting to resurrect the evil empire by trading for generational talent Juan Soto and signing starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. 
There’s no question that the Dodgers and Yankees are establishing themselves as the titans of the 2024 season. If those two teams are the obvious/rising titans, which teams are flying under the radar?  After all, it’s always the most unexpected teams that make deeper runs in baseball’s postseason. Here are four underrated teams to keep an eye out for this upcoming season: 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants have struggled to make a postseason run consistently after their magical and somewhat unexpected 2021 season. It’s no secret that the team failed to attract premier free agents each offseason. Despite all the struggles and woes, the team finally signed their star Jung-Hoo Lee from KBO offseason to a mega deal. Subsequently, the Giants traded for former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and outfielder Mitch Hanigar while signing pitcher Jordan Hicks as one of their starting pitchers. 
A bulk of the Giants’ signings definitely will depend on health luck. Their full roster will have to stay healthy ideally, for all of the 2024 season to record a solid winning season. They will also need some help from their prospects in the performance department. The good news is that the team now has Bob Melvin as their manager and Dusty Baker is also on their staff to advise on baseball operations. 
If everything clicks together for San Francisco on pitching and offence, they will be one of the dark horses in the National League West division. It is worth noting, though, that the Giants’ defence, especially infield, will have to improve significantly to have a sustainable winning season. They also play in a tough NL West. 

Cincinnati Reds

It might seem ages ago but the Reds made a white-hot run in 2023 by winning 12 games in a row. It was an accomplishment to be cherished after a crushing and hopeless 2022 season. Although the team ultimately fell short of reaching the postseason last year, it was evident that the Reds were ready to contend again. 
With stacked and young players like Elly de La Cruz, Matt Mclain, Spencer Steer, TJ Friedl, Will Benson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand, the Reds are poised to become a much more competitive team in 2024. While the team’s pitching is on the weaker end, Cincinnati has young pitchers like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft and Andrew Abbott who have high ceilings. 
Now that the team signed veteran infielder Jeimer Candelario and starting pitcher Frankie Montas, their presence will help to propel the team even further. The question will be whether the offence and pitching can also take the next step forward at the same time. But all in all, Cincinnati could be a threat to its division rivals with its explosive talents.
The fact that every team in the National League Central is trying to reinvent itself is advantageous to the Reds too. The Milwaukee Brewers are going to be experimenting with their young players, the St.Louis Cardinals are working to rediscover their winning ways, the Chicago Cubs are attempting to become a contender and the Pirates are debating whether they should continue investing in their team’s growth or not. 
Out of all these teams in the division, the Reds have the most battle-tested young talents taking it by storm, especially on the positional player side. As long as the Reds’ pitching offers consistency, Cincinnati can be the ultimate sleeper pick for the 2024  season.

Kansas City Royals

The Detroit Tigers are the obvious favourite to win the division based on their raw talent and off-season acquisitions. There’s no doubt that the Tigers will perform much better in 2024 with players like Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda but Detroit isn’t the only team competing in a relatively weak American League Central. 
The Kansas City Royals are also on the rise. Even though the team lost over 100 games in 2023, Kansas City showed that their younger talents, especially in the positional core, are ready to compete. Bobby Witt Jr. proved that he’s the true star player the Royals needed as a building block and the rest of the core players have gotten younger as the team gave a chance to up-and-coming prospects over time. 
The biggest issue the Royals faced was their weaker pitching from top to bottom but with the addition of Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Chris Stratton and Will Smith this off-season, Kansas City could rely on a more consistent and veteran pitching compared to previous seasons. Let’s not forget that starting pitcher Cole Ragans also has the ability to terrorize the league with his nasty pitches too. A good turnaround in pitching could do wonders for this team as it sets its eyes on winning a winnable division. 
The 2024 Kansas City Royals aren’t really close to their  2014 or 2015 version. But their spending in free agency and younger reinforcements are certainly bringing them closer to their contention window sooner rather than later. 

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals were exactly what everyone expected in 2023. They weren’t great but they weren’t all that bad either – they were the definition of a mediocre team. But that doesn’t mean that the Nationals are destined to remain in constant mediocrity. From an optimistic perspective, Washington garnered competitive young players through trades with different teams after 2020 and has also drafted good young talents.
These efforts are looking to pay off fairly soon as the team exhibited positive momentum in the 2023 season. Shortstop C.J. Abrams and starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore both showed good, consistent progressions along with other young players Josiah Gray and Lane Thomas. Designated hitter Joey Meneses lived up to the definition of the underdog as he went on a tear despite his late debut. 
With teams like the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies perenially contending for the World Series, the Nationals won’t be able to catch up to that level in 2024. However, the Nationals could easily become the thorn in the side of the contenders with their raw talent on the roster. 
The Nationals didn’t strike out much as a team in 2023 and they have the potential to become that pesky team again in 2024. In fact, now that this younger roster has more experience, they are in the perfect position to play the spoiler team. Don’t be surprised if you see this team sneaking away more wins from their division rivals and other teams around the league – becoming the ultimate annoyance is the next level to achieve a true underdog status. 

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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