4 Formerly Blocked Players Thriving in Their New Starting Roles This Season

These four players, once blocked to starting big league roles, have emerged as valuable contributors on their teams in 2024.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 16: Michael Busch #29 of the Chicago Cubs gets ready to make a play against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 16, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

For some players, the road to the Show is clear as day (e.g., if you’re a top prospect). But for others, that road is often obstructed, if not completely blocked.

That’s what makes the ascent of these four players, in particular, so compelling: their respective paths to starting roles at baseball’s highest level were not initially obvious prior to this season.

Nonetheless, these formerly blocked talents have officially arrived for their teams, meaning we can expect them to stay for the duration of the 2024 season, as well as beyond.

Patrick Bailey

The San Francisco Giants once believed former second overall pick Joey Bart (now with the Pittsburgh Pirates) would be the successor at catcher to franchise legend Buster Posey.

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Bart never lived up to the hype in San Francisco, unfortunately, ending his Bay Area tenure with a career .623 OPS (75 OPS+) in parts of four seasons with the Giants.

Those totals were a massive disappointment given the high pick he was selected with in 2018, but baseball is a weird game sometimes.

Ultimately, though, the circumstances proved to be a blessing in disguise for fellow Giants’ first-round catcher Patrick Bailey, selected by San Francisco in 2020.

Perhaps the Giants knew something about Bart, or perhaps they simply coveted Bailey’s skillset. Regardless, the club’s decision to make the 24-year-old Bailey their full-time starting catcher has paid immediate dividends so far this season.

The emerging backstop is worth 1.1 fWAR in 2024, with three home runs and a 139 wRC+ in 82 plate entering action on April 29.

Plus, he’s even proven his flair for the dramatic.

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If Bailey continues to produce at a high level, San Francisco should feel vindicated in their decision to separate from Bart, even as the latter has found new life in Pittsburgh early on.

Michael Busch

A classic case of a top prospect with no clear path to playing time, Michael Busch never truly forced his way into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ future plans. That only became more apparent as the club loaded up on superstars heading into 2024.

Fortunately for Busch, he found a suitor in the Chicago Cubs, who dealt for him this past winter.

And the rest has been history, quite literally.

In fact, since earning his way onto the Chicago’s 2024 roster, Busch has tied a Cubs franchise record dating back to 1900 by homering in five consecutive contests between April 10 and April 15. And all five of those long balls were hit on the road.

We’d say that’s pretty good.

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On the season, Busch sports a hefty 136 wRC+ to pair with six total home runs at the dish as a key contributor to a very solid Cubs lineup in 2024.

We’re not ready to say the Dodgers messed up trading the 26-year-old to the Cubs just yet (how can signing Shohei Ohtani really be a misfire, after all?), but on Chicago’s side, they have to be delighted with how their end of the deal has held up to this point.

Luis Campusano

Let’s review the list of catchers who’ve had the opportunity to start regularly behind the plate for the San Diego Padres since Luis Campusano‘s MLB debut in 2020:

  • Victor Caratini
  • Austin Hedges
  • Austin Nola
  • Gary Sanchez

Now, fast forward to 2024. Did you notice that none of the above players remain with the Padres? So that begs the question: what took so long to give Campusano a chance to become San Diego’s primary backstop?

In any case, the 25-year-old’s big break is better late than never, as his 115 wRC+ in 97 plate appearances indicates. That production follows a strong finish to his 2023 campaign, including an .875 second-half OPS.

The Padres have a legitimate talent behind the plate in Campusano and it seems they’ve finally recognized that by entrusting him with the starting job, which he has unsurprisingly run away with.

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Campusano isn’t totally out of the woods, however, with 17-year-old catching phenom Ethan Salas on his heels and ascending at a rapid pace through San Diego’s minor league system.

All in all, the former may never be able to catch a break in a Padres uniform between being overlooked and (potentially) being forced out in the future. Campusano is at least making the most of his current opportunity, though.

Joey Ortiz

When the Milwaukee Brewers traded ace Corbin Burnes to the Baltimore Orioles in February, most people in baseball thought they were effectively throwing in the towel for 2024.

The Brewers, of course, wouldn’t be able to re-sign Burnes as a pending free agent, which meant they made a smart (even if underwhelming) decision to recoup some value for the righty’s services.

One of those acquisitions from Baltimore was highly-rated prospect Joey Ortiz, who has seized his chance at everyday playing time in Milwaukee.

Ortiz, 25, was never going to factor into the Orioles’ future plans with the organization filled to the brim with elite infield prospects from Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg to Jackson Holliday, Coby Mayo and Connor Norby.

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But so far in 2024, it’s easy to see why the Brewers coveted Ortiz.

These highlights came from just one game, but the 25-year-old’s overall body of work nevertheless remains solid in 2024, with a 131 wRC+ in 71 plate appearances as of April 29.

Ortiz has mostly seen time at third base this season, but has also played second base for the Brewers when needed. He could also become Milwaukee’s full-time shortstop in 2025, given the likelihood that the incumbent Willy Adames signs elsewhere at the conclusion of this season.

No matter how things shake out, though, the Brewers have proven to be a great landing spot for Ortiz.