I guess you could say we've saved the best for last. After installments of Sleepers and Busts, here are the Breakouts. While Scott White, Al Melchior and I each do our own lists, the breakouts were definitely where we had the most agreement in our first drafts. Maybe that's because the player pool (player's that have never broken out before) is smaller but I'd say it is also because of last year's rookies.
As Chris Towers wrote, a lot of last year's top prospects already broke out. That's likely going to make 2016 look like a disappointing one for rookies, but the truth is that 2015 was the anomaly. That's why you won't see any rookies on my 2016 breakouts. Partially because I don't expect anywhere near as much from the 2016 rookies but also because I generally think of a breakout as a player who has played, but just not to the level I think he will play.
Wong is a perfect example of a player who I don't believe has shown his best yet. Wong was consistently a high-average, high BABIP hitter in the minor leagues but those skills seem to have evaporated in the major leagues. Wong has a career .282 BABIP, which is at least ten percent lower than it should be based on his peripheral stats and speed.
If Wong becomes a .280 hitter (something we all expected) with 10-15 HR and 15-20 steal potential, he's likely a top five second baseman. There is some concern that he could lose playing time to Jedd Gyorko against LHP, but Jhonny Peralta's injury seems to have quelled that. Also, if Wong's average does improve there is room at the top of that Cardinals lineup, which could greatly increase his run production.
Whereas Wong is someone I think will break out, Rodon is someone who makes the article because of how severe his breakout could be. Rodon's walk rate was troublesome to say the least, but it's the success that he has in spite of it that is really exciting. Rodon was just the fourth pitcher age 22 or younger with at least 4.5 BB/9, 8.5 K/9 and an ERA under 4. The first four were Herb Score, Nolan Ryan, Kerry Wood and Rick Ankiel.
Rodon will continue to struggle with walks, but even a slight improvement in that area could produce an absolute stud with his stuff. Rodon will still likely hurt you in the WHIP category in 2016, and he has a higher bust factor than most on this list, but if he hits he will deliver the type of K and ERA numbers that would win you your league.
With all of the exciting rookies from 2015, Tomas may have counted as one of the most disappointing. First he couldn't play third base defensively, then when he did get playing time in the outfield he failed to deliver on the power potential many had projected. Of course, we all know that one disappointing season in the majors is all we need to write a guy off. Of course it isn't.
Tomas was 24 years old during his rookie season and hit for a decent average with very little power. There are a multitude of players who have seen an increase in power at this point in their career, and plenty with a pedigree less impressive than his. Like Rodon, there's some bust potential, but this is a player who is just a couple of years removed from slugging .900 in Cuba at the age of 20 and 21. At his extremely low cost, the breakout potential is too good to pass on.
It's still hard to believe a player with DeShields' skillset was acquired in the Rule 5 Draft. That skill set is largely speed and a good batting eye. DeShields stole no less than 54 bases from 2012-2014 in the minor leagues, so there's reason to believe that is 2015 total was just the beginning. He's slated to hit atop a fairly potent Rangers lineup and could easily approach 100 runs.
DeShields is just the seventh player since 1990 with a .340 OBP and 25 steals as a rookie 22 years old or younger. The fun part of that stat is that his dad accomplished the same feat in 1990.
Carlos Martinez was fantastic last year, so he shouldn't even be on this list. Why? Because he should be being drafted with the likes of Harvey, Syndergaard and the other young studs. His 2015 was spectacular and even better before he began to tire down the stretch. He's one of only five pitchers in the last five years under the age of 24 to strike out more than a batter per inning with an ERA below 3.20. The other four are names Kershaw, Sale, Strasburg and Fernandez.
Marte debuted as a 21-year-old shortstop in 2015 and more than held his own over the final two months of the season. Even repeating what he did over a full season would be enough to qualify as a breakout at his current ADP. In five minor league seasons, he posted a .330 OBP with very little pop and at least 20 stolen bases for the last three seasons. As a leadoff hitter, he should provide with a good source of average, runs and stolen bases late in the draft. The fact that he's still so young means that more power development is not out of the question either.
Walker is on nearly everyone's breakout list and has been for at least a year. After a dominating spring training, he was a major disappointment for much of 2015. On the bright side, Walker's struggles can be largely attributed to strand rate (67.8) and HR/FB rate (13.0) as opposed to walks, which were his big problem in 2014. I can understand if people have tired of hearing about Walker as a breakout, but he's still just 23 years old and shows too much promise to leave off this list.
Like Walker, Polanco is a player we thought could be on the verge of breakout last year and it just didn't quite come together. His run production and stolen bases were nice, but his average was a killer from a player who delivers almost no power. It is easy to forget, though, that he's just 24 years old. Polanco showed better contact skills in the minor leagues and hit .328 in over 300 plate appearances as a 22 year old in AAA. If he can raise his average to even the .280 range, he could top 100 runs and 40 steals in a good offense.
Nola was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft and looked nowhere close to overmatched in his 77 big league innings last year. The right-hander has good control and decent peripheral numbers, especially for a pitcher being taken as late as he is. Worst case scenario, he looks like a league average starter on a bad team. Best case is he takes the next step and starts delivering on some of the promise the Phillies saw in him two years ago.