I had no problem removing layers from my initial sleepers and busts. Those, after all, are impacted largely by ADP and it seems you guys agreed with me on several of them. But breakouts? Well, I don’t think the theoretical stardom of these guys has changed much over the past two months so I’m sticking to my guns.
As a quick refresh, here are those breakouts from 1.0 who I just couldn’t give up on:
- Jorge Soler
- Carlos Rodon
- Taijuan Walker
- Aaron Nola
- Lance McCullers
- Miguel Sano
- Maikel Franco
- Danny Salazar
- Nomar Mazara
- Tim Anderson
- Blake Snell
When I went looking for guys I wanted to add to this list, one thing I desperately wanted was upside. In fact, it’s a requirement. What do you care if a player breaks out to become a slightly above average major leaguer? You want stars. These guys could be just that.
Keon Broxton will turn 27 years old before we can determine whether he was a breakout or not. In other words, he’s getting close to the point where we cannot project a lot of improvement. That’s a problem when it comes to last year’s 36.1 percent K rate. That contributed to the fact that he needed a .373 BABIP to hit .242. Broxton is going to strike out a lot. But if he can just knock that K rate down to the 29 percent he had in 566 Triple-A PA, he could be a star in Milwaukee.
Broxton is a dual power/speed threat who shows elite potential in both categories. He stole 23 bases on 27 attempts last season and his 43 percent hard contact rate in Miller Park could very easily lead to a HR/FB rate over 20 percent (last year he was at 25.5 percent). If you give Broxton 600 PA, I would expect a baseline of 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Assuming he hits near the top of the order, he should also contribute in runs.
Broxton’s excellent walk rate will play much better in OBP leagues, but he could still put up a season like Wil Myers did in 2016 with more stolen bases and fewer RBI.
Speaking of strikeouts, Randal Grichuk has plenty of them. Grichuk now has a 29.9 percent K rate over 944 major league PA. Now, he’s a year younger than Broxton and his Triple-A rate was closer to 20 percent, so there’s much more hope that number becomes more manageable in 2017. In the very small sample size of this spring he’s at 26 percent, which would not be a number that would prevent a breakout.
Over his short career Grichuk has a fly ball rate of 43.2 percent and a hard contact rate of 39.5 percent. In the past five years, 10 hitters have had a season with at least a 43 percent fly ball rate and a 39 percent hard contact rate. Chris Davis did it three times. David Ortiz did it twice. So did Chris Carter.
When looking at the home run distribution with that type of profile, 12 of the 15 hit at least 29 home runs. Almost half (7/15) hit at least 38 home runs. In other words, Grichuk has the profile of an elite power hitter and has shown the ability to cut down on his strikeouts. Doing that would lessen his streakiness, which should keep him on the field more.
If you want an example of a young hitter improving his K rate, Russell was it in 2016. Then again, you have to remember how young Russell is. Despite having more than 1,100 MLB PA, he just turned 23 years old. That power surge we saw in 2016 may have been just the beginning.
While Russell did improve his K rate last year, the batting average didn’t come with it. That was mostly due to a .277 BABIP. This despite hitting more line drives and creating more hard contact. While he wasn’t elite in either area, I would expect something closer to .300 at the very least. A .300 BABIP with his improved K rate and power should make Russell a .250+ hitter. He won’t help in you in that area, but he won’t kill you either.
Where he should be elite is in run production, since he’ll be in one of the best offenses in baseball. We have a small sample size of what Russell might produce in the middle of the order. In 48 games in the middle of the order last year, he scored 26 runs and drove in 34. I would anticipate somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 combined runs and RBI if he stays healthy. That combined with his home runs and improved average should make him one of the stars at the position.
At first glance, the ERA and WHIP for Edwin Diaz don’t look all that elite. Then you realize he did that as a rookie while allowing a .377 BABIP and you see just how special he can be. He’ll enter 2017 as the Mariners closer and the sky is the limit.
Diaz ranked second among all relievers in K rate last year (behind Dellin Betances) and fourth in SIERA (behind Andrew Miller, Zach Britton and Kenley Jansen). In other words, he was already one of the best relievers in baseball. In the ninth inning, opposing hitters hit .207 against him with a .553 OPS.
With elite stuff on a good Mariners team, there’s no reason Diaz couldn’t be a top five closer.
If you want a full breakdown of James Paxton, . I’ll try to give you the CliffsNotes version here. Paxton is a big lefty who can hit 98 on the gun and has an outstanding curveball. Over his final 11 starts last season he struck out more than a batter per inning and held opposing hitters to a .628 OPS. If he just repeats that and stays healthy, he could make a leap much like Danny Duffy made early in 2016.