2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Win your league with these stars in Breakouts 1.0
These 10 breakout candidates have league-winning potential.
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There are many different types of breakouts. The first on today's list is a 20-year-old who still doesn't have a major league at-bat. There are also second-year breakouts who struggled as rookies and even a couple of veterans who find themselves in better situations. But the one thing all of these breakouts have in common is league-winning upside at their current ADP.
These are the players you reach a round or two early for to ensure they're a part of your team:
Everyone wants Vladimir Guerrero, and for good reason. He's a future star. But so is Eloy Jimenez, and he's available a full five rounds later than Guerrero. As a hitter Jimenez has it all -- elite contact skills with just a 15 percent strikeout rate in 2018 and elite power with 41 home runs in his past 197 games. He hit .355 with a .996 OPS as a 21-year-old in Triple-A. There's a decent chance we're looking at him as a top-12 outfielder heading into 2020.
Shane Bieber has always been an elite control pitcher; he walked less than a batter per nine innings in the minor leagues. He's also a good ground-ball pitcher. The question was whether he could miss bats, and he did enough last year, with a 24 percent strikeout rate. That's not elite, but it's generally good enough if you get ground balls and don't walk hitters.
Bieber was plagued by bad luck in 2018 with a .356 BABIP allowed and a 69 percent strand rate. His 3.23 FIP shows you just how good he could be. That should also get him 15 wins with this Indians team, making Bieber a candidate to be a strong No. 2 starter in Fantasy.
J.T. Realmuto was already the best catcher in Fantasy. How could he break out? Well, he's going from one of the worst parks in baseball for right-handed home run hitters to one of the best. He's also going from the Marlins lineup to the Phillies. He's got a legit shot to hit .280 with 25 home runs, and 160 runs-plus-RBI. That's star-level production for a catcher, and pretty great no matter what position you play. Realmuto deserves consideration as a third-round pick.
There aren't very many 24 year olds with Andrew Benintendi's resume. In fact, he's just the ninth player in the past 30 years to accumulate 38 home runs and 40 stolen bases with a .280 average and an .800 OPS through his age 23 season. The thing is, I'm not sure we've seen the best from him yet.
For one thing, he's expected to lead off in 2019, which will increase his plate appearances and his counting stats. He also hit .290 last year with a minuscule 9.4 percent HR/FB rate. In full disclosure, he's in a bad home run park for left-handed hitters and he didn't make enough hard contact in 2018. But there's reason to think he could bounce back to the type of contact he was making in 2017, approach a .300 average and set a career-high for home runs. A 20-20 season with a .300 average and 110 runs would make Benintendi a borderline first-round pick.
How does 182 innings with 223 strikeouts, an ERA below 3.30, and a WHIP below 1.10 sound? Like a star? That's what Flaherty did in 2018, although five of his starts came in the minor leagues. It's likely his BABIP will regress in 2019, but it also seems unlikely he'll allow a 15 percent HR/FB rate.
Flaherty is a very good bat-misser on a very good team who has already logged 182 innings in a season. The sky is the limit. If he makes even a small improvement in his control, he has top-10 potential at starting pitcher.
Juan Soto just posted the highest OPS (.923) ever for a 19-year-old with at least 400 plate appearances in a season. The only players to even top .900 was Mel Ott, who played in the 1920s and waltzed into the Hall of Fame with 511 home runs and a .947 career OPS.
Across three levels in 2018, Soto hit 36 home runs, scored 110 runs and drove in 122. As amazing as he was last year, he still has room to grow. His 20 percent strikeout rate in the majors was eight points higher than his career mark in the minors, and he hit way too many ground balls. Soto's potential is that of a first-round pick for the next decade with the upside of the No. 1 overall player in Fantasy. He won't likely reach that in 2019, but he could absolutely be a league-winner at his third-round ADP.
With the caveat that full-season statistics are more generally predictive, Joey Gallo showed just how special he could be in the second half last season. In 55 games he hit .239 with a .932 OPS. Hit hit 18 home runs, scored 34 runs and drove in 41. That's a 150-game pace of 49 home runs, 93 runs and 112 RBI. The main difference? His line drive rate soared to 25.7 percent.
Gallo has had two straight seasons of a terrible BABIP, and it's long past time to hope for anything close to a good batting average. But it doesn't have to be quite so low. With a little better batted ball luck and a consistent place in the middle of the order, Gallo could be an absolute Roto star. While his strikeouts hurt you in points, his walks cover a lot of that.
Danny Jansen made his debut in 2018, but the Fantasy Baseball world does not seem ready for what he could provide. Over the past two seasons he's walked almost as often as he's stuck out in the minor leagues while showing decent pop. He should be among the league-leaders in games played at catcher assuming he stays healthy, and his park should help his power numbers. Jansen has top-five upside in points leagues because of his plate discipline and could be one of the few catchers who actually is a helper in batting average.
Jake Bauers found a new home in the offseason with a trade sending him to Cleveland. This is a better park and a better lineup, so now he just needs to be a better hitter. That starts with cutting his 26.8 percent strikeout rate, which definitely seems possible since he only struck out 16.8 percent of the time in 2,500 minor league plate appearances. The second part is hitting lefties better, which he had no problem with in 2017 and 2018 in Triple-A.
If he does both of those things, there's an upside that includes 25-30 home runs, 15 steals and 100 RBI hitting behind Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana. But even if he just makes slight improvements in those areas, he's a steal at his current ADP.
Scott White likes to say that stealing bases is more about intent than anything else. I sure hope Amed Rosario has the same intent this year he did in the second half. In 63 games he stole 18 bases after stealing six in the first half. If Rosario runs with that intent in 2019, he's going to have a ton of value in Roto leagues.
There's also still reason to hope for Rosario as a hitter. He cut his strikeout rate to 20.1 percent and could have had a decent batting average with a little better batted ball luck. At his age and with his pedigree, Rosario could be a great source of steals while you wait for him to blossom as a hitter.
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