Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Breakout stars who can carry you to a title
Heath Cummings shares the upside of eight more breakouts. These could be next year's early-round picks
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I had to spend the first paragraph of the busts and sleepers columns explaining why I was changing the classifications from the first version. I don't have to do that with. All 10 of the breakout candidates I highlighted a month ago still pass the test. No injuries, no terrible news about playing time. Before we get to Version 2.0, take a minute to absorb these 10 breakout candidates.
- Eloy Jimenez
- Shane Bieber
- J.T. Realmuto
- Andrew Benintendi
- Jack Flaherty
- Juan Soto
- Joey Gallo
- Danny Jansen
- Jake Bauers
- Amed Rosario
Thankfully, there's no shortage of breakout candidates each year in Fantasy Baseball. So here are eight more I expect to reach new levels
If you want to know how high Trea Turner's upside, is you might first start by recognizing that we just viewed a 40-steal, 100 run, 19-HR season as a letdown. He was the No. 17 hitter in Rotisserie leagues and we're discussing whether he was a bust or not. Oh yeah, and he's still 25 years old.
Looking for Turner's reasonable upside? He's a career .289 hitter with a career .334 BABIP. Let's try to be reasonable and give him an upside of a .300 average. He had an 11 percent HR/FB rate in 2018, which is pretty close to his career average of 11.9 percent. Let's say that's who he is and give him 20 home runs. Add 100 runs and you've already got a borderline top-three player if he steals just 40 bases. But 40 is nowhere close to his upside.
Turner's manager Dave Martinez said the speedster could attempt 75-80 steals in 2019. In fact he encouraged the idea. If that happens, Turner could legitimately be the most valuable player in Fantasy.
Carlos Correa wasn't a borderline bust last year. He was just a bust. In fairness to him, it was injury-related, but it was also his second consecutive season cut short by injury. But all you have to do is look back to what he was doing before the injury in 2017 to see his upside.
In 109 games, Correa had 24 home runs and 166 runs-plus-RBI. He was also hitting .315. I wouldn't expect that average over a full season in even an optimistic projection. But 30 home runs with 100 runs and 100 RBI? That's very doable.
Correa is healthy to start the 2019 and might just be a season of good health away from being a top-20 pick once again.His injuries are a concern, but also provide a discount on draft day. He has an ADP at the top of Round 5 over the last month.
Mallex Smith is dealing with an injury of his own this spring, but it's not expected to hold him back in April. Once he's healthy there's an excellent chance we're going to see Smith leading off for Mariners and possibly challenging multiple Royals for the AL-steals crown.
Smith received 544 plate appearances in 2018 and attempted 52 steals. His new team didn't run quite as often as the Rays, but they were near the top third of the league with 116 attempts. Smith could swipe 50 bags if he plays 150 games and leads off. He also won't be a one-category man if that's the case.
The Mariners don't have a great lineup, but hitting in front of Mitch Haniger and Edwin Encarnacion paves the path to 100 runs. And while he may not match his .296 average from last year, I would expect he'll continue to be a high-BABIP guy and a plus in batting average. Even though he gives you nothing in the power department, Smith could be a top-50 pick in 2020 if he reaches his potential and stays healthy.
I'm not breaking any ground here with Luis Castillo. He's one of the industry's favorite breakouts. So much so that I rarely get him in our industry drafts. So why does almost everyone think he's about to turn into a star?
He has an electric fastball and one of the best change ups in all of baseball. He owns a career 13.2 percent swinging strike rate and doesn't have control problems. He also has a ground ball rate of 49.9 percent. Generally, if you get a bunch of whiffs and a bunch of ground balls with acceptable control, you're going to be a very good pitcher.
Castillo was just that in the second half of 2018. He posted a 2.63 ERA and his peripheral rates were all in the low-3.00s. He pitched past the sixth inning in half of his starts after the calendar turned to July. He looks very much the part of a breakout pitcher and virtually everyone knows it.
Unlike Castillo, Paul DeJong is not a popular breakout pick. His consensus ranking (158) is 41 spots lower than where I rank him. His ADP over the last month is another round below that. I guess that makes sense, in one way. He was the No. 178 player last year. He finished No. 145 in 2017. But he played 108 games in 2017 and 115 in 2018. Have we decided that's all DeJong is capable of?
He can return value on his ADP just by staying healthy, but there's upside beyond that. DeJong cut his swinging strike rate and his strikeout rate in 2018, but suffered terrible batted ball luck that hid those gains. His ATC projection has him at .255 with 26 home runs and 76 RBI in just 128 games. There's legitimate 30-HR upside and a lot of RBIs to be had hitting in the middle of an impressive Cardinals' lineup.
I started off the year as one of the low guys on Jesse Winker because I was concerned about the crowded outfield in Cincinnati. The Reds have made it sound like they consider Winker an every day player and if that's the case he may just be a top-30 outfielder. In 2018 he walked more than he struck out and posted a 43.9 percent hard contact rate. Those are the numbers of an elite hitter. Plus, the Reds are talking about employing him as their leadoff hitter.
Don't let Winker fall anywhere close to his 17th round ADP.
Just about everything went wrong for Rafael Devers in 2018. He wasn't in great shape, he had a variety of injuries, and he he never came close to his potential. But he spent the offseason getting in shape and the Red Sox seem to have bought in so much they're giving indications he may hit third between Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. That provides a whole new opportunity of it's own.
Devers is still just 22 years old and has a track record that shows the ability to hit for a good average. He also has 31 career home runs in 730 career plate appearances. Hitting in the middle of the best lineup in baseball could be just the nudge Devers needs to be an elite Fantasy option.
Jon Gray could easily be in a sleeper column and he may even fit better there. He has a consensus ranking of 205 overall and his ADP is at pick 195. This is mostly because of a disastrous 2018 where he plagues by weight loss and poor performance. He was also terribly unlucky.
Gray has figured out the nutrition issues, or at least made efforts to. He's also been dominant this spring with 14 strikeouts and one walk in 12.2 innings. He'll likely always pitch to an ERA above his FIP because of Coors Field but Gray can give you 200-plus strikeouts with acceptable ratios and a good number of wins if he can just get back to his 2017 self and stay healthy.
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