Baseball season is right around the corner, and with baseball comes fantasy baseball. People often look for those under the radar sleeper picks to break out and have a great season, then subsequently claiming you knew it all along. Well, we’re gonna look at the top 5 breakout players from each league, and keep them in mind for your fantasy drafts and pools, and we shall keep the bragging rights to ourselves.
Jackie Bradley, Outfield, Boston Red Sox – The defending champs have been rather quiet this off-season, because they have a great team put together. Anchoring the outfield this season will be the 23 year old Bradley, who appeared in just 37 games last season, dealing with injury and switching between the majors and AAA Pawtucket. He’s got some competition for the starting job, but I wouldn’t expect Grady Sizemore to earn the job over Bradley. Despite Bradley’s struggles last season adjusting to the game, he’s got tremendous upside, and should flourish at Fenway this season.
Danny Salazar, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians – Baseball fans got their first real good look at Salazar during the AL Wild Card game against the Rays. We saw both the good, where he breezed through the first 2 innings, topping 100 mph on his fastball occasionally, and the bad, where he couldn’t get out of the 4th inning. This year, he will get a permanent spot in the Tribe’s rotation, where he can continue to progress, and show his potential. He can only impact games he pitches, but expect him to make a lot of hitters look silly.
Nick Castellanos, Third Base, Detroit Tigers – The Tigers started last season with the corners of the infield manned by the one-two punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. With the trade of Fielder to Texas, Cabrera moved over to first, and Castellanos is getting his first shot at an MLB starting position. He was a late September call-up, playing in just 11 games, but showed promise in that and his time in AAA, hitting .276 with 18 HR and 76 RBI. He’s just 21 years old, and has a great offensive team around him to help him grow as a Major Leaguer.
Kole Calhoun, Outfield, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – With the Angels moving Peter Bourjos to St. Louis, it freed up a spot in the outfield for Calhoun, who has been up and coming for the Halos for quite some time. The 26 year old played in 55 games last season, hitting .282, and an OPS of .808. He isn’t confirmed 100% starter just yet, but it’s expected that they will give the vast majority of starts in left to Kole, who we can probably expect a very solid year, surrounded by offensive power-houses in the Angels lineup.
Jurickson Profar, Second Base, Texas Rangers – The former number 1 prospect in all of baseball had a tough rookie season, hitting just .234 in the 85 games he played, but this will be his first full season at his natural position, with Ian Kinsler being sent off to Detroit. He has tremendous upside, and showed versatility, playing in 4 different positions over the season. Texas has a very potent offense, and we can fully expect Profar to be a big part of it at the top of the order.
Junior Lake, Outfielder, Chicago Cubs – Among the first players from the Cubs’ stacked farm system, Lake showed promise from center, playing in 64 games, and hitting .284 with 6 home runs. He probably won’t kill teams on his own, but he’s going to be a good threat near the top of the order on the North Side. In combination with the other young guns for the Cubbies like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, he will be a very good piece for the Cubs for years to come.
Billy Hamilton, Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds – If you haven’t seen YouTube videos on this guy yet, then get watching them, and then keep this guy on high priority in fantasy drafts. He stole 75 bases in AAA last year, and has stolen over 100 in previous seasons in the Reds’ system. He was handed the starting job with the departure of Shin-Soo Choo, and will have a chance to put his much talked about speed on full display. Provided he can get on base, and that hasn’t been a problem for him, he will be a huge pest on the basepaths for years to come.
Scooter Gennett, Second Base, Milwaukee Brewers – This 23 year old came in midway through the season, and put on a great show, hitting .324 and garnering an OPS of .834 in 69 games. He did so well, he stole the starting job from mainstay Rickie Weeks, and is now part of one of the top up and coming double play combos with fellow youngster Jean Segura. He will be an essential part of the lineup, getting on base consistently and keeping the carousel moving in front of power threats such as Ryan Braun. Expect good things for Scooter this season.
Zack Wheeler, Starting Pitcher, New York Mets – The talk of the town in New York (when not complaining about the Yankees) was Matt Harvey, until he went down with Tommy John surgery. Among the other pitchers on the rise for the Mets is Wheeler, who was acquired from the Giants for Carlos Beltran, and he showed potential in his 17 starts in the majors this past season. Manager Terry Collins says he expects 200 innings out of Wheeler, and if he pitches to his potential, he will be a great #2 to Harvey’s #1 for years to come in Flushing.
Anthony Rendon, Second Base, Washington Nationals – This sophomore had a solid first run in the majors, appearing in 98 games, hitting .265 and an OPS of .725. This year, he has the starting spot for himself, and will continue to improve on last year’s campaign this season. With a tremendous young squad around him, he should be counted on to hit near .300 this season, and be an essential part to the Nats’ continued rise in baseball. Get used to hearing his name in conjunction with Bryce Harper as the young guns in DC.