I always enjoy the process of identifying players who have the potential of breaking out. It’s even better if they are a draft day value. We need to hit on a few players like this in order to win a championship, as there will always be those who underperform throughout the course of the season.

St. Louis Cardinals Starting Pitcher Jack Flaherty

The 23-year-old is just scratching the surface and can easily finish among the top 10 of starting pitchers by the end of the season. In 2018, Flaherty pitched 151 innings and finished with a 3.34 ERA and had a strikeout ratio of 10.8 per nine innings.

Flaherty should make 30 starts this season, and if he can bump his average innings per start to 6.0, he will approach 200 innings pitched. The Cardinals may show some restraint due to Flaherty’s age, so even if he falls short of that, but maintains the high strikeout rate, the right-hander will make for a strong starting pitching option in 2019.

Washington Nationals Center Fielder Victor Robles

The Nationals can never replace the talent of Bryce Harper, who left via free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. However, they do have viable replacements, and we saw the potential of that in 2018 when 19-year-old Juan Soto was promoted and finished the season batting .292 with 22 home runs, 70 RBIs, 77 runs scored and five stolen bases.

Due to that strong rookie season, Soto finds himself entering this season with an average draft position of 30. I expect another strong year even if he falls short of the high expectations.

I bring up Soto because if it wasn’t for an injury, we may be talking about Victor Robles heading into the season like we are with Soto. Robles has consistently been the Nationals number one prospect and had more hype surrounding him throughout the minor leagues than Soto. However, the 21-year-old hurt his elbow early in the 2018 season which caused him to miss significant time. If he stayed healthy, he might have been promoted instead of Soto.

Robles is completely healthy and with the departure of Harper, it appears the youngster will make the team and start in center field. Robles is an exceptional talent with speed being his best attribute. There’s potential for him to eventually hit for power, but for this season, we are targeting the outfielder because of his speed.

Robles is currently being drafted in the ninth and 10th rounds, which is fair value for a player who I think will steal 30 bases and be part of a lineup that should score runs. As with every young player, there’s risk; he can struggle early in the season, and the potential of where he hits in the lineup could limit his potential as well. However, I think the upside is great and I’m fine with the draft day investment.

Colorado Rockies Outfielder David Dahl

It seems like we have been waiting for a David Dahl breakout season for a couple of years, but 2019 could finally be it. Due to injuries, it just hasn’t clicked yet for the 24-year-old, but the talent is there. In just 77 games last season, Dahl finished with a batting average of .273 and 16 home runs.

If he can play a full season, could he hit 30 home runs? That’s what fantasy owners are hoping for and we always love targeting hitters on the Rockies.

I think 25 homers is more realistic, and he should chip in double digit stolen bases as well. The good news is that there could be a higher ceiling Dahl hasn’t tapped into yet because of all his injuries in recent seasons. This is a strong hitter to consider once we get to the eighth round.

Phil Backert

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