Breakout players can be defined in a lot of different ways, but I try to find young players who have at least shown promise and are ready to take a huge jump. In a perfect world, fantasy owners won’t have to pay a premium on draft day either.
In 2019, we were able to identify St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty. The right-hander went on to finish the season with 231 strikeouts, good for 13th overall in baseball, and a 2.75 ERA.
Hitting on a couple of breakout players will go a long way in winning a fantasy baseball championship.
Tampa Bay Rays Starting Pitcher Tyler Glasnow
The 26-year-old could have seen his breakout season occur in 2019, but injuries limited the right-hander to 12 starts. It appears Glasnow is 100 percent healthy, which is amazing news for fantasy owners. The righty was dominant in those 12 starts, as he pitched to a 1.78 ERA and an eye-popping 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. To put that in perspective, that would have ranked eighth in baseball if Glasnow had enough innings to qualify.
The strikeout ability is legit, as he has had a high strikeout rate at every level he has pitched. Even though the ERA will not hover below 2.00, it should still be a strong number for fantasy owners. The Rays are also a playoff-caliber team, which should give Glasnow the opportunity to rack up wins as well.
The injury risk is a real concern. Anytime a pitcher deals with an injury to his throwing arm, it’s worrisome. I’m willing to take on that risk for the extremely high upside.
Glasnow has an average draft position of 22 for starting pitchers, according to FantasyPros.com, and 74th overall. This is a fair value for a pitcher who shouldn’t surprise anyone if I’m talking about him as a top-10 option by season’s end.
Toronto Blue Jays Shortstop Bo Bichette
In our draft guide, we discussed the shortstop position being incredibly deep. Bichette is a player who could end up being one of the more productive players at the position by the end of the season.
The 22-year-old has an average draft position of 13 at the shortstop position and 72 overall, and he has the skills to help fantasy owners in a big way in 2020. Bichette is expected to bat leadoff for the Blue Jays — always attractive when targeting players in fantasy baseball. The youngster has already proven he can hit at the big-league level, as he finished with a .311 batting average in only 46 games with 11 home runs.
Bichette never hit a ton of home runs in the minors, but I have learned in recent years that that doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to predict the shortstop will hit 30 homers, but he should easily hit 20 in his first full season. Bichette only stole four bases in his brief stint in the big leagues, but the shortstop finished with 32 stolen bases in 2018 at Double-A.
There’s no doubt that the potential of a strong batting average with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases can happen this season, and if he does bat leadoff on an everyday basis, he should approach 100 runs scored as well.
Los Angeles Dodgers Second Baseman Gavin Lux
The draft day investment isn’t as much as the first two mentioned, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge ceiling for the 22-year-old. Lux is expected to be the everyday second baseman for the Dodgers and proved in a limited capacity in 2019 that he can be an effective major leaguer.
Lux is a consensus top-five prospect in all of baseball after finishing the 2019 season with 28 home runs between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. The youngster can flat-out hit, which is why he was untouchable in any trade talks the Dodgers had this offseason. The issue is that the Dodgers are extremely loaded, so they don’t need Lux to bat near the top of the lineup like we will see with Bichette. This could hamper some of his fantasy upside if he finds himself batting near the bottom of the order.
However, Lux is a special talent and the production will follow as a result, especially if he does play every day as projected. Lux can run, as evidenced by his 27 stolen bases in 2017 when he was in the minors. In 23 games with the Dodgers last season, he did steal two bases — so there’s hope the team will let him run this year.
Lux is currently being drafted as the 17th second baseman, according to FantasyPros.com, and 153rd overall, which seems too low for a player with his ability.