Welcome back RotoBallers to another edition of my “Breakout Hitters To Watch” series. What we’re doing here is taking a good, close look at the hitting data each week to see which hitters are standing out the most.
The idea is to find hitters that have made changes and/or really improved this season to find start-worthy hitters for your fantasy teams, preferably on the cheap. We aren’t constricting ourselves to players that are available on waivers or anything like that, just looking for some hitters that may be having their breakout seasons that you should try to acquire.
For transparency’s sake, we’ll do a recap of each week’s recommendation at the beginning of each post to track our results and see if we’re on the right track.
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Fantasy Baseball Breakouts Recap
Here are all of the names I’ve recommended so far.
|Week #||Breakout Picks|
|Week 1 (ST)||Julio Rodriguez, Steven Kwan, Kevin Smith, Bryson Stott|
|Week 2||Steven Kwan, Gavin Lux, Andrew Vaughn, Jesus Sanchez, Austin Nola|
|Week 3||Seiya Suzuki, Jeremy Pena, Alex Verdugo, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Rowdy Tellez|
|Week 4||Alec Bohm, Santiago Espinal, Taylor Ward, Cristian Pache|
|Week 5||Rowdy Tellez, Ha-Seong Kim, Max Kepler, Christian Walker, Pavin Smith|
|Week 6||Manuel Margot, Brandon Drury, Josh Naylor, Daulton Varsho, Gleyber Torres|
|Week 7||Brendan Rodgers, Yonathan Daza, Brandon Nimmo, Tommy Edman, Ryan Jeffers|
|Week 8||MJ Melendez, Kyle Isbel, Patrick Wisdom, Julio Rodriguez, Mike Yastrzemski|
|Week 9||Alejandro Kirk, Nolan Gorman, Christopher Morel, Joc Pederson, Garrett Cooper, Emmanuel Rivera|
|Week 10||Andres Gimenez, Jazz Chisholm, Santiago Espinal, Harold Castro, Brendan Donovan, Ramon Urias|
|Week 11||Matt Chapman, Luis Garcia, Christian Bethancourt, Oscar Gonzalez, Luis Arraez|
This Week’s Fantasy Baseball Breakout Picks
I could have written up Oneil Cruz and Riley Greene here, but I thought that was just too easy. Everybody is aware of those two names, and they should certainly be picked up in any leagues where they haven’t been – at least for right now. Cruz is extremely exciting with his massive raw power and speed, I mean he’s one of the best athletes in the entire league. As for Greene, it’s a lower ceiling but possibly a higher floor with his great plate discipline. They aren’t making the list officially here, but go pick them up if you find yourself in a league where they are available.
Juan Yepez, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals hype train recently has been running through Nolan Gorman town, but I’m off of that. I’m the Juan Yepez trade.
The young outfielder has a .276/.331/.463 line on the year with six homers in 148 plate appearances. The best thing we see here is the 21.6% K% and the 74% contact rate. He is making more contact than a rookie with power typically does, which is key to staying in a Major League lineup.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the power numbers have dwindled a bit recently as he’s gone for just a 5.9% barrel rate and two homers in June. However, there is plenty of reason to believe that this barrel rate can come back up in a hurry (it was as high as 11% earlier in the year). We have seen him hit a ball at 114.4 miles per hour, and that is just something that not all hitters can do. Of all of the hitters with a strikeout rate under 23%, Yepez has the 11th-highest max exit velocity.
He’s not hitting a ton of ground-balls either, but there have been just too many popups in his profile:
I believe it’s a bit easier to turn popups into fly balls than ground-balls, so I think we could see him get that FB% up towards 35% which should turn into bombs given how hard he is capable of swinging the bat. Temper expectations here, but Yepez certainly has the tools to turn into something pretty exciting.
Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox
Another repeat here, but Vaughn has been showing off again here in June. He has hit .377/.430/.494 in June with a tiny 14% strikeout rate and a 9.3% walk rate to go with the 81.6% contact rate. He’s hit just one homer in those 86 plate appearances, but his season total is a much healthier seven (a 29.6 PA/HR – better than league average).
The thing that has me most excited about Vaughn is the elite combination of hard-hit and contact rates. Of all of the hitters with a contact rate above 80%, he has the highest hard-hit rate, here is that top-ten board:
You can see that nobody in the league making this much contact has managed a hard-hit rate above 50%, and Vaughn and Drury are the only ones even coming true. This makes him a fantastic bet to maintain his stature near the top of the league in batting average, and there is plenty of power upside to boot with it. Vaughn has a massive, massive ceiling, and I do expect him to be one of the best hitters in the league at some point in his career. I’m not sure if he can put it all together in 2022, but I’m certainly not discounting it either. He’s a great guy to buy right now.
Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
This is a boring one since everybody already knows about Witt, and he’s certainly rostered in your league and very tough to acquire. But we have to talk about what he’s been able to do this season. His slash line is up to .243/.285/.458 despite a first month of the season just .229/.264/.349 with one homer. In June, he’s really turned it on with a .270/.309/.500 line with four homers, a 16% barrel rate, and a 48% hard-hit rate. The contact rate isn’t great at just 71%, but he’s managed strikeouts at 24.7% and hasn’t benefited much from BABIP.
The best part about Witt’s fantasy profile is the steals. He has now joined Kyle Tucker, Jose Ramirez, Jazz Chisholm, and Adolis Garcia as the league’s only hitters with double-digit homers and steals.
The time appears to be now for Bobby Witt, who will likely go on to win Rookie of the Year so long as he stays healthy.
Michael Harris II, Atlanta Braves
Harris has gotten less attention than the other highly regarded prospects that have busted into the league this year, but he’s been one of the most impressive guys with the bat at the highest level. Serving as the Braves number nine hitter (I can’t imagine he stays down there for long especially with Ozzie Albies out), he has hit .345/.375/.571 with three homers in 88 plate appearances. The strikeout rate is impressive at 20.5%, although it comes with an incredibly low 3.4% BB%. The batting average is also bolstered by a high BABIP (.413).
If you’re worried about him staying down in the lineup, you can be comforted by the fact that he scored 15 runs in his first 23 starts, a 162-game pace of 106 runs scored. He’s added 13 RBI, a pace of 92 RBI. I don’t think any nine hitter can sustain those rates, but the Braves lineup is deep enough to sustain even their #9 guys’ fantasy value – he will be on base a ton this year with Ronald Acuna and Matt Olson at the dish.
Harris has also stolen two bags in 23 games, so he has that part of the game going for him as well. He has everything you want in a hitter with power, speed, and a good strikeout rate. The batting average is sure to come down given that BABIP, but Harris seems like a start-worthy fantasy outfielder right now – the future is bright.
Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers
This is another repeat, but Lux’s performance has really been sticking out lately – so I wanted to make sure the masses are aware. For the year, Lux is hitting .291/.364/.392, crushing the league triple-slash line of .242/.312/.394 in everything but slugging. We have not seen the power skills from Lux as much as we thought we might, but everything else has been fantastic.
He possesses the 17th-best chase rate in the league at 19%. That has helped him post a great 10.6% BB% and a low 18.3% K%. Those stats make the great batting average very believable, and he’s even chipped in five steals over his 218 plate appearances.
There is a real possibility that we see him move up the batting order soon, as the Dodgers’ typical lead-off man Mookie Betts is out for at least a couple more weeks. Lux’s performance certainly fits the mold of a lead-off man, so I do think we could see him up there at some point. Even if that doesn’t materialize, the Dodgers’ elite offense has boosted his performance even though the PAs are low. He’s scored 37 runs in 218 PAs, which is a pace of 93 runs over a 550 PA season. The RBIs are bad at just 17, but the steals solidify him as a solid enough fantasy player that will really help your team in AVG while being solid in runs and steals as well.
I would certainly be picking Lux up in most leagues already, but if he does happen to get to the top of that lineup – he’s an absolute must-roster player.
And that’s it for this week’s breakout picks, hope this helps. Good luck this week, RotoBallers!
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