Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Breakouts Edition #1

By Shane McDonald
Feb. 16, 2017

Everyone that plays fantasy baseball knows the stars. If you hit on your early picks or high dollar picks, that’s a big but not likely to be the reason you win your league. You’re gonna win your league by picking the guys that outperform their draft values. These guys are my picks to go from mid-range talents to one of the top players at their position.

James Paxton

Paxton is already potentially highly coveted in your league based on the industry excitement. He’s 28 years old, so you’re not chasing someone who will only pitch about 100 innings like Julio Urias or Tyler Glasnow. His velocity on his fastball averaged about 97 consistently in 2016 and was up 2 mph from 2015. Pitchers that are showing increased velocity usually show improved results from their history, so he is definitely someone to buy right now. Chances are this is the cheapest you’ll find him for a few years.

Carlos Rodon

Rodon is still only 24 years old, so this may be a little early. However, I think he is finally ready to take a big step in the right direction. He only has three pitches and the results might now have been what we wanted last year, but when a guy that is entering his prime strikes out 9% of the hitters he faces and walks under 3%, it’s easy to get excited. The White Sox are not likely to be very good and this hurts his value a little, but I never chase wins in fantasy. If he pitches well, he will help your fantasy team regardless of his real life situation.

Eric Thames

Eric Thames is probably the guy I’m most interested in seeing in 2017. Players that come from other leagues are hard to project, but his numbers in Korea are spectacular. He hit 40 homers each of the last two seasons, but he also stole 40 bases in 2015. We’ve seen some of the big power guys come to the major and fizzle, but his unique power and speed combo in today’s game make him a different kind of talent. He’s 30 and is actually returning to the United States, so this is not a cultural adjustment for him in any way. Milwaukee is sneakily becoming a park where power is playing well. Keep in mind that he did have some platoon splits in Korea, so definitely temper your expectations a bit. However, a glance at this guy’s Steamer projections at 30/13/.272/.350 make it where I can’t help but want to slot him at my #4 or #5 outfielder spot and get my popcorn ready.

Miguel Sano

Sano still isn’t 24 years old, but he already has 43 career homers in the majors. His power is legit. The only question is how high can his number reach? 20 HR players are becoming run-of-the-mill and average. Can he get to 40? 50? Sure, it’s possible. I don’t know if this is the year, but I would expect him to get 30 and his high walk rate plays similar to an Adam-Dunn style fantasy player. Once again, if you play a league that punishes strikeouts, this is not your guy as he strikes out 30% of the time. But if you’re fortunate enough to play in a custom league, this is a big time breakout candidate and one that I am keeping in my hometown league.

Michael Pineda

Pineda is discussed every year for the talent his has, but for some reason never puts it all together. Well, this is the season I buy in. He slots very similarly to Rodon but with better control and a lower walk rate. If he can avoid the homers and the frustrating mental lapses, this guy can be a force. His projections for ERA are tremendously better than last season and his FIP suggests this could be possible. I know some of you have been burned before, so I understand why you might be out, but this may be the year that someone else benefits by taking a chance. This is the perfect post-hype sleeper/breakout that will finally put it together in his age-28 season.