Fantasy Baseball Friday: Breakouts

Gav wrote about sleepers last week at each position. Guys going outside the top 200, per FantasyPros ADP, that are being undervalued. This week we’re looking at breakouts. Breakouts are a bit different from sleepers in that, yes they are also being undervalued, but these are guys who have yet to hit their ceiling and thus are poised to break out and return draft value. Let’s dive in.


Sean Murphy (OAK)

Sean Murphy is going into his age 26 season and has sneakily been a really good hitter in his first two years in MLB, posting an OPS of .899 and .821. He projects to bat fifth in a solid A’s lineup. Murphy will mostly be the everyday catcher, and while the good old Oakland Coliseum isn’t exactly the most hitter-friendly park, Murphy will see plenty of opportunities to compile in points leagues, and the skills are there to be an above-average Roto contributor relative to his peers at catcher. The StatCast data is strong for his ability to hit the ball hard, so I think more good things are to come for Murphy in 2021, and due to catcher being so thin and him going on average in Round 17, I think Murphy is a prime breakout candidate. It’s not hard to look forward and see Murphy going as a top five catcher next year rather than number 10 off the board.

First Base:

Ryan Mountcastle (BAL)

I found it tough to come up with a good, relevant breakout for first base as it seems the position skews to the older, more established guys, but I’ll go with Ryan Mountcastle of the Baltimore Orioles. A former first-round pick by the O’s looked great in his first big-league action in 2020, with a .878 OPS. The lineup isn’t going to be great, but Camden is a great ballpark to hit in. He’ll get some time in the outfield as well and is dual-eligible at 1B and OF. Hopefully, the Orioles give up on the sunk cost that is Chris Davis and let Mountcastle be the everyday first baseman. If they do that, Mountcastle can have a breakout 2021 and return great value from pick 152.

Second Base:

Nick Solak (TEX)

Gav wrote about Nick Madrigal, who could also be a breakout potential for this year, but for the sake of diversity let’s go with Nick Solak. Solak got some Major League licks in 2019 and looked pretty solid at the plate. He then became the everyday second baseman for the Rangers last year and was largely disappointing. But looking deeper into the profile, his xwOBA of .318 was 21 points higher than his actual wOBA of .297. The StatCast profile from last year also resembles someone who maybe underperformed in the small sample size season.

His profile could shape up to be a strong contributor in batting average and steals. He’s yet to fully display that 91st percentile speed. Solak was on pace to steal 18 bags last year, assuming 150 games played. The Rangers will most likely be a bottom 10 team this year, so if the Rangers let him loose he could be a steal in Roto leagues and be a stolen base break out at pick 185.

Third Base:

Alec Bohm (PHI)

Bohm had a sneaky strong year at the plate last year in his first year in the majors, posting a slash line of .338/.400/.481. He had great StatCast and batted ball data as well. He’ll probably live around a .800 OPS this year as opposed to the .881 from last year, but he’ll get plenty of plate appearances to compile in points leagues and I like him even more in Roto due to his plate discipline and helping in the Average category. He’s currently the 13th third basemen off the board at pick 109 and I think he can easily break onto the scene to establish himself as top eight at the position.


Carlos Correa (HOU)

It feels weird to call Carlos Correa a breakout given the name value he’s already built up, but hear me out. I see a theme with a lot of the Astros hitters that they’re still being undervalued, I presume from the cheating scandal and their bad regular season. I think people forget how much they turned it on in the postseason, losing in Game Seven of the ALCS against the Rays. Shortstop is a position that is seen as very deep, but its depth also comes mostly at the top end. You can blink and the top guys at shortstop are all gone in the first seven rounds, but Carlos Correa is going to be there in round 10 and I love that price. I think the Astros are going to bounce back hard this year and have a strong lineup. Correa is still only 26 and when he’s been healthy he’s been awesome. The problem is he’s really only been healthy for one full-length season. The breakout case for Correa is if he stays healthy this year, we can be thinking about drafting him in the third round next year. I’ll take getting a guy with that breakout upside in the 10th round all day.


Anthony Santander (BAL)

I know, it feels gross to include two Orioles in the same column, but whatever. Santander moved into an everyday role with the Orioles last year and kind of already broke out in 2020, but since it was a short season and you can call “small sample size” I’m not counting it. I’m betting on him to fully break out this year and make some noise in the fantasy world, with the upside to be a top 25 outfielder, and thus must-start. He’s currently going as the 38th outfielder off the board, at pick 163. In 2020 Santander hit .261 with an OPS of .890. The projection system ATC (Fangraphs) suggests he’ll remain above .800 OPS this year and StatCast data says his batting average should’ve actually been .286 last year. He’ll play half his games in Camden Yards which is extremely hitter-friendly and he could reach 600 plate appearances. Keep your eye on Santander to fill one of your outfield spots this year.

Starting Pitcher:

Jose Urquidy (HOU)

Throwing another Astros guy in here. Jose Urquidy is 25 and got called up by the Astros in 2019 and started seven games, had a 3.95 ERA, about a strikeout per inning, a 3.68 FIP, 20% K-BB%, and 4.03 SIERA. Then last year, Urquidy got COVID and missed a large portion of the regular season, and he even said the effects of COVID lingered with him for a lot longer than he expected and kind of messed him up. He still managed to have a 2.73 ERA in 5 games started, but he wasn’t striking basically anyone out, his K-BB% fell to 7.8% and his SIERA was up over 5, which is really bad.

I think people are overvaluing these 2020 peripherals and looking past him this year, but I’m willing to completely throw out his 2020 performance as it relates to skills and missing bats and chalk it up to the CoCo and rely more on his 2019 profile and his upside.

Urquidy has shown up to camp this year 15 pounds lighter than last year and has said himself he feels much better and wants to go 200 innings. He’ll either be the Astros’ number three or number four, depending on how they treat Odorizzi, but definitely behind Greinke and McCullers. For what it’s worth I think he’s better than Odorizzi. With early injuries to Framber Valdez and Forrest Whitley, his spot in the rotation has been solidified. I really like him to continue his 2019 numbers and break out in 2021. I think this time next year we could be talking about Urquidy as a top 30 starting pitcher, so why not get him at ADP 202 this year.

Relief Pitcher:

James Karinchak (CLE)

Karinchak has had a solid first two years at the big league level and I think he’s being overlooked a little this year because the Indians don’t project to be that great, so people are assuming he won’t get as many saves. But Karinchak has great skills and ATC projections have him at 28 saves. He can also help you in ERA and WHIP, and he projects, as of now, to be one of the only few true closers in the MLB.

Above are his 2020 StatCast numbers which show pretty elite rankings with swings and misses, strikeouts, and limiting quality contact against. He’s had some trouble with issuing walks, but one, if he can get those under control he might be the best closer in baseball, and two, who cares if you walk one batter every other inning if no one can touch your stuff and you strike everyone else out. If he can fully breakout in 2021 I see him as a top three relief pitcher.

Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Fantasy expert, Adam Gruttadaro, is a guest contributor for Bat Flips and Nerds. Check out his website for more fantasy tips and follow him on Twitter.

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