Fantasy Baseball: 2015 Breakouts
A lot goes into winning a fantasy baseball league.
First, there is getting the most value out of each and every pick in your draft or auction.
Then there is working the waiver wire diligently all season.
And there is managing your lineup, knowing how to address weaknesses in your lineup or in certain categories, sometimes by making trades.
But the single greatest factor is having as many breakout performances as possible.
Then again, I missed on just as many. Considering the relative low cost on these picks, hitting on 50 percent of your late-round flyers would go a long way toward winning your league.
Here is a list of my favorite breakout possibilities for this season, guys who I am targeting for their very high ceilings:
Yasmani Grandal, catcher, Dodgers: The key return from the Padres in the Matt Kemp trade, Grandal gives L.A. a big offensive upgrade over A.J. Ellis, who hit .191 with three homers last season. Grandal finished strong (.254 with six homers, 25 RBIs in his final 43 games) after a slow start coming back from knee surgery. The 26-year-old former top prospect is entering his prime and has a potent mix of power and patience, so a 20-homer breakout with a solid average could be in the cards.
Logan Morrison, first base, Mariners: Another former top prospect slowed in part by knee surgery, Morrison is primed for a breakout after a big finish to his 2014 season – .321 with six homers in the final two months. If he can finally stay healthy, Morrison could hit 25 homers with around a .280 average.
Marcus Semien, second base, Athletics: The 24-year-old came over from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade and looks to be the starting shortstop in Oakland while already qualifying at second and third base. This position flexibility will be a tremendous asset, as you likely can get Semien as a backup or use him as a middle infielder. Semien put up a combined 23 homers and 26 steals in 2013 between three levels in the minors and a cup of coffee with the White Sox, then totaled 21 homers and 10 steals last year between Triple-A and Chicago. There is 20-20 upside here, not to mention the patience to get on base and score a lot of runs, so move him up your draft board as the hype on Semien is building.
Kris Bryant, third base, Cubs: Talk about hype, things are getting out of control on the Cubs’ power-hitting prospect who has six homers in nine spring training games. Bryant will no longer come cheap, but there’s still a bit of a discount built in because of the worry that the Cubs keep him down in the minors for a while in the interest of an extra season of team control in his arbitration years. The upside is 40 homers and a .280 average with double-digit steals as a bonus.
Xander Bogaerts, shortstop, Red Sox: The 22-year-old has immense talent and should begin to show it this season now that Boston has settled on a position with the signing of third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Bogaerts hit .266 last year as a shortstop while slumping to .182 at third base. Back in his comfort zone, Bogaerts finished on a high note last season (.313, four homers in September) and his power and patience could help him to a .300 average and 20 homers with dual position eligibility to boot.
Mookie Betts, outfield, Red Sox: Boston manager John Farrell dampened the enthusiasm coming into spring training for the diminutive Betts by proclaiming oft-injured Shane Victorino as his starting right fielder if healthy. But Betts has since taken control of the center field job from Cuban import Rusney Castillo (another breakout possibility), although both could wind up starting if Victorino gets hurt or traded. Betts tore through Double- and Triple-A on his way to Boston last season, combining to bat .323 with 16 homers and 40 steals. His upside would be for those numbers to immediately translate to the majors with even the more likely .300 with 10 homers, 90 runs and 30 steals providing tons of fantasy goodness.
Taijuan Walker, starting pitcher, Mariners: Seattle’s No. 1 prospect going into last season battled shoulder issues coming out of spring training and never really got things going. Those struggles are making Walker a tremendous bargain this season as the ceiling is here for a sub-3.00 ERA, 15 wins and 180 strikeouts. The secret may not stay hidden for long, as Walker has been dominant this spring with 12 scoreless innings over four starts with a 13-3 K-BB ratio in 12 innings.
Sean Doolittle, relief pitcher, Athletics: There’s no denying the ceiling after the A’s lefty posted a microscopic 0.73 WHIP to go with a 2.73 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings last season. Now he’s being had at a discount since his return date is in question as he makes his way back from a partially torn rotator cuff. There is obvious risk here because of the balky shoulder, but when healthy should post tremendous peripheral stats and should easily regain his role as Oakland’s closer.