2017 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Players

by Dennis Sosic
2017 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Players

For many fans, spring training begins when the players report for their first workouts.  With that date fast approaching, the FIRST thing that comes to my mind is to start to get ready for my fantasy baseball leagues.

In the never-ending quest to find the next Mookie Betts or Wil Myers to draft and showcase your fantasy skills and insight and to win your league, one of the most important aspects to winning your league is to locate the breakout players, the players that outperforms where they were drafted and become a fantasy stud and therefore getting more value and a major advantage in your lineups each week.

Preparation is the key to success. To assist you to be better prepared for this upcoming season, I have highlighted six players that will have breakout seasons.  For those fantasy owners, who play in AL or NL only leagues. I have also broken it down to three players in each league that you should have your fantasy radar on during your drafts and/or auctions.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Players

American League

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

YES, Byron Buxton again!!!  Ever since Buxton was drafted second overall by the Twins back in 2012, he has been on everyone’s sleeper or breakout list every season. Why is this season any different???

In reality he made his first trip to the big leagues in 2015 and is still only 23 years old. While he has struggled to start his career, he seemed to finally start to put it together after his call up in September. In the final month of 2016, he flashed what he is capable of by posting a 1.011 OPS, scoring 24 runs and hitting .287/.357/.653 with nine home runs in 113 plate appearances.  He still has all of the physical tools that made him a top prospect and now that he has experienced some success, it should lead him to be more confidence coming into this season. He should finally realize his potential and became a steal for your squad for you this season.

Currently, Buxton is ranked as the 48th OF with a consensus ADP of 189 overall according to FantasyPros.com. The wide range of ADP from 121 overall down to a whopping 229 shows the vast variety of opinions of what Buxton will accomplish this season. I would pick Buxton as my third or fourth OF with the thought of the upside that he will bring with potential for helping you with steals and runs and with some pop in his bat.  In keeper leagues, he makes a very interesting case given his wide opinions of value.  He would be a steal late in drafts based on his perceived sinking value.

2017 Projections:  .255 BA, .315 OBP, 21 home runs, 60 RBIs, 84 runs, 33 stolen bases

Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees

Greg Bird had a promising start to his major league career in 2015 but missed the entire 2016 season because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Bird gave the Yankees fans a glimpse of what he brings to the table after hitting .261 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 46 games in 2015.

With Mark Teixeira now retired, Bird is in a great position to open up the season as the everyday first baseman. The lefty’s power will be a natural fit with the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. However, he will need to find a way to cut down on his strikeouts to really take the next step forward (29.8% in 2015). Yes, that strikeout rate is a little scary, but his minor league K% in 2015 was well under 20% and his 11.1% whiff rate are more typical of a guy with average strikeout rate or just above.

He is a career .282 hitter in the minors, and has shown to have patience at the plate. He even has a 107 BB minor league season under his belt. During his first stint in the majors, he posted a 53 K: 19 BB ratio, which teeters right on the verge of becoming a red flag.

I think he will be undervalued due to fear of his shoulder, but all of the latest reports have Bird making the necessary progress to be the starting first baseman in 2017. Yankee Stadium should become a haven for Bird as well, making him a clear 20+ HR and 80 RBI threat in 2017 and someone you should target in the late rounds to fill your 1B slot.

2017 Projections:  .262 BA, .335 OBP, 28 home runs, 85 RBIs, 65 runs

Blake Snell, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Blake Snell had an up and down season. The up consisted of having the highest K/9 of all AL starters in the second half. The down was that his command issues limited him to shorter outings as he only made it past the fifth inning once over his last eight appearances.

He finished the season with a 6-8 record and a  3.54 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. He struck out 98 in 89 innings, but he also walked 51. This led to him posting a whopping 5.2 BB/9 to along with the 1.62 WHIP.

If Snell can limit his control issues, he should make a formidable leap forward in 2017.  His overall fantasy value is category based as he will be a liability that will damage your WHIP but will help you compete in strikeouts and wins.

According to FantasyPros.com, Snell’s ADP is No. 256 overall and No. 76 among starting pitchers which will be your 4th/5th type Fantasy starter.  He will hold more value in roto leagues as you can target Snell with the strategy in mind to increase your win and strikeout categories while sacrificing your WHIP category.  The drafting of Snell will be team-based as you strategize around your other starters and plan to improve weaknesses of your pitchers. I believe Snell will improve his WHIP and manage his control problems as he gains more strength in his arm and is allowed to go longer in games.  The experience he gained last season will bode well for Snell to improve his fantasy status and become a 2nd/3rd starter on your fantasy team.

2017 Projections:  150 IP, 12 W, 7 L, 3.30 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 165 K

National League

Alex Reyes, SP/RP, St. Louis Cardinals

The 22-year-old made his debut late in the 2016 season as he was originally promoted to serve as a relief ace, but poor performance and injuries in the rotation led him to receiving five starts over the season’s final month, and finished the season pitching 46 innings for the Cardinals and posting a 1.57  ERA.

Reyes is armed with an electric fastball that surpasses 100+ mph, one of the hardest breaking balls in the MLB, and a late action change-up, his arsenal is downright ridiculous. The Cardinals have already come out and confirmed that Reyes has earned a spot in the rotation in 2017. No one has ever doubted his stuff but he needs to harness his shaky control. He forced a 21% whiff rate last season but because of its movement, he can not harness his command.

There will be an inevitable innings cap that the Cardinals will have to place on Reyes which will be the only real blemish on Reyes in the eyes of fantasy owners. He will be on every fantasy owner’s radar and will command a high draft pick and/or big money in auction leagues and will be well worth it.  Do NOT be the fantasy owner who passes on Reyes.  He will be THE breakout pitcher to own this season and could end up being one of the best pitchers in the National League.

2017 Projections:  120 IP, 14 wins, 5 losses, 3.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 160 strikeouts

Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Julio Arias made it to the big leagues last season at the young age of 19, he started 15 games and posted a 3.39 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched. Arias is a super-talented lefty who is widely considered baseball’s best pitching prospect. In his final 16 games (13 starts), Urias had a 2.73 ERA and struck out 77 in 69 ⅓ innings while being on a tight pitch limit. Urias is likely to have another restricted workload after a total of 122 innings last season.

This inevitable innings limit is the only issue with Urias in 2017, as the Dodgers will be careful with their young lefty. And with a deep 10-man rotation with Kershaw leading the way, the Dodgers can be careful with him during the early parts of the season to have him available in the rotation toward the end of the season and hopefully in the playoffs.

According to FantasyPros.com, his ADP is 161 overall and 47 as a starting pitcher.  In most leagues, Urias will be picked a lot earlier than that as his hype for this season is increasing daily.  The young phenom will be taken earlier than expected as no one wants to pass up on Urias with his potential of being a stud for seasons to come. He is going to be an excellent pitcher and has dominant stuff, I would hate to have him available on my turn in the draft and be the fool that does not take him and his unbelievable potential.

2017 Projections:  160 IP, 11 W, 6 L, 3.10 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 160 K

David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

David Dahl was the 10th overall pick of the 2012 draft by the Rockies, and he showed why he is so highly regarded in 2016. Dahl hit .315 with seven home runs and five stolen bases in his 63-game debut with the Rockies in 2016. The left-handed hitter is a fantasy asset as he contributes with a high batting average, OPS, home runs and steals. With that Rockies lineup, Dahl should excel especially at Coors Field where his numbers were outstanding.

The hype around Dahl is well justified and fantasy owners should feel confident picking him in their drafts. Owners should hope that his buzz does not force his draft stock too high, although he is well worth a mid-round pick. His bat speed and all of the scouting reports support his upcoming breakout and we will see a 20 HR/20 SB player in 2017.

According to FantasyPros.com, Dahl’s overall ADP is 100 and he is the No. 27 ranked OF.  This places Dahl as a 3rd OF on your fantasy team, although I believe you can safely place him up to the 2nd OF on your roster as he will contribute in multiple categories and with the added plus of Coors Field, I think he proves that his debut was just the beginning of Dahl becoming a fantasy stud.

2017 Projections:  .282 AVG., .325 OBP, 24 HR, 71 RBI, 74 R, 28 SB

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