Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates: #FairyTaleSZN


According to the push notification from my Yahoo! Fantasy Sports App that I thought I had disabled, we are fully in 2019 Fantasy Baseball draft mode. And with draft mode activated, it is officially breakout(s) hunting season.

We are ready to take some ugly ducklings and turn them into black swans (still don’t understand that movie at all, except that one scene). Will you deem 2018’s late-season breakouts fancy horse-drawn carriages that you can ride to fantasy glory once again, or will they turn back into pumpkins giblets in 2019?

Before you blow the conch shell and get the crew together for draft night 2019, here are some breakouts (and non-breakouts) for you to make a call on at their current ADP. Weighing a breakout candidates’ ceiling potential versus average production of the players near them is what can prove pivotal on draft day.

Let us help make your 2019 Fantasy Baseball experience a #FairyTaleSZN, from start to finish.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates

Free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

Extended Warranty? How Could I Lose? The Homer Simpson Division

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For your consideration. The ol’crayola oblongata.

You have heard the names before and often since. If you pass on them and they breakout, finally, or unexpectedly, we urge you not to feel shame towards your draft come August. If you like the ADP and have the positional need, go right ahead. Far be it for us to pull an “I told you so.” Who knows?

Every year we miss on a retread breakout, we follow by drinking six packs till the brain cells that store our draft whiff history are disintegrated. Or we shove a crayon up the nose and into the brain. Whatever is available in proximity.

These are your brain cell exhausting retread break out candidates for 2019.

Max Kepler, OF, Minnesota Twins (ADP:232)

ADP Range: Randal Grichuk (237), Shin-Soo Choo (278), Kyle Tucker (283)

Kepler signed a five year extension this off season worth a guaranteed $35mil. GM Thad Levine stated Kepler is locked up through his age-30 season because he is part of their core and future.

The glut of competition in the outfield has some serious talent with Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Michael Reed all candidates for playing time. We love the Twins lineup, but they also just handed Marwin Gonzalez a starter’s contract. Lock in DH/1B to Nelson Cruz/ CJ Cron.

The murky playing time outlook suggest it’s too early to commit to Kepler despite the Twins offseason commitment.

Ketel Marte, 2B/SS/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (ADP: 224)

ADP Range: Andrelton Simmons (236), Marcus Semien (244)

It feels like Marte has been around forever for a 25 year old. Projected to bat leadoff and play CF, Marte is primed to serve as the new A.J. Pollock in the desert. He should be multi-position eligible, always a plus.

Last year was his first full major league season and his counting stats (2B:26, 3B:12, HR:14, OPS:.768) were good. Expect a heavy increase on the 68 runs he scored in 2018. Meanwhile, let us all continue to pray Jake Lamb can hit above .220 against lefties.

Marte is set up to break out in a big way in 2019. Don’t wait to grab him. He’s the no brainer we wouldn’t push a crayon into this draft season.

Willians Astudillo, C, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 275)

ADP Range: Omar Narvaez (281), John Hicks (404)

This is too muddy of a situation to guarantee the at-bats early in the season. Mitch Garver still exists. Astudillo has one more minor league option left than Garver. He has to put on one hell of a show, in front of AND behind the plate, to win the spot.

Jason Castro is still here. If he gets hurt (very likely), pull the trigger on Astudillo as a serviceable in two catcher leagues.

Brandon Lowe, 2B/1B, Tampa Bay Rays (ADP: 659)

ADP Range: Franklin Barreto (663), Kolten Wong (681)

Lowe smashed 28 HRs and 101 RBIs across AA/AAA last season. He uses cerebral instincts, not pure power, showing continuous improvement in both power and plate adjustments.

2B Joey Wendle broke out last season and will be a serviceable fantasy asset once again. Manager Kevin Cash has even tried Lowe out 1B this Spring.

If you’re in the deepest of leagues, consider Lowe an early season lottery ticket stash.

The Denny Green Division

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They are [most likely] who [the entire draft community thinks] they are. These are the names you, Feeney, and some great fantasy analysts including our own staff writers have already mentioned as potential sleepers or breakouts.

Fairy tales may be had with these players, but be logical. Target them if you think they can hit their max potential this season vs. their current draft capital cost. Be advised that every one of your competitive non-auto drafters will be aware of these guys too. So your story of drafting them will have to be a fairy tale.

Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox (ADP: 113, OF-35)

The Good: He’s Eloy Jimenez. Has been raking the life out of the ball since 2017; not one stop with OPS below .925 since early 2017. Jon Jay and Leury Garcia don’t stand a chance. Was lighting up AA in 2018 to the tune of .317/.556/.925 with 12 HRs across 228 PAs. Lowered his K% (AA:17.1%, AAA:13.2%) when called up to AAA, lighting IL pitchers up with a .434 BAbip and an insane .355/.597/.996 slash with 10 HRs an 42 RBIs across 228 PAs.

The Bad: Probably won’t be called up until May. ADP isn’t a selling point for a breakout.

The Word: The days of picking up a top prospect off the wire in April are over. You gotta spend draft capital, but he should be worth it when the time comes. Jimenez is a better stash than Vlad Guerrero Jr (ADP: 41) at their current ADPs.

Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets (ADP: 145, SS-16)

The Good: Fantastic across the board in his first full season with the Mets. 24/35 SBs had him a close 5th (Story was 2nd with 27 SBs) amongst SS behind Trea Turner‘s 43.

Caught some appreciable lightning over the final two months of the season to the tune of .284/.318/.731 with 37 Rs and 15/20 SBs across 50 starts. OBP and BAbip improved significantly as well.

The Bad: A season long look XBHs and plate patience showed the counting stats were not there for a starting fantasy shortstop. Of qualified SS in 2018: 9 HRs – 19th/20, 26 2Bs – T-14th/20, 29 BB – T-17/20.

The Word: Rosario got better at the plate where a 22 year old should across a long, arduous season in Queens. He’s only 23 so the major breakout may be in the future, but he’s well worth taking as breakout candidate with top-10 SS potential. Look for more improvement at the plate to pair with his 15 SB and top ten triple potential.

With Brandon Nimmo likely leading off, Rosario will be at the end of the order to star 2019. It may be an underwhelming start, but he could be at the top of an intriguing Mets lineup midway through 2019.

Josh James, SP, Houston Astros (ADP: 220, P-83)

The Good: Across 17 starts with AAA Fresno James had 1.09 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, and acquitted himself when called up to the bigs (.957 WHIP, 11.3 K/9). He made the postseason roster, but was hit hard in a relief appearance in the ALCS.

The Bad: Was reported that James suffered a quad injury. If he’s out through Spring he faces an uphill battle to claim that fifth rotation spot.

The Word: WATCHLIST/DL. If your league has DL spots, well, that doesn’t change the fact that the bevy of prospects behind him (Whitley, Bukauskas, Martin) are primed to seize the job. Don’t pay this price for someone who may end up as a long reliever/spot starter in the draft. If he falls deep because of the injury, take him and stash him.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts: Can’t Lose Division

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No joke, it was easier to find a legally shareable picture of Billy Bob Thornton giving the finger than one of the Dillon Panthers.

These are the breakout candidates you should potentially consider drafting around their current ADP. Our recommendation for these players is to consider your pre-draft strategy (positionally) and then anticipate who you are going to risk on by position at late ADPs. They are low risk at their current ADP but could also reside on the waiver wire by June.

12.) Alex Claudio, L-RP, Milwaukee Brewers (ADP: N/A)

Lefty reliever Josh Hader got some help this offseason with the acquisition of fellow lefty Alex Claudio. The 2017 MVPitcher for the Rangers, Claudio has closing experience and the versatility another former Ranger has displayed in his return to Milwaukee: Jeremy Jeffress.

Claudio sported a sub-3.00 ERA across three limited and one full season before skyrocketing to career lows in 2018: 1.52 WHIP, 4.48 ERA, 12 H/9. Claudio will never exceed a 7 K/9, but his career best 1.04 WHIP across 80+ innings in 2017 was promising.

The move to Miller Park actually provides a significant upgrade for Claudio with respect to Righties in most Park Factors vs. Globe Life Park in Arlington. He was annihilated by righties in 2018 with .369 BA and .933 OPS, along with a 0.413 BAbip.

Claudio is a potential breakout option for HLD leagues and shallower leagues where relievers are in constant need. Even in H2H, the Ottavino and Devenski types are solid contributors all year. Although Claudio may not reach their recent heights the potential is there.

11.) Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates (ADP: 260, 1B-27)

Entering his third full season the Pirates are counting on Bell to emerge as the heart and main power source of their lineup. The pitching staff is in place to compete, but the lineup leaves fantasy managers’ cupboards mostly dry.

A post-hype sleeper, Bell burst onto the scene in 2017 with 26 HRs and 90 RBIs, finishing 3rd in NL ROY voting.

Pointed out in Paul Zeise’s piece in the PPG, Bell’s slight increases in BA and OBP were downplayed by his decline in HR production (-14) and lack of doubles push (+5). The power needs to come back for Bell and the Pirates for both to breakout.

He had a solid September with 5 2Bs, 4 HRs, .390 OBP, and .860 OPS across 100 PAs. Being drafted along the likes of Trey Mancini and C.J. Cron, Bell is worth his post-hype ADP.

Bell can return top-10 1B numbers if he can correct his power drop (-7.3% HR/FB and -20.7% AB/HR) and continue to improve on his approach at the plate (+2.5% BB%, -1.1% K%).

10.) Mike Zunino, C, Tampa Bay Rays (ADP: 225, C-11)

Kevin Cash slots the former Mariner in where Wilson Ramos left off. Zunino had a heavy fall in BB% (5.9% from 9.0%), despite a near identical K%. The drop in BA is most noted, sitting at a paltry .201 after hitting .250 in his breakout 2017 campaign.

Zunino was tied for 4th amongst all catchers with 20 HRs despite having ~100-140 less plate appearances versus the other top-5. He probably won’t ever reach the heights of 2016 with respect to his .355 BAbip. The .268 from 2018 is more in line with his career average of .272.

We see Zunino as a re-breakout candidate this year due to the positions dearth of consistent fantasy talent. With Salvador Perez (3.9% BB rate, 27 HR, .245 BAbip) out for the season Zunino fits the bill (5.9% BB rate, 21 HR, .268 BAbip) as a solid replacement target.

9.) Andrew Heaney, SP, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 167, P-63)

Heaney finally exceeded his previous career high of 18 starts with 30 and 180 IP in 2018. He stayed consistent, despite some late season fatigue, over the course of the season, and improved his K/BB from 3.40 in his first 17 starts to 5.20 across the final 13.

Examining his monthly performance over the 2018 season, though his ERA was >4.45 in June, August and Sep/Oct:


2018 MonthStartsQuality StartsWHIPK/9K/BB

Heaney pitched through 6 innings in 20/30 starts, but his control allows for his endurance. He exceeded 106 pitches in one QS: his 1 H, 1 BB complete game shutout of the Royals in July (116 pitches).

Angel Stadium continues to slightly favor pitchers against league averages. Mike Soscia is finally gone. Jonathan Lucroy did wonders catching the A’s rag-tag staff last year. He should do the same with Heaney and the Angels rotation.

The Angels should be better and finally have a true closer in Cody Allen. This is where you take a breakout; right when he’s on the verge.

8.) Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 111, P-38)

2018 was Castillo’s first full season in the majors. He was top ten in the NL in HRs allowed (28), and BB/9 (2.599). He was also one of the best defensive pitchers in baseball. If the Park Factors of Great American Ball Park scare you, consider his 2018 Home/Road splits:


Castillo saved his most dominating stuff for his final 11 starts in the second half of the 2018 season. His experienced massive improvements to his ERA (-3.05), WHIP (-0.419) and K/BB (+2.19).

The bigger breakout may come in 2020, but he’s 2018 German Marquez-lite as far as his 2019  fantasy production cieling. Castillo may end up being a 3rd/4th SP this year with a potential for 175-200 Ks and a serviceable WHIP around 1.10. A commitment to his spot in the rotation could lead to big returns for Castillo at his current ADP.

Once Upon A Fantasy Baseball Trophy: The Knights in Shining Armor Division

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7.) Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers (ADP:  513, OF-97)

July 31st, 2017, the Los Angeles Dodgers deal their No. 4, No. 17, and No. 27 prospect for Texas Rangers Ace Yu Darvish. And the rest was not important history…

…until now. That No.4 prospect had a name. Willie Calhoun. Come on down. You’re on the next contestant on The Price is Right.

Sometimes going undrafted in fantasy drafts, Calhoun presents an interesting latest-round dart throw.

The Rangers outfield has a logjam that would block him early even if he made the roster. He’s behind Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields, and Nomar Mazara in the pecking order. His other competition for the spot is former Giants right fielder and scooter fanatic Hunter Pence. He could make the squad over Pence with DH Shin-Shoo Choo also drawing reps in right field from time to time.

Calhoun has struggled out the gate this Spring (16 PAs, 3 Hs, 1 2B, 2 RBIs) but the hope is he is focused enough to put it all together and make the 25 man roster. As recently as March 2nd the Rangers had batted Calhoun in the 2-spot. That’s sure to get Rangers fans psyched for 2019.

At AAA Round Rock last season, Calhoun batted .294 with 32 doubles and seven HRs and threw in a career-high four SBs. But it was his 2017 AAA performance that’s worth recalling: .300/.572/.927 with 31 HRs, 27 2Bs, and 93 RBIs.

The story since last season ended is that Calhoun isn’t just refocused, he has noticeably slimmed down to around 200 lbs and is in great shape headed into a pivotal year in his career.

Entering his age-24 season, Calhoun has enjoyed two straight years of cups of coffee with the big league squad. The Rangers are not contenders in 2019. Now is the time for Willie Calhoun to seize a role.

If his new manager and former instructional coach with the Dodgers Chris Woodward is truly convinced by the new and improved Willie, Calhoun could be an earlier than expected breakout candidate in 2019.

6.) Kevin Gausman, SP, Atlanta Braves (ADP: 231, P-92)

Paging Jake Arrieta. The Ghost of Erik Bedard? If you say Pedro Strop three times into a mirror nothing appears but the feeling of regret.

Another fantasy season, another opportunity to buy a former highly-discussed Orioles pitcher entering his prime at 28. The former 4th overall pick in 2012 was a top-15 prospect in 2013 and 2014 (Baseball Prospectus).

Gausman’s ascension through the minors is particularly interesting, as his K/BB ratio bottomed out during his AAA career (2.86 K/BB) after stellar AA (9.17 K/BB) and low ball (7.33 K/BB) showings. His AAA issues have extended into this MLB career.

Can so much change in his move from the AL and hitter’s paradise Oriole Park (1.12 HR – 9th worst) to the NL and the friendly confines of SunTrust Park (0.802 HR- 4th Best)? Early and small sample size says sure:

Orioles 6 Year Career Totals127.4334.221.344.169.41.3
2018 with Orioles21.3854.431.354.589.31.3
2018 with Braves10.6252.871.143.787.40.8

It is impossible to extrapolate such a small sample over a full season but the numbers are promising for a player continuously expected to breakout through his career. Injuries are still a concern, but Gausman is finally in the right place to put it all together. Parlaying last season’s late success would put him ahead of most on the breakout curve.

He has last year’s 8th best fielding defense behind him (BAL was 21st) and a lineup that added Josh Donaldson to a stable of young and primed superstars. This is the year.

Yes, the news came in as we were writing this that he is already hurt. But let him slide even further down draft boards. Take Gausman with hopes he returns SP2 value over the 2019 season.

5.) Jorge Polanco, SS, Minnesota Twins (ADP: 224, SS-22)

Thank you @benjpalmer for doing the dirty work for me. Polanco is a certified breakout candidate set to compete against Max Kepler for the leadoff spot in an impressively stacked 2019 Twins lineup. He and Kepler both received five-year extensions this offseason signifying a firm commitment from management.

As explained previously in this write-up, Kepler’s defined role in an already loaded outfield is hard for me to grasp unless he ceases it. Meanwhile, Polanco is the Twins SS for now and the future. Though he batted primarily in the two or three hole in 50 of his 76 starts last season, the tiny sample size at leadoff was promising: 23 PAs, .409 BA, .980 OPS, 1 HR, .500 BAbip.

Contract extension in hand, healthy and suspension free, at his current ADP, Polanco is set to return major breakout value in 2019. He has 15/15 and 100 run potential with a high BA to boot.

4.) Franmil Reyes, OF, San Diego Padres (ADP:  227, OF-60)

You can not tame this beast forever, San Diego. Spring training be damned (he’s off to a 11 PAs/ 2 singles/ 1 RBI kinda start), Franmil Reyes will breakout in 2019. He’s not going back down to the minors again after last year’s mid-season exodus:

1st Half105.222.434643.308
2nd Half180.315.5371087.363

Small sample size again but across his 285 MLB PAs in 2018 Reyes doubled the major league average of HR% (5.6%:3.0%) and %HR/Fly Ball (20%:9.1%). Though he didn’t qualify by hits, his 47.5% hard-hit rate would have ranked him above Khris Davis (32nd, 47.3%) Ronald Acuna (36th, 46.6%) and Mike Trout (40th, 46.2%).

When he wasn’t with the big league squad, he was tearing up the competition at AAA El Paso: 250 PAs, .324 BA, .340 OBP, .614 SLG, 1.042 OPS, with 16 HRs and 11 2Bs across 68 hits.

Reyes is high on our list of breakouts. In fantasy, opportunity reigns supreme. But we live in the era of “team control” focused playing time accrual manipulation (TCFPTAM). If we have to wait for Eloy or Vlad, and we will, we should grab this behemoth OF at his current ADP. I trust Andy Green will do the right thing by May.

3.) Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox (ADP: 152, 2B-14)

There should be nothing but fantasy love for that video.

Let us get this out of the way from the start: The MLB league-leading 217 strikeouts were atrocious. But here are some other players who have led leagues in strikeouts recently and how they responded:

Season_LeaguePlayer_AgeStrikeoutsML PAs Prior to SeasonK:BB RatioWhat Happened Next?
2018_MLBYoan Moncada_232172513.24BREAKOUT?!?!?!
2017_NLTrevor Story_241914153.90.291/.348/.914
Silver Slugger
All Star
8th in NL MVP Vote
2017_MLBAaron Judge_25208951.64.278/.392/.919
All Star
12th in AL MVP Vote
2015_NLKris Bryant_2319902.58.292/.385/.939
All Star
2014_ALMike Trout_221841,4902.22.299/.402/.991
All Star
Silver Slugger
2nd in AL MVP Vote

R-E-L-A-X. Relax. R/T Aaron Rodgers.

Moncada has been labeled for fantasy stardom for what seems like a decade. Yet he’s entering just his second full major league season at the age of 23.

At the end of April 2018, he sported a .267/.353/.877 slash line to go with a .423 BAbip. His counting stats: 26 GS, 120 PAs, 17 Rs, 28 Hs, 7 2Bs, 1 3B, 6 HRs, 13 RBIs, 4/4 SBs, 14 BBs, and 55 TBs. Superstar.

We asked too much too soon. And he tried to give it to us. Unfortunately, the season-long grind was not kind to Moncada.

This is the year. He is set to add 3B eligibility, possibly in addition to his current 2B position. He may never hit for average, but Moncada’s elite raw power and speed from those positions is undeniably worth his draft status.

His 10.3% BB% had him tied for 44th with George Springer amongst qualified batters. For perspective, NL MVP Christian Yelich was 42nd with a 10.4% BB% and slugger J.D Martinez was 37th with a 10.6% BB%. The patience and eye at the plate are there for a 23-year-old.

This is one breakout candidate I am willing to be too early on. Shamelessly. Recklessly. Draft him with confidence.

2.) Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds (ADP: 184, OF-48)

The shoulder is repaired. The confidence is back. The breakout is primed. If you had him in 2018, you already know. If you are doubting him against lefties or think his home park creates a bias, here is what you need to know:

Situational ParadigmPAsBAOBPSLGOPSBAbip
2017 vs LHP26.
2018 vs LHP71.211.357.333.690.244
Differential vs LHP+ 55+0.091+ 0.203+ 0.133+ 0.336+ 0.101
2018 Home163.328.429.511.940.364
2018 Road171.271.382.354.737.311
2018 Differential Split+8- 0.057-0.047-0.157-0.203-0.053

He’s going to get better against lefties with more playing time. He’ll always hit better at Great American Ball Park than on the road. Most do.

His current Spring stat line: 3 G, 8 PAs, 2 Rs, 2 Hs, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs, 1.250 OPS. Shoulder’s fine.

As for playing time? Matt Kemp should be the odd man out. Yasiel Puig‘s completed games after starting in the outfield: 2018-96, 2017-123, 2016-69, 2015-64. Last season, Winker started 42 games in RF and 29 in LF. They will/do see the light in Cincinnati. They will find an everyday role for this potential fantasy monster.

I just can’t find a negative with him that’s worth contradicting his breakout potential. Positioned at leadoff or in the fifth/sixth spot, in this Reds lineup, it won’t matter. The Reds are going to be an offensive force and Jesse Winker is going to be their breakout young star.

From my buddy/commissioner LZ: “I am fixing on replacing fantasy trophies and belts with banners. Hand stitched championship banners. Rings are too much at these housing prices.”

Going have to learn how to sew, design, and understand basic shapes, but there will be blood banners. Get that craft store Michael’s and Joanne’s Fabrics on the phone; Jesse Winker will be delivering mandatory arts and crafts time for ya come October 2019.

1.) Tyler Skaggs, SP, Los Angeles Angels (ADP: 226, P-87)

A former first-round pick out Santa Monica High School, lefty Tyler Skaggs is coming off a multitude of career highs in 2018: GS (24), ERA (4.02), IP (125.1), SO (129), K/9 (9.3), K/BB (3.23), QS% (46%), Swinging strike % (18.9%).

2018 was a tale of two Tys. After a July 25th win at home against the White Sox, his line stood at 8-6 with 2.62 ERA. He had hurled QS in 7 of his past 8 trips to the mound. Then this:

Start_DateOPPIPH + BBERSeason ERA
20_Jul 31@TB3.111103.34
21_Aug 11OAK3.11173.78
22_Sep 18@OAK3.0203.69
23_Sep 23@HOU2.1643.91
24_Sep 29OAK3.1634.02

He was already breaking out in 2018 before injury. Another plus: Skaggs was great on the road last year as well to the tune of 5-4 over 13 starts with a 3.69 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and a 9.1 K/9.

Mike Trout is here. Ohtani is here and only batting. Lucroy is behind the plate. Andrelton Simmons and Kole Calhoun has solid seasons in 2018.  Cody Allen is here to slam the door in the 9th. The Angels defense ranked 3rd in 2018 with 67 total errors.

We can not nor will we attempt to predict health. But if Skaggs can command his sinker better in 2019 (2018 – .326 BAA, .519 SLG), paired with his precision four-seam (2018 – .239 BAA, .407 SLG) and changeup (2018 – .232 BAA, .339 SLG), then we have our selves an ace, FYB.

2019 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelief Pitcher

Check out the rest of our great Fantasy Baseball content as the 2019 season approaches.

About Samir Qurashi

Samir Qurashi is from the Bay. He thinks football is a good time. You can get at him with any fantasy football questions on the tweeter: @FSPsamir and by electronica: He remains unspooked.

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