2021 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates

by Dennis Sosic
2021 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates

Welcome Fantasy friends and foes as I look to identify who will break out in the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates.

Who will be this year's Jeimer Candelario? How about this year's Max Fried?

I am here to help! I came up with three hitters and three pitchers who will take the next step up the Fantasy rankings and help win your Fantasy championships.

Which two Toronto Blue Jay players will breakout in 2020? It's not who you think!

Which two infielders will elevate their game to another level in 2021?

Who should Fantasy managers target to complete their starting rotation this season?

Find out the answers to these questions and a whole lot more in the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates.

2021 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates

Get prepared for the upcoming Fantasy Baseball season by using the Fantasy Pros Draft Wizard.

Alejandro Kirk, C. Toronto Blue Jays

Alejandro Kirk made quite an impression in his MLB debut last season. After never previously played above Single-A, all Kirk did was hit .375/.400/.583 for a wRC+ of 166 in nine games. Kirk built upon his minor league pedigree, where he hit .315/.418/.500 with 41 doubles, 17 homers, 101 RBI, and five stolen bases with just 60 strikeouts in 619 plate appearances.

His performance suggests that he should be the Toronto Blue Jays starting catcher on Opening Day. However, he will need to battle Danny Jansen for the starting job. To accomplish this, Kirk needs to concentrate on his defense and improve on his stocky build and conditioning, which he spent the offseason getting in better shape.

The 2021 season is a make-or-break season for Jansen, who hit below the Mendoza line with a meager .183/.313/.358 slash with six homers in 43 games. Jansen will be on a short leash, so don't be surprised to see Kirk take over after the first month of the season, if not sooner.

Imagine another potent bat in this deep Blue Jays lineup. All signs point for Kirk to take over and be another offensive force for the Blue Jays. Fantasy managers should jump on the Kirk bandwagon. It should be a fun ride to watch the Kirk breakout.

Jared Walsh, 1B, Los Angeles Angels

It seems that the Los Angeles Angels have finally found someone to replace future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols at first base. Jared Walsh finished seventh in American League rookie of the year balloting, ranking third among all rookies in both home runs and RBI in 108 plate appearances.

The 27-year-old first baseman had previous ineffective appearances in the big leagues the last couple of seasons. Additionally, Walsh went hitless in two stints with Angels during the summer months. After his September 1st callup, Walsh carried the Angels on the strength of his record-breaking run down the stretch. His efforts kept the Angels in the playoff hunt until the last weekend.

Walsh was the American League Rookie of the Month Award winner for September 2020. Walsh had a .337/.368/.744 slash line with nine home runs, and 26 RBIs, over 22 September games.

The primary catalyst to the massive turnaround was the adjustments to his batting stance. Walsh drastically reduced his 40.2 percent strikeout rate down to 13.9 percent. This improvement led Walsh to rank seventh with a .971 OPS last season.

Walsh has the power to change a game with one swing. He will be the Angels starting first baseman in 2021. I am looking forward to his breakout season to a legit power source for the Angels and Fantasy managers.

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

One of the few bright spots for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season was the emergence of young third-base prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes. Hayes is the ninth-ranked prospect in MLBPipeline top 100 prospects as we approach the 2021 season.

Hayes enters this season with high expectations after putting up incredible numbers in a small sample size last season. In 95 plate appearances, he recorded 32 hits, hammered five homers, and registered seven doubles while slashing .376/.442/.682. He also exhibited the ability to hit off-speed pitches, which allowed him to produce a 195 wRC+ with a .464 wOBA.

Hayes projects to be a perennial Gold Glove candidate. This acknowledgment will allow Hayes to be a fixture for the Pirates at the hot corner for years to come.

His ceiling is highlighted by his power surge that Hayes blossomed into last season. His 55.4 percent hard-hit rate to go along with an outstanding average 92.8 exit velocity showcases his ascension to be a formidable force in the Pirates lineup. That rise will catapult Hayes to a breakout season for Fantasy managers.

John Means, SP, Baltimore Orioles

John Means finished 2020 with a 2-4 record with a 4.53 ERA in 43.2 innings. However, there were bright spots for Means and his Fantasy managers last season.

Means was one of 14 pitchers with at least 40 innings who had a WHIP below 1.00 (0.98). The southpaw recorded a special 42/7 K/BB rate while holding hitters to a .220 BAA.

His kryptonite was the long ball. He allowed 12 homers, giving up at least one in nine of his ten starts. His 2.5 home run rate per nine innings was the highest of his career and in extreme contrast to his 1.3 per nine innings in 2019.

Means suffered through physical and personal issues to start the 2020 season. However, he ended the 2020 season with four dominant starts.

Means averaged six innings per outing while allowing only four earned runs in 23.2 innings. The left-hander struck out 30 batters while walking only three on the way to a 0.634 WHIP.

The 28-year-old will look to build upon those last four starts on his way to a breakout double-digit win 2021 season.

Tyler Mahle, SP, Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds have to be encouraged from what they saw in right-hander Tyler Mahle last season. Injuries to their rotation gave way to Mahle to make the rotation. He took a huge step forward last season and improved in almost every facet of his game this past season.

Mahle finished 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA, striking out 60 batters over 47.2 innings. The right-hander showed marked improvement in his strikeout rate. According to FanGraphs, Tyler Mahle drastically improved his strikeout-rate from 23.2% (2019) to 29.9% last season.

Furthermore, his HR/9 dropped significantly from 1.74 in 2019 to 1.13 last season. He also held batters to hit a career-low .198 against while also recording another career-high with a 1.154 WHIP.

Mahle projects to have secured the No. 3 spot in the Reds' starting rotation. He is a workhorse starter whose progress across the board last season elevates Mahle into a breakout candidate in 2021.

Nate Pearson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays possess elite youngsters and being a team on the rise. Most of those elite youngsters are hitters that are blossoming into offensive stars. However, Nate Pearson is the lone pitcher on this list. What makes Pearson an elite pitching prospect?

The 24-year-old can hit triple digits with his fastball and owns spectacular off-speed pitches. He also possesses a slider that hits the upper-80s and a curveball, and a changeup that exhibits plus potential.  His complementary arsenal registered a 35-plus percent whiff-per-swing rate. His large 6'6" frame creates a substantial downward trajectory keeping hitters on their toes.

Pearson is the consensus number one Blue Jays prospect after dominating the minor leagues. The right-hander posted a 2.19 ERA across three seasons with 146 strikeouts and 32 walks.

Pearson made his MLB debut last season with mixed results. He finished with a 6.00 ERA with 16 strikeouts and an alarming 13 walks in 18 big league innings. He ended up on the injured list after just four starts with a flexor strain in his pitching arm. However, Pearson did return to pitch in one postseason game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched two innings and struck out five batters in his lone appearance.

Pearson owns the highest potential of any pitcher in the organization. He figures to be an integral piece in the rotation this season after getting his feet wet in 2020. He can be a rotational ace but will likely fill the third spot in the Blue Jays rotation in 2021.

Nate Pearson will prove that he is the real deal this season. Dynasty owners should buy Nate Pearson shares immediately.

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