2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates – Hitters

by Mike Schneider
2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Hitters

In 2022 players such as Michael Harris II, Andrés Giménez, and Taylor Ward broke out and were instrumental in helping to win fantasy titles for those who drafted him. We will discuss the merits of potential breakout candidates for position players in the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Hitters.

For each position, I will also include breakout candidates as well as a late-round breakout candidate for very deep draft and hold leagues as well.

Tomorrow, Part two of the breakout series will focus on pitchers, but for now, let's focus on the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Hitters.

Check out some breakout pitcher candidates too.

2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Hitters

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Catcher

Tyler Stephenson (Cincinnati Reds, ADP 132, Age 26)

Stephenson has hit at the major league level (119 wRC+ with 18 homers in 605 plate appearances in the majors) but was limited to 50 games in 2022 due to thumb and clavicle injuries.

The opportunity to play DH or 1st base could potentially significantly increase Stephenson's value. In 2022 Oakland's Sean Murphy really benefited from getting opportunities to get plate appearances at DH.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Luis Campusano, San Deigo Padres

Luis Campusano (ADP 527) has been on the prospect radar for years.  The 24-year-old spent the last two years at AAA El Paso where he hit .296 with 29 homers in 682 plate appearances.

For a team that is all in for 2023, the Padres have not done much at catcher.  Perhaps they will eventually invest behind the plate but for now, Campusano, Austin Nola and journeyman, Pedro Severino appear to be in line to catch for San Diego.

Nola is a 33-year-old who converted to catching in 2017.  In 2022 he started a career-high 94 games at catcher but had only a .649 OPS. If the Padres don't make acquire another catcher, there is an opportunity for Campusano. He is a nice gamble at his current price in a deep draft and hold.

First Base

Andrew Vaughn (Chicago White Sox, ADP 142, Age 25)

While At Cal, Vaughn was one of the most advanced college-hitting prospects in recent memory. In 160 games in college, Vaughn hit 50 homers with a .373/.495/.688.

After being selected with the third pick in the 2019 MLB draft by the White Sox, Vaughn reached the majors in 2021 after only 55 games in the minors. However, with José Abreu already entrenched at first base for the White Sox, Vaughn was forced to play the outfield.

With Abreu now in Houston, Vaughn has first base to himself with the White Sox. He no longer has to worry about playing the outfield. From a fantasy perspective for 2023, it is nice that Vaughn has both first base and outfield eligibility.

Vaughn is a solid hitter who hits the ball hard. The question is how many homers he is going to hit. In 2022, Vaughn's ground ball percentage of 47.7% was higher than you like to see for someone like Vaughn who has limited speed. In order for Vaughn to return value in 2023 he will need to be able to get the ball in the air more.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Dominic Smith, Washington Nationals

Dominic Smith (ADP 652) was buried with the Mets, who mercifully non-tendered him. The 27-year-old signed a major league deal with the Nationals. There is the opportunity for playing time at first base or DH with Joey Meneses.

Smith is only a few years removed from an excellent 2020 season where is finished 13th in the MVP in the pandemic shortened season with a wRC+ of 166.

Since Smith is in line for more playing time with the Nats than with the Mets, his ADP will improve, but he could be a nice value around pick 500.

Second Base

Bryson Stott (Philadelphia Phillies, ADP 223, Age 25)

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Stott was a 2019 first-round pick with a ton of hype in spring training in 2022. He got off to a rough start and the Phillies sent him down to AAA after just nine games. Stott returned to the majors less than three weeks later and hit ten homers and 12 steals with a strikeout rate of 18.2%.

Stott has second base and shortstop eligibility for 2023.  With Trea Turner locked in as the Phillies starting shortstop. Stott has the inside track to the starting second base role but Josh Harrison and Edmundo Sosa are available if Stott does not perform. Both Harrison and Sosa hit righthanded and could platoon with the lefthanded hitting Stott.

The 2023 season is a big year for Stott. He has an equal amount of power and speed and it is easy to see him taking a step forward and becoming close to a 20/20 performer.  However, if he starts poorly it is possible that the Phillies will turn to one of the veteran backups.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Michael Massey, Kansas City Royals

In his first year in the upper minors in 2022, Michael Massey (ADP 524) emerged as a legitimate prospect.

The 25-year-old began 2022 with AA North West Arkansas where after a slow start he hit .329/ .386/.555 with nine homers and seven steals in his last 43 games earning a promotion to AAA Omaha. At AAA, Massey had a 156 2RC+ in 33 games to get called up to the majors on August 3rd.

Massey played regularly over the last couple of months of the season for the Royals and had a .683 OPS with 4 homers and three steals in 52 games.

Heading into 2023, Massey, Nicky Lopez and Samad Taylor appear to be the primary candidates for the second base job.  Both Massey and Perez hit lefthanded.  Lopez may play some at third.

Massey seems to be dismissed because he did not have huge success immediately when he got called up but expect him to be better in 2023.

Shortstop

Ezequiel Tovar (Colorado Rockies, ADP 258, Age 21)

Colorado has been aggressive with Tovar. After a solid year mostly at Full season A in 2021 as a teenager, the Rockies assigned Tovar to AA. Hartford to begin 2022  despite only a month of experience at High A. Tovar excelled hitting .318/.386/.545 with 14 homers and 17 steals in 66 games before missing over two months with a groin injury.

Tovar returned to play the two games of the year at AA, five games at AAA Albuquerque before making his MLB debut on Sepember 23rd less than two months after turning 21.

Heading into 2023, the Rockies appear to be giving Tovar a chance to win the starting shortstop job. Only Alan Trejo seems to be competition for Tovar at shortstop.

Tovar is very young and may not be ready at the beginning of 2023, but the power, and speed potential in Coors Field is very enticing.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Brice Turang, Milwaukee Brewers

Brice Turang (ADP 553) was a 2018 first-round pick. The 23-year-old has always been solid defensively with some speed and was always young for his level.

In 2022 Turang made some advances with the bat at AAA Nashville during the season. Beginning on July 9th, Turang hit .300/.392/.493 with 10 homers. His previous career high was six homers in a season. Turang was 34 for 36 on the bases in 2022.

Turang will begin 2023 with shortstop eligibility in most places. The Brewers have Willy Adames locked in at shortstop and a number of candidates to play second and third base. The lefthanded Turang should have a decent shot at getting at least the strong side platoon role at second base. If he can build on how he finished 2022 with the Brewers this year, he will be a nice value for where he is going in deep drafts.

Third Baseman

Josh Jung (Texas Rangers, ADP 218, Age 25)

Since being the eighth overall in the 2019 draft, Jung missed the 2020 minor league season due to the pandemic, the beginning of the 2021 season due to a foot injury and the first three months of 2022 with a foot injury.

In 109 minor league games over the last two years in AA and AAA, Jung has hit 28 homers with a .308/.377/.577 split.  His strikeout rate was 23.3%. He appeared to be major-league-ready.

Jung was called up by the Rangers on September 9th and was their regular third basemen for the last month of the season. Jung hit five homers in 26 games but what stands out was that his strikeout was 38.2%.

While Jung will need to improve the strikeout rate, he will begin the year as the Rangers third basemen.  The struggle in a very small sample size has resulted in Jung getting little attention heading into the year. I am guessing the hype would be more if he did not play in the majors at all in 2022.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Elehuris Montero, Colorado Rockies

Elehuris Montero (ADP 629) has huge power and the potential to put up big numbers in Coors Field. The 24-year-old spent the last couple of months of the season on the Rockies and played semi regularly.

Montero is not great defensively and will strike out a lot, but if the rebuilding Rockies give him regular bats, he will hit some homers and could provide sneaky late-round value in a deep draft and hold.

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Outfield

Riley Greene (Detroit Tigers, ADP 198, Age 22)

I discussed Greene as breakout candidate in my outfield preview article. For those who haven't seen the analysis:

Riley Greene was my top prospect in baseball heading into 2022. Greene missed more than the first two months of the season in 2022 with a broken foot.  The Tigers called Greene up to the majors after just 15 games at AAA in 2022 which was essentially a rehab assignment.

Greene did not stand out in 2022. In 93 games, Greene hit only five homers with one stolen base.  He had just a .109 ISO and was caught stealing four times. When a player comes back from an injury, it can take some time to get going especially when he is in the majors for the first time.

Green is not likely to be a fantasy superstar but I think he is a much better player than he showed in 2022.  I think Greene will eventually settle in as a .280 plus hitter with 20 homers and double-figure steals.

With a quiet, healthy offseason, I believe that Green should be a nice value in 2022.

Brandon Marsh (Philadelphia Phillies, ADP 284, Age 25)

Brandon Marsh was a relatively highly touted prospect for several years but has not found instant success in the majors. However, there are several reasons to like Marsh in 2023.

Marsh has a well-rounded game with power and speed that can provide value even if the batting average is mediocre.

The Phillies play in a hitter's park and have a strong lineup that will score plenty of runs. If Marsh has some success he could move up to the top of the lineup and his value would skyrocket.

He seemed to make some real advances after the trade to Phillies at the trade deadline for Logan O'Hoppe. Marsh cut down his strikeouts rate from 36.2% with the Angels to 29.7% with the Phillies. He also improved his OPS+ from 80 with the Angels to 116 with the Phillies.

Marsh is an outstanding defensive centerfielder. The Phillies really don't have another option in center so Marsh's job is relatively secure.

Cody Bellinger (Chicago Cubs, ADP 186, Age 27)

Bellinger is of course a breakout again a candidate. After winning the MVP in his age-23 season with 47 homers, 15 steals and a .305 batting average, Bellinger has struggled with health and production.

To some extent, Bellinger rebounded in 2022 from a disastrous 2021 season when Bellinger tried to play through a shoulder injury and ended up with a 47 wRC+. In 2022 Bellinger did hit 19 homers with 14 steals but his batting average was just .210 and he struck out a career high 27.3% of the time.

The Dodgers elected to non-tender Bellinger who signed a one year deal with the Cubs for 17.5 million. This gives Bellinger a fresh start and he should be fully healthy.  Bellenger may never put up the numbers he did in 2019. However, he can still be much better than he was in the last few years.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Akil Baddoo, Detroit Tigers

Akil Baddoo (ADP 575) was also discussed in my outfield preview article. The 24-year-old makes a nice handcuff with Riley Greene in a deep draft and hold since his playing time would likely increase if Greene loses time either due to performance or injury.

Here is what I said about Baddoo:

I see similarities between Akil Baddoo (Tigers ADP 579) and Andrés Giménez. After some surprising success in 2020, Giménez was a buzzy pick in 2021. He was a disappointment and quickly was sent down to minors. Giménez improved in the minors and rebounded with a very good year in 2022 with a .297 batting average, 17 homers and 20 steals.

Baddoo perhaps played over his head in 2021 as a Rule Five pick for the Tigers who had not previously played above High A. On the basis of his 112 OPS+ in 2021, Baddoo was a trendy 2022 pick.

Baddoo struggled in 2022 with injuries and getting regular playing time. He did play very well at AAA with a 142 wRC+ in 30 games. The Tigers have openings in their outfield. Baddoo has a nice combination of patience, and speed with a bit of power.

Like Giménez in 2021, Baddoo was still developing in 2022 and the hype may be a year too early.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Sal Frelick, Milwaukee Brewers

Sal Frelick (ADP 562) is unlikely to make the opening-day roster but could be a nice contributor in the second half of the season

The 23-year-old was the Brewers' first-round pick in 2021 out of Boston College and had a nice first full pro season in 2022 across three levels. In 46 games at AAA to finish the season Frelick had a 155 wRC+ and walked (8.8%) more than he struck out (7.4%).

Frelick stole 24 bases and hit 11 homers in 2022 but there are questions regarding how much he will contribute in the major leagues in the power and speed categories.

In a deep draft and hold you are drafting for the whole year and in a deep draft and hold like a NFBC Draft Champion League, someone like Frelick who can contribute in the second half is draftable.

Deep Breakout Candidate - Josh Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

A lot of fantasy players spent a good chunk of their FAAB money last year on Josh Lowe (ADP 580) early last year. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old struggled in the majors in 2022. After hitting 28 homers and 26 steals in 2021 at AAA, Lowe only had two homers and three steals while striking out in a third of his plate appearances.

In 2022, Lowe played 52 games in the majors and 80 games at AAA. He was excellent in AAA with 14 homers and 25 steals and a .315/.402/.556. Strikeouts still were an issue.

Lowe has completely dropped off the radar after his struggles in the majors in 2022. However, he has a chance to rebound this year.


Thanks for reading the 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - Hitters. Be prepared for the upcoming season by checking out all the 2023 Fantasy Baseball content on Fantasy Six Pack.

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