Fantasy owners are always looking for the breakout players to help them get a leg up on the competition. Since most leagues start up to five outfielders with a few more on the bench, finding the breakout outfielders becomes extremely important.
Let’s first define what we will be considering a breakout player. A breakout season occurs when potential performance turns into actual performance.
The advance in production could be caused by many factors. The player could just be maturing, finally putting everything together. The right opportunity may present itself, whether it is an everyday role, being moved to the right team, or even something simple such as playing half their games in a hitter-friendly home park.
Players who were injured in the previous season may also be set up for a breakout campaign. In some instances, the player was quite productive in a short period of time, but their season was cut short due to an injury. When Fantasy owners look at the end of year statistics, they will incorrectly see a sub-par season. It can be misleading to extrapolate small sample sizes over an entire season; however, in some cases, where the underlying statistics support the production, it may be appropriate.
We will usually see signs of a breakout the year prior. It is important to look at some under-the-hood statistics that could help foreshadow the breakout. Has the player improved their batting eye? Was the player unlucky in terms of BABIP or HR/FB given their batted ball profile? Was the player abnormally unproductive when hitting with runners in scoring position? These are all examples of what to look for when searching for breakout players.
Before we get to the 2016 breakout outfielders, let’s take a quick look at a few of last year’s breakout outfielders.
- Bryce Harper: The NL MVP put it all together, hitting for power and average, plus a huge leap forward in terms of plate discipline.
- A.J. Pollock: Everyone’s favorite sleeper delivered. The five-category stud showed what he could do over a full, healthy season.
- Lorenzo Cain: He smashed previous career highs in four of the five major roto categories (tied previous SB high).
- Mookie Betts: Betts followed up his solid 2014 partial debut with an even more impressive all-around campaign.
- David Peralta: He went from battling just to get into the lineup to finishing 2015 as a Top 30 OF.
- Adam Eaton: The addition of power was the most notable improvement, but he also set new career bests in runs, RBIs, and stolen bases.
Now let’s find out who the 2016 breakout outfielders are.
2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Outfielders
George Springer, Houston Astros
Ever since Springer nearly went 40/40 with a .300 average in the minors in 2013, he has left Fantasy owners asking when will he put it all together in the majors, not if. He showed numerous improvements over his rookie campaign and they all point to Fantasy greatness for 2016.
He significantly cut down on his strikeouts, as his strikeout rate fell from 33-percent to 24.2-percent and his swinging strike rate also impressively fell from 18.6-percent down to 13.9-percent. He regained his prowess on the base paths, increasing his stolen base total from five up to 16. His lofty BABIP total of .342 is consistent with his minor league mark of .379 and it looks to be sustainable given his batted ball profile improvements.
His line drive rate went from 15.3-percent to 24.5-percent and his opposite field usage increased from 20.8-percent up to 27.1-percent. Finally, it seems doubtful that Springer will have a .262 BABIP and .207 batting average with runners in scoring position again, which of course is a positive for his 2016 RBI total.
Springer’s improved maturity at the plate suggests that 2016 will be the year that he takes the next step towards Fantasy stardom.
Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates
In his brief major league career, Polanco has shown the ability to be an elite threat on the base paths. Last year, he finished ninth in all of baseball with 27 steals. His home run power, however, has not yet developed as most Fantasy owners would have hoped. In half a season in 2014, Polanco hit seven home runs, while last year over a full season, he only managed to hit nine even though he increased his fly ball rate.
Fortunately, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic as we head into the 2016 season. Polanco increased his extra-base hit total from 16 to 44 and his hard hit rate jumped from 24.3-percent up to 29.9-percent.
The main cause for the dinger disappointment lies in his HR/FB ratio. It cratered from 10.1-percent in 2014, which was consistent with his minor league career mark, down to a measly 5.5-percent last year. Expect a power rebound next year as his bad luck becomes a thing of the past.
Don’t be shocked when Polanco is one of the few players to hit 20 home runs and swipe 30 bags in 2016.
Delino Deshields, Texas Rangers
Deshields is fast and he loves to run. His minor league stolen base totals from 2011 through 2014 were 30, 101, 59, and 54. Prior to his June hamstring injury, Deshields had 14 steals on 16 attempts over the first 46 games of the season. At that rate, Deshields was on pace for 49 steals. Once he returned in early July, Deshields was only successful on 11 of his 17 attempts. To put things into context, last year only three players hit the 40 steal mark, and only four more hit the 30 steal plateau.
The added intrigue of the speedy Deshields comes from the fact that he shouldn’t be a zero in terms of power. From 2011 through 2014 in the minors, his home run totals were 9, 12, 5, and 11. He also consistently posted a fly ball rate north of 30-percent in the minors, as he did with the Rangers last year, further suggesting an increased home run total is likely. Hitting at the top of a potent Rangers lineup should also allow him to post a gaudy runs total.
With a batting average that won’t kill you, think around the .250 range, Deshields should have a breakout campaign in 2016.
Jarrod Dyson, Kansas City Royals
Over his major league career, Dyson has never really had an everyday role, he has always been the extra outfielder. This year, he looks to be in a battle for the starting right fielder position, and at the very least, the strong side of the platoon. Given his track record, if he were to see 400 plate appearances, Dyson would be a good bet to approach 50 steals, and possibly even challenge for the MLB stolen base lead. This is supported by his career mark of 48.6 steals per 400 plate appearances. In the past, he has boosted his stolen base totals since he has often been used as a pinch runner. This should still continue even with a semi-regular role.
If you are into speed specialists, then Dyson is your guy. He compares extremely well to Billy Hamilton since 2012.
Hamilton probably has the advantage in terms of expected plate appearances and stolen bases for 2016, given their place on their respective team’s depth charts. This also seems more than reflected in their NFBC ADPs, which has Hamilton going over 200 picks prior to Dyson. Among other stolen base specialists, Dyson may lack the batting average and run totals of Ben Revere and Billy Burns but he should have the advantage in terms of stolen bases.
With increased playing time, expect a breakout season from Dyson.
Domingo Santana, Milwaukee Brewers
With the trade of Khris Davis, Santana appears locked into an everyday role with the Brewers, paving the way for at least 500 plate appearances in 2016. Over his minor league career, Santana has shown the ability to hit for power, which is a much sought after commodity these days. Last year, only 17 outfielders managed to hit at least 25 home runs. With playing time no longer an issue, it would not be a surprise to see Santana join the 25 home run club next year.
Strikeouts appear to be the main concern for Santana. However, despite a career minor league strikeout rate of 30-percent, Santana still posted a .282 batting average thanks in large part to a near .400 BABIP. Going forward, a batting average closer to .250 seems more reasonable given his batted ball profile.
Since he will be in the lineup on most days, Santana has all the makings of a breakout outfielder in 2016.
The SCFE crew has all of your breakout players by position covered. Make sure you get in before everyone else. The next position we are attacking will be breakout starting pitchers.
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III
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