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Given the title of this article, it would make sense to discuss what skills Dallas Keuchel used to break out.

His hallmark is his groundball rate, which he has improved from year-to-year, which helps him keep the ball in the yard.

However, the biggest thing Keuchel has done to improve his Fantasy value is to refine his command. Last year, he threw fewer pitches in the zone while getting more strikeouts and walking fewer batters. And of course, it always helps to have nasty stuff.

Many of the pitchers on this list have exhibited nasty stuff at one point or another in their career, be it in the major or minor leagues. Each player has also had some piece missing from their game that has held them back from reaching their ceiling, however.

This article will look at pitchers who should return major value this year and are in the right situation with the right skills to become the next Dallas Keuchel, helping you on your way to a Fantasy Baseball championship.

Which of These Possible 2016 Breakout Pitchers is the Next Dallas Kuechel?

Here are six candidates to break out in the majors and in Fantasy Baseball leagues this season.

Garrett Richards, L.A. Angels

Richards didn’t miss much time last season in his return from a serious knee injury, but it seemed to affect his performance in the first half of the season.  His strikeout rates for the season were disappointing, but both his K/9 and K% rose in the second half of his season.

Second-half stats may be an arbitrary cutoff for the evaluation of some players, but given the context of Richards’ return from injury, it makes sense to consider whether he showed improvement throughout the season.

Richards posted the best swinging strike rate of his career last year, another key indication that more strikeouts should be coming. His HR/9 did rise last year but not to a level to cause me to panic. While I wouldn’t bet on it, I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Richards surpass Keuchel’s Fantasy value this year due to what should be an excellent strikeout rate.

Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals

I’m going to ask you to forget the perceived antics and immaturity of Ventura and just focus on the numbers. Fantasy players will like what they see. His overall numbers were disappointing last season, but even if the season were considered a failure, Ventura managed to improve in encouraging ways.

Notably, he made nice strides with his curveball last year, as the whiff rate on the pitch rose from 14.51 to 18.86 percent last season. This was one factor in Ventura’s improved K/9 and K%. Though they come with many caveats, Ventura’s FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all indicate he had unlucky results in 2015. The combination of an ERA in the low threes while striking out a batter per inning is a possibility for Ventura.

Andrew Heaney, SP, L.A. Angels

When comparing  Dallas Keuchel’s pre-breakout peripherals to Heaney’s from last year there aren’t many discrepancies. The biggest difference is the lack of groundballs induced by Heaney, but even with a 38% groundball rate, he did a good job of keeping the ball in the park.

More similarly to Keuchel, Heaney has shown good control, especially for his young age. These two attributes will help Heaney keep his ERA and WHIP relatively low. The missing piece for Heaney’s fantasy value to truly take off is strikeouts. If he can figure out a way to generate more whiffs, Heaney very well could be the next Dallas Keuchel.

Anthony DeSclafani, Cincinnati Reds

These picks are getting a bit bolder the further down the list we go. DeSclafani finished the 2015 season with a 4.05 ERA and a posted a forgettable 4.56 ERA in the second half of the season. The good news is that some of that could be due to bad luck as his BABIP was a bloated .354.

More importantly, DeSclafani’s  K-BB% doubled from the first half to the second half of the season from 7.6% to a very good 18%. That said, DeSclafani has shown the skills to be both a (relatively) low ERA pitcher and an ability to generate strikeouts. Even if he struggles for stretches of the 2016 season, the Reds will stick with him and with more time to develop, DeSclafani should be primed to make a nice fantasy impact in 2016.

Nate Eovaldi, N.Y. Yankees

Yep, we’ve all been here before, but I’m not ready to give up yet. Eovaldi began to throw a splitter last season which seems to have helped him induce more groundballs. If he continues to develop the pitch and trust it more, he could come close to a 60% groundball rate, helping him to continue to maintain and improve his already strong ability to avoid the home run ball.

Bad luck also has affected  Eovaldi’s ratios over the past two seasons, as his BABIP has been well over .300 each in each of them. That could change this year as the Yankees defense should improve with the addition of Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. The final piece of the puzzle is strikeouts, which is an ability that continues to elude Eovaldi. If he is able to find that, Eovaldi may just have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in this article.

Jonathan Niese, Pittsburgh Pirates

The magic of Ray Searage is the reason for this pick. His reclamation projects of the recent past include Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Vance Worley, and J.A. Happ. Niese probably falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum based on talent, behind Liriano and Burnett and ahead of Worley and Happ, but either way, Niese is a great fit in the Pirates rotation on paper. He is already a heavy groundball pitcher and has pitched well throughout his career.

It was probably a best for him to get a fresh start with a new club after a rough 2015 season and being unsettled with his role. He will be an integral part of the Pirates rotation and has spoken glowingly about the defense he will have behind him. We have seen good seasons from Niese in the past and working with Searage offers the potential for his fantasy ceiling to rise.

We’ll see if any of these candidates to be breakout pitchers in 2016 truly end up with a Dallas Kuechel-like season, but for now, all signs are pointing up for them to be better than last year.

Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III

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