12 Breakout Hitters for 2020 (Fantasy Baseball)
Every fantasy baseball season, players rise the ranks during the regular season compared to where they were selected in preseason drafts. While acing your early rounds is certainly important, finding breakout players goes a long way toward bringing home the fantasy baseball crown.
To kick off our new season of collaborative articles from our writers, we are focusing on hitters that have a good chance to break out in 2020.
Q: Which hitter do you see breaking out into a star this season?
Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU): ECR – 162 / ADP – 162
There’s a reason Kyle Tucker has been untouchable in trade talks to this point in his career. Despite inconsistent performance at the major-league level, his power/speed profile should play well in Houston, provided he has opportunity in a crowded outfield.
– Daniel Comer (@DanComer404)
Miguel Sano (1B – MIN): ECR – 176 / ADP – 130
There are so many great answers here from Gurriel and Tucker to Eloy but my favorite is Sano. Yes, he comes with risk, but we are talking about someone with plus-plus power who finally has a full bill of health and a body in decent shape. Last year, 99 starts gave us 34 homers. To put that into perspective, he was on pace for a full-season rate of 53 homers, 122 RBIs, and 118 runs. Moving from third to first should help keep Sano healthy, and if does, we could see him lead the majors in homers and RBIs.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)
Max Kepler (OF – MIN): ECR – 127 / ADP – 138
Kepler was one of just 10 qualified hitters last year with a strikeout rate below 18%, a walk rate above 9%, and a ground ball rate below 40%. Other names in that group: Bellinger, Betts, Bregman, Arenado, and Moustakas. That combination of plate awareness and contact skills are tough to find for a guy that gets so many balls into the air. You could say the breakout really already happened, as he racked up 36 homers last year, but I think we could see him add 30 points to his batting average and be a true star in his age-26 season. It helps that he will lead off a ton for one of the top offenses in baseball.
– Jon Anderson (@JonPGH)
Gavin Lux (SS – LAD): ECR – 188 / ADP – 151
Maybe it was the lackluster results in 23 major league games for Lux, but the shine doesn’t seem as bright as it is with other young prospects. Before his call up, Lux decimated Triple-A pitching to the tune of .392/.478/.719, good for a wRC+ of 188. Given his small sample with the Dodgers, only a few metrics have significance including maximum exit velocity and plate discipline. He managed to hit a ball at 110 mph (which is good, not great) but also chased pitches outside the zone under 20% of the time, nine percent better than league-average. Additionally, he’s got speed. He’s had double-digit stolen bases in every season, and his sprint speed was in the top 10% last year. The Dodgers are stacked and playing time isn’t guaranteed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished with similar numbers to fellow young stud, Bo Bichette.
– Max Freeze (@FreezeStats)
Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL): ECR – 245 / ADP – 264
Former top pick entering his physical prime, Swanson has a low soft-hit percentage that shows room for growth in a deep lineup.
– Mario Mergola (@MarioMergola)
Christian Walker (1B – ARI): ECR – 211 / ADP – 205
This has made its way across Twitter, but Christian Walker and his predecessor, Paul Goldschmidt, had virtually identical underlying metrics, leading to similar seasons. Walker is currently the 122nd hitter in ECR rankings, but I have him up at 82. At his floor, he should net 30+ bombs, at least 170 combined runs and RBI, and at least five stolen bases. Yes, he will provide similar value to Rhys Hoskins at a bargain price – and that’s just his floor. With elite exit velocity, hard-hit rates, and an ideal launch angle for homers, Walker could potentially be a 40-homer, 180-run+RBI guy.
– Carmen Maiorano (@cmaiorano3)
Cavan Biggio (2B – TOR): ECR – 141 / ADP – 143
Compared to fellow top prospects, Biggio went a bit overlooked last spring. That is partly because he was “old” for a rookie, debuting at 24 years of age. His .234 average and .793 OPS in 100 big league games don’t jump off the page, but a deeper look at his numbers reveals optimism for a 2020 breakout. His .364 OBP despite that low average is a testament to his batting eye. Indeed, Biggio’s 16.5% walk rate ranked in the top two percent of the league in 2019. His 8.7% swinging strike rate is also above average. The only bad news? He struck out in 28.6% of his at-bats as a rookie. What this tells me is that Biggio simply needs to be more aggressive at the plate. It is an easy fix and is also the formula Yoan Moncada followed last year. He broke out. Now it is Biggio’s turn (we hope).
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Bo Bichette (SS – TOR): ECR – 69 / ADP – 77
Bichette had a productive 46-game debut in Toronto last season, but the best is yet to come for the dynamic 21-year-old. While he may not be a true .300 hitter at this stage of his career, he won’t hurt you in batting average and possesses legit 20-HR/20-SB potential. In fact, he’s one of just 12 players that Steamer projects to go 20-20 in 2020. Bichette should also be able to rack up a formidable number of runs scored while hitting at or near the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup. Shortstop is plenty deep these days, and Bichette’s seventh-round ADP isn’t outrageously low, but it wouldn’t shock me if he outproduces another 21-year-old stud shortstop who’s going in the second round: Fernando Tatis Jr.
– Andrew Seifter (@andrew_seifter)
Austin Riley (3B – ATL): ECR – 259 / ADP – 270
If you think Atlanta’s offense is going to take a step back after last season, think again. Remember, Atlanta chose not to re-sign Josh Donaldson and spend that money on Marcell Ozuna instead. They believe in Riley despite his 36% K rate in half a season’s worth of action last year. Riley still hit 18 home runs at only age 22. So when he gets his K rate down in the mid-20s this year, he’ll have the opportunity to hit 35+ bombs and have close to a .300 AVG. Playing in Atlanta’s offense, Austin Riley could very well end up a top-25 hitter.
– Alex Altmix (@Altmix_23)
Eloy Jimenez (OF – CWS): ECR – 57 / ADP – 67
Jimenez scorched the earth with his bat in the minors in 2018. However, early-season struggles at the MLB level in 2019 revealed a player that needed to adjust to big-league pitching, as evidenced by his 28.7 K% and .241 batting average in the first half. Jimenez also missed playing time due to injury in both May and July, playing a total of just 24 games. However, Jimenez reduced that K% to 24.5% in the second half and his hard contact% jumped from 34.8% to 41.0%. With the increase in hard contact and line drive% (15.2% to 20.8%), Jimenez’s BABIP rose as well (.275 to .337). In short, Jimenez made better, harder contact to end his season as he adjusted to better pitching. During his final 60 games, Jimenez hit .292, clubbed 15 home runs, slugged .542, and posted an .870 OPS. If we remove the minimal plate appearances from an injury-plagued July, Jimenez’s OPS over his last two months comes out to .917. Even with the slump, Jimenez finished the year hitting 31 home runs with a .267/.315/.513 slash line as a rookie. If that’s his floor, the ceiling figures to make him a star.
– Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs)
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (2B – TOR): ECR – 190 / ADP – 163
In a lineup that will feature names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, Gurriel Jr. will easily be the forgotten man. In just 84 games in 2019, he hit 20 home runs, drove in 50 runs, and had a .358 wOBA. Not too shabby for a utility player. He will see much more frequent at-bats in 2020 and will be in a much more powerful lineup than we’ve seen in Toronto in recent years. His 124 wRC+ a season ago would have ranked him 46th in Major League Baseball. He’s also a threat on the basepaths with six stolen bases in limited playing time last season. With an ADP of 163, Gurriel, Jr. will be the offensive bargain of 2020 drafts.
– Joe Buttgereit (@joebuttgereit)