Categories
2020 Fantasy Baseball Advice 2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Draft Targets Editor Note Featured Baseball MLB Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Three Hitters Ready to Breakout Earlier Than Their Prime

The quickest path to a fantasy championship is to identify and select potential breakouts. The challenge with this approach is that usually such players are hyped to the point where their ADP becomes inflated. This increases their risk, because often their new ADP has an assumed breakout baked into the cost. 

This is why it’s even more important to try to find early breakouts -- players who have their breakthrough season at an earlier age than their expected prime. The general consensus for the start of a player’s prime years is around 27 years old, but player development is obviously not linear, so this number can fluctuate among players. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at three hitters aged 25 or younger who fit this criteria of potential early breakouts. These hitters can be selected past pick 100 in fantasy drafts.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!

 

Cavan Biggio (2B, TOR)

Age: 25
NFBC ADP: 123.87

Biggio often gets overshadowed by fellow teammates Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, but this is a player with high upside at a premium position. Biggio has an enticing combination of power, speed, and patience. 

Level PA HR SB BB% K% HR/PA SB/PA
A+ 556 11 11 13.3 25.2 0.02 0.02
AA 563 26 20 17.8 26.3 0.046 0.0356
AAA 174 6 5 19.5 16.1 0.034 0.03
MLB 430 16 14 16.5 28.6 0.037 0.03

Biggio’s walk rate is highly impressive, having posted a 13%+ at each level. The only hitters to top Biggio’s 16.5% in MLB last season were Mike Trout, Yasmani Grandal, and Alex Bregman -- pretty elite company.

We can also see that Biggio has 20-20 potential by his home run and stolen base per plate appearance numbers. If Biggio can maintain these HR/PA and SB/PA rates, he would post nearly 21 HR and 17 SB over a full season. This is a conservative projection because it assumes no improvement for a sophomore hitter with prospect pedigree. It’s likely that Biggio will produce at a 20-20 pace in the upcoming shortened season.

Statcast profile

xBA xSLG xwOBA xwOBAcon Barrel% SweetSpot% Swing%
.240 .426 .345 .419 9.0 44.2 35.9

Biggio’s .240 xBA and .426 xSLG are similar to his .234 BA and .429 SLG, so this is not a hitter who has had bad luck on balls in play. His 9.0 Barrel% ranks in the 62nd percentile, which is slightly above average.

These look like middling numbers, until you take a look at his 44.2 SweetSpot%, which ranked first in MLB, ahead of Trout. (The sweet spot is a batted ball event with a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees.) A high percentage in this stat means that a player is setting themselves up for success, since a batted ball hit in the sweet spot has a slugging percentage over 1.000.

Biggio’s SweetSpot% shows a high efficiency in his contact. It’s also interesting to see that Biggio only swung at 35.9% of his pitches, which ranked second-lowest in MLB. Biggio can really unlock more power potential if he swung at more pitches. If he decides to be more aggressive, we could be looking at a 30 HR hitter.

 

Bryan Reynolds (OF, PIT)

Age: 25
NFBC ADP: 178.40

Reynolds has turned into a nice piece for the Pirates as the former jewel of the Andrew McCutchen trade. Reynolds boasts strong contact ability with some untapped power potential. With the departure of Starling Marte, Reynolds enters his age-25 season as the best hitter on his team.

Level PA HR SB BB% K% HR/PA SB/PA
A+ 541 10 5 6.8 19.6 0.018 0.009
AA 383 7 4 11.2 19.1 0.018 0.01
AAA 57 5 3 12.3 19.3 0.088 0.05
MLB 546 16 3 8.4 22.2 0.029 0.005

Reynolds improved at each level in the Minors, as he increased his walk and home run rate nearly each year. It’s also important to note that he posted a .300+ BA in every season of his professional career, demonstrating his elite contact ability.

While Reynolds is unlikely to ever steal double-digit bases, we could see some improvement in his power output. He was able to increase his home run rate at each level in the Minors, so it’s reasonable to project similar improvement in the big leagues. With his elite contact ability, we only really need him to hit 20+ HR to be an intriguing fantasy asset. 

Statcast profile

xBA xSLG xwOBA xwOBAcon Barrel% SweetSpot% LA°
0.296 0.476 0.357 0.426 6.7 37.5 35.9

Reynolds’ .296 xBA and .476 xSLG are relatively close to his .314 BA and .503 SLG, so it’s clear that his contact abilities are legit.

As with most hitters who trade off power for contact, we see a low launch angle and barrel rate. It would be nice to see Reynolds try to put the ball in the air more often and lose some points off his batting average in exchange for some more home runs. The good news is that Reynolds began hitting home runs more often towards the end of last season -- seven of his 16 home runs came in August and September. Perhaps we could see the young Pirate hit at a 20-home run pace in his sophomore season as he matures and takes on a larger role within the lineup.

It’s also important to mention that he has 76th-percentile sprint speed, which could point to some untapped stolen base potential in his toolbox. Even if we see only minimal improvement in power and speed, this is still a young player with a high floor who can be had past pick 170 in your fantasy drafts. It’s a low-risk, high-reward proposition when drafting Reynolds.

 

Luis Arraez (2B/3B/OF, MIN)

Age: 23
NFBC ADP: 258.05

Arraez is a highly intriguing player due to his elite contact rate. The numbers he was able to post as a 22-year-old rookie were incredible. This is a player with special traits who hits in a stacked lineup. Arraez is one of my favorite sleepers in fantasy drafts this season.

Level PA HR SB BB% K% HR/PA SB/PA
A+ 258 1 2 7.4 10.9 0.0038 0.008
AA (2018) 195 2 2 6.7 8.2 0.01 0.01
AA (2019) 164 0 3 11.0 7.9 0 0.018
AAA 73 0 1 8.2 2.7 0 0.01
MLB 366 4 2 9.8 7.9 0.01 0.005

It’s easy for fantasy owners to overlook Arraez due to his extremely low power and speed output. But when you dig deeper into his profile, you come away enticed by his upside.

Throughout his professional career, Arraez has hit over .330 five times, including his .334 BA in his rookie season last year. It’s also impressive to see how Arraez posted more walks than strikeouts at the AA, AAA, and MLB levels.

Last season, Arraez and Bregman were the only hitters with a higher walk rate than strikeout rate. This is truly elite company for the rookie -- his skill set evokes memories of another elite contact hitter: Tony Gwynn.

Statcast profile

xBA xSLG xwOBA xwOBAcon Barrel% SweetSpot% Z-Contact%
.290 .410 .336 .326 2.7 42.0 94.0

Here we see some underwhelming Statcast numbers, with a lower .290 xBA and .410 xSLG than .334 BA and .439 SLG.

The lack of power is evident with the ninth-percentile 2.7 Barrel%. However, there remains some hope for a marginal increase in power because of his 42 SweetSpot%, which ranked fifth in MLB. The Twins' staff has done a great job unlocking power out of their hitters, so it’s possible that we can see a similar impact on Arraez as he continues to grow as a hitter.

It’s also important to note that Arraez had a 11.4° launch angle, which is a higher number than you would expect from a hitter with only four home runs. I encourage you to look past the low power and speed output to see a hitter that’s able to generate frequent contact while limiting his strikeouts.

The K/BB ratio posted by Arraez as a rookie was truly unprecedented. The sophomore second baseman is hitting in one of the best lineups in baseball, so opportunities for run production will abound, regardless of Arraez’s low slot in the batting order. It’s a good idea to bet on players with an established elite skill because there’s always a chance that they can develop more power as they adapt to the big leagues. With an ADP below 250, there’s minimal risk in this investment.