Fantasy: 5 breakout candidates (batters)

Fantasy baseball is all about finding value. Chances are, if you simply follow preseason rankings to the letter, you’ll miss out on a player who could prove to be the difference-maker in a championship pursuit. Having Mike Trout or Mookie Betts is a great start, but you need to surround them with other productive bodies.

Identifying breakouts is key. While not all of the following players are locks to be selected on draft day, they need to be monitored should they open the season on the waiver wire. Be ready to pounce. Here is a look at five offensive breakout candidates.

Average draft positions as of Feb. 25, courtesy of FantasyPros

David Dahl – Rockies – OF – ADP 95

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With injuries (hopefully) behind him and his path to playing time the clearest it’s ever been, Dahl is poised for a big season. His ADP shows he’s not exactly a secret and chances are people will start reaching for him as the hype around him grows.

Projected to hit in the heart of the Rockies’ lineup, Dahl has a mixture of pop and speed that is catnip to fantasy owners. Although it’s a small sample size, his early results as a pro are promising: In 140 games sandwiched around a lost 2017, Dahl has slashed .293/.341/.518 with 23 home runs and 10 stolen bases.

Amed Rosario – Mets – SS – ADP 164

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Even though Rosario hasn’t lived up to overall expectations since his debut in 2017, he has made strides. He stole 24 bases a season ago and dramatically reduced his K-rate from 28.8 percent to 20.1. His OBP was still below .300, which is a problem for base-stealing potential, but this could be the year he finds his minor-league mojo.

The Triple-A stint that inspired his promotion saw him slash .328/.367/.466 in 94 games. A reduced BABIP in the majors has left his on-base ability dwindling, but his contact rates and plate discipline all saw growth in 2018. With the Mets’ lineup retooled, he’s poised to open the season batting near the bottom, which could suppress his value to start.

Jorge Alfaro – Marlins – C – ADP 244

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Although the catcher position in fantasy is a veritable wasteland after the top names (J.T. Realmuto, Gary Sanchez, Yasmani Grandal), the former top prospect is in a position to deliver, especially considering how late you can snag him in the draft. Alfaro showed off some raw power with 10 homers in 108 games last year and had a higher wRC+ (117) than Realmuto (99) in the second half.

Another benefit lies in the quality of his contact. Alfaro made soft contact 14.5 percent of the time in 2018 and had a 23.2 percent line-drive rate, both improvements over his rookie campaign.

Ramon Laureano – Athletics – OF – ADP 245

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It could be argued Laureano broke out in his abbreviated 48-game effort in 2018 (.288/.358/.474 with five homers and 12 doubles), but his ADP suggests he’s either underappreciated or his success is in doubt.

If he’s still on the draft board in the final three rounds, it won’t break your roster if you take him and he struggles. If he maintains last season’s pace, however, he’ll be a steal. Like Dahl and Jake Bauers, Laureano also has a history of swiping bags as a minor-leaguer and registered seven in 48 games a year ago.

Jake Bauers – Indians – 1B/OF – ADP 249

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Bauers started fairly strong when the Rays called him up in June, slashing .267/.409/.493 across 22 games while hitting six homers in July. However, he hit a paltry .105 in August and was traded to Cleveland in the offseason.

Historically, Bauers was never a huge strikeout risk in the minors. He whiffed in 19.5 percent of his plate appearances during his last full Triple-A season in 2017, when he hit 13 bombs and stole 20 bases – which should intrigue potential fantasy owners. A .252 BABIP stymied his on-base potential last season but if that can correct itself, Bauers is a stealth 20-20 candidate at a major discount.