Many times, a fantasy baseball pool is won by drafting someone who is supposed to produce at an average level, but exceeds all expectations and has a breakout season. In this article I’m going to provide a roster full of players for you to target in the mid-late rounds of your draft. Some are well-known prospects, and some don’t have many games under their belts, but what they all have in common is that they are poised to have a breakout season and help your fantasy roster.
Catcher Salvador Perez – KC Royals
Perez was signed by the Royals as an amateur free agent in 2006, at the age of 16. They have been waiting a long time for him to be MLB ready, and after a short stint in 2011 and 76 games in 2012, it appears that he is going to be a big contributor to a much improved Royals team. Perez missed the first half of the 2012 season due to a knee injury, but he appears to have moved past it. He made his season debut in the last week of June, and was immediately locked in at the plate. He had 2 hits, including a home run in the first game, and never looked back. Perez ended the season with a .301 average, 11 home runs, 39 RBI, and 38 runs. He managed all of that in only 289 at bats. Expect him to get over 500 at bats this season and be one of the more productive offensive catchers in fantasy. The Royals have a great lineup and he will be part of it for years to come.
First Baseman Eric Hosmer – KC Royals
Hosmer was drafted 3rd overall in the 2008 draft, by the Royals. He made his MLB debut in May of 2011 and was able to stick with the team all season. He quickly became one of the best young hitters in the game. In the 2011 season he played 128 games and had a .293 average, 19 home runs, 78 RBI, 66 runs and 11 SB. His 2012 season was supposed to be his break out year, but teams finally had a detailed scouting report on him, and he was unable to make the appropriate adjustments at the plate. He only hit for a .232 average, 14 home runs, 60 RBI, and 65 runs, but he did steal 16 bases. Heading into the 2013 season, he has over 1000 at bats in the MLB, which that should provide him with enough experience to become a superstar. I expect for him to have a .295 average, 25 home runs, 90 RBI, 80 runs, and 15 SB. Stolen bases is a category that you don’t typically see from first baseman with power, so 15 is just an added bonus. Hosmer will produce in 5 major fantasy categories, and is a big LH power bat in what is a young and talented Royals lineup. If the Royals get back to the post season for the first time since 1985, Hosmer will be a big reason why.
Second Baseman Dustin Ackley – Seattle Mariners
Ackley, like Hosmer, is a young talented player who had a solid rookie season in 2011, but struggled in 2012. He was drafted 2nd overall in 2009 by the Mariners, and he is a highly touted prospect that has been compared to MVP 2B Dustin Pedroia. In 2012, Ackley only hit .226 with 12 home runs, 50 RBI, 84 runs, and added 13 steals, and the victim of a sophomore slump. Ackley is a future .300 plus hitter, and possibly a future batting title champion. It’s highly unlikely that he wins the batting title this season, but he should hit somewhere from .280 to .290. With Seattle moving their fences in at Safeco Field, he should be able to get more extra base hits, as well as 15 or more home runs. The Mariners have added some skill to their lineup this season with the acquisitions of Kendry Morales, Michael Morse, and Raul Ibanez. This should allow Ackley to drive in closer to 70 runs, rather than his 50 from last year, as well as score closer to 100 runs, improving on his 84 from last year. He won’t steal a ton of bases, but as he gets more comfortable as a base runner at the major league level, he should be able to swipe 18-20. Seattle still has a long way to go before they compete in the AL West, but young players like Ackley are the reason why it will some day be possible.
Shortstop Manny Machado – Baltimore Orioles
Machado has very little experience at the Major League level, but in 51 games in 2012 he was very productive. He hit .262, 7 home runs, 26 RBI and had 24 runs scored. He is expected to start the season as the 3B for the Orioles, but in some formats he will be eligible at 3B/SS. There is no doubt, however, that he is the future SS for the team, and he is going to be a damn good one. If anything happens to J.J. Hardy, Machado will move to SS and become eligible there in more formats. He was drafted 3rd overall by the Orioles in 2010 and was able to sky-rocket up through their organizational depth chart. He made his season debut on August 9th, 2012, and hit his first 2 MLB home runs the next night. What separates Macahdo from most of the players on this list is that he has playoff experience. Being a part of the Orioles playoff run gave him knowledge that can on be gained from experience. In 1995, the Yankees let Derek Jeter travel with the team during the post-season, even though he was not part of the 25 man roster. Then in 1996, Jeter helped lead the Yankees to the 1st of what is now 5 world series rings, with him as their shortstop. In my personal opinion, when Machado was inserted into the Orioles lineup in August, he provided an extra push that helped them make the playoffs. Machado had under 200 ABs, so one can argue that his sample size isn’t large enough. I think he is too talented of a player, and has such a good work ethic that he won’t take a step back in his development. In 2013, I expect him to hit a modest .270 with 18 home runs, 70 RBI, and 75 runs scored. He has never been much of a base stealer in his professional career, so don’t expect more than 10-12.
Third Baseman Todd Frazier – Cincinatti Reds
The Reds drafted Frazier 34th overall in the 2007 MLB draft. He was taken with the 4th overall pick in the supplemental round. He got his first taste of big league action in 2011. That season he showed some solid power, but was never given consistent at bats to show what he could do. In 2012 he finally got his chance to play regularly, when the Reds injury-plagued 3B, Scott Rolen, went down with an injury. Frazier also filled in at 1B when 2010 NL MVP, Joey Votto, went down with an injury. Frazier played in 128 games and had 422 ABs. He hit .273 with 19 home runs, 67 RBI, 55 runs, and 3 SB. The Reds are the early season favorite to win the NL Central Division, and Frazier is slotted to be their everyday 3rd baseman in 2013. I expect him to build off his good numbers from 2012 and have well over 500 at bats. I predict a slight drop in avg at .265, but an increase in home runs (23), RBI (80), runs (70), and SB (5).
Outfielder Starling Marte – Pittsburgh Pirates
Marte was signed by the Pirates as an 18-year-old, Cuban free agent in 2006. He is considered to be one of, if not the, best offensive prospect. It took him a long time to get to the Majors, but in 2012 he finally did it. He didn’t overwhelm anybody, but he showed a great mix of power and speed, and illustrated why he is expected to be a great ball player. In under 50 games he managed a .257 average, 5 home runs, 17 RBI, 18 runs, and 12 steals. He suffered an oblique injury in the middle of August that really hurt his development. He was unable to hit for much power when he returned in September, and because of that, his overall stats are lower than they should be. On a positive note, over a full season his numbers would have been very respectable for a rookie. He was also very productive in 29 games of winter ball, hitting over .300, with 20 RBIs and 8 SB. Whats more impressive is that he was named the MVP of the Dominican Republic Winter League Championship series. He hit .524 (11 for 21) in the series and helped his team to a series sweep. He should be able to take that success and translate it into a very solid first full MLB season in 2013. Marte is a very talented, young player with an incredibly high ceiling. He may not be amazing this coming season, but he is worth a flier at the end of your draft. For those in Dynasty/Keeper leagues, he is a great investment for the future.
Outfielder Desmond Jennings – Tampa Bay Rays
Desmond Jennings’ name has been floating around for a couple of years now. He is well-known amongst baseball fans and those who play fantasy baseball. There are many people, including myself, who put their faith in Desmond Jennings to be a big contributor to their fantasy lineups. Unfortunately, he has yet to live up to expectations. What people tend to overlook is that he’s only had one full season in the Majors. His first MLB game was in 2010, but he struggled and only got into 17 games. In 2011, he finally began to open some eyes. He played in 63 games and hit .259, 10 home runs, 44 runs, 25 RBI, and stole 20 bases. It seemed like he would build on those numbers heading into 2012; instead he regressed. Jennings played in 132 games in 2012. He put up solid numbers in some areas, and poor ones in other areas. He hit a disappointing .246 AVG, 13 home runs, and 47 RBI, but was extremely productive on the base paths. He scored 85 runs and stole 31 bases. It’s possible that he never hits higher than .280-.290, but expect his power numbers and SB numbers to increase. I predict a much improved season for Jennings. He’s a mid-level pick at best, but entering his 2nd full season, he should be able to hit .270, 22 home runs, 75 RBI, 95 runs, and 40 SB.
Outfielder Dayan Viciedo – Chicago White Sox
Viciedo is another international signing that seems to have turned out quite nicely. The White Sox signed him in 2008, and he has shown he can produce offensively in the minors, as well as the major league level. Viciedo was given just over 100 major league ABs in 2010 and 2011, which allowed him the appropriate amount of time in the minors to develop into a major league ready player. In his first full MLB season in 2012, he lived up to the high expectations that were set for him. He only batted .255, but he hit 25 home runs, 78 RBI, and scored 64 runs. If you draft Viciedo in 2013, don’t expect him to hit higher than .265, as anything higher would be a bonus. I think he will hit 30 home runs, though, and drive in close to 90 runs. He isn’t the fastest guy out there which will affect his ability to score runs, but you can still expect from 65-70. In any of the OF rankings I have seen so far, Viciedo doesn’t make the top 50. He should absolutely be up there with his gap power and ability to drive in runners. He will be 24-years-old when the season starts, and has a ton of room to grow. He is one of the least risky picks on this list because no matter what, he will hit enough home runs to have value.
Starting Pitcher Jeff Semardzija – Chicago Cubs
He’s not the biggest name out there to say the least, and it doesn’t help that he plays for the Cubs, but Semardzija is a very talented pitcher, who will help your fantasy team. He is following in the footsteps of pitchers like C.J. Wilson and Phil Hughes, who like Semardzija had success as relievers before having success as starters. Semardzija made a name for himself in 2011 as a RP that racked up a ton of strike outs. Although his win/loss record didn’t show it in 2012, he had a very strong season, and has positioned himself ahead of Matt Garza as the Cubs ace. Semardzija only won 9 games in 2012, but did so with little to no run support. He posted a 3.81 ERA, and 1.22 whip to go with his 180 strikeouts in 174 innings. To give you an idea of his success, he had a better BAA and K/9 innings rate than 147 million dollar man, Zack Greinke. If you can live with an 11-13 win season, then I strongly suggest drafting Semardzija in the middle rounds of your draft. He will throw close to 200 innings this year and avg more than one strikeout per inning. Expect his ERA and WHIP to improve as well. My prediction for Semadrzija is 12 wins, 3.60 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 200 strikeouts.
Starting Pitcher Matt Harvey – New York Mets
When called up at the end of July in 2012, Matt Harvey made it abundantly clear that he planned to stay in the big leagues. In his first career start he threw 5.1 innings of shut-out baseball, and recorded 11 strikeouts. He had 9 more starts after that, and although they weren’t all as strong as his first, he was able to put together quality starts in 6 of them. He allowed more than 3 runs just once in his 10 starts, and gave the Mets a chance to win every time he took to the mound. He ended the season with 3 wins, a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 70 Ks in 59.1 innings of work. The Mets have already stated that they aren’t putting an inning limit on Harvey in 2013, so at the very least we can expect 25 starts and 150 innings. In his first full season he should have 11 wins, an ERA of 3.45, 1.20 WHIP and 175 strikeouts.
Closer Greg Holland – KC Royals
With Joakim Soria injured and Johnathan Broxton traded at the trade deadline, Greg Holland got the chance to prove himself as a closer in 2012. He encountered issues like many first time closers do (specifically with his WHIP which was 1.37), but he was more than effective when called upon to close the door on a game in the 9th inning. Holland recorded 16 saves in 20 chances, and pitched to an impressive 2.96 ERA. His most impressive stat is the whopping 91 strikeouts he recorded in only 67 innings. The Royals are a much improved team this year, and Holland should be provided with many save opportunities. He should have over 30 saves and an ERA under 3.00 again. Holland is a must draft, due to his amazing K/9 innings rate. He will be available later in drafts, and should prove to be very productive in fantasy. Holland will be one of the better draft day bargains.
I hope this list provides you with the information you need in order to be successful in the mid-late rounds of your drafts. There are other players that could have made this list, but in my opinion these are the players that will be available in the latter parts of your draft and exceed their expectations. For further fantasy information tweet/Facebook your questions to me, and ill be happy to answer them. Good luck and draft smart.
Categories: Position Rankings