2016 All-Breakout Team
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Fred Zinkie delivers the first of our season wrap-up articles:
Finding a breakout player is one of the best parts of playing fantasy baseball. While steady studs certainly have their appeal, leagues are often won by the owners who correctly pluck breakout performers during their draft or waiver-wire transactions. The following 14 players made massive jumps in ’16 and are likely to have populated the rosters of many fantasy championship squads.
Wilson Ramos, catcher: Ramos has easily surpassed his previous career bests by hitting .307 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs across 482 at-bats. But much of the backstop’s best work came when he hit .330 with 13 homers in the first half. With a .279/.317/.447 slash line since the All-Star break, Ramos looks more like a good fantasy option than a great one heading into ’17.
Wil Myers, 1B/OF: Much like Ramos, Myers rode an outstanding first half (19 homers, 60 RBIs, 15 steals across 379 plate appearances) to the top-tier of players at his position. But unlike Ramos, the 25-year-old has struggled in the second half (.221 batting average) to the point where he has fallen out of the active lineup in some shallow leagues. Myers will enter ’17 as a boom-or-bust draft option with the tools to make a major five-category contribution.
Daniel Murphy, second baseman: Murphy turned out to be fantasy gold for owners who took his ’15 postseason power binge (seven homers across 58 at-bats) as a sign of a looming breakout year. Among the Major League leaders in batting average (.347) and RBIs (104), the second baseman should come off the board in the initial rounds of ’17 drafts.
Jonathan Villar, SS/3B: In a matter of months, Villar has gone from waiver-wire fodder to the Major League leader in steals. The 25-year-old has also proven to be more than a one-trick pony by posting a solid .283 batting mark and 18 homers across 569 at-bats. With swipes at a premium in all leagues, the infielder could come off the board as early as round three in ’17 drafts.
Jose Ramirez, 3B/2B/SS/OF: Owners who have missed Indians’ star Michael Brantley this season should notice that Ramirez has been doing an outstanding impersonation of Brantley’s five-category effectiveness. Slated to open ’17 with multi-position eligibility, Ramirez could be a major contributor to fantasy squads by repeating the 11 homers, 22 steals and .313 batting average he has produced across 602 plate appearances this season.
Jackie Bradley Jr., outfielder: Highlighted by a 29-game early-season hitting streak, Bradley has used his spot in the highest-scoring lineup in baseball to more than double his previous career bests in homers (26), runs (93) and RBIs (87). But before owners bid too heavily for the outfielder next season, they should notice that he has produced a .242/.324/.447 slash line since June 1.
Khris Davis, outfielder: After hitting .221 with three homers in April, Davis rewarded patient owners by being one of the most powerful players in baseball across the final five months of the season. Wise owners will predict the outfielder to experience some measure of regression next year based on his inability to make notable improvements in his walk, strikeout or fly-ball rates in ‘16.
Hernan Perez, OF/2B/3B: Fantasy owners without a crystal ball were content to leave Perez on waivers when he was hitting .255 with four homers and 10 steals across 146 plate appearances at the All-Star break. But the 25-year-old has used his improved power stroke, plus speed and versatile fielding skills to carve out a regular role and hit .278 with nine homers and 23 steals across 262 plate appearances in the second half. As one of the few players with the potential to make a major impact in the steals category, Perez should be a desired commodity in the middle rounds of ’17 drafts.
Rick Porcello, starter: Porcello began ’16 on many “do not draft” lists after posting a 4.92 ERA a year ago. But the right-hander has outpitched heralded teammate David Price to become the ace of Boston’s rotation. Even though Porcello’s .266 BABIP this season offers reason to expect some regression in ’17, he should win plenty of games as long as he can produce a mid-3.00’s ERA in front of Boston’s potent lineup.
Aaron Sanchez, SP/RP: Even those who tabbed Sanchez as a sleeper pick could not have expected that he would become the ace of the Blue Jays staff and rank among the American League ERA leaders. Despite a mediocre strikeout rate, Sanchez showed enough consistency to be ranked as a top-30 starter for ’17 drafts.
Kyle Hendricks, starter: Hendricks has likely benefited more than any other Cubs starter from pitching in front of a Chicago squad that leads the Majors by a wide margin with a .732 defensive efficiency ratio. The 26-year-old leads the Majors in ERA (1.99) and ranks second in WHIP (.097) despite not making notable improvements in his K/9, BB/9 or HR/9 this year. Owners should note that Hendricks has benefited from a .248 BABIP and rank the righty as a top-20 — but not a top-10 — starter next season.
Rich Hill, starter: Most ’16 drafters saw Hill’s uneven Spring Training results (11.25 ERA, 2.25 WHIP) and assumed that his five-start success last season was an aberration. But the southpaw’s 2.05 ERA and 0.98 WHIP would have ranked among the Major League leaders if not for a pair of disabled-list stints that have limited him to 19 starts. Owners should expect more of the same — stellar results but an inability to approach 30 starts — next season.
Drew Pomeranz, SP/RP: Pomeranz cemented his spot on this list by posting a 2.47 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP across 17 first-half starts with the Padres. However, major issues with the long ball since joining the offensively charged American League East at the All-Star break have led to a 4.68 ERA as a member of the Red Sox. His swing-and-miss repertoire and success with San Diego will combine with his struggles in Beantown to make Pomeranz a boom-or-bust option in ’17 drafts.
Alex Colome, reliever: Colome took over the closer’s role in the first week of the season and never looked back. Having blown just two of his 37 save chances, the right-hander has not given the Rays any reason to go back to incumbent stopper Brad Boxberger now that he has recovered from an injury-plagued season. Looking ahead, Colome has shown the skills to be a second-tier stopper in ’17 drafts.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB