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2013 Draft Prep: Al Melchior's Breakouts

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Mike Trout had the ultimate breakout performance a year ago, but he was far from being from the only young player to exceed expectations.

Chase Headley, Jason Heyward, Austin Jackson, Ian Desmond and Max Scherzer were just a few of the players to take notable leaps in their Fantasy value in 2012, and each provided a nice return for the owners who drafted them. Yet each of them showed signs of their upside potential, and there are similar players waiting to be taken in this year's drafts.

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Players tabbed as breakout candidates are far from sure things to outperform their draft position, but they are the ones who have the greatest potential to do so, and possibly by a wide margin. I've identified a dozen breakout candidates for 2013, and only a few are currently being taken in the earlier rounds on average in CBSSports.com leagues. That's the way it should be with breakouts, as they are typically high-risk, high-reward types that you should avoid as you're filling out your first few roster spots.

What these 12 players have in common, aside from relative youth, is a past history -- usually in the minor leagues -- of better skill indicators than what they have shown recently. Just as Scherzer's minor league K-rates and Headley's minor league power numbers suggested further improvement, the players profiled here have a track record that at least opens up the possibility of a great leap forward.

Jesus Montero, C, Mariners (Roto: Rd. 10, H2H: Rd. 13)

As a prospect, Montero was an enticing Fantasy keeper in long-term leagues not only because of the power he brought to the catcher position, but also because he could hit for average. In his rookie season, Montero did neither, but the potential is still there for him to deliver on both. His batting average was held down by a .293 BABIP that could have easily been higher given his 23 percent line drive rate. Montero didn't have great power at home or on the road, but with a year of experience under his belt and the Safeco Field fences coming in, he could make the jump from 15 homers to 20-plus homers.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (Roto: Rd. 23, H2H: Rd. 25)

When Belt zoomed through the Giants' system in 2010, he displayed an impressive combination of home run power, gap power and a good understanding of the strike zone. The home run power was present during his 2011 rookie campaign, but the latter two were lacking. Then last season, Belt's doubles and triples power emerged, but his home run power dissipated. The increase in line drive power that Belt experienced came mostly at the expense of his grounders, not his flyballs, but sometimes it takes a hitter time to bring the various facets of his skill set together. Perhaps 2013 is the year that he gives owners homers, triples, doubles and a high batting average all at the same time.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (Roto: Rd. 7, H2H: Rd. 7)

Freeman has already established himself as a 20-homer threat, and he's still just 23, so a jump to the 25-to-30 homer bracket wouldn't be shocking. More important, though, he should vastly improve on last season's .259 batting average. Though Freeman is no speedster, he can top last year's .215 average on grounders, plus he has put the vision problems that put a damper on his 2012 season behind him.

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 10)

Clearly, Altuve isn't going to come near the .389 batting average he achieved during his 2011 minor league season, but his contact skills and ability to square up the ball support the notion that last year's .290 average was legitimate. He just didn't make good on the potential for 10-to-15 home runs. Altuve's power tailed off in the second half as he launched fewer flyballs, and he seemed to have lost some mojo after missing a week in late June due to a hamstring injury. Maybe the timing was coincidental, but the bigger point is that Altuve was making strides as a power hitter in the first half, and he could build on that this season.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 14)

After a lackluster rookie season, Moustakas flashed some power last year, but his overall production was still lacking. He hit just .242 and failed to score or drive in as many as 75 runs. An astronomical 16 percent popup rate hurt Moustakas' value, but unfortunately, that was also a weakness of his in the minor leagues, if not quite to the same extent. However, he was able to hit for average in the minors because he made contact more frequently. Moustakas may never be a .300 hitter, but he should reach or exceed the .263 average he posted as a rookie while continuing to build his power-hitting résumé.

Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres (Roto: Rd. 19, H2H: N/A)

Low strikeout rates have enabled Cabrera to hit .333 and .297 in his last two minor league seasons, yet in spending parts of the last four years with the Padres, he has compiled a measly .240 batting average. He has struggled to make contact in the majors, especially when hitting as a righty. According to a report from MLB.com, Cabrera has been working on his right-handed swing this offseason, and he has actually experienced success against lefties as a major leaguer, back in his 2009 rookie season. With more contact and more hits, Cabrera would not only raise his average but also give himself a chance to steal 50-plus bases. The biggest risk for Cabrera right now is his reported link to the defunct South Florida PED clinic, Biogenesis of America. However, owners can get Cabrera late enough in drafts to minimize the risk involved should he receive a suspension.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals (Roto: Rd. 16, H2H: Rd. 23)

Even more so than Cabrera, Cain has the upside of a .300 hitter, and one with power and speed to boot. Even with last season shaved down to just 61 games due to groin and hamstring injuries, Cain showed off some of his power and speed potential by clubbing seven home runs and stealing 10 bases. Cain's .266 batting average was a disappointment, though, and like Cabrera and Moustakas, he has shown that he is capable of making contact at a much higher rate. While his .327 BABIP was better than the major league norm, there is room for improvement there as well, as he compiled much higher rates at several of his minor league stops.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies (Roto: Rd. 25, H2H: Rd. 24)

It's easy to overlook Brown. The Phillies have continually passed him over when assembling their starting outfield, and in each of the last two seasons, he has validated their decision by putting up mediocre stats in the majors and Triple-A. It's hard to defend his performance, given his escalating ground ball rates and vanishing power, but at least he has maintained decent contact rates, and last season he managed a .286 batting average at Lehigh Valley, even though he was dealing with a variety of ailments, including injuries to both of his knees. The power he showed three seasons ago could reemerge, and the rest of his skill set appears to be largely intact. The Phillies did give Brown an extended look late last season, and he looks to get regular playing time in 2013.

Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 8)

Morrow appeared to be on his way to a breakout season in 2012, as he compiled a 2.90 ERA through his first 12 starts. He sustained an oblique injury in his 13th start and it kept him out for the next two-and-a-half months. Morrow did fare well upon his late-August return, and his final stat line featured a 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and improved walk and ground ball rates. The only thing missing was his typical double-digit K/9 rate, but after subtracting out his first four starts, Morrow posted a closer-to-typical 8/8 K/9. Morrow has never had a season where he put it all together -- a high innings count, good control and an impressive strikeout rate -- but just maybe 2013 could be that year. If so, he could be a top 20 starting pitcher.

Matt Moore, SP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 9, H2H: Rd. 8)

After an up-and-down rookie season, one might think Moore would profile as a sleeper, but he is being drafted within the first 10 rounds of typical mixed leagues. Apparently, owners see Moore's potential to be a top 30 starting pitcher as soon as this season even though he fell far short of that a year ago. Particularly in the first half, walks and home runs kept Moore from excelling, but from his fourth start on, he averaged more than a strikeout per inning. Moore has shown in the past that control doesn't have to be an issue, and his flyball tendencies weren't especially strong in the minors. He improved enough to post a 3.01 ERA in the second half, and Moore could progress even further this year.

Alex Cobb, SP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 20, H2H: Rd. 16)

Cobb isn't as heavily pursued as Moore, but like his highly-touted teammate, he started to live up to his prospect status late last season. The key for Cobb is pinpoint control, and according to BaseballReference.com, he threw only 62 percent of his pitches for strikes through the first 10 starts of 2012. In his subsequent 13 starts, though, he increased that rate to 67 percent, and he was rewarded with a 3.32 ERA over that stretch. Cobb doesn't allow many homers, and his minor league numbers hint at the potential for higher swinging strike and strikeout rates. If everything comes together for Cobb, he should be far better than the late-round option his average draft position makes him out to be.

Addison Reed, RP, White Sox (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 19)

As a rookie, Reed didn't quite match the ample strikeout rates from his two seasons in the minors, but there was nothing all that wrong with his 8.8 K/9 rate last year. What got Reed into trouble was a 24 percent line drive rate, and that likely contributed to unfavorable BABIP (.331) and strand (67 percent) rates. All three of those metrics are often subject to random fluctuation, and all three could easily move in the right direction this season. Add in the potential for improved strikeout and walk rates, and owners could have a top closer on their hands.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Rockies 2B DJ LeMahieu breaks loose with three-hit game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) So much for the slump plaguing Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. He ended that in style Saturday night with three hits in a loss to Arizona.

LeMahieu ripped three singles, including one that tallied a run in the third inning. He also scored a run and raised his average back to .300 in breaking a 3-for-30 slide.


Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock has strong effort Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:52 am ET) Diamondbacks leadoff hitter A.J. Pollock did a nice job setting the table Saturday and allowed his team to feast on the Rockies.

Pollock slammed a double and single, drove in two runs and scored another. His double plated a pair in the fourth inning.

The center fielder now boasts a solid slash line of .304/.348/.465. He has nine hits in his last 19 at-bats.


Rockies SP David Hale ineffective in loss to Diamondbacks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) At least Rockies starter David Hale did not give up five runs Saturday against Arizona. However, four was bad enough.

Hale had allowed five runs in each of his previous three starts. But he wasn't much better in a loss to the Diamondbacks, his fourth straight. He surrendered three earned runs on five hits and three walks.

The right-hander yielded two runs in the first on a groundout and single, then two more in the fourth on a double by A.J. Pollock. Wildness caused him to throw 104 pitches - just 57 for strikes - through five.

Hale has given up 22 runs on 36 hits and 10 walks in his last 27 2/3 innings pitched to send his ERA soaring to 5.89.


Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler perfect in non-save situation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:40 am ET) A three-run Diamondbacks eighth inning wrecked a save opportunity for closer Brad Ziegler, but he didn't perform like he was affected by it Saturday night.

Ziegler retired Colorado in order in the ninth. His sinker was working - all three were groundouts.

He has been pretty much lights-out over the last month. He has not allowed a run over 11 innings during that time and has recorded eight saves.


Diamondbacks SP Patrick Corbin has triumphant return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:35 am ET) Mark the return of Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin a success. His first start after recovering from Tommy John surgery nearly two years ago resulted in a victory Saturday night.

Corbin allowed two runs on eight hits in five innings with no walks and three strikeouts against Colorado. He blanked the Rockies aside from the third, when RBI hits by Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu tied the game. He left after tossing 76 pitches.


Padres RP Dale Thayer makes first rehab appearance Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:32 am ET) Padres reliever Dale Thayer began his minor league rehab assignment on Saturday. Thayer made the start for Double-A San Antonio, allowing three runs on three hits in one inning of work. 

The right-hander has been on the disabled list since June 24--and hasn't pitched since June 16--due to a strained shoulder. It is not known when Thayer will be ready to return to the Padres' bullpen.


Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig not worrying manager over power outage
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Don Mattingly claims to be unconcerned about the declining power numbers of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. But perhaps he should be.

The numbers are pronounced. Puig has just three home runs in 35 games this season. He has just seven in nearly 400 plate appearances since appearing in the Home Run Derby before the 2014 All-Star Game.

Puig missed 38 games this year due to a hamstring injury and four more when a blister opened on his left hand. Mattingly believes those setbacks have played a role in the power outage.

"Before he was hurt he already had two and that was in like 12 games," Mattingly explained to the Orange County Register. "So he was off to a decent start. Then he got hurt and that was an extended time. ... Home runs come in bunches. I don't really worry about home runs. I worry about at-bats and I think they've been OK."

Puig indeed owns a strong .287/.378/.457 slash line. But he hasn't blasted off in his last 20 games.


Rangers OF Josh Hamilton has groin strain, status uncertain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:12 am ET) Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton did not play on Saturday in-part because of a groin strain. Hamilton had exited Friday's game in the seventh inning, and had an MRI on Saturday, though the results have not been made available as of yet.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister did say Saturday was a planned day off for Hamilton, but there does seem to be some concern in regards to Hamilton's health.

"Obviously, we’ll see where he is throughout the night," Banister said, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We’ll continue to try to manage how he feels. This is a guy we’d like to have for an extended period of time. I’m trying my best to figure this whole thing out with him and what is best for Josh."

Hamilton just returned on Tuesday from a stay on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. His status for Sunday's series-finale against the Angels is in question at this point. 


Cubs RF Jorge Soler (ankle) ready to return on Sunday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:01 am ET) The Cubs are set to activate right fielder Jorge Soler from the disabled list on Sunday. Soler has been out since June 3 with a sprained left ankle, but he has made four rehab outings.

Soler struggled though, going 2 for 13 in the four games. But manager Joe Maddon doesn't necessarily buy into those stats.

"I don't worry about that stuff," Maddon said, per MLB.com. "To me, it's a matter of, 'If he's healthy and he's seeing the ball, what does his timing look like?' Those are the kinds of things you're trying to get from the guys down there."

Soler is expected to be in the lineup for the series-finale against the Marlins on Sunday. He was batting .237 (9 for 38) with a homer and five RBI over his last 10 games prior to the injury.


Red Sox returning RF Shane Victorino gives encouraging effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) Red Sox veteran right fielder Shane Victorino didn't look like a guy Saturday that had not played for nearly seven weeks.

Victorino slammed two hits and scored twice batting eighth in a defeat of Houston after recovering from lower-body strains.

"He steps right back in with a couple of base hits," John Farrell exclaimed to the Boston Herald. "We all know the start and stop of his season. To have another guy in the bottom of the order right now with his base-stealing ability, the base-running ability, two base hits against a right-hander today, very encouraging."


 
 
 
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