This week is a little different from the past few weeks of my trending up / trending down column. This week I’ll only be focusing on those players who have been sizzling for the entire half, and have never shown this kind of promise before in their careers – the true 2014 breakouts who were sleepers before the season started. Yesterday we looked at the biggest 2014 busts and speculated whether these players were buys or sells. Today we’re doing the same thing for the 2014 Fantasy Baseball Breakouts. Let’s get started.
Will these 1st Half Breakouts Continue their Onslaughts?
Catcher - Devin Mesoraco (CIN)
Prior to this season, Devin Mesoraco’s best to date was 2013 in which he hit .238/.287/.362 with 9 HRS and 42 RBIs in 323 at-bats. In 207 at-bats this season before the All-Star Break Meso is hitting .304/.375/.609 with 16 HRS, 45 RBIs, and even a stolen base to boot! It’d almost be hard to believe that Mesoraco was the same player if he didn’t have a couple of seasons in the minor leagues where he hit for a .280+AVG and 15+ HRs. These numbers translate to Mesoraco being the 2nd ranked catcher in all of Yahoo following only fellow breakout Jonathan Lucroy.
Rest of the season: I believe in Mesoraco as a top 5 catcher the rest of the way. Why? The catcher position is thin this year, and he has the minor league track record to show that once he got more comfortable at the MLB leve he could be capable of these sorts of numbers. It also doesn’t hurt that brand names such as Yadier Molina and Matt Weiters have gone down with injuries. Devin Mesoraco has been “the rock” of catchers this year, and you can likely still buy him cheaper than Posey, so if you’re in desperate need for a catcher, put some offers in to get the Mes.
First Base - Anthony Rizzo (CHC)
Anyone else think of this guy from the Muppets when they think of Anthony Rizzo? Rizzo had a great first year in 2012, but then dipped a bit in 2013. The power still came in 2013 with 23 HRS and 80 RBIs, but his average dipped from .285 to .233.
Fortunately, that was just a sophomore slump and Rizzo is back to eating the cheese pitchers throw for breakfast. This season he is hitting .275/.381/.499 with 20 HRs, 49 RBIs, and 62 runs before the All-Star Break which puts him on pace to easily break his former career highs.
Rest of the season: Rizzo is currently ranked ahead in Yahoo of brand names such as Freedie Freeman and his Muppet pal Gonzo (Adrian Gonzalez). He has always been a highly touted prospect, and I think this is the year he is really ready to show that his name will be among the elite first basemen for years to come. A top 10 finish at the position is likely, and that’s impressive when you consider how deep the position is.
Second Base - Brian Dozier (MIN)
Apologies to Jose Altuve who is having the best season of his career and is currently ranked top among all 2nd basemen, but Altuve was considered a good player before 2014. Brian Dozier’s season has come out of nowhere. He had a good season last year with 18 HR, 72 R, 66 RBI, and 14 SB but that was in an entire season. This season he already has 18 homers, 69 runs, 45 RBIs, and 16 SB before the All-Star Break. To say that the Bulldozer is on his way to destroying his old career highs would be a complete understatement. He is going to obliterate his career highs if he can keep this pace up.
Rest of the season: Just when I thought Dozier was starting to cool off a bit, he had a 2 HR 4 RBI game right before the break. He is one of the cases that I have a slightly harder time believing in despite his season last year. He won’t hit for average since he’s hit in the .240s or so every season he’s been in the majors, and if he gets into a cold spell, it could look ugly, but obviously the power and speed is there. While I don’t expect Dozier to fully keep up his torrid pace, he should still be a top 2B option going forward. If you find an owner who doesn’t fully believe in Dozier, it can’t hurt to try and buy him. On the other hand, if you find an owner who will pay more than full value for Dozier, he also makes for a good sell candidate because his BA leaves room for some ugly slumps.
Second Base (Shortstop) - Dee Gordon (LAD)
We’re cheating a bit by counting Gordon, the Dodgers full time 2B, as a shortstop, but he has multi-position eligibility, and this is fantasy baseball we’re talking about. Raise your hand if you saw this season coming from Dee Gordon. Keep them up. Good. You’ve now been marked for life as a liar. I’m the first to admit that I never saw Gordon being this good despite his stealing 20 + bags in multiple past seasons. Maybe his 2011 when he hit for a .304 avg with with 24 steals in limited at-bats should have been an indicator, but since then it felt like pitchers had exposed his weakness. Ever since he got more regular at-bats, he hit more in the .220-.230 range so it was a surprise to see him hitting .292 this season and break his career highs in steals, runs scored, and RBIs before the break. I keep doubting Dee, but he keeps hanging in here to his credit.
Rest of the season: Gordon does look like a more patient hitter at the plate, and he has improved a lot on defense. His BABIP is way above career norms, but that can be explained by his speed that allows him to beat out infield hits. Despite the positive tone I’ve taken so far, I still have a major reason I don’t necessarily fully buy into his story. The Dodgers signed Alex Guerrero to play the position that Dee is currently occupying, and they paid Guerrero 42 million dollars to do so. Guerrero is currently tearing up Triple A hitting .376 with 10 HRs and is fully recovered from his ear incident with Miguel Olivio. If you’re a Gordon owner, carefully monitor the Guerrero situation because with the Dodgers World Series ambitions, we won’t be surprised to see Guerrero get a look at 2B if Gordon scuffles at all. If you don’t need the SB and can get a haul for Gordon, he makes for an interesting sell opportunity.
Third Base - Todd Frazier (CIN)
Man I love Todd Frazier. I had him as a pre-season sleeper and I picked him to go further than Giancarlo Stanton in the HR Derby. So far, the man referred to as “Loco” by his minor league teammate Miguel Cabrera has responded by hitting .290/.353/.500 with 19 HRs, 57 Runs, 53 RBIs, and 14 steals before the break. He is on pace to shatter his career highs in all those categories, if he hasn’t already. Frazier is also currently ranked ahead of the man who calls him “Loco” at 3rd base in Yahoo leagues, in large part due to the increased amount of steals he is getting. It’s not easy feat to be ranked ahead of Miguel Cabrera, the man who is considered baseball’s current best hitter.
Rest of the season: It’s no secret that third base is a thin position. Nor is it a secret that the Reds are a fairly skilled offensive team. All these things bode well for Frazier continuing to be a top option at third going forward, especially if he keeps stealing bags. The only thing I’d be worried about is that his BABIP is slightly above career norms, so we could see some regression in his AVG. Otherwise, I’m loco for “Loco”. I would tell you to buy him, but there’s no way this guy comes on the cheap.
Outfield - Michael Brantley (CLE)
Michael Brantley is another played who I was convinced would have a breakout this season, courtesy of my friend Zach (@LopsidedTrades) who also writes for RotoBaller.
Brantley has responded to both our positive attitudes by hitting .322/.382/.519 with 15 HRS, 63 runs, 63 RBIs, and 10 steals before the break. His previous high was in 2013 when he hit .284/.332/.396 with 10 HRS, 66 runs scored, 73 RBIs, and 17 steals for the entire year. His numbers currently have him ranked ahead of Giancarlo Stanton in Yahoo, so if you drafted Brantley in the later rounds you are getting immense value.
Rest of the season: Brantley has incredible plate discipline which will help him maintain a high BA, and he easily has 20-20 potential this year, and would really have to slump not to reach it. A player who contributes across the board in fantasy is rare, and it’s why they tend to be drafted so high in the draft the next year. Brantley should easily finish as a top 15 OF ROS, and that I believe is even somewhat of a low estimate. “Dr Smooth” is here to stay!
Thanks for reading guys! Let me know if you agree or disagree with what I had to say here by tweeting @RekedFantasy. I hope you all enjoyed the All-Star Game and next week I will return to my usual format.
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