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Post-Hype Infield Breakout Candidates for Fantasy Baseball (2024)

bryson stott fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers waiver wire pickups MLB injury news

One thing you will often hear fantasy players discuss is breakouts. We have to find them to be able to win our leagues. It can be easy earlier on in drafts but those middle rounds are where we make or break our rosters.

In this piece, we are going to focus on a few infielders in the age 26-29 age bracket who could break out this year. Some people might refer to them as the "post-hype sleeper" crowd. Call them what you want; these are players that with a larger opportunity can provide you with the statistics you crave when building your roster in the middle rounds.

As fantasy players, we are always searching for those under-the-radar talents who might have an opportunity to bolster our teams with stats to fill our categories. You might be looking to create balance with some boring veterans while taking a flyer on guys like those listed below. Let's take a look at some players who could create value for you before your competitors get wind of them.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Michael Busch, Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs acquired Busch last month for two prospects, a hedge against the prospects of losing Cody Bellinger in free agency. With the Dodgers's infield set with guys named Freeman, Betts, Lux, and Muncy, there was no spot for Busch.

All this comes with a huge caveat: if the Cubs get Bellinger back, the potential playing time here is gone for Busch. Manager Craig Counsell suggested last week that Busch will have a large opportunity. Busch is projected as the Cubs' Opening Day first baseman at this time. ATC projects a .236 average, 13 home runs, 48 runs, 47 RBI, and three steals. Pedestrian numbers for sure.

But Busch is 26 and we need to see if he can handle a full-time position. Busch hit a combined 29 home runs last year (27 in AAA, two in MLB)and knocked in 97 with a combined .251 batting average, but .327 at AAA. Busch also saw time at third base last year.  The multiple-position flexibility could lead to an increase in playing time.

The Cubs roster Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal, so any good showing by Busch should result in ample playing time. It's important to recall that Busch was recently a top prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers and has a first-round pedigree. At this point, the Cubs don't have another clearcut option at first base right now.

 

Vinnie Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals

Pasquantino, a man of some great nicknames,  was a draft-day darling last season, shooting up boards in March. Pasquantino was hitting .247 with nine home runs when he was shelved for the season with a torn labrum. Pasquantino is said to be healthy and fully ready for Spring Training.

With an ADP on NFBC of 170, it seems fantasy players may have forgotten the "Italian Nightmare."  You should not be one of them. ATC projects him for 20 home runs, 74 RBI, and a .273 batting average.  These are numbers that he could easily surpass with good health, and he has a clear opportunity at first base in Kansas City.

There is batting average upside here too. See the chart below. Pasquantino makes good contact and his 11.9 K% is outstanding for a young power hitter. He projects to bat cleanup per Roster Resource with Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez batting in front of him.

If he proves that he is healthy, the "Italian Breakfast" should push up in the rankings ahead of the season. If you are drafting now, he would be an excellent choice at first base if you decide to wait at that position or a terrific play at your corner infield spot.

 

Gavin Lux, Los Angeles Dodgers

Lux feels like a player we have been waiting on for years.  Many players may have forgotten him. Do not be one of them. Lux is 26 and coming off a serious knee injury last spring that wrecked his entire season.

Lux projects as the starting shortstop on a juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers team. Granted, he will likely bat last. But the Betts/Freeman/Ohtani trio will follow him. He could easily hit double-digit home runs and stolen bases with a .270 batting average.

Moreover, in the NFBC drafts, he has 2B and OF eligibility. Lux is the kind of guy referred to as a Swiss army knife for your roster. That multiple positional eligibility can be fantasy gold. His ADP right now is 263.  This could be a valuable player at a low cost to your roster.

The talent is there for Lux to outperform his projections and his current ADP. To give you an idea of similar players who go around him, Whit Merrifield and Brendan Donovan go within a round or two of Lux. Give me Lux all day and twice on Sunday.

 

Bryson Stott, Philadelphia Phillies

Stott was on the verge of a breakout last year and an All-Star berth. In 640 at-bats Stott had 15 home runs, 62 TRBI, 78 runs, and 31 stolen bases with a .280 batting average. Stott also played in 151 games in 2023. This was a marked improvement over his 2022 season (10 home runs, 49 RBI, 12 stolen bases, 58 runs, and a .234 batting average).

At 26, Stott has room to grow further. Roster Resource has him hitting sixth this season in a stacked Phillies lineup, and looking at splits from last season show he did far better lower in the order (.a .357 clip batting sixth in 2023). ATC projects 13 home runs, 65 RBI, 76 runs, and 23 stolen bases. See the growth from 2022 to 2023 below:

His current ADP of 106 puts him slightly behind better-known options like Ha-Seong Kim and Andres Gimenez. The preference here is Stott. A low K% of 15.6% in 2023. He has both second base and shortstop eligibility and is a shoo-in for double-digit home runs and stolen bases with ratios that won't hurt you.

This is a skill set that could blossom in 2024. At just 26, he's got over 1000 major league plate appearances on his resume and could take a step forward this season. Stott is also a defensive whiz who is assured playing time simply on that fact as well. Draft with confidence as a piece of your middle infield combination.

 

Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates

This almost feels like cheating, but Cruz fits the criteria for this article. Cruz broke his ankle last year and missed almost the entire season. He is a 6'7" unicorn who plays the shortstop position.

Savvy managers are rostering him earlier in drafts. The numbers above are from his 2022 season; note the 96th percentile barrel % (an absurd 15.5%) and the 91st percentile average exit velocity (91.9 MPH).

In 2022, Cruz hit 17 home runs and stole 10 bases with a .233 batting average in 361 plate appearances. Yes, he strikes out often, but most leagues do not penalize him for that. He was a breakout candidate for 2023 before breaking his ankle in an April game against the Chicago White Sox.

The ATC projections call for 567 plate appearances and 23 home runs, 80 runs, 72 RBI, 22 stolen bases, and a decent .247 batting average. Cruz is likely to bat leadoff and play every day. With an ADP of 86, any uptick in batting average or a sustained hot streak could catapult him into a superstar this year. Cruz is a great pick if you miss out on the top choices at shortstop.



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