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3 Fantasy Baseball Hitters Slated to Breakout Earlier Than Their Prime in 2023

Jose Miranda - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Some ball players are just built differently. The superstars of the MLB world tend to break out well before their prime, far closer to the age of 20 than the generally accepted age-28 prime season. Let's be honest, even though he was promoted at the ripe age of 19, few expected Juan Soto to explode out of the gate into immediate superstardom. The same can be said for 2022 AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez. These are the true top-tier, straight-to-the-top stars.

However, there's also some breathing room between these types and others who hit their stride in their mid-20s, still at least a couple of years away from their prime production years. These players tend to enjoy long, fruitful major league careers even if they didn't get it going off the blocks. Big league competition is a big deal, after all.

In that regard, with Spring Training baseball games just 19 days away, it's time to identify three hitters who are about to break out earlier than their prime in the 2023 season. The idea isn't to target any specific age range, but rather players who aren't technically in their prime production seasons that are about to hit their stride.

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

 

Riley Greene, Outfielder, Detroit Tigers (Age-22 season)

It's easy to predict a breakout from former top prospects but Riley Greene didn't exactly tear it up in his rookie season after ranking well into the top five prospects in all of baseball among several publications.

Greene slashed .253/.321/.362 with five home runs and a 98 wRC+ across 93 games as a 21-year-old in the 2022 campaign. He lacked home-run power, and while he added 18 doubles and four triples, his .109 isolated power left plenty to be desired given his minor-league track record. Greene didn't show a ton of speed in the minors, but also managed a single stolen base a season ago.

However, Greene hit the ball fairly hard and produced a solid barrel rate for a young freshman. He ranked in the league's 61st percentile in average exit velocity, 82nd in max exit velocity, 77th in hard-hit rate, and 60th in barrel rate. It's also worth keeping in mind Greene did so after appearing in just 15 Triple-A games following a broken foot suffered toward the end of spring training. His rehab stint was essentially his Spring Training all over again before facing big-league pitching.

There's also one key aspect some could be overlooking when it comes to Greene's power and run-producing ability in 2023. The Tigers announced they are moving in and lowering the fences at Comerica Park for next season. Here are the changes the club is implementing:

While Comerica will remain a pitcher's park next season, the new field dimensions will help Greene, especially in the right-center field alley. Just take a look at where Green's longest-hit balls of the 2022 season ended up:

You could argue that the vast dimensions of Comerica robbed Greene of five home runs a season ago. He certainly had far too many flares and bloopers land in the shallow outfield, but his home park also robbed him of some well-struck baseballs that should have seen him trotting around the bases.

It's well within reason to suggest Greene can improve his solid metrics from his first full big-league season. A healthy spring training would also go a long way. He'll get everyday reps to afford him the opportunity to break out well before his prime.

 

Josh Jung, Third Base, Texas Rangers (Age-25 season)

The Texas Rangers drafted Josh Jung with the eighth overall pick of the 2019 draft but some injuries in his minor-league career led to a debut at the age of 24 last season. Jung hit just .204 with a 38.2% K% in his 102 trips to the plate and produced an 81 wRC+ that fell 19% below the league average.

However, that prodigious power he displayed in the minors traveled to the big leagues. Jung hit five home runs, four doubles, and a triple that led to a healthy .214 ISO. His 10.2% barrel rate well exceeded the 6.7% MLB average despite his hard-hit rate falling short of the league average.

Jung managed to produce power at the highest level despite a torn labrum that ended his 2021 season while he was raking at the Triple-A level. Prior to his injury, Jung was hitting .348 with nine HR, a .304 ISO, and a monster 1.088 OPS across 35 games. Prior to debuting in the big leagues last season, Jung played just 31 games between the Florida Complex League and Triple-A. That's not a ton of minor-league seasoning coming off a major injury.

That said, it didn't take Jung long to make an impact at the highest level.

The power should be there, but a 0.10 K:BB isn't going to cut it. However, Jung showed solid plate discipline and quality strikeout rates in the minors. He could take additional time getting used to MLB pitching but the K:BB does not project to be nearly as bad in 2023 as it was in 2022. Like with Greene, a full offseason regimen should enable Jung to improve on these results.

Jung is more than capable of producing at least 20 HR and 70 RBI this season. The most optimistic forecasts even have him approaching 25 HR and exceeding 80 RBI on what should be a productive Rangers offense. Regardless, Jung is a player that should capitalize on his raw power and take a major leap forward this season.

 

Jose Miranda, Third Base, Minnesota Twins (Age-24 season)

Jose Miranda enjoyed an absolutely monstrous 2021 minor-league season that seemingly set the stage for a big 2022 campaign with the Minnesota Twins. While he handled himself just fine as a rookie, the sophomore season looks appetizing for the Puerto Rico native.

Between the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2021, Miranda launched 30 home runs with 94 RBI and a .973 OPS across 124 games. Additionally, his strikeout rate maxed out at 13.1% at the Triple-A level where he hit .343 with a 156 wRC+.

Following a 21-game Triple-A stint to begin the 2022 season, Miranda made his MLB debut on May 2. He went on hit 15 HR with 66 RBI and a .751 OPS, the latter of which finished 16% above the league average. That's certainly a fine start to his career, but more should be in the tank across a full MLB season.

With Gio Urshela departing for the Angels in the offseason, third base is a wide-open position on the Twins' depth chart. The good news is Miranda is a natural third baseman who spent the bulk of his rookie season playing first base. A move back to his natural position with a full-time role open for the taking should have Miranda entering the clubhouse with more confidence in 2023.

It appears Miranda is not a great cold-weather hitter. Playing in Minnesota -- and the AL Central in general -- doesn't help that cause, but Miranda posted some excellent figures after scuffling through 77 plate appearances in May.

Of course, this could be explained as a simple adjustment to the big leagues as well. Regardless, it's encouraging to see Miranda make some adjustments himself after some early-season struggles.

A 25 HR, 80 RBI season is not out of the question. He'll be a more comfortable and confident player this season and should turn a full-time role into a breakout campaign.



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