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AL Outfielders Ready to Break Out in 2021

In previous seasons, outfielder has been one of the deepest positions to find top-end talent as well as deeper talent. In 2021, this does not appear to be the case as there are so many question marks and risks in the current top 50 based on ADP and throughout the entirety of drafts. It becomes even more uncertain when you break it down into AL vs. NL outfielders.

This article will take a deeper look into AL outfielders who provide higher upside than their current ADP might suggest. These are not guys who you will find at the top of drafts but are not necessarily guys you will find at the end of drafts. They are outfielders that should outperform their ADP by several spots and are in a prime position to break out in 2021.

The outfielders we will look into today include Franmil Reyes, Nick Solak, Randy Arozarena, and Josh Naylor. A strong glance into their historical data and advanced metrics should show exactly why they fit the category of breakout candidates.

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Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians

Franmil Reyes AKA Franimal is being considered as a breakout candidate for the second season in a row. While he did not technically break out in the shortened 2020 season, he did find some success as he slashed .275/.344/.450 with nine HR, 35 RBI, and 27 R across 211 AB. The power with Franmil is very real as he smacked 37 HR in 2019 and has very strong power metrics, which is precisely why he should be highly considered heading into 2021.

The power metrics tell us that Franmil is an absolute beast. In 2020, he posted a solid exit velocity of 92.4 mph, which ranked him in the top nine percent of the league. He also posted a hard-hit rate of 44.9%, which placed him in the 79th percentile of the league. One other power metric where Reyes performed well was with his barrel rate (12.9%), where he ranked in the top 16% of the league.

Another area of Reyes' game to look forward to in 2021 is his ability to hit the ball to all fields. While a majority of his bombs have actually been hit to the opposite field, he has shown a consistent ability to go to left field when necessary as noted by his spray chart.

While Reyes does have some flaws in his game, including a career strikeout rate of 28.4%, he will provide fantasy players with a plethora of power without sacrificing too much in the way of average as he is also a career .263 hitter. With a full season ahead of him in 2021, 40 bombs are definitely within range. He currently has an ADP sitting around 140, which means he is going around the middle of the 11th round. While it is more than fair to draft him here, snagging him near the end of the 10th round or even slightly sooner should return plenty of value as well.


Nick Solak, Texas Rangers

I wrote quite a bit about Nick Solak in early pre-season articles in 2020 and think he would have had a solid campaign had he been given a full 162-game season. That being said, I think he has a solid opportunity to break out in 2021, given that he still slashed .268/.326/.344 with two HR, 23 RBI, and seven SB. While there is still much to be desired when it comes to Solak's power, his ability to put the ball in play combined with his speed is why he has serious potential heading into 2021.

Solak stole seven bases in 2020 across 233 PA. He ranked 29th in the league in terms of stolen bases. He provides so much value here based on his sprint speed of 28.6 ft/sec, which ranked him in the 91st percentile of the league.

Solak has also shown great plate discipline for such a young player. In 2020, he posted a whiff rate of just 19.1%, which ranked him in the top 16% of the league. This directly translated to him posting a strikeout rate of just 18%, which placed him in the top quarter of the league. It should also be noted that he only posted a 7.7% walk rate in 2020, but this is fresh off an 11.1% rate in 2019, so it could be an outlier as he also posted an 11.4% rate throughout his minor league career.

Solak currently has an ADP of 185, which means he is currently being drafted in round 15 of 12-team leagues. He should provide much more value than a 15th round pick as he is also eligible at second base and third base in many leagues. Look to take him at least one round early in drafts and feel confident being able to shift him around your lineup.


Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays

Randy Arozarena is going to be a very popular target heading into 2021 as he is being touted as a strong break-out candidate. Most of the hype stems from his 2020 postseason performance, where he crushed 10 HR in 20 games. He also had a relatively solid regular season as he slashed .281/.382/.641 with seven HR, 11 RBI, 15 R, and four SB in just 64 AB. He provides a unique combination of power and speed, which is why his potential is so great heading into 2021.

Statcast tells us that Arozarena has a sprint speed of 28.8 ft/sec, which ranked him in the 93rd percentile and 32nd overall in the league in 2020. He managed to steal the aforementioned seven bases and was also a threat in the minors as noted by his 61 stolen bases through three minor league seasons.

He also provides plenty in the way of power metrics. In 2020, he posted a 14% barrel rate, 90.3 mph exit velocity, and 44.2% hard-hit rate. He had most of his success against the fastball, however, as he hit all seven bombs off fastballs and also posted a .684 xSLG against them. He struggled against breaking balls though, as he posted just a .185 xSLG with zero extra-base hits against them. He will certainly need to improve upon these numbers in 2021, and if he does, he could be an absolute menace.

Arozarena currently has an ADP of 71, making him a late fifth-round and even early sixth-round pick in most 12-team leagues. If he can adjust to breaking balls, he could provide value at a much higher level in 2021 and should be looked at as an early fifth-round candidate.


Josh Naylor, Cleveland Indians

The Indians were pretty high on Josh Naylor in 2020 as he was a key piece in the Mike Clevinger deal. Naylor will likely rotate between the outfield and first base, which means he will provide added flexibility on fantasy rosters. In 2020, he slashed .247/.291/.330 with just one HR, six RBI, and 13 R across 98 AB. While these stats certainly do not jump off the page, there is hope he could turn it up in 2021 with regular playing time.

Naylor was once a top 100 prospect, so the ability is certainly there for him. However, he has only seen 350 AB over his first two big-league seasons and only saw 97 AB in the shortened 2020 season. Looking at his 2019 power metrics, we see that he posted an exit velocity of 89.6 mph and a hard-hit rate over 36%. These numbers do not jump off the page, but they are certainly respectable for a first-year player. In 2020, he cut down on his strikeouts as he went from a strikeout rate of 22.9% to a rate of 11.5%. This is definitely something you want to see from a player in their progression.

The bottom line with Naylor is that he has the potential to break out in 2021 and is basically being given away in drafts with a current ADP of 380. This means he is being drafted in the middle of the 31st round (or not at all) in 12-team leagues. He is worth a flier as your final pick in drafts. Place him on your bench for a few weeks to start the season, and if he does not perform, it did not really cost much to try him out.

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