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Breakout Hitters for Fantasy Baseball - MLB Batters Rising for Week 20

Welcome back to another edition of my "Breakout Hitters To Watch" series. What we're doing here is taking a good, close look at the hitting data each week to see which hitters are standing out the most.

We are running out of time to find true "breakouts", but we have seen plenty of interesting names crushing the ball here since the All-Star breaks. Guys getting called up, guys getting healthy, guys benefiting from new teams - and more!

Before we get to the names this week, I've included a brief intro and also a recap of all the names we've talked about throughout the year in this weekly piece.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Fantasy Baseball Breakouts Recap

Here are all of the names I've recommended so far.

 

Week # Breakout Picks
Week 1 Julio Rodriguez, Steven Kwan, Kevin Smith, Bryson Stott
Week 2 Steven Kwan, Gavin Lux, Andrew Vaughn, Jesus Sanchez, Austin Nola
Week 3 Seiya Suzuki, Jeremy Pena, Alex Verdugo, Ke'Bryan Hayes, Rowdy Tellez
Week 4 Alec Bohm, Santiago Espinal, Taylor Ward, Cristian Pache
Week 5 Rowdy Tellez, Ha-Seong Kim, Max Kepler, Christian Walker, Pavin Smith
Week 6 Manuel Margot, Brandon Drury, Josh Naylor, Daulton Varsho, Gleyber Torres
Week 7 Brendan Rodgers, Yonathan Daza, Brandon Nimmo, Tommy Edman, Ryan Jeffers
Week 8 MJ Melendez, Kyle Isbel, Patrick Wisdom, Julio Rodriguez, Mike Yastrzemski
Week 9 Alejandro Kirk, Nolan Gorman, Christopher Morel, Joc Pederson, Garrett Cooper, Emmanuel Rivera
Week 10 Andres Gimenez, Jazz Chisholm, Santiago Espinal, Harold Castro, Brendan Donovan, Ramon Urias
Week 11 Matt Chapman, Luis Garcia, Christian Bethancourt, Oscar Gonzalez, Luis Arraez
Week 12 Juan Yepez, Andrew Vaughn, Bobby Witt Jr., Michael Harris II, Gavin Lux
Week 13 Alex Kirilloff, Adley Rutschman, Isaac Paredes, Josh H. Smith, Matt Vierling, Victor Caratini
Week 14 Ryan Mountcastle, Cavan Biggio, Nick Gordon, Daniel Vogelbach, Rob Refsnyder,
Week 15 Vinnie Pasquantino, Kris Bryant, Yermin Mercedes, Yadiel Hernandez
Week 17 Josh Rojas, Carlos Santana, DJ LeMahieu, Ezequiel Duran
Week 18 Jose Miranda, Nelson Velasquez, Matt Carpenter, Anthony Santander, Lars Nootbaar, Carson Kelly
Week 19 Darick Hall, Tyler Naquin, Seth Brown, Nick Gordon, Elehuris Montero
Week 20

Joey Meneses, Brett Baty, Kerry Carpenter, Emmanuel Rivera, Josh Jung

 

Breakout Picks for the Week 20

Nate Lowe, Texas Rangers

We were talking about Lowe as a breakout hitter back in 2019 when he was coming up with the Rays. He had a lackluster rookie year there, didn't get a chance at a real sophomore campaign due to the 2020 shortened season, and then he got moved to the Rangers. For his career, he has a .272/.346/.442 slash line, here's how that has broken down by season:

Season PA AVG OBP SLG
2019 169 .263 .325 .454
2020 76 .224 .316 .433
2021 642 .264 .357 .415
2022 482 .292 .342 .473

We see him really crushing his former stats this year in batting average and slugging percentage. This year he has 19 homers, setting a career-high (18 last year).

There's a significant change in his profile this year as he has raised his swing rate up eight full points (44.6% to 52.5%) in 2022. That has resulted in fewer walks (12.5% to 6.6%), but it's working out really well for his fantasy stock. The barrel rate has been climbing as the year has gone by:

In the season's first three months Lowe had a high 48% ground-ball rate. This had been a problem for him in his career, at least a problem for his power production. Since June 1st, however, he's dropped that down a few points to 45%. That change alone factors into the increased barrel rate (you can't have a barrel on a ground ball). Since June began, Lowe has slashed .310/.355/.534 with 16 homers, a 10.1% Brl%, and a solid 75.1% contact%. He's been a very, very productive hitter.

At the age of 27, it's fair to say that Lowe still has his best years ahead of him, and 2022 might prove to be a pivot point for his career. I would be buying Lowe in dynasty leagues.

Michael Massey, Kansas City Royals

This is not a guy we have seen much of in the Majors this year, as he has just 75 plate appearances in a Royals uniform. He earned that call-up by slashing .312/.371/.532 with AA and AAA, hitting 16 homers and swiping 13 bags in 391 plate appearances. Since joining the Majors, he hasn't had much trouble contributing, slashing .284/.338/.418 with a homer and a steal.

Plenty of players can come up and put up a good slash line in 75 plate appearances – that alone is not enough to get us interested. What has me most interested in the 16.1% barrel rate and 74.5% contact% he's posted.

Let's highlight where he lines up on the Contact% vs. Barrel% scatter plot:

You can see he's in a pretty prominent position here, surrounded by some really impressive names. I've been using this system to identify breakout hitters all year long because I believe it to be very powerful. It's not foolproof, of course, we have been duped before – but Massey seems to have a skill set that not a ton of professional hitters have.

The Royals aren't an exciting offense to be a part of (yet, at least), but Massey seems to be a guy that can get you some batting average with at least decent pop while filling in at a tough 2B position. Give him a look!

Trayce Thompson, Los Angeles Dodgers

Klay's brother may need to be known for more than being Klay's brother. He started the year in the minors and was probably the best hitter going, as he slashed .305/.365/.721 (a 1.085 OPS) with 17 homers in 170 plate appearances. The Dodgers didn't really need his services to begin the year, but some things opened up and Trayce hit himself to the majors.

He's still not quite an everyday player, but he sure is making the case for it. In the majors this season, he has a line of .271/.365/.504 with six homers and two steals in just 148 plate appearances. Among all hitters with at least 150 Major League plate appearances this year, only 13 hitters have high barrel rates than Thompson's mark of 15.2%. The 35.1% strikeout rate is a big problem, of course, and that will probably continue to restrict him to a platoon role with the loaded Dodgers offense.

If he could find his way to another team and get everyday reps, he could be one of the league's top home run hitters. For now, he's still useful in daily changes leagues when he's in the lineup – as the homers should continue to come between strikeouts.

2022 Brl% Leaders - 150+ PA

Player Brl%
Aaron Judge 25.8%
Kyle Schwarber 21.4%
Giancarlo Stanton 21.1%
Keston Hiura 20.5%
Yordan Alvarez 20.1%
Mike Trout 20.1%
Joey Gallo 18.1%
Shohei Ohtani 17.1%
Jazz Chisholm 16.6%
Byron Buxton 16.4%
Austin Riley 16.3%
J.D. Davis 16.0%
Luke Voit 15.7%
Trayce Thompson 15.2%
Patrick Wisdom 15.0%

Jake Fraley, Cincinnati Reds

Fraley has come out of the break absolutely crushing the ball:

xwOBA Leaders since All-Star Break

Player PA xwOBA
Aaron Judge 138 .517
Albert Pujols 63 .473
Trayce Thompson 76 .426
Yordan Alvarez 118 .422
Rowdy Tellez 103 .417
Juan Soto 124 .417
Lars Nootbaar 111 .405
J.D. Davis 59 .404
Jake Fraley 71 .404
Eloy Jimenez 120 .398

Now it's one thing to hit the ball well for 71 plate appearances out of nowhere, but the thing with Fraley is that I don't think is truly out of nowhere. He was a trendy breakout pick during draft season after the trade that sent him to Cincinnati. However, he hasn't been able to stay healthy this year so we didn't see a ton from him in the first half.

For the season:

PA AVG OBP SLG OPS HR Brl% K% BB% Cont% xwOBA
119 .243 .336 .485 .822 7 8.5% 18.5% 11.8% 77.9% .349

Fraley has excellent plate discipline as you can tell by the slim margin between his strikeout and walk rates. We see plenty of hitters like that, however, we usually don't get much power from those hitters.

There are just 18 hitters in the league with strikeout rates below 20% and walk rates above 11%. The average barrel rate from that group is 7.3%. Fraley's 8.5% barrel rate is the fifth-best in that grouping. This makes him pretty valuable in OBP leagues, and I think he will be of good service in standard leagues as well. It certainly helps that he plays in arguably the best park for offensive production, so I'm excited to see what Fraley can do here now that he's healthy and in an everyday role.

Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles

Some low-hanging fruit here, I'm not making any waves– and we've already talked about Rutschman in this series before. There's no actionable advice I can give on Rutschman other than hang on tight. I just want to highlight exactly how good of a hitter he's been since getting his sea legs in the bigs.

The rookie backstop saw his lowest point of the year on June 9th. At that time, he was sitting with a .143/.226/.196 slash line with no homers in his first 62 plate appearance. Something clicked from there on, as he's gone for a .289/.404/.522 line with eight homers in his last 245 plate appearances. His .926 OPS over that time frame is tenth-best in the entire league, and he's really surprised me with an elite 15.9% strikeout rate, which is exactly matched by his 15.9% walk rate. He has amazing plate discipline, and power to boot (10.3% barrel rate since that June 10th cutoff).

Rutschman appears to be one of the better hitters in the league, and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the first catcher off the board in drafts next year.

 

And that's it for this week's breakout picks, hope this helps. Good luck this week, RotoBallers!



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