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Breakout Infielders That Will Keep Improving in 2022 (Jonathan India, Bo Bichette, Ty France)

jonathan india fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers MLB injury news

Breakouts are perhaps the most fun part of playing fantasy baseball. Being able to identify and grab guys as they reach their potential can often be the difference between winning it all and being lost in the shuffle.

Breakouts come in all shapes in sizes. They can be guys that come out of nowhere or can be promising prospects that finally put it all together. Every star player was once a breakout at some point, but there are also tons of breakouts that never reclaim that glory.

I’m looking for fantasy baseball breakouts from last year that are more than just breakouts. Players that may have only just started putting things together. Players that will continue to improve beyond 2022. In this article, we’ll stick to the infield.

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!

 

Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds

NL Rookie of the Year showed why he was the fifth overall pick back in 2018. India hit .269 with an exceptional .376 OBP to go with 21 HR and 12 SB last season. While those numbers are great for a rookie, India has really just scratched the surface of his potential. Having that OBP as a rookie shows that India is a smart hitter who has an understanding of big-league pitching. On top of the walks, India showed his ability to make adjustments throughout the season. He had trouble hitting breaking pitches to start off, as many rookies do, only hitting them hard 15.4% of the time in May. By the time September came around, his hard-hit rate on breaking pitches shot up to 38.1%.

One of the biggest negatives of India revolves around hitting the ball hard. His average exit velocity and hard-hit rate were below average, but I think he can improve those skills in short order. His Barrel % was above average, landing in the 61st percentile, so he is able to make quality contact. Building some strength in the offseason and as he enters his prime will help him hit the ball harder, and playing in Cincinnati will always help get a few balls over the fence that aren’t hit hard.

The simple fact that India won’t have the standard rookie adjustment period in 2022 is reason enough to think his numbers will be better than last season. His OPS in his first months of the season was .683. From June through the end of the season, it was .882. Once India got into the swing of things, he got better and better and didn’t look back.

 

Ty France, Seattle Mariners

Ty France had a year of ups and downs in his first full big-league season, but it’s the ups we should be focused on. If you look at his wOBA by month last season, something will stick out right away.

That massive decline in the month of May was not by accident. On April 19th, France was hit on the forearm by a 98 mph fastball from Dustin May. He would stay in the game and continue to play for weeks. He was completely ineffective in that time and the Mariners finally caught on and place him on the IL on May 14th. He returned on May 24th and went right back to mashing. Here are what his stats would have looked like if you just removed those games he played while injured compared to his actual 2021 stats.

A noticeable difference, isn’t it? He clearly had problems swinging the bat in that time and staying active didn’t do any favors for him despite a very solid season.

Another trend I like to see with younger players is improvements in their plate discipline. While not playing a full 162 game season until 2021, France has already made huge strides in his K% since his debut. In 2019, his K% was 24.4%. He followed that with a minor improvement to 23.9% in 2020, but then a much more significant improvement to 16.3% in 2021. He’s trending in the right direction and a fully healthy season will lead France to new heights going forward.

 

Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays

Bichette was just about all we had hoped for in 2021. He posted a .298 average, 29 HR, 25 SB, and a 122 wRC+, and at just 24- years-old, is only getting started. He's definitely a free swinger (something that scares me sometimes) but I'm not worried about that getting in the way of better production going forward. While his chase rate was in the third percentile, his actual strikeout rate was above average, landing in the 61st percentile in the league. Bichette is primarily a contact hitter, so I don't think it's fair to expect incredible numbers when it comes to discipline.

At the end of the day, he is getting hits and getting on base enough to not be a long-term problem. That being said, he's still young and can improve his plate discipline as he gets more experience.  He has already improved his K% since 2019, going from 23.6% to 19.9% in 2021.

It's also encouraging to look at his expected Statcast numbers. Especially when it comes to high batting averages, there can often be a decent amount of luck involved. That is not the case for Bichette.

While not by a huge margin, his expected stats were overall better than his actual stats in 2021. Even his expected average, which was lower than his actual, was in the top 9% of the MLB, so it's not too concerning to me. There's a reason Bichette's ADP is as high as it is. He's already a star and is ready to make the jump to superstar. Again, at just 24-years-old and in an incredible Blue Jays lineup, he is going to continue to improve in 2022 and beyond.



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