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2022 Fantasy Baseball Breakout Candidates - AL West

Even with the offseason now in full swing with players receiving qualifying offers, it’s never too early to start identifying the players who’ll help your team take the title next season.

Of course, impact fantasy players taken near the top of drafts are crucial for fantasy contenders. But, finding breakout candidates late in the draft who outperform their average draft position can be similarly vital in filling out a competitive roster. That’s what I’m doing with this column, give you a division-by-division look at the fantasy breakout candidates to target ahead of your drafts next spring.

After covering the American League Central and the American League East in my last two columns, today it’s the American League West’s turn. It seems with the Junior Circuit’s westernmost division, the underlying theme with these fantasy breakout candidates seems to be players finally getting an opportunity to play a regular role

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

 

Houston Astros: Jose Siri

The Houston Astros could once again see some significant free-agent departures this winter, and while there aren’t any outfielders hitting free agency like George Springer did last season, there’s still a rather significant opportunity for someone like Siri to break out.

Houston traded center fielder Myles Straw at the deadline in a deal for reliever Phil Maton, opting to go with Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers, and Siri down the stretch in the middle of the outfield.

The trade-off obviously worked, as the Astros made it all the way to the World Series. And as the playoffs wore on Siri continued to get starts against left-handed pitching, something which shouldn’t hurt in his quest for more regular plate appearances next season. But the Astros still don’t have a surefire starter in center field.

Even in a platoon, Siri has a chance to make a significant impact in fantasy leagues.

In just 49 regular-season plate appearances, the 26-year-old hit .304 with a .347 on-base percentage, five barrels, four home runs, and three stolen bases.

It’s a rather small sample size, so the batting average, particularly when taking Siri’s .400 BABIP into account, might be unsustainable. What might just be sustainable though, is the power and speed combination.

Siri has always been known for both as a prospect, but never got a chance in the Majors until this season.

Now, it seems he’s getting that chance in Houston. Give him a part-time role as a platoon outfielder and he should be a quality fantasy contributor with his knack for stealing bases.

If he can somehow distance himself from McCormick, Meyers, and any offseason additions Houston makes, Siri has a chance to be a late-round steal.

 

Seattle Mariners: Abraham Toro

A notable part of the Mariners’ success in the second half, Toro had a mini breakout after joining Seattle in a mid-season trade with the Houston Astros.

He might have a full-blown breakout season next season for the Mariners.

The infielder logged 253 plate appearances in a Seattle uniform, hitting .252 with a .328 on-base percentage, five home runs, and three stolen bases. What’s more, he drew a steady amount of walks (8.7%) while not striking out much (13%).

Admittedly, Toro’s .115 ISO and 35.1% hard-hit rate weren’t ideal and aren’t the most encouraging when talking about power potential for the infielder, but his sudden proclivity for barreling the ball, coupled with consistent playing time, should lead to improved power.

The former Astro logged 16 barrels after donning a Seattle uniform on July 27 through the end of the season. That’s more than 50% more than he had in his career (10) to that point and more than Ketel Marte, Xander Bogaerts, and Kris Bryant from July 27 through the end of the regular season.

Whether it be at third base or second base, Toro figures to be a regular for Seattle in a lineup that should only get better with the return of Kyle Lewis, an improving Jarred Kelenic, and the potential arrival of Julio Rodriguez. And this is all without mentioning any impact free agents Jerry Dipoto and company sign to play in the Pacific Northwest.

If the relatively high number of barrels and low strikeout numbers continue in a full season’s worth of plate appearances, Toro could prove to be a late-round steal in drafts next spring.

 

Texas Rangers: DJ Peters

Similar to Toro being blocked by a number of impact infielders in Houston before receiving an extended opportunity in Seattle, Peters was stuck behind a number of impact outfielders in Los Angeles before joining the Rangers via a waiver claim last season.

He might not have the overall fantasy upside of Toro or Texas’ 2021 breakout star Adolis Garcia, but Peters could be a useful source of home runs for fantasy managers in deeper leagues.

Known for his raw power and home run potential as a prospect, the 25-year-old mashed 13 home runs in 240 plate appearances split between Texas and Los Angeles to go along with a .224 ISO.

Given his contact issues in 2021 (.197 average, 34.2% strikeout rate) and reasonable minor league walk rates (Peters never registered a walk rate below 8.0% at any of his minor league stops), the outfielder might be a better fit in deeper leagues where on-base percentage is part of the scoring.

And while he might not win a batting title, Peters could enter next season looking at something closely resembling a starting role on a rebuilding Rangers club. A full season’s worth of plate appearances could translate to 30 home runs for the slugger.

If you’re looking for a late-round flier in deeper leagues to help you in the home run department, it might be the former Dodgers outfielder.

 

Los Angeles Angels: Brandon Marsh

When running through Brandon Marsh’s 2021 numbers, there are a plethora of red flags. There’s the 35% strikeout rate. The .254 average propped up by a .403 BABIP. A wRC+ of just 86 in 260 plate appearances.

Red flags all.

Red flags that might discourage you from drafting Marsh in fantasy drafts next Spring.

While those numbers can’t be disregarded, there are a few other metrics (and factors) that paint Marsh more as a potential breakout candidate rather than someone to avoid.

The first one is that for as much as the 23-year-old struck out last year, he also made some quality contact when he wasn’t striking out. Marsh registered a 10.9% barrel rate and a 51.7% hard-hit rate in 2021.

If the outfielder can lower his strikeout rate next season, not unreasonable to think for a hitter entering his second season, he has a chance to further establish himself in the Angels’ lineup and as a quality fantasy contributor.

Speaking of Los Angeles’ lineup, Joe Maddon’s team will get some significant internal reinforcements, to say nothing of potential external reinforcements via trade or free agency. A certain Mike Trout will return, as will Anthony Rendon. You may have heard of them.

Marsh might not be a lock to hit leadoff next season, as he did down the stretch when Trout and Rendon were sidelined due to injury, but he’ll have plenty of run-scoring and RBI opportunities in a lineup that also features Shohei Ohtani, Max Stassi, and Jo Adell in addition to Trout and Rendon.

 

Oakland Athletics: A.J. Puk

Regardless of whether the A’s begin something resembling a rebuilding effort or stay competitive, AJ Puk has a chance to play a rather significant role.

Should Oakland keep much of their current core together, the left-hander could slot into the late-inning bullpen mix alongside Lou Trivino and Deolis Guerra. Things could obviously change over the course of the winter, but Billy Beane and company will need to replace a number of relievers as Jake Diekman, Andrew Chafin, Yusmeiro Petit, and Sergio Romo are all free agents.

However, if the Athletics decide to start trading away veterans for prospects and younger players, it’s possible Puk could slot back into the rotation.

Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas all stand out as speculative trade chips in the event that the A’s start to rebuild. If a starter is dealt, the former top prospect could step back into the rotation.

Somewhat similar to Toro and Peters, Puk has yet to really get an extended look in the Majors. That has partly been due to injury, but the left-hander should have plenty of opportunities to lock down a regular role in Oakland next season.

If he can, he’ll offer plenty of strikeout potential in whatever role he pitches in. The former top prospect owns a career 11.5% swinging strike rate in the Majors and registered a 47.5% whiff rate on his slider (his best pitch) last season.

We’re working with small sample sizes here, as the hurler has just 24.2 innings in the Majors. However, his upside has never been in question. In 2022 he might have his best opportunity to make good on that potential with the A’s.



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