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2022 Fantasy Breakout Candidates - NL West

We have already broken down the top breakout candidates from the National League Central, National League East, American League West, American League East, and American League Central.

In this column, we'll run down players from the National League West, one from each team, who could fit the bill and have breakout campaigns next season.

One commonality among most successful fantasy baseball teams is the ability to find breakout players later on in the draft. Drafting the right players in the first few rounds is also crucial, but if you find the right breakout candidates in the mid to late rounds it can help you go from a good fantasy season to a championship-winning one.

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San Diego Padres: Ryan Weathers 

Mark Melancon utterly dominated save chances in San Diego last season. The veteran reliever racked up 39 saves for San Diego. Only four other San Diego relievers recorded a save, and none of that quartet had more than a single save. 

Melancon will be pitching in the National League West again next season, except he’ll be playing his home games at Arizona’s Chase Field, leaving a sizable void at the back end of the Padres’ bullpen where save opportunities are concerned. 

San Diego struggled down the stretch, finishing with 79 wins. Still, that 79-win squad featured a closer with nearly 40 saves. 

Ferando Tatis Jr. and company should be improved as a team next season, and that could result in a similar number of save opportunities for the heir to Melancon’s save opportunities, if not more. 

That heir could be Ryan Weathers.

The seventh-overall pick in the 2018 draft, Weathers made his Major League debut this season after previously making two starts above Single-A. 

His overall metrics (5.32 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 72 strikeouts) weren’t stellar in 94.2 innings, but the left-hander was decidedly better after switching to the bullpen, compiling a 2.49 ERA, a 3.45 FIP, and 22 punchouts in 25.1 frames. He also surrendered just four walks and three home runs.

Even while pitching in a relief role, Weathers mostly pitched on starter’s rest. However, he might not be in line for starting duties in San Diego next season with Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Paddack ahead of him on the depth chart. Mike Clevinger will also return to San Diego’s rotation, as will Dinelson Lamet, who like Weathers, spent time in the bullpen last season. 

With Melancon in Arizona and Drew Pomeranz coming off a season in which he had season-ending surgery in August to repair a torn flexor tendon, Weathers could be in line for potential save opportunities. 

If that’s the case, he’ll have plenty of fantasy value next season. 

 

San Francisco Giants: Joey Bart

Another member of the 2018 draft class, the top 10 of that draft to be specific, Bart could be stepping into a significantly larger role for his team this coming season. 

With Buster Posey announcing his retirement, the catcher position is going to look significantly different for Gabe Kapler’s team next season.

Curt Casali will return, but it would surprise no one if Bart receives the lion’s share of the work in the Bay Area. 

The second-overall pick from 2018 only logged six plate appearances last season as San Francisco went with Casali as the primary compliment to Posey behind the plate. 

However, Bart did hit .294 with a .358 on-base percentage and 10 home runs in 279 plate appearances for San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate last season. 

It’s borderline malpractice to judge a player purely based on their minor league production, but Bart has always shown promise at the plate, especially with his raw power. 

Posey’s retirement also creates another void from a fantasy standpoint as an already top-heavy position league-wide loses one of its most productive players. 

Hitting in a lineup that scored the sixth-most runs last season and is adept at exploiting matchups, Bart could see enough RBI opportunities to finish somewhere near the top 10 for his position in fantasy next season. If the home runs start to fly with even some regularity, he’ll have a shot at being one of the best fantasy catchers after the handful of elite options.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Gavin Lux

The results from Gavin Lux’s plate appearances with the Dodgers from Opening Day through May 29 were less than encouraging. 

In 160 plate appearances, Lux hit just .240 with a .294 on-base percentage and three home runs with a 76 wRC+, and a 36.6% hard-hit rate that were both below league average.

Then the calendar flipped. 

In 221 plate appearances from May 30 onward, Lux hit .243. The batting average didn’t rise too much, but the 24-year-old shored up his walk rate to 13.6% while actually lowering his strikeout rate a bit from 22.5% to 21.3%, pointing to some potential sustainability. 

The added walks led to a .353 on-base percentage from May 30 onward for Lux, who also turned in four home runs and three stolen bases during that time span. His hard-hit rate from May 30 through the end of the season? A much-improved 43%. 

The former first-round pick won’t be a like-for-like replacement for Corey Seager from a fantasy production standpoint, but if he can build off his promising showings in 2021 while showing a bit more of the power that made him a well-regarded prospect, the Dodgers could have another breakout player on their roster, both in real life and in fantasy. 

Seager’s departure should, assuming the Dodgers don’t make a significant addition to their lineup, guarantee the right-handed hitter something close to regular playing time – even with Chris Taylor returning.

That Lux can play second base, shortstop, and the outfield – and is eligible at all three spots in Yahoo! leagues – is an added bonus for both Los Angeles and fantasy managers.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks – Daulton Varsho

Daulton Varsho played a part-time role in Arizona last season, logging 315 plate appearances in 95 games for Arizona, splitting time with Carson Kelly and Stephen Vogt. Varsho hit .246 with a .318 on-base percentage in those 315 plate appearances while adding 11 home runs. 

Vogt isn’t on Arizona’s roster anymore, but Kelly is. Normally, that would be problematic for a catcher’s fantasy value, having another productive backstop on the same team. 

Except, in theory, it shouldn’t hurt Varsho’s at all. 

The 25-year-old appeared made at least 12 appearances at all three outfield positions last season, including 30 in center field.

Regular playing time and double-digit home runs at the catcher position alone make Varsho someone to watch for a breakout fantasy year, but it’s not just all that that makes him an interesting option for fantasy managers in drafts next spring. 

He also steals bases. 

Ok, so this isn’t a player who is going to steal 47 bases like Starling Marte, but the Arizona catcher swiped six bases last season. He was one of just four backstops to log more than five stolen bases in 2021.

And with productive catchers and stolen bases both in such limited supply in fantasy, someone like Varsho who can help tick both boxes while also being able to help your roster as an outfielder, is an intriguing breakout pick ahead of next season. 

Having a season with double-digit home runs and stolen bases is very much within the realm of possibility for Varsho next year. A catcher has done that during a season just three times since 2010. 

You might want to draft Daulton Varsho. 

 

Colorado Rockies – Brendan Rodgers

Is the Brendan Rodgers fantasy breakout finally upon us? Potentially. 

Rodgers received his first extended look in the Majors last season and posted some useful numbers, including a .281 batting average, 15 home runs, and a .328 on-base percentage in 415 plate appearances, but there were a few interesting numbers from Rodgers’ 2021 campaign that point to him being a potential solid fantasy option for managers with the potential to break out. 

Most prominent among those interesting numbers are Rodgers’ home and away splits. 

Home and away splits and Coors Field are oftentimes synonymous when analyzing all things Colorado, but the infielder’s metrics are of particular note. Rodgers was actually more productive away from Coors Field.

He hit .289 with a .337 on-base percentage, and 12 home runs in 208 plate appearances while on the road. He also registered 15 of his 19 barrels in front of away fans.

While playing at home, the 25-year-old hit .280 with three home runs in 207 plate appearances. Only four of his 19 barrels came at home. 

It would be easy to point to Rodgers’ splits and summarize that if he can hit better at home, something that’s not out of the ordinary given Coors Field’s propensity for helping power numbers, then he could have a breakout fantasy season. 

But that’s essentially the gist of it. 

They’re smaller sample sizes and more of a broad look at their statistical profiles, but Rodgers produced like Giancarlo Stanton (albeit with fewer walks) on the road while turning in a stat line more like teammate Raimel Tapia (a solid player, but a player with just 19 career home runs in 1425 career Major League plate appearances) at home.

Brendan Rodgers on the road: .289 average, .337 on-base percentage, .247 ISO, 131 wRC+

Giancarlo Stanton in 2021: .273 average, .354 on-base percentage, .243 ISO, 137 wRC+

Brendan Rodgers at home: .290 average, .319 on-base percentage, .124 ISO, 68 wRC+

Raimel Tapia in 2021: .273 average, .327 on-base percentage, .099 ISO, 76 wRC+

Granted, ISO isn’t generally a scoring stat in fantasy, but it can be incredibly useful when looking at power production. Even if Rodgers can be just league average at home while maintaining his production when the Rockies leave Colorado, Brendan Rodgers should be well on his way to a breakout fantasy season next year.



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