Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


A true breakout isn’t hard to predict. Luckily for us, the breakout formula is rather simple: opportunity + talent + efficiency = breakout. The first basemen listed below are players who I think will have top-100 draft stock in 2019 drafts, or, at the very least, will be drafted higher next year because they check all three of these breakout formula boxes.

We’re not talent mining here. We’re not whipping out our metal detectors in an effort to dig up the next breakout star who’s currently off everyone’s radar. We want to draft players who will receive major league at-bats, and for that reason all the players listed here are not guys who’ll spend time in the minors this season. These are all guys who will make opening day rosters and who will receive a ton of opportunity from the beginning.

It’s all about opportunity. Let’s dive in.

Editor's Note: Get a full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off when you purchase before Opening Day. Our Draft Kit, downloadable Draft Guide eBook, In-Season tools and over 200 days of Premium DFS.

Sign Up Now!


Breakout Candidates at First Base

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates

Bell is sitting in that perfect impending breakout spot right now. He’s still young and improving, but he’s not exciting enough to warrant a reach in the mid-rounds of drafts. He fits the dreaded Nomar Mazara mold of a once-hyped contact hitter who has produced at the major league level, but the production wasn’t flashy enough to boost his draft stock to higher rounds. This basically makes him a must-draft player because picking him in the mid-to-late rounds is a pure low-risk, high-reward decision. You won’t have to overpay for him on draft day.

This much we know about Bell: good things happen when he hits more liners and limits ground balls. August of last season was the only month when his ground ball rate dipped below 50% and the result was a .323 BA and 146 wRC+. If only he had kept that up in September, though, as his ground ball rate jumped back up to 55.1%, leading to a diminished .221 BA for the month.

The good news is that Bell has showcased above-average plate discipline through two-and-a-half major league seasons. We want to see that from budding stars because patience at the dish is practically an intangible skill. Much like musical timing, patience at the dish is a skill that you either have or you don’t have. Bell’s career 0.66 BB/K doesn’t jump off the page, but it’s an indication that Bell has the laid the foundation for big league success. We want to see young players with healthy walk rates. Now all he needs to do is cut that ground ball rate and he’ll be a hot commodity in all fantasy circles.


Greg Bird, Yankees

The Greg Bird hype train is at full capacity by now. He raked his way through the Yankees’ minor league system and hit well for the Yanks in 2015, but when he was afforded at-bats during the second half of last season he underperformed expectations.

We all know that by now.

Bird’s had an entire offseason to recover from any lingering injuries and cold streak-inducing factors that might’ve hindered his performance last year.

What’s promising about Bird is that he has a history of production at every level he’s been at so far. His minor league metrics were stellar every year, he hit well when first called up in 2015, and he’ll be maintaining a role on the league’s most powerful lineup. It’s also encouraging to see that the Yankees absolutely love this guy and Aaron Boone sees him as an “impact middle of the order hitter.”

In 2015 Bird ranked eleventh in the league in Brls/PA and fourth in average exit velocity (min. 100 BBE). This is a guy who just straight-up destroyed baseballs while posting power metrics that rivaled the league’s most notorious sluggers. He simply checks all the boxes in the breakout formula I outlined. He will receive regular at-bats on a team that fully believes in his potential, he’s considered a top young talent at his position, and he was efficient when given an opportunity in 2015. On top of all that, he even checks that golden age-adjusted production box that’s always been a surefire breakout predictor. Steamer and ZiPS have him hitting anywhere between .240 to .250 with an average OBP and 30 HR. However, if everything clicks and he truly breaks out, we could be looking at a 40 HR ceiling considering he’s a pull-heavy left-handed power bat playing in Yankee Stadium… and he’s only 25-years-old.

*insert heart eyes emoji here*

It’s wheels up for Bird in 2018, so don’t be surprised when #19 is the lowest you’ll find him in our 1B rankings for the foreseeable future.


Matt Olson, Athletics

In keeping with my tendency to highlight breakout candidates with major league experience, Matt Olson comes in next on the list. When compared to Bell and Bird you’ll see that Olson’s probably the least likely to ascend to God status this summer, but it’s hard to not get excited about his potential after he hit 24 HR in 49 games last season.

I bet you’re wondering how he hit all of those bombs. If you want to find out, head on over to Fangraphs, type his name in the search bar, pull up his page, and look for that dead giveaway stat.

It should be obvious, but I’ll obviously highlight it here: 41.4% HR/FB.

That’s, uh… unsustainable, to say the least. With that being said, it’s encouraging to see Olson thrive against major league pitching. Say what you will about small sample sizes and luck, he still managed to hit homers at a historic rate. You shouldn’t take that away from him in the name of anticipated regression.

Matt Olson officially confirmed what scouts have been saying about his raw power for years. He ranked sixth in the league in Brls/PA and 21st in average exit velocity (min. 120 BBE), but failed to post a promising strikeout rate. Any level-headed fantasy expert probably has him hitting 30-35 HR with a batting average around .240. Considering this is a safe Olson projection, it’s pretty tough to justify ranking him ahead of Bird and Bell.

Olson is actually ranked ahead of Greg Bird and Josh Bell in our staff rankings even though he seems to be the most volatile upon deeper inspection of all three players’ metrics profiles. That’s not to say Bird is a safe bet to break out, but he appears to have a safer track record of sustained power and a cushier spot on a better team. Bell is definitely the safest pick, but his ceiling appears lower than Bird’s and Olson’s. If I had to rank them in order of who I think is most likely to get to the next level in 2018, I’d go: Greg BirdJosh BellMatt Olson.

The good thing is that all three of them will receive all the at-bats they can handle. Bird, Bell, and Olson are easily the most likely first basemen to breakout in 2018.


More Draft Values and Sleepers

iPhone Fantasy Baseball App - Waiver Wire PickupsAndroid Fantasy Baseball App - Waiver Wire PickupsRead articles and player news on your phone. Download our free app with lineup notifications and injury alerts.