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Second-Year Hitters Ready to Break Out

Every season there are hitters entering their second year in the big-leagues that have a solid break-out campaign. In 2020, these were players like Eloy Jimenez, Cavan Biggio, and arguably, Fernando Tatis Jr. Some will say Tatis Jr. broke out in 2019, but he really burst on the scene in 2020 and became a household name.

Finding players that are ready to break out can make or break your fantasy team, especially if you can find them in the later rounds of your draft. This article will examine these types of second-year break-out candidates as well as a highly-touted one that is poised for a monster season.

These players are guys that you should be able to squeeze into your starting lineup this season and also make solid candidates for dynasty leagues. They are Ryan Mountcastle, Jo Adell, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, and Luis Robert. Let's take a look at what each of these sophomores has to offer heading into 2021.

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Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles

Ryan Mountcastle put up a solid campaign in his first stint in the big-leagues in 2020 by slashing .333/.386/.492 with five HR, 23 RBI, and 12 R across 126 AB. Much of his value is derived from his ability to hit for power and average. In the minors, Mountcastle smacked 70 HR while hitting .295 across five seasons. His metrics from 2020 also show us he should be able to continue a solid trajectory moving forward.

In 2020, Mountcastle's power metrics tell us he posted a 7.1% barrel rate, 87.4 mph exit velocity, and a 41.8% hard-hit rate. The hard-hit rate is especially impressive as it landed him in the top 35% of the league, which is nothing to sneeze at in your first experience as a big-leaguer. He also showed the ability to hit the ball to all fields, which is exemplified by his hit chart below.

Mountcastle should also provide value due to the fact he is expected to hit sixth in the Orioles lineup in 2021. This should land him ample opportunities to drive in runs. Oriole Park has also consistently ranked in the top ten for MLB Park Factors in terms of home runs over the previous five seasons. The Orioles should also give him plenty of chances to succeed in 2021, so playing time should not be an issue.

He currently has an ADP of 162, which makes him a 13th round draft pick in most 12-team leagues. The value here should be solid and players in dynasty leagues would be wise to reach up half a round to grab him a bit early.

 

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels

Jo Adell was once the top prospect in all of baseball and there is still plenty to be excited about with him. While he slashed an abysmal .161/.212/.266 with just three HR, seven RBI, and nine R, he still has the potential to be a superb value heading into 2021 with break-out upside.

It is important to keep in mind that Adell is just 21 years old and often young hitters struggle to find their groove. Adell is known for his power and speed combination as he smacked 35 HR and stole 30 bases across three minor league seasons while also hitting for a .298 average. This ability was still shown via his metrics in 2020 even though the stats did not pan out.

In 2020, Adell posted a very solid exit velocity of 90.6 mph, which ranked him in the top 22% of the league. He also posted a sprint speed of 29.3 ft/sec, which ranked him 17th overall in the league. Unfortunately, these two metrics did not turn into more HR or SB. The reason this is the case is that he struck out entirely too much as he posted a K rate of 41.7%. This is coming from a guy who posted a rate of 23% in the minors. Obviously, he struggled to adjust at the big-league level, but that is certainly expected in a player's first year.

Adell also provides very little risk in drafts thus far as he currently boasts an ADP of 346, which means he is being taken at the end of round 28 in 12-team leagues. Most leagues are not this deep, so fantasy players would be wise to grab Adell at the end of their drafts as a flier and look for him to break out as soon as he gets the call back to the majors. Another option would be to add him to your watch list as a potential waiver target, but that poses risk as you surely will not be the only one eyeballing him in that situation.

 

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Tampa Bay Rays

Tsutsugo had to make several adjustments in 2020 coming over from Japan and it showed as he slashed just  .197/.314/.395 with eight HR, 24 RBI, and 31 R across 157 AB. While the slash line has much to be desired, the power metrics will tell us that the eight HR in a shortened season are just the beginning for this 29-year old Japanese veteran.

Tsutsugo put up some solid power metrics in 2020 as he posted an exit velocity that ranked in the top 27% of the league and a hard-hit rate that ranked in the top 14% of the league. These directly translated to his eight HR and we certainly would have seen a total well north of 20 had he been given more ABs.

Another area where Tsutsugo looked strong was his ability to see pitches. In 2020, he posted a walk rate of 14.1%, which ranked him in the top 14% of the league. This is a number you love to see, especially paired with the power metrics. Unfortunately, he struck out at a rate of 27%, which greatly hindered his overall stat line. It should be fair to expect Yoshi to improve upon this in 2021, which is why I am bullish on him to a point.

The problem with Tsutsugo will be playing time. He is currently not penciled into the starting lineup and will likely begin in a bench role. This is a big part of the reason his ADP is hovering around the non-existent range of 428. This is a guy you can definitely place on your watch list as most of your league mates will not be watching him. Once he starts to settle into the Rays lineup, pull the trigger.

 

Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox

Here is the second-year player everyone will have their eyes on heading into 2021. The reason is that Robert posted a solid rookie campaign in which he posted 11 HR, 31 RBI, 33 R, and nine SB across 222 AB. This line was good enough to land him in second-place for American League Rookie of the Year voting. His power and speed combination are what make him so intriguing and he has the metrics to back this up.

In 2020, Robert posted a sprint speed of 29.1 ft/sec, which was good enough to place him in the top 20 of the league and directly correlates to the nine bases he stole.

Robert also posted a barrel rate that placed him in the top 15% of the league, which translated to the 11 HR. One area where Robert did struggle, however, is K rate. Robert posted a K rate of 32.2%, which ranked him in the bottom six percent of the league. This is somewhat worrisome, but can also be written off as something you expect to see from a first-year player. In the minors, Robert posted just over a 23% K rate and just a seven percent walk rate, so the free-swinger in him is definitely what fantasy players should expect in the future.

The fact that he possesses such power and speed is why Robert currently has an ADP of 38, making him an early third-round pick in most 12-team leagues. The upside for him over a full MLB season is immense. He is expected to bat seventh in the lineup to begin the season, which could reduce some of his production, but he should certainly ascend in the order as the season progresses.



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