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Undervalued Outfielders Set To Breakout for 2023 Fantasy Baseball

Bryan De La Cruz - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Fantasy managers are always on the hunt for the next great breakout. Drafting someone like Trea Turner is great, but first-round picks don't win leagues. Every year, there are players like Michael Harris II and Andres Gimenez in 2022 that exceed their expectations and play a critical role in crowning a champion. 

For those looking to capitalize on a breakout outfielder or two (let's be honest, who isn't), look no further than below, where I’m going to highlight four outfielders set to make their mark as fantasy standouts for years to come. 

For argument's sake, this article refers to fantasy breakouts, not real-life breakouts. If someone doesn't improve their advanced statistics like OPS or WAR, they're still a breakout in the fantasy world if they make upgrades to their traditional 5x5 metrics, like runs or batting average.

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

 

Bryan De La Cruz, Miami Marlins (236 ADP)                                                               

2022 Stats: 115 G, .252 AVG, .725 OPS, 13 HRs, 38 R, 43 RBI, 4 SBs

Bryan De La Cruz was about an average hitter on paper in 2022, his sophomore season. He hit .252, slugged 13 home runs, stole four bases, and added 38 runs and 43 RBI over 115 games. He made a few trips to Triple-A along the way but made his mark over the final month, hitting .388 with a 1.137 OPS after August and all but secured a spot in the starting lineup for next year.

He was never a highly regarded prospect, as he never appeared on any MLB Pipeline list after signing with the Houston Astros organization in 2013. After some professional experience, De La Cruz started to develop as a hitter in 2019 and really found his stroke in 2021, smashing 12 homers while hitting .324 across 66 games with Triple-A Sugar Land. He hasn’t reached those heights in the majors yet, but one quick look at his Baseball Savant page would make you doubt that statement.

hard-hit rate (86th percentile), and barrel rate (84th percentile), while posting a .287 xBA and .498 xSLG. He loved hitting the ball on a line, with a 30.5% line drive rate, and popped out just 2.5% of the time. De La Cruz clearly possesses the talent of a superior hitter and needs a few more things to go his way. The Dominican will probably continue striking out (24.9% career strikeout rate) but loves swinging at the first pitch and will crush the ball enough to make up for that. 

Stolen bases aren’t a big part of his game, with five stolen bases over his 173 career games, although De La Cruz has enough speed (62nd percentile) to contribute a few in that department. Either way, he’ll do enough in other areas of the game so he won't need to be an aggressive runner. Further, with the Marlins' subpar offense, De La Cruz should have a long leash to tap into his potential and eventually make his way to the middle of the lineup. With at least 70 runs and RBI, he'll be a factor in four categories.

De La Cruz showed that he has the tools to take his game to the next level and is entering his prime at age 26. Even if his contact stats regress a bit in 2023, he should hit .260 with north of 20 home runs. De La Cruz's ADP is 236, but he'll be worth more than that this season.

 

Jose Siri, Tampa Bay Rays (338 ADP)

2022 Stats: 104 G, .213 AVG, .607 OPS, 7 HRs, 53 R, 24 RBI, 14 SBs

Jose Siri is an electric and intriguing player, but he struggled offensively during his second major league campaign, splitting time between the Houston Astros and the Rays, made obvious by his stat line above. His 33.2% strikeout rate was one of the worst marks in baseball, and he only walked 6.2% of the time. Siri's discipline during his 2021 rookie season was no better. He ran a 34.7% strikeout rate and a 2% walk rate across a brief 21 games. He owns a 35.9% whiff percentage and has chased pitches at a 37.8% clip during his career.

In 2022 Siri wasn't hitting the ball hard either. The 27-year-old only managed a 6.2% barrel rate and an 87.2 MPH average exit velocity, making his Statcast numbers worse than his actual stats (.207 xBA and .323 xSLG). But we know the talent is there.

Siri put up impressive minor league numbers (.272 batting average, .791 OPS), and in 2021, his last significant time in the minors, he hit .318 with 16 home runs across 94 games. His play wasn't a complete surprise, as he was once a top prospect with a 50 potential grade in the power and hit department.

And during his 2021 debut, Siri posted a 17.2% barrel rate and 89.9 MPH average exit velocity, leading to a .304 average (.262 xBA) and .609 slugging (.595 xSLG) while hitting four home runs in 21 games. Even if the Dominican doesn’t attain those heights, he plays in the offense-happy AL East, and his raw power alone should allow him to reach the 20-home run threshold.

Siri isn’t just a hitter, though. His speed is undeniable, as he placed in the 100th percentile in 2022 and stole 42 bases per 162 games in the minor leagues. That speed has been put on display early in his major league career, swiping 17 bags over 125 contests. The Rays should let Siri run and are fifth in the majors in the category over the last three seasons. Even if he’s not hitting, fantasy managers can count on close to 20 steals.

Siri will find it hard to hit for average because of his swing and misses. However, he has the talent to go 20-20 and breakout in his third, and presumably first, full campaign in the league. Steamer likes Siri, projecting him for a .239 average, 17 HRs, and 17 SBs with 55 runs and 56 RBI over 118 games. His potential seems to be flying under the radar, too, as he’s going around pick 338, a heist for fantasy managers.

 

TJ Friedl, Cincinnati Reds (493 ADP)

2022 Stats: 72 G, .240 AVG, .750 OPS, 8 HRs, 33 R, 25 RBI, 7 SBs

After a brief 14 games in 2021, TJ Friedl played 72 games for the Cincinnati Reds last season, with multiple trips back and forth between the majors and Triple-A. Friedl was pretty good in those contests, slashing .240/.314/.436 with eight homers, seven stolen bases, 33 runs, and 25 RBI. That's an 18 home run, 16 steals, and 130 RBI plus runs pace.

The 27-year-old's never graded out as much of a pure hitter- MLB pipeline gave him a 45 hit grade and 40 power grade heading into the 2021 season- but has held his own in the minors and most recently hit .278 with a .787 OPS and eight long balls across 64 games with Triple-A Louisville this year.

Friedl hasn’t hit the ball hard over his 86 career games in the big leagues, as he owns an 87.3 MPH average exit velocity and a 5% barrel rate. However, he can neutralize those flaws with a low strikeout rate. Friedl owns just a 14.3% career strikeout rate so far and, in 2022, posted a 19.9% whiff rate and 24% chase percentage.

Friedl's lackluster power isn’t going to be as big of an issue as it may seem. The more fly balls, the more balls go over the fence, and he's hit the ball in the air almost 10% more than the major league average. It also helps that Friedl plays in an excellent hitter's ballpark in Great American Ball Park and loves pulling fly balls (32.2% fly ball pull rate in 2022).

Further, fantasy managers will always have his baserunning ability to fall back on. Friedl's seven steals this year weren’t out of nowhere. The former undrafted free agent owned 72nd-percentile sprint speed and managed 89 stolen bases over 516 games in the minors, almost a 30 SB pace for a 162-game season.

Statcast wasn’t so fond of Friedl in 2022. He posted just a .215 xBA and .335 xSLG. However, he’ll be another year older and will have legitimate MLB experience going into 2023. Steamer thinks he’ll make necessary adjustments, projecting him for a .248 average and .417 slugging percentage.

Friedl looks to be going into 2023 as part of a platoon but is on the strong side and could definitely outplay Stuart Fairchild or any other suspect outfielder for at-bats against lefties, especially after he posted a .813 OPS off of southpaws during his 2022 minor league season. And when he does play, he'll likely be at the top after he led off 41 of his contests last year.

Friedl has a lot of things going his way and would’ve broken out already with a full campaign. He probably won’t drive in many runs at the top of a feeble lineup, but a 15-15 season is viable with value in the other two categories. I'd say that's a breakout, especially for someone with an ADP of 493.

 

Matt Vierling, Detroit Tigers (652 ADP)

2022 Stats: 117 G, .246 AVG, .648 OPS, 6 HRs, 41 R, 32 RBI, 7 SBs

Newly acquired Matt Vierling is looking for a fresh start after spending his first two campaigns with the Philadelphia Phillies. Over 151 games with the Phils, he slashed .260/.309/.374 and had a rough 2022, posting an 81 wRC+ in 117 games.

He was selected in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft but started to climb up the ranks of Phillie's prospects lists and Fangraphs tagged him with a 50 hit grade, 55 raw power grade, and 50 run grade before last year. His minor league career was unspectacular but respectable. He slashed .267/.333/.409, struck out about 18% of the time, and over his last 100 games, smashed 13 homers. His speed was also displayed, swiping 47 bases across his 280 minor-league games. The tools are there, and although he hasn’t taken his game to the next level yet, he’s close.

He posted an 86th-percentile average exit velocity and hit a lot of line drives (27.6% line drive rate) in 2022. It led to a .279 xBA, a season after posting a .297 mark. And after striking out 26% of the time during his rookie season, he dropped it to 19.6%. He owned a 19.5% whiff rate and was very selective at the plate (44.6% swing rate). Further, he had 95th and 97th percentile sprint speeds in ‘21 and ‘22, respectively. He hasn’t been too aggressive, but the skill is there, and he stole 47 bases in the minors.

He doesn’t generate many barrels (4.8% career barrel rate). But if he can find a way to pull the ball on fly balls more than the 17% in 2022, he has 20 home run potential next season with his high exit velocities. There might be worries about his new home in Comerica Park. Citizens Bank Park was the fifth-most hitter-friendly stadium in the league over the last three seasons. But the Tigers are changing their dimensions, bringing in center field by 10 feet and lowering the fence from center to right field.

The club might look to platoon Vierling, starting him against lefties. He did struggle against right-handers this year, but those struggles are overstated. He slashed just .217/.275/.305, but his Statcast numbers are a lot brighter, a .265/.320/.392 expected slash line. And the Tigers would need Akil Baddoo to perform in 2023 to keep Vierling on the bench after the former posted a 65 wRC+ last season. Plus, Vierling has experience in the infield, logging games at third, second, and first.

Vierling is on the verge of a breakout season in 2023, and fantasy managers should take advantage. For someone who can provide 20-15 production while hitting .260 and should make his way near the top of an uninspiring lineup, his 652 ADP is unbelievably cheap.



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