2024 Fantasy Hitter Breakouts – Sporer’s Picks

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s not get too hung up on the actual phrasing of “Breakout”. These are guys I like at their market rate and have them outperforming their draft cost. One of my inclusions is the best player of this generation and yet, he’s also the cheapest we’ve ever seen because of consistent health issues. Breakout, Sleeper, whatever your term is… these are the guys I like buying because they can deliver a strong profit.


Changelog

  • 3/21/2024: Moved Merrill up a tier to account for his ADP rise; update on LeMahieu’s health
  • 3/9/2024: Initial list

Ranking Methodology

  • ADP is based on 30-day rolling NFBC Draft Champions Leagues.
  • $ Values are based on standard 5×5 12-team league using the FanGraphs Depth Charts and these Auction Calculator settings. They default to a player’s most valuable position, so if the first base list includes a catcher, it will show that player’s value at catcher.
  • ADP and $ Values are updated as of the last update date on this post.
  • 5-game eligibility was used for these lists to cast the widest net (though that’s not a big deal at SP).

Top 100 Bargains

Top 100 Bargains
Rank Name Team Pos Change ADP $
1 Marcus Semien TEX 2B 31 $18
2 Mike Trout LAA OF 70 $19
3 Oneil Cruz PIT SS 73 $12

It’s hard to come up with bargain-type players in the very early rounds, but Jeff gave y’all four in the Top 50 so I wanted to come up with at least a couple. I don’t want to overstate things and pretend like Marcus Semien is disrespected, but I do feel like the modern-day Ironman could easily go 10-12 picks higher without incident and in fact does on occasion with a minimum pick of 20. That should be his average pick as far as I’m concerned. He has missed just 1 game in the last four full seasons, leading MLB in plate appearances for all four. He isn’t just some mediocre compiler, toting 124, 131, and 138 wRC+ totals in three of those four seasons while averaging 27 HR-13 SB-94 R-77 RBI per 600 PA. But sure, take CJ Abrams ahead of him.

Yes, it feels crazy to have Mike Trout on a breakout/sleeper list and yet here we are! I obviously understand the issues with his health, but he never actually performs poorly when on the field and so I’m more than willing to take the discounted price in hopes of him spiking a 130+ game season this year while enjoying the games I do get if he does wind up falling short again. He obviously looks good by every projection system and he’s healthy right now so let’s ride with one of the best players to ever lace ‘em up.

I haven’t been shy about my desire to simply wait on Oneil Cruz instead of paying the insane premium for Elly De La Cruz, something I even said in my Busts articles that featured EDLC. Cruz brings a bit of risk himself coming off a 9-game season thanks to a broken leg last year and has just 98 games of MLB experience in all, but his electric set of skills seems primed to breakthrough as long as his health cooperates, and I haven’t been afraid to buy in.

Breakouts from 101-299

Breakouts from 101-299
Rank Name Team Pos Change ADP $
4 Evan Carter TEX OF 128 $5
5 Anthony Volpe NYY SS 126 $5
6 Gabriel Moreno ARI C 155 $12
7 Jack Suwinski PIT OF 240 $1
8 Jackson Merrill SDP SS (+OF in-season) 271 -$1

Evan Carter isn’t a risk-free pick as there is some concern that he will sit against lefties, but I’m a sucker for young players with brilliant plate discipline and speed as well as enough pop to do some damage while being part of a premium lineup.

Anthony Volpe grinded through his rookie season with just an 84 wRC+, but the Yankees stayed committed to him for 601 PA and he managed to grind out a 21 HR/24 SB season. Meanwhile, his biggest weakness – the glove – became a strength resulting in a Gold Glove win. The underwhelming slash line now has his ADP trending lower than it did last year when he hadn’t taken a major league plate appearance which is wild to me. The 23-year-old still has a sky-high ceiling and while a repeat wouldn’t necessarily be worth his ADP, I’m willing to take the risk because the upside is a Top 25 hitter.

Gabriel Moreno’s first big MLB sample (380 PA) was just OK with a 103 wRC+, 7 HR, and 6 SBs. That said, his .284 AVG was 2nd among Cs with at least 350 PA and he had a postseason power surge with 4 HRs in 70 PA during the Diamondbacks run to the World Series generating some excitement for his age-24 season. The standout AVG gives him a solid floor to build upon while a mix of power improvement and more playing time could double that home run total. Another 6+ SBs is a sneaky bonus contribution as well. He has multiple avenues toward a breakout campaign.

A paltry .224 AVG and residence on one of the league’s worst teams keep Jack Suwinski’s profile low. His proponents see the 26 HR/13 SB and 112 wRC+ as reasons to buy Captain Jack. He offsets his 32% K rate with a robust 14% BB rate which fueled a 115-point split between his AVG and OBP, putting him in position to keep his SB opportunities up even when the hits aren’t falling. A league average 11% swinging strike rate and 6th-best Chase rate in baseball (22%; lg. avg is 32%) say he’s just not flailing up there and could even improve the K rate with some adjustments, too. That Pirates lineup is laced with upside candidates and could be spry enough to deliver a solid boost to Suwinski’s 63 R and 74 RBI totals, too.

Jackson Merrill is battling for a roster spot in Spring Training and helping his case by shifting to the outfield. Outside of Tatis, the SD outfield is barren which has created this fantastic opportunity for Merrill to make the team. He has a contact-heavy approach that has driven a .295 AVG in 881 minor league plate appearances along with 14 HR/21 SB per 600 PA. He’s a longshot for a massive breakout and intsead might only be something like a .265 AVG with a double-double – essentially something akin to Jeremy Peña’s 2023 – but as a post-300 pick instead of a top 120 pick like Peña was last year, that’s a nice return. Mar. 21st update: He has made the team as a starting outfielder and as such, his ADP has surged. I’m still very interested at this price point, but be prepared to pay up now if you still like Merrill!

Breakouts from 301+

Breakouts from 301+
Rank Name Team Pos Change ADP $
9 Alek Thomas ARI OF 353 $0
10 DJ LeMahieu NYY 1B/3B 338 -$3

Like my other D-Backs entrant, Alek Thomas enjoyed a postseason power spike that could be a harbinger for the 2024 season. He also hit 4 HR and only needed 59 PA to do it after just 9 in 402 PA during the regular season. I love betting on young promising bats who use an elite glove to guarantee their playing time as they find their footing at the dish. We haven’t seen a ton from Thomas yet with just a 72 wRC+ in 813 career PA, but he has the speed to boost both his AVG and SB output even if the power doesn’t come through in a significant way this year.

Veterans have upside! DJ LeMahieu is entering his age-35 season coming off a modest 101 wRC+ output in 562 PA. I’m not here to make the case that he’s going to return the .300s with his AVG as he’s at just .258 in his last 1782 PA, but he still takes his walks, sits atop a strong lineup, and even hit 15 HRs last season. His post-300 ADP means I’m not relying on him so if he stays bad, I can easily move, but runs aren’t an easy find late in drafts and there’s a world where he finds one last spurt of health and delivers a .275+ AVG with 85+ R. Unlikely, but far from impossible. Mar. 21st update: A foot injury has put his Opening Day status in doubt a bit. I’m not as aggressively chasing him as much, but there has at least been some good news lately to where he’s not totally off the board.


Full Rankings Without Tiers

No tiers. Just the rankings.
Full Rankings Without Tiers
Rank Name Team Pos Change ADP $
1 Marcus Semien TEX 2B 31 $18
2 Mike Trout LAA OF 70 $19
3 Oneil Cruz PIT SS 73 $12
4 Evan Carter TEX OF 128 $5
5 Anthony Volpe NYY SS 126 $5
6 Gabriel Moreno ARI C 155 $12
7 Jack Suwinski PIT OF 240 $1
8 Jackson Merrill SDP SS (+OF in-season) 271 -$1
9 Alek Thomas ARI OF 353 $0
10 DJ LeMahieu NYY 1B/3B 338 -$3





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and Content Director for OOTP Perfect Team. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

13 Comments
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msl216member
1 month ago

Trout did show signs of decline last year. Really for the first time. The injury risk was more palpable when he was a locked-in top 3 hitter in baseball…also, remains amazing that the Angels refuse to move him from baseball’s get-injured position.

Nathanmember
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

He is leading spring training in strikeouts…

Manco
1 month ago
Reply to  msl216

The guy slumped for a month and was pulling out of it before he went out. He still managed 18 homers…