With the Fantasy Baseball season almost 20-percent over, it is time to start wondering if a hot streak will turn into a true breakthrough season, or if a player will crash back down to earth. Just because a player looks like he might be pushing his game to the next level right now, it does not mean that he will keep it up over the next four-plus months. With former top prospects, though, it can be a sign that they are putting it all together. Trevor Story is not the only one in the midst of a breakout season. This week, we are going to look at five other young players and their potential to be Fantasy difference-makers in 2016.
- Nick Castellanos (3B, Tigers) has been starting in the majors since he was 22 years old, so it is not unreasonable to think that he may just now be ready to explode onto the scene three years later. He was seen as a top prospect with a solid hit tool and power potential, but his numbers during the first two seasons of his career have been underwhelming. He picked up his game after the All-Star Break last year and it l
ooks like that success has continued into this season. Runs are going to be hard to come by hitting primarily out of the six hole, but RBI opportunities are abound. As his power develops, he becomes even more intriguing. After hitting 15 last year, Castellanos could definitely push past 20 bombs this season. That makes him a pretty solid budget friendly 3B and will have him on sleeper lists galore heading into 2017. Obviously, the average is going to drop, but the rest of his current production is sustainable.
- Gregory Polanco (OF, Pirates) is on a mission this season, but a majority of the Fantasy community might have given up on him one year too soon. Polanco was supposed to be an instant star when called up in 2014. While he hit just .236, his 7 HRs and 14 SBs in 89 games gave owners optimism that a big season was coming. Despite a full time gig and more than double the at-bats, his 2015 was by and large a disappointment, really only helping in the steals (27) and runs (83) categories. This year he is showing improved plate discipline and is contributing across the board. His power is still developing, but he should push towards 15 HRs and 25 SBs this season. I’m buying the breakout, but only to a certain extent for the remainder of the year. The price tag could be too high to buy given his ceiling. If he can find his power stroke, he can become a star, but I do not think we see all of what he can offer in that category this season.
- Taijuan Walker (SP, Mariners) always had filthy stuff and in the past, he has flashed glimpses of putting it all together for the Mariners. When he actually does, it will be scary to watch how good he can be. He may be trending in that direction in 2016, with a 1.97 ERA and 29 punchouts in 32 innings. If he can continue to limit the free passes (just 3 BB so far this year), Walker could be a major force in Fantasy leagues. His talent level has put him on the radar for years, but it is almost like many owners ignored him until very late in drafts despite the obvious upside. Anyone that did nab him has to be happy about an end gamer turning into a reliable SP3 with upside for even more than that. Walker is a star in the making.
- Vince Velasquez (SP, Phillies) leads an impressive young Phillies staff that is giving the organization hope for the future. Ever since his sparkling 16 K complete game shutout during his second start, though, he has been up and down. His profile, build and minor league performance suggest a number two starter as opposed to a true ace. Still, expect the strikeout potential to keep Velasquez in lineups all season long. If you didn’t sell high after the early April gem, you might just be better off holding onto him for the time being. There will be bumps in the road along the way, but his talent is worth the frustration. Keep in mind, though, there could be an innings limit that curbs some of his late season appeal. Regardless, it is great to see all the young talent blossoming quickly in Philadelphia and becoming Fantasy relevant.
- Eugenio Suarez (3B, Reds) is looking like a mainstay for the lowly Reds this year. Not quite the level of prospect as the four other players on this list, Suarez was seen as a solid regular at best. He has enough pop to be dangerous and is efficient on the base paths. Stepping in for the departed Todd Frazier at 3B, he has 6 HRs and 4 SBs already. This came on the heels of a solid Cincinnati debut last year, when he clubbed 13 HRs in 97 games with a .280 average. Plate discipline is not a strong suit, as those numbers did come with 94 Strikeouts and just 17 BB. Suarez should still hit enough that his average won’t bog you down, but he really needs to launch a cheap 20 HRs and swipe double digit bases to stay in your lineup. He has the ability to do that, but his ultimate upside is not much higher than that.