The 2015 Fantasy Baseball season is far from over, but September is a great time to look ahead. Not only are we getting a sneak peek at the game’s future stars, but we can also start to hone in on potential value players and breakouts. This year, we saw Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado break through and join the game’s elite at third base. There were numerous others that took big steps forward and advanced their Fantasy profiles, none bigger than Bryce Harper, who finally saw his vast potential materialize into stud production. Some, like Yasmany Tomas and Xander Bogaerts, have started to trend in the right direction, but may need another season or two to truly establish themselves. Right now, let’s take a look at five potential breakout hitters. These are players already on the Fantasy radar that are poised to take the next step, which leads us to expect a jump in production from each of them in 2016.
- Yasiel Puig (Dodgers, OF) – After a memorable debut season for the Dodgers in which he batted .319 with 19 HRs and 11 SBs, Puig has not lived up to the subsequent hype. His up and down 2014 was considered a disappointment despite 92 runs scored and a .296 average. Still, there was enough upside there to grab him early in drafts this season. Unfortunately, Puig has just not been able to get on track at all, and when he finally did last month, he landed on the disabled list. He is a frustrating talent to own because the effortless upside is evident. Will he push himself to be one of the game’s brightest stars or merely coast by on his natural talent? The fact that he has not put it all together yet means that his 2016 draft stock likely slips into value territory. Many owners tapped out on Bryce Harper this season because of previous frustrations and they paid the price by missing out on a Top 10 season. Puig has that type of MVP talent and he deserves 2016 to prove it.
- Mookie Betts (Red Sox, OF) – While Betts struggled to live up to lofty expectations out of the gate, he started to pick things up in June. Since then, he has batted .295 with eight homers, 20 doubles, 38 RBIs and 44 Runs along with nine SBs. He should be an annual 20 HR / 20 SB threat and will hit for better average as he matures. The hype was out of control this spring and likely led to him being over-drafted. He has put together a solid full season debut but definitely has not made a major leap. Betts will be entering his age-23 season next year and is primed for a major statistical step forward.
- Maikel Franco (Phillies, 3B) – Franco’s value has been up and down since entering the Philadelphia farm system in 2010 as a 17-year-old. As such, he was not on the redraft league radar despite being a considered by many to be a top prospect. With 13 HRs and 48 RBIs in just 77 games, Franco has shown that he has a future in the middle of the Phillies lineup. A non-displaced fracture in his left wrist has put a damper in an otherwise solid rookie performance. While not great news for Franco’s 2015 owners, it will potentially keep his price down for next year. He may not take an Arenado-like step forward, but the upside is there for him to be just outside of the top tier.
- Gregory Polanco (Pirates, OF) – We are currently getting a taste of what Polanco is capable of. Since the All-Star break, he is batting .306 with four homers, 18 RBIs, 23 Runs and five stolen bases. He has already accumulated 19 extra base hits after tallying just 21 before the break. As he continues to develop, Polanco should have 20 HR power with a solid average and the ability to swipe 30-plus bases. His slow start this year had many owners down on him and many even cut ties altogether. As with a number of young players, Polanco has flashed glimpses of his upside, but has yet to put it all together. That will change in 2016, when he becomes a full-fledged Fantasy star. Draft accordingly in yearly leagues, and in dynasty formats you should try to trade for him as soon as the offseason ends.
- Rougned Odor (Rangers, 2B) – It has been a tale of two seasons for Odor. In 29 games to start the year he batted a paltry .144 with one homer, which earned him a demotion to the minors. Since being recalled in mid-June, he has been a completely different player. Odor has batted .333 with 10 HRs, 41 RBIs and 43 Runs in 60 games. He has shown good power for a middle infielder and if he can improve his base running (caught 13 of 22 times in his career), Odor could be a Top 10 option at the position for years to come. Since he is still digging his way out of the early-season hole, his overall numbers are not indicative of how he has been producing lately. Keep an eye on how he finishes and put him on your short list for second base options in 2016.