We aren't quite into making predictions here at Fake Teams, that will come sometime in March, but I took on the exercise for predicting an all breakout team for NL-only and AL-only leagues. Today, I offer my thoughts on the NL-only all breakout team, and tomorrow I will publish my AL-only all breakout team.
Breakouts are not easy to predict, but some come as a result of increased playing time, players with another year of experience, or players outperforming their ADP (average draft position). You will hear all kinds of positive stories about players returning from injury, adding a new pitch, or changing their swing come spring training, and some may lead to breakout seasons. For example, last spring we heard that Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown tinkered with his swing with the Phillies hitting coach Wally Joyner, and that resulted in a breakout season for him in 2013.
With that said, here is my take on the 2014 All Breakout team for NL-only leagues:
Catcher: Devin Mesoraco, CIN
The Reds fired manager Dusty Baker very early in the offseason, and then traded catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays, opening up the starting catcher role for Mesoraco. Mesoraco was once a top 20 prospect, as he is a catcher who can hit for power and hit for a high average, with some prospect experts predicting him to be a middle-of-the-order hitter, but he has yet to sniff that potential. This season, he gets to play everyday, hits in an excellent hitters park and in a pretty good lineup.
First Base: Brandon Belt, SFG
Belt is another hitter who worked on his swing mechanics in 2013, and saw improvement across the board, hitting .289-.360-.489 with 17 HRs 76 runs, 67 RBI and 5 stolen bases in 571 plate appearances. Belt has the potential to be a .300 hitter, with 25 HRs, 90+ RBI and double digit stolen bases, and 2014 might be the season where we see him reach those totals.
Second Base: Anthony Rendon, WAS
Rendon was learning a new position in 2013, playing second base for the first time. Rendon started off on fire at the plate, hitting over .300 in the first half of the season, but slumped to .234 in the second half. Rendon showed solid plate discipline last season, striking out in under 18% of his plate appearances, while walking at a 7.9% rate. He has the potential to be a 15-20 home run hitter with a high batting average at the keystone, and could see his name among the top 6-8 fantasy second baseman by this time next year.
Shortstop: Everth Cabrera, SD
Cabrera was on his way to his best season as a big leaguer when he was suspended for taking PEDs in the Biogenesis case. He made improvements in his strikeout rate, dropping from 25% to 16%, and his contact rate, which increased from 80% to 87% last season. In 95 games last season, he scored 54 runs and stole 37 bases. With a full season of at bats, he could score 90-100 runs and steal 50-60 bases in 2014.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado, COL
Arenado held his own at the plate in his rookie season in Colorado, hitting .267 with 10 HRs, 49 runs and 52 RBI in 133 games. Most young players start off strong after their call up (see Rendon), but Arenado did not. He hit just .244 with 7 HRs, 25 runs and 27 RBI in 71 games in the first half, but improved in the second half, hitting .298 with 3 HRs, 24 runs and 25 RBI in 60 games. The power may be late to come for him, but if he can hit close to .290 next season, he could hit 15-20 home runs and drive in 80+ runs.
Outfield: Bryce Harper, WAS
It may look odd to see Harper's name on this list, but he hasn't sniffed his potential yet. Despite missing time to various injuries resulting from his run-in with the right field wall at Dodger Stadium, Harper showed improvement at the plate last season, improving his strikeout and walk rates, along with a bump up in his triple slash line. He has the potential to put up a 30 home run, 90 RBI, 25 stolen base, .290 batting average season should he be able to stay healthy in 2014.
Outfield: Billy Hamilton, CIN
All you need to know is he stole 13 bases in 14 attempts last season and had only 22 plate appearances. He could pinch run all year and lead the National League in stolen bases. But, that won't happen as he is slated to play every day in center field next season. He may not need to hit all that much to steal 60 bases next season, and if he does hit, he could easily exceed 60 steals.
Outfield: Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
Stanton has played 150 games just once in his four seasons in the big leagues, his second season in the bigs. He hit 34 home runs that year, but he has the potential to lead the National League in home runs should he be able to stay healthy for a full season. I could see him hitting 35+ bombs in 2014, and probably more if he is eventually traded.
Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole, PIT
There are plenty of candidates for breakout years at the starting pitcher position, but no one has more potential than Gerrit Cole, in my opinion. Already an ace, or borderline ace, Cole has the potential to win 15+ games with 200+ strikeouts in 2014. He pitches in one of the best pitchers parks in baseball, doesn't give up many home runs, nor walk batters, and struck out nearly a batter per inning in the second half of the 2013 season. Oh, and he keeps the ball on the ground at nearly a 50% clip.
If you are looking for more fantasy baseball rankings, make sure you check out Fantasy Rundown, the one stop spot on the internet for all the fantasy baseball information you will need to win in 2014.
- Fantasy Baseball Rankings: 3 Up/3 Down at each position
- Deep League Drafting: Outfield
- Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2014
- EPL Injuries & Updates: Giroud, Rooney, RVP
- Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Streaming Starting Pitchers
- EPL: Round Up
- 2014 Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Milwaukee Brewers
- MLB Trade Rumors: Clayton Kershaw to test free agency?
- George Springer: 20-20 season in 2014?