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Breakout hitters for the 2018 fantasy baseball season

Alex Dickerson may have missed all of 2017 due to a lower back injury, but don’t let that scare you away from from this potential breakout bat.

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

We have been seeing Belt’s name on sleeper and breakout lists since 2012, but this upcoming season could be the year (fingers crossed).

I really didn’t want to put Belt on this list, but after disappointing 2017 it seems a lot of people are sleeping on the Giants’ first baseman.

Last season Belt had an unimpressive .241 batting average, and only hit 18 home runs over 451 plate appearances. His drop in batting average could be due to to the .223 batting average he owned at AT&T Park. Over his career however he has hit .279 at home, and with a 23.4% line drive rate it is hard to believe that he will not at least post a batting average above .260.

Talking about home parks, it is hard to believe that a player with a 46.9% fly ball rate and a 38.4% hard contact rate wouldn’t be projected for at least 25 home runs next season. The problem with Belt has more to do with his home park than his own faults. AT&T Park is the ranked as the worst park for left handed hitters, which could cut into some of Belts power numbers in 2018.

Even with a majority of his at bats coming at AT&T Park, Belt should at least put up 20 home runs by the end of the season. If not he is still a good hitter with good contact skills, a disciplined eye and enough potential to help your fantasy team out in 2018.

Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs

Russell had another disappointing season offensively last year, but 2018 may be the season we finally see this young star breakout.

The one thing to remember when looking at Russell’s statistics is that he will only be 24 years old come Opening Day.

One of Russell’s major concerns at the major league level, like many other young stars has been his high strikeout rate. Now it is worth noting that his swinging strike rate had dropped 1.1% since reaching the major leagues, and has continued to drop as he has seen more major league pitching. Steamer even projects him to have a 21.5% strikeout rate which would put him right at league average, but that is not why I like him going into the season.

While doing my projections there was one number that really caught my eye. That number would be the 23.0% line drive Russell posted last season. This is very important because of line drives have a batting average of .685, which is much greater than the batting averages for ground balls (.239) and fly balls (.207).

If Russell continues to hit line drives at the rate he was in 2017, his BABIP should be around the .310-.320 mark which would help bring up that unsightly .240 batting average he has posted over his career.

The only decline I see coming from Russell in 2018 is his walk rate. With a career 31.3% O-Swing% and a 49.3% Swing%, I don’t see him getting anywhere close to the 9.2% mark he owned in 2016.

With his already above average power, if Russell does end up bringing up his batting average and lowering his strikeouts he should easily be a top ten shortstop by the end of 2018.

Alex Dickerson, OF, San Diego Padres

Dickerson will most likely only be owned in about 1% of leagues come Opening Day, but he will be 100% owned in all my leagues.

Dickerson falls into the same category Mitch Haniger did last season and Trevor Story did in 2016. This category being written off prospects that still have good enough peripherals and upside to become one of your team’s biggest assets by season’s end.

Dickerson is coming back to the Padres after a bulging disc in his lower back kept him out for all of the 2017 season, so why do I like him so much?

Well first off Dickerson will be going undrafted in most of the leagues out there. That will let fantasy owners wait on filling out that last outfield spot while they go after some more sought after bullpen arms or role players to fill out their lineups.

I found my new ride or die this year while doing my projections, and was shocked that no one was talking about this potential late round star.

If you take a look at Dickerson’s batted ball profile in 2016 it is pretty similar to that of Brian Dozier’s and Anthony Rendon’s batted ball profiles last season.

Not only does he have the ability to hit for average and power, but he also has some stolen base potential as well. With a lower back injury he will most likely lose a step or two on the base paths, but a 10 stolen base season is not out of the picture for this 27 year old left fielder.

Although there is some injury risk surrounding Dickerson this season, his potential upside out ways his downside.

Delino DeShields, OF, Texas Rangers

Delino looks like he will be the starting center fielder for the Rangers vcome Opening Day, and is that is the case then fantasy owners will have one more player to help out with the decline in stolen bases.

With decent contact skills and great plate discipline it wouldn’t be absurd for the 25 year old to post an on-base percentage over .360. Even if you are not playing in a league which counts for walks, Deshields’ ability to reach base added with his 29.6 ft/sec sprint speed will prove quite valuable as it gives him more opportunities to add to his stolen base totals.

Like many other disciplined hitters Deshields’ patience at the plate could cause him to strikeout more, in turn hurting his batting average. But with a 20.2% line drive rate and 8.3% swinging strike rate, his average will most likely stay above the .260 mark.

If Deshields does hit .260 and steals 40 bags then that should put him in the top 30 on the player rater among outfielders, making him a bargain for any team going into the 20th round.

Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres

Margot had the tenth fastest sprint speed among batters with at least ten opportunities. This elite speed should help him swipe more around 30 bags than the 17 he stole in 2017.

With a 8.6% swinging strike rate and 23.2% line drive rate fantasy owners could expect a batting average around .270 in 2018 from Margot.

Margot did also add some power to his resume as he put up 13 home runs in just 529 plate appearances. With a soft contact rate higher than his hard contact rate in 2017 however, I would not expect Margot to reach the 20 home run mark. It is possible though to see him reach double digits again in 2018.

Margot’s upside could make him a top 30 outfielder. This definitely makes him worth the 150th spot he is projected to go in drafts, and makes him a must own in most formats.

Other Notable Breakout Canidates: Alex Bregman, Byron Buxton, Colin Moran, Derek Dietrich, Derek Fisher, Joc Pederson, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Nomar Mazara, Tyler Flowers

Poll

Which breakout candidate are you buying into this season?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
    (50 votes)
  • 25%
    Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs
    (179 votes)
  • 16%
    Alex Dickerson, OF, San Diego Padres
    (118 votes)
  • 12%
    Delino DeShields, OF, Texas Rangers
    (88 votes)
  • 37%
    Manuel Margot, OF, San Diego Padres
    (262 votes)
697 votes total Vote Now