Fantasy owners are continually looking for the next breakout performer. Faith and gut are often not enough, however, so trying to identify promising statistical trends and finding players with talent, youth, health, and opportunity is usually a good way to approach the search for a new star.
At the time of ranking players, comparing their pre and post All-Star performance is usually a good idea, especially if we are dealing with young, inexperienced players. Second half production is often a promising sign to detect potential breakouts because it could involve a skill change.
For example, consider these numbers: 25 home runs, 50 runs scored, 78 RBI, .240/.298/.494 slash, 107 wRC+. You could have used those in deeper formats, but that line doesn’t look particularly impressive, right? Boston Red Sox slugger Bobby Dalbec didn’t have a great 2021 as a whole, even if that kind of power certainly played well in some deep leagues.
Now, let’s look at these stats: .269/.344/.611, 15 home runs, .955 OPS, 149 wRC+. That’s what Dalbec did in the second half in 195 plate appearances, much more in line with his performance over his minor league career.
He was so bad before the break (.219/.264/.409, .673 OPS, 76 wRC+) that it ended up wrecking his final season line. But there definitely was a skill change after the All-Star game.
In the minors, he used to post walk rates around 14 and 15 percent, so he has significant projection in that particular area and could be an asset in OBP leagues. Don’t count on an average over .260, but there is plenty he can offer to your fantasy team.
If he has regular or semi-regular playing time, he could have a shot at 30 home runs and 90 RBI, and if he increases his walk rate his low runs ceiling could be improved. He plays in a rock-solid lineup and could have a decent showing in counting stats.
Of course, with fellow prospect Triston Casas knocking on the door, there is a chance Dalbec is traded either before the season starts, or around July at the deadline. He can, however, cement his place in the Red Sox’s future with a solid showing in the first few months of the 2022 campaign.
Dalbec upped his walk rate from half to half (4.7% in the first vs. 8.2% in the second), and also cut his strikeout rate significantly (36.8% vs. 31.3%). He still has contact issues, but he has become a very interesting target around the 220-230 pick.
At Fake Teams, I’m the high man on Dalbec, ranking him 21st among first baseman. His current average draft position (ADP) is in the 235-260 range, but I’m willing to bet on a breakout and pick him ahead of the unproven Frank Schwindel, the veteran Yuli Gurriel, and injury-prone stars Luke Voit and Brandon Belt.
I’d put his ceiling as a top 15 first baseman, and he is currently being treated like a top 25 one. Fantasy baseball is all about value, and Dalbec could take a sizable performance leap in 2022. He has his flaws, but the benefits could be huge.