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Price doesn't matter for breakouts. Look at last year: Ronald Acuña was No. 1 in consensus ADP, but there were plenty of leagues where Trea Turner, Jose Ramirez, Aaron Judge, or Julio Rodriguez went No. 1 overall. Now? There may not be a single league where Acuña isn't the first pick, and I don't think anyone can argue he didn't have a breakout campaign in 2023, despite already being an established superstar.

When we're talking about breakouts, we're generally looking for players we expect to take a step forward. We're talking about guys making the jump from starter to star; from star to superstar; or even, as in the case of Acuña, from superstar to ... Fantasy God? It's unlikely anyone listed below will make that kind of leap, but there are plenty of options who very well could be top-25 picks this time next year. 

It's those kind of impact players we're looking for. Here are 12 who could make the leap: 

Breakouts 1.0
Projections powered by Sportsline
CLE Cleveland • #23 • Age: 24
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
132.87
2023 Stats
AVG
0.237
HR
11
R
33
RBI
32
SB
5
SO
53
Naylor's one of the more obvious breakout picks out there in my eyes. He's a recent top prospect who has produced at the highest level in the minors and then get called up to the majors and put up an .809 OPS in 67 games. Naysayers will point to underwhelming batted ball metrics that don't quite match up to his surface level numbers, but we're talking about a 23-year-old catcher who held his own in his first real taste of the majors, so I'm not sure we have to overthink this. Naylor has a lower batting average floor, but there's some JT Realmuto in his game, because he might be a rare catcher who can actually contribute as a base stealer – he's going to be at least a decent OBP bat, is an average base runner, and averaged 16 steals per-150 games in the minors. Naylor already looks like a top-12 option regardless of format, and there's plenty of upside beyond that.
KC Kansas City • #9 • Age: 26
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
126
2023 Stats
AVG
0.247
HR
9
R
24
RBI
26
SB
0
SO
31
Pasquantino's surface-level numbers were a bit disappointing last season and then he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, so his depressed price makes some sense. We don't know what he's going to look like coming back from that injury, but if he can recapture last year's skill set, there's a ton to like about him as a Fantasy option. He's got some Nolan Arenado in his game, in that his batting average may not be as impressive as his super-low (11.6% career) strikeout rate would make you think, but his pull-heavy swing should help him tap into plenty of power even in a bad home park for it. The best-case scenario looks something like peak Anthony Rizzo without the occasional stolen base – something like a .275 average, 25-30 homers, and 190-plus RBI-plus-runs.
OAK Oakland • #46 • Age: 24
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
135.43
2023 Stats
AVG
0.267
HR
14
R
40
RBI
32
SB
14
SO
82
The underlying numbers suggest Gelof played over his head a bit in his rookie campaign, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise – he was on a nearly 6-WAR pace, and he's probably not going to be a fringe MVP candidate. But the underlying numbers still suggest he was a very solid hitter, with a .253 expected batting average and .448 expected slugging percentage. Batting average might be a struggle for Gelof, given a strikeout rate that will likely remain in the high-20s and a home park that isn't going to do him any favors as a hitter. However, he had 26 homers and 34 steals in 138 games between Triple-A and the majors last season, and I definitely don't think 20-20 or even 25-25 is out of the question here. Add in a likely locked in spot near the top of the lineup, and Gelof could be a really nice source of counting stats across all five categories. There's some "poor man's Marcus Semien" potential here.
MIN Minnesota • #23 • Age: 24
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
47.33
2023 Stats
AVG
0.309
HR
15
R
36
RBI
52
SB
6
SO
55
In Lewis' case, I'm not even sure he needs to "break out." He just needs to stay healthy. All he's done at the major-league level is crush the ball, with a .307/.364/.549 line and a 39-homer, 14-steal pace over 162 games – and that's not even accounting for his four-homer-in-six-games postseason run that already has his place in Twins lore locked up. It's even more impressive when you consider how much time Lewis has missed in his career – he didn't log a single official plate appearance in 2020 or 2021, due to the pandemic and then injuries, and his MLB debut was disrupted after just 12 games in 2022 due to a torn ACL, the second of his career. This is another one where the underlying data suggests his top-line numbers may not be sustainable, but they also suggest he's already a very good hitter without any improvement. And, of course, given his lack of experience and his pedigree (Lewis is a former No. 1 overall pick), I'm inclined to bet on the underlying numbers improving as much as the surface-level numbers might slip. Lewis just has the look of a capital-G Great hitter, and that's one I don't want to bet against given all he's already overcome.
PIT Pittsburgh • #15 • Age: 25
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
81.55
2023 Stats
AVG
0.25
HR
1
R
7
RBI
4
SB
3
SO
8
It was effectively a lost season for Cruz, who ended up playing just nine games before suffering a season-ending fractured fibula. He's been playing in game action at the Pirates academy in the Dominican Republic and is fully recovered from the injury, so now the question is whether there will be any lingering effects. Cruz lost a key year of development time, adding uncertainty into what was already a highly volatile profile. However, Cruz has also played 98 games at the MLB level and put up 162-game splits of 31 homers and 21 steals, plus 89 runs and 101 RBI, despite very much not being a finished product. He has top of the scale tools – including the hardest-hit ball in the history of the Statcast tracking system at 122.4 mph – and we got a tantalizing glimpse of his upside if he can cut his strikeout rate, when he hit .288/.359/.525 in September of 2022 while striking out 29.8% of the time. That's still a huge strikeout rate, of course, but it hints at how little improvement Cruz might need in that regard to be a superstar.
STL St. Louis • #18 • Age: 21
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
119.49
2023 Stats
AVG
0.276
HR
16
R
51
RBI
51
SB
7
SO
104
Walker initially served as a cautionary tale for getting too excited about top prospects in their debut, as he was sent down in April of his rookie season after hitting .274/.321/.397 in his first 20 games. He came back about a month and a half later, and while he didn't exactly play like a superstar, he did put up a .277/.346/.455 line over his final 97 games. And, remember, Walker was just 20 when he made his MLB debut and won't turn 22 until almost two months into this season. The power and speed didn't quite play up in games the way we hoped, but the tools are certainly there – 92nd percentile in max-exit velocity and 81st percentile in sprint speed – and he more than held his own at a precocious age, while largely learning a new position. A big step forward in Year Two seems like a safe bet.
DET Detroit • #31 • Age: 23
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
171.59
2023 Stats
AVG
0.288
HR
11
R
51
RBI
37
SB
7
SO
114
Greene has now suffered three pretty significant injuries since the start of the 2022 season: A fractured foot just before the start of his rookie season, a stress reaction in his left fibula in May of 2023, and then a torn ligament in his non-throwing elbow that required surgery to end the 2023 season. He is expected to be fully ready for the start of this season, and I continue to be very interested in his skill set. He hit .288/.349/.447 last season despite the injuries, with underlying metrics that suggest he might have deserved even better – he had a .289 expected batting average and .499 expected slugging percentage. He hasn't shown much stolen base upside, and the injury history probably means he won't run enough to have much more than about a 10-steal ceiling, but if he hits like his Statcast metrics suggest he could, that probably won't matter. It definitely feels like there's another level to unlock as a power hitter, and if he does, Greene still has a really high ceiling.
DET Detroit • #29 • Age: 27
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
54.6
2023 Stats
INN
80.1
W
7
K's
102
ERA
2.8
WHIP
0.9
Here's another one where the breakout already happened, and now it's just a question of sustaining it while staying healthy. The latter is, obviously, a question after Skubal underwent elbow surgery in 2022, but he has a pretty clean injury track record otherwise – the flexor tendon surgery is the only injury Skubal has missed time with since getting to the majors in 2020, and as far as I can tell, it's the only start he's missed due to injuries since having Tommy John surgery back in 2017. He came back from surgery throwing his fastball about 1 mph harder than he did prior to the injury, and it helped his four-seamer play up in a big way – he was 73rd percentile in whiff rate and had the lowest expected wOBA among all four-seamers last season. And his changeup might have been even better, with a 50.6% whiff rate and .195 expected wOBA allowed. On a per-inning basis, Skubal was one of the best starts in baseball last season – in fact, based on BaseballSavant's xERA metric, he was the second-best pitcher in the league in any role, behind only elite closer Felix Bautista. Now, of course, it was a new level of production, and he only managed it for 80.1 innings, so there's plenty of uncertainty. But you can make a case Skubal is already one of the 10 best starters in baseball. Now he just has to prove it.
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #18 • Age: 25
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
NR
2023 Stats (Japan Pacific League)
INN
171
W
17
K's
176
ERA
1.16
WHIP
0.86
I'm inclined to just throw Yamamoto in my top 10 starters and be done with it. His numbers over the past three years in Japan are completely absurd – in a league with a combined ERA of 3.27 and a K% of 19.8%, he has a 1.42 ERA and 27.4% strikeout rate in that span. Now, of course, the level of competition in Japan is much lower than it is in MLB, and they use a different, pre-tacked baseball that tends to help command and spin, so we can't just assume Yamamoto will take the majors by storm the same way he dominated Japan. On the other hand, guys like Shohei Ohtani and Kodai Senga more than held their own in the transition from Japan, and Yamamoto is a better pitcher by pretty much every measure. And, we saw Yamamoto pitch in front of the Statcast cameras last year in the World Baseball Classic, and his fastball, splitter, and curveball all rated out as plus by Eno Sarris' Stuff+ metric. There's uncertainty here, but all signs point to Yamamoto being an elite pitcher, and the Dodgers just gave him elite pitcher money, too. This might be your last chance to draft him outside of the top 15.
BAL Baltimore • #30 • Age: 24
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
71.27
2023 Stats
INN
122
W
7
K's
129
ERA
4.35
WHIP
1.34
You can't see it in his overall numbers, but the breakout already happened for Rodriguez. He struggled mightily, to the tune of a 7.35 ERA in his first two months in the majors, but after getting sent back to Triple-A to work on things, Rodriguez looked like the ace we've expected him to be for years. Over his final 13 starts, Rodriguez had a 2.48 ERA and 2.76 FIP, with 73 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. The strikeout number is, perhaps, a bit disappointing, but that might be a case of a young pitcher still trying to figure out which of his deep repertoire of pitches will be best for each situation. He had a whiff rate of at least 28% on his changeup, slider, and curveball, with very good results on balls on play on each, so he doesn't lack for putaway pitches. The slider might be the best pitch of the bunch, and throwing it more than 14.1% of the time might help unlock that strikeout upside. Rodriguez threw 163.1 inning last season across 31 starts, so innings shouldn't be a concern here, and he has already shown ace upside at the MLB level. This feels like one of the safer bets you can make among young pitchers.
MIA Miami • #39 • Age: 20
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
73.9
2023 Stats
INN
91.1
W
5
K's
108
ERA
3.15
WHIP
1.13
The Marlins were in a tough spot last season, trying to thread a very narrow needle with Perez. On the one hand, they needed to limit his innings, as he had never thrown more than 77 in a season prior to 2022. On the other hand, he was already arguably their best pitcher, an All-Star caliber phenom at 20, who was integral to their surprise push to the playoffs. They aren't going to be able to fully unleash him for 200 innings this season, but things should be a lot more straightforward for Perez in 2024: Just go out and pitch like an ace. Perez struck out 29% of opposing hitters while walking 8.3% over 91.1 innings, and nothing about it felt flukey. His fastball will probably never be a huge swing-and-miss pitch because of his height, but he already has three secondary offerings that look devastating – his slider ranked ninth in whiff rate among all pitchers, while his curveball had the second-highest whiff rate and his changeup ranked eighth in smaller sample sizes. And Perez doesn't turn 21 until a few weeks into the season. The only concern here is workload, and if he throws 175 innings, nobody's gonna complain about it. I don't think you can overhype this kid.
PHI Philadelphia • #50 • Age: 23
Fantasy Breakdown
ADP
555.20
2023 Stats
INN
3
S
0
K's
6
ERA
3
WHIP
1.67
The fun thing about relief-only prospects is, they tend to come out of nowhere to the general baseball audience, and that was the case with Kerkering. He put up huge numbers in the minors – a 1.51 ERA across four levels, with a 38% strikeout rate – and then came up to the majors and struck out 11 in 8.1 innings, including some high-leverage work in the postseason. Kerkering seems unlikely to open the season as the Phillies' closer, but I think he's going to get a chance to work the ninth at some point, especially if the Phillies don't spend big on a bona fide closer. They've shuffled around between different options over the years, and while Jose Alvarado is an elite reliever, his 10 saves in 2023 were a career-high, so I don't know if he's destined for that role. Kerkering could be the guy if they don't want to rely on the left-handed Alvarado for the job.