2019 Fantasy Baseball Breakouts: American League
Fantasy Baseball is back in full swing (the puns Kevin, the puns...) for 2019! Spring training is now well underway, and Bryce Harper finally signed with a major league club! Listed below are some American League players I feel have an excellent shot of cementing themselves in Fantasy Baseball for the 2019 season and beyond. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter at ktompkinsii and give me some feedback on what you think about these players! So without further adieu...
Mitch Haniger, OF, Seattle Mariners
One could make the argument that Mitch Haniger's breakout was last year, with a .285/.366/.493 triple slash, and consistent counting stats from his abbreviated '17 to 18, but I think this late bloomer has even more upside than just a top 25 outfielder. Finally getting to play every day and off of an injury-riddled 2017, Haniger essentially copied his rates from 2017 and bettered his walk rate (10.2% in '18). The Mariners offense did lose a good amount of power in Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Mike Zunino, and some others, but they did become more balanced. I see this as neither a glaring negative or an overwhelming positive, but if Haniger (slated to hit 2nd) can continue mashing, he could be a pillar for your fantasy team in 2019. With an ADP between 65-75 in head to head leagues, you could nab this ascending talent and get in on the ground floor.
Jurickson Profar, 1B/2B/3B/SS, Oakland Athletics
Staying out west, it seems like Jurickson Profar has been around forever, but he just turned 26 years of age. Profar turned in his first full season as a big-league regular with the Rangers in 2018 and there's a lot to like with what he provided Texas. Finally realizing some of his vast potential that made him the 2013 #1 overall prospect in what seems like an eternity ago, this post-post-post-post-post hype sleeper got to play everyday and posted a 20 HR-10 SB season, with a solid strikeout rate (14.8%) and encouraging walk rate (9.1%). Even more encouraging to forecast a further breakout is that while he regularly posted BABIP numbers in the .300's in the minor leagues, his BABIP last season was .269, leading to believe he could have some more luck go his way in 2019. Now in Oakland, even in a bad ballpark but with a better supporting cast, Profar's multi-position eligibility makes him a solid pickup in the middle to late rounds in head to head and a mid-late round 3-4 category option in Rotisserie leagues.
Carlos Rodon, SP, Chicago White Sox
The slider was a big reason why the Chicago White Sox drafted Carlos Rodon #3 overall in 2014 and could be a big reason why Rodon puts himself back on the map in 2019. We have seen players up their usage of breaking pitches to reach that next level, like a Patrick Corbin. Rodon has been pummeled by right handed hitting in his brief time in the majors, but made a nice leap in 2018 limiting right handed batters to a .213/.311/.343 slash line, and if Rodon is able to put the talent together for a the rebuilding South Siders, Rodon can be a nice find for your squad in 2019. Rodon can be found loitering near the Sonny Gray/Luke Weaver/Marco Gonzales tier of starting pitchers in redraft leagues, but he can be a solid stash that pays dividends. The talent is there and it's not going to cost much.
Willians Astudillo, C, Minnesota Twins
I freaking love "La Tortuga" and he may just force himself into regular at-bats with the Minnesota Twins in 2019. Willians Astudillo, the most fun player in the history of professional sports, simply put, does not strike out. He has NEVER had a strikeout rate over 5.0% in the minors or majors and in 69 at bats vs. right handed pitching, he did not strike out once. Add in his quality contact rate, and you've got a guy that won't penalize you for strikeouts in head to head, at a super weak position. What's not to like? Well, here's the kicker. He may not have a defined role on the club to start the season. The Twins currently employ Mitch Garver as their backstop, so "La Tortuga" may have to use his positional eligibility to see at bats, though for fantasy purposes, he will be the most useful at catcher. If "La Tortuga" sees 350 plate appearances, he has a good shot of maintaining a top 12 ranking among catchers in fantasy. Keep an eye on Astudillo during spring training as his situation shakes out, but I can't see how a team can deny his skillset.
Luke Voit, 1B, New York Yankees
Yes, Luke Voit hasn't cemented the Yankees first base job as of yet, but with all factors considered, Voit should get the first crack even with Greg Bird healthy (for now). All Voit did in 39 games last season was rake, with a 1.095 OPS and 14 home runs in admittedly a small sample size. Bird has the edge defensively for the job, but Voit has gotten better defensively in his own right. Bird may have tantalized Yankee fans since 2015, but he's gotten hurt so much (remember Nick Johnson?) that he may have exhausted his final opportunity in pinstripes as the 1B of the future. Granted, Voit is not going to keep up that prodigious pace in terms of power, but as a 1B that will see pitchers lower in a loaded batting order and a friendly ballpark, I can think of many worse investments to make on your fantasy roster than stashing Luke Voit and hoping you can squeeze him into a diamond. The price is right as long as he wins the job out of spring training; it's his job to lose.
Stay tuned in the coming days as I'll tackle the National League breakouts for fantasy baseball in 2019!