Bold Predictions

TDG Roundtable: Breakout Hitter Edition!

Ho Ho Ho, Merry holidays to all the good dynasty boys and girls. The little elves here at TDG studios have been hard at work this past week crunching numbers and checking thesauruses to bring you a few hitters that we think may just break out this season. So gather around the fire, grab a mug of hot chocolate, settle in, and treat your eyes and brains to another present.

Drew Klein (@aok_fan)

My choice for breakout hitter for 2024 is Chicago White Sox outfielder Oscar Colas.  Although he was picked by some, well by this one, as a dark horse candidate for 2023 Rookie of the Year, Colas struggled at the plate last year hitting only .216/.257/.314.  Several indicators may indicate that he is poised for a breakout and can be the hitter we thought he’d be.

Perhaps the most troubling area last year was his plate discipline.  He swung at 44% of the pitches he saw out of the strike zone, making contact on those pitches only 57% of the time.  His in-zone swing percentage was 69% with an average contact rate of 83%.  Not only is that a lot of strikes, it also begs the question, how does a guy who swings at 44% of pitches out of the zone take 31% of pitches thrown for strikes?  His K% of 27% was the highest of any full season in his career, and the 4.6 BB% was by far the lowest. His power numbers were lower than he put up in the minors and he was pulling the ball much less often as well.

Another interesting stat is that his max EV of 114.2 was the 53rd highest for batters with at least 200 plate appearances, but his average EV of 88.3 was 227th highest.  He can hit the ball hard, but he wasn’t hitting it hard very consistently.

Looking at his scouting reports and his statistics from 2022, I have to believe we’re going to see much better production this year.  Lately, the White Sox haven’t given us a great deal of confidence in their ability to develop young players, but I hope there’s a coach somewhere helping Oscar acclimate to major-league pitching and tapping into that potential. After all, take a quick look at fellow Cuban Luis Robert’s rookie year and you’ll see a similar picture…

 

Double R (@TheRotoRed)

This is the year that Nationals second baseman Luis García breaks through.  Because he has accumulated 1,245 major-league at-bats, it is easy to forget that he will only be 23 years old going into the 2024 season.  In fact, of all players who received more than 300 at-bats in 2023 (293 players total), García was the 15th youngest.

Going into 2023, he was guaranteed the starting second-base job for the Nationals.  He responded with an uninspiring season that included a 25-game demotion in August.  Overall, he had a triple slash of .266/.304/.385 with four home runs and nine steals.  He had only 31 extra-base hits (17th percentile) and a walk rate of only 5.6% (16th percentile).

However, it was not all bad.  First, García cut his strikeout rate to 12.4% (96th percentile).  Secondly, upon his return to the majors in September, he finished strong.  Over the final 22 games of the season, García had a triple slash of .304/.360/.507 with five doubles and three home runs.  He also had a 9/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Combine his age, a history of power hitting (21 home runs in 70 Triple-A games), an elite strikeout rate, and a refined focus (Davey Martinez discusses how García improved his professional approach during his time in the minors), and you have the recipe for a breakout.  García is not guaranteed the starting job this year (link), but I would still consider him the favorite.  And if he puts it all together, he will be a valuable player for dynasty managers starting in 2024 and for many seasons after that.

 

Chris Knock (@notnotcknock)

This is gonna be it, this is gonna FINALLY be the year when Edward Olivares gets a consistent starting role and shows the baseball world that he can kinda ball out. On occasion. At least to an extent where you’ll consider starting him regularly on your fantasy roster. The kid has tools to be fantasy-relevant, and his career has been an unfortunate series of call-ups and demotions with ill-timed injuries to boot. You may have missed it, but now that he was traded to Pittsburgh, the window for success is opening again.

After debuting with the Padres in ’20, Eddy O was quickly dealt to the Royals at the deadline. He had shown flashes of his power/speed combo for both the Dads and KC, though the later org was seemingly hesitant to hand over the reins to a starting role. In fact, during the ’21 season, the Royals promoted Olivares from Triple-A a total of NINE times! Young MLB players described as ‘raw’ and  ‘toolsy’ rarely succeed with that type of development path. Entering ’22, KC reportedly wanted to give him a shot at starting but now it was the injury bug getting in the way. He ended up straining his quadriceps on BOTH legs at different points during the season, ultimately being placed on both the 10-day, and later, the 60-day injured lists.

This past season, Olivares was healthy again but it was back to Royals preventing him from consistent PT. He appeared in 100 games though, and his bat was league average for the second year in a row, with a 109 wRC+ in the limited ’22 season and 105 last year. He can be streaky as an aggressive swinger without a discerning eye, as seen with his 6% walk rate, and 31% chase rate in ‘23. But he limited his strikeouts well last year by maintaining a solid in-zone contact, resulting in a 16% K-rate. These bat-to-ball skills don’t sound too ‘raw’ to me though.

And apparently, it didn’t to the Pirates either when they traded for him in early December. Though RosterResource has Olivares penciled in on the short side of a platoon, I don’t think that should last very long. Last year, the right-handed hitting Eddy O wasn’t too shabby versus same-handed pitchers. He hit .256 against RHH and .277 against LHH. He didn’t quite slug as hard against the righties (.421 vs .518) but his K-rate was nearly identical (16.5% vs 16.9%) . In terms of overall offensive value, he rocked lefties with a 126 wRC+, though he was merely average against righties (95).

Olivares’s competition for that starting role in RF is Josh Palacios, one of the few players with a more trying track record for professional playing time. Luckily for Eddy O stans as myself, Palacios hasn’t produced much if at all, and has much worse statistical performances in his limited appearances. I don’t think anyone needs to run and grab Oliveras but get him high on your watch list. Watch what the team does in Spring Training, if he’s getting his plate appearances then be ready for the Year of the Eddy!

Phil B (@barrington_phil)

A fellow writer said “Hasn’t Josh Jung already broken out?” and I said, not until he’s top 25. Jung is being drafted in early NFBC drafts at around pick 100, and other dynasty rankers that I respect have him ranked about there too. But not yours truly. I see a 100/40/110 season coming for the elder Jung with many to follow. While his K rate was higher than we’d like (29%) in his 515 plate appearances in 2023, his walk % was only 6%, well under his 10% in the minor leagues.

There is potential to cut the Ks and increase the walks, which will only support a major breakout. Remember that Jung didn’t have a 2020 season, and only appeared in 153 minor league games in his career since being drafted in 2019 with the 8th overall pick. Hitting in the heart of a great lineup just adds to those counting stats. With a middle name of Ryne like the Hall-of-Famer Sandburg, there are high hopes and a better-than-most chance of outperforming his ADP.

Ryan E (@ppenayr)

Forgive me, but I think there are better days on the horizon for Henry Davis…ok I NEED Davis to improve, my Pirates fandom is on a razor’s edge. I want to believe that Davis was pressing last year, he came up and was supposed to inject a youthful talent into a sliding Pirates franchise after they started as one of the hotter teams in baseball. He was thrust into the outfield with very little experience out there…and it showed. Being thrown into a new position while being the “savior” of the team and having less than 500 professional plate appearances can`t be easy. This season, he will come into the year with a spot all but locked up, and time to work in the outfield, although they are having him continue developing as a catcher which is good for those of us in fantasy.

Davis had a bit of BABIP bad luck, hitting just .213 with a .273 BABIP, and the culprit is a 48% groundball rate paired with a 55% pull rate. He was just being way too aggressive and getting on top of the ball too often. He displayed an above-average contact rate at 85% and a sweet spot percentage at 35%. I think he will settle down this year and a good portion of those ground balls will turn into line drives and fly balls. I am going out and getting him in nearly every league I can this off-season as his value will never be lower and I am a believer in his talent. I believe, I believe, I believe, I believe, I HAVE TO BELIEVE!

The Author

Ryan Epperson

Ryan Epperson

Lead prospect analyst and managing editor for The Dynasty Guru.

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