C – Adley Rutschman – BAL
Let us start with an obvious choice – Adley Rutschman has a chance to become an all-time great catcher. The Orioles are looking like one of the most promising young teams in baseball and at a position rife with inconsistencies in the power and batting average department, look for Rutschman to deliver reliable fantasy outputs with serious superstar upside. Rutschman figures to be a star in the MLB for the next decade or so – why not take him ahead of his ADP and jump the gun on a special talent?
1B – Joe Meneses – WAS
Last year, the Nationals traded Juan Soto in a shocking move that netted them a young exciting prospect in CJ Abrams. However, while Abrams only showed flashes of his potential in his rookie year, Joey Meneses proved to be the surprise addition to the trade. Meneses batted .324 with 13 HRs in 56 games with the Nationals, arguably outplaying the superstar he was traded for in that time. As a late-career rookie in his age-30 season last year, Meneses might not seem like the most appealing breakout candidate, but his production spoke for itself in 2022, so why not give him a chance to do the same this year?
2B – Nico Hoerner – CHI
The Cubs were one of the more active teams in free agency this offseason, choosing to build a solid collection of talent around a budding young star in Nico Hoerner. In 2022 he answered injury concerns by playing 135 games, with only one IL stint through the whole season. Hoerner also sported an 86.6% contact rate, good for best in the National League.
In fact, Franmil Reyes recently compared him to Guardians superstar José Ramirez, minus the power. “…the way he plays, how he attacks every pitch, it looks similar…He’s an electric player and shows that electricity when he needs to.” With Hoerner becoming one of the best contact hitting infielders, and offering elite defense, he could be a major offensive breakout this year, even without offering crazy power.
3B – Alec Bohm – PHI
Just over a year ago, cameras caught Alec Bohm mouthing the words, “I hate it here,” after committing a costly error that had Phillies fans raining boos on him. A year later, Bohm has come a long way in repairing his relationship with the city of Philadelphia. Bohm provided a major offensive spark on the Phillies’ World Series run, endearing himself to Phillies fans in their improbably successful season. His defensive consistency still leaves much to be desired, but Bohm provides solid contact and sneaky pop that could make him a mainstay in fantasy lineups.
SS – O’Neil Cruz – PIT
Here is a name that is quickly ascending to household status – you have probably heard O’Neil Cruz’s name a nauseating number of times since he broke onto the scene last year, but the hype is certainly reasonable. In his brief time with the Pirates, Cruz recorded the hardest hit in the history of the Statcast era, and he went viral for throwing 97-mph ropes from third to first as well. Cruz has all the intangibles to become a star, with speed on the base paths and power for days. If he can hone in on his errors, and work on bringing his swing rate down, Cruz could be the MLB’s next superstar.
OF – Harrison Bader – NYY
Harrison Bader rapidly became a fan favorite in New York thanks to his unexpected playoff heroics. Bader batted .333 with 5 HRs and 10 hits in nine playoff games for the Yankees, sporting power that was not noticeably present for much of his career. Bader’s speed and defensive prowess will make him a mainstay in centerfield for the Yankees, who hope to keep Judge away from centerfield and protected from injury. With a hitter-friendly ballpark and a secure spot in the batting order as the Yankees’ best baserunner and defensive outfielder, Bader could see a huge offensive breakthrough this season if he can stay healthy.
OF – Jazz Chisolm Jr. – MIA
Here is another player quickly rising to household name status – Jazz Chisolm has all the intangibles necessary to evolve into a superstar in the MLB. Better yet, with a move to centerfield following the Marlins’ acquisition of Luis Arraez from the Twins, Chisolm will not have to worry about the woes of infield defense. Chisolm graced the MLB the Show cover this year, but he has yet to put together a full season of All-Star-level production. However, with a deadly combination of speed and power, coupled with the flexibility of being listed as an OF and a 2B in most formats, Chisolm could be in for a massive breakout year.
OF – Bryan De La Cruz – MIA
With fellow outfielder Chisolm stealing headlines, do not be surprised if there is another breakout in the Marlins’ outfield. At just 26 years of age, De La Cruz has already shown stretches of stardom that could make him a dangerous sleeper. Despite a rough patch last year that saw him batting .197 and optioned back down to Triple-A, De La Cruz has shown plenty of stretches of elite contact.
When he was recalled, De La Cruz delivered a .320/.370/.432 slash line, including a .388 batting average in the last month and a half of the season. De La Cruz has seen statistical jumps in expected batting average (XBA) and barrel rate in each season in the league, and is demonstrating that he can become an elite offensive talent in the MLB.
OF – Masataka Yoshida – BOS
The Red Sox had a strange offseason, but their pedigree in the past few decades has granted them the wiggle room to make moves as they see fit. Masataka Yoshida’s new team was dreadful last year, finishing last in the loaded AL East, but they have managed to make sharp turnarounds into playoff runs multiple times in the 2000s. They let star shortstop Xander Bogaerts walk to San Diego, albeit for a massive contract, and DFA’d Jeter Downs, who was meant to be the biggest acquisition in the Mookie Betts trade.
It seemed to be time to rebuild for the Red Sox, however they re-signed Rafael Devers to a massive extension, despite his struggles on defense at third base, and even signed aging veteran Corey Kluber, recently naming him their Opening Day starter. Whatever the Red Sox are planning, Masataka Yoshida figures to be a major part of their season. The Red Sox signed him to a 5-year $90M deal, and reports indicate they intend to bat him in the cleanup spot. Yoshida recently showed off clutch hitting, and serious power in the World Baseball Classic, and should be on your radar as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.
DH – Vinnie Pasquantino – KC
Besides having a badass name that sounds like an Italian mafia boss, Vinnie Pasquantino also finished the season batting .362 with seven home runs in the Royals’ final 40 games. He also boasted a low strikeout rate, ranking in the top 3 percent in the league in that category. Pasquantino offers great contact and exit velocity, and his upside is massive. He could be a league-winning breakout, so snatch him up if you can. The only downside is that he plays for the Royals, whose offensive lineup is weak to say the least, and whose ballpark is not very hitter friendly.
SP – Nick Lodolo – CIN
Coming in hot with yet another popular offseason breakout candidate, Nick Lodolo is a guy who offers everything you look for in a starting pitcher. The talented lefty has an elite curveball and a deep arsenal of effective pitches, and might even be a better young pitcher than vaunted teammate Hunter Greene. With a 2.92 ERA in his final 13 starts last year, look for Lodolo to cement himself as a stellar starter in 2023.
SP – Jesus Luzardo – MIA
Luzardo already had a fantastic 2022, but he could be on the verge of yet another major breakthrough in 2023. Luzardo finished with a 3.32 ERA, and a 1.04 WHIP, with 120 Ks through just over 100 innings. His K rate ranked in the 88th percentile, and he leaned heavily on a nasty curveball on top of his solid arsenal. Luzardo is a mainstay in a lineup better known for last years’ Cy Young Sandy Alcantara, but do not count him out from becoming an elite starter in his own right.
SP – Triston Mckenzie – CLE
Mckenzie is a lanky, nasty pitcher with stellar production through two seasons under his belt, including a near perfect game two years ago. He is another young stud with everything you love in an elite pitcher, and his breakout is practically imminent. He finished with a 2.96 ERA and 190 strikeouts in 2022, a stat line that looks juicy on its own.
Mckenzie also boasts an elite fastball, and one of the league’s best curveballs, and his ability to switch from nasty off-speed pitches to fiery fastballs will give opposing hitters nightmares. He limits baserunners, manages his home run rate very well, and frankly dominates the strike zone. I see no reason he will not smash his ADP this season and potentially veer into top-12 pitcher contention.
RP – Jonathan Loaisiga – NYY
It was a down year for Jonathan Loaisiga, who came on late for the Yankees in a season that saw their bullpen decimated with injuries. Two years ago, Loaisiga looked like the Yankees best relief pitcher, but he saw his role dwindle after a rocky start to 2022. By the end of the season, however, Loaisiga seemed to turn a corner, becoming manager Aaron Boone’s favorite late-game arm in the pen.
With Clay Holmes looking less than reliable at the tail end of last year, it looks like the Yankees’ closer role could be up for grabs for Loaisiga, who offers all the stuff to become an elite closer if he can get consistent.
RP – Brusdar Graterol – LAD
The Dodgers are another team with a wide-open closer competition, and Brusdar Graterol has the nasty pitch arsenal to get it done. With all the nastiness and velocity of a traditional elite closer, Graterol just has to stay healthy and he can pin down a premiere role with one of the best organizations in baseball.