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Sleepers and Busts

Five 2015 Fantasy Breakout Outfielders

As I mentioned in my article about some potential busts among Fantasy Baseball outfielders, the talent pool dries up rather quickly. If you wait too long, you’ll wind up dredging the depths in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle.

The outfield indeed has its share of diamonds in the rough, though.

As your draft winds down, there are some players out there who have the potential to make your early-round procrastination look positively prescient come October.

Yes, these potential 2015 Fantasy breakout outfielders should be available at a bargain price on Draft Day.

2015 Fantasy Breakout Outfielders

We define the term “Fantasy Breakouts” as players that are available in the middle rounds this season that could very well put up such a good season, that they are drafted among the best at their position the next year, possibly in the early rounds.

Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels

Some might say that Calhoun “broke out” in 2014, but let’s do a little extrapolation to see what Calhoun’s stat line might have looked like had he not missed over a month due to a sprained ankle he suffered in mid-April. Projecting his numbers out to 650 at-bats gives us  .272-21-71 with 110 runs scored and  six stolen bases.

But wait, there’s more: the 27-year-old (no, that has nothing to do with my predicting his “breakout”) owns a .309 career batting average in the minors, and posted a cool .354 mark over 54 games at Triple-A back in 2013 (caution: it was the hitting pinball machine known as the Pacific Coast League). He has consistently logged double-digit steals during his career in the minors, and it’s noteworthy that he had two stolen bases when he went down with the ankle injury.

Cahoun should again bat leadoff in the Angels’ lineup, and 20 homers, a dozen steals, 110-plus runs and about a .275 average look like reasonable expectations for him in 2015.

The word is out on him, though: Calhoun is currently ranked as the No. 26 outfielder (77th overall) in the Experts Consensus Rankings, so you’ll have to pony up a middle-round pick if you’re looking to add him to your roster. There is still some upside here, though, and Calhoun could definitely return more value than his current ADP would suggest.

Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

Betts scuffled a bit during his first two stints in the majors, but he really hit his stride when he was called up for good in mid-August. From that point onward, the then-21 year-old batted a cool .331, with four homers, 16 RBI and six steals in 39 games, thus laying the groundwork for what could be a breakout season in 2015.

Betts possesses a rare combination of power and speed, and he showcased those tools by hammering out a .346-11-65 line with 33 steals across two minor-league levels in 2014. He logged an impressive .335/.417/.503 slash line in 45 games at Triple-A, with 26 walks in 211 plate appearances (12.3 percent BB rate), and his refined batting eye could make him a prime candidate to bat leadoff again in 2015. The Bosox gave him an extended look at the top of the order last season, and he responded by slashing .310/.388/.348 with 10 walks in 98 plate appearances from the leadoff spot.

Boston should be one of baseball’s best offensive clubs in 2015, and their depth of talent is a bit problematic for Betts’ breakout potential. Hanley Ramirez is projected to start in left field, while Rusney Castillo looks to have the job in center. That leaves right field for Betts, who will have to fend off veterans Allen Craig and Shane Victorino for playing time.

Betts did play 14 games at second base last season, so he could occasionally spell Dustin Pedroia at the keystone sack. He also logged 28 games in center field, so he brings a fair amount of position flexibility to the table. It may be a crowded outfield in Boston this year, but if Betts shows this spring that he can hit major-league pitching, the Red Sox will find a way to get his bat — and legs — in the lineup as much as possible.

This youngster has enormous Fantasy Baseball potential if he receives regular at-bats: a .300 average, 20 homers, 30 steals and 100-plus runs are in play. Betts is currently ranked as the No. 33 outfielder (110 overall) in the FantasyPros Experts Consensus Rankings, and he is also listed as the No. 16 second baseman. Check your league settings to see if Betts qualifies at second — if so, his already substantial Fantasy value receives another bump.

Oswaldo Arcia, Minnesota Twins

If you were among the select group of individuals who were actually following the Minnesota Twins during the second half of the 2014 campaign, seeing Arcia’s name on a “breakout” list should come as no surprise to you. For the rest of you, though, it’s time to familiarize yourself with this 23-year-old powerhouse.

Arcia’s first half was marred by a wrist injury, but he really found his power stroke after the All-Star break, blasting 15 homers and plating 39 RBI in 221 plate appearances. If we extrapolate those numbers over a full 155-game season, Arcia would have finished with 41 homers and 105 RBI. While he probably won’t reach those lofty heights in 2015, Arcia’s power potential is very real: he launched 15 homers and knocked in 48 runs in just 60 games over the last two years at Triple-A.

His batting average and batting eye (or lack thereof) are problematic at this point, but Arcia owns a .304 batting average and .370 OBP during seven seasons in the minors, so there is clearly some potential for growth in these categories. Power becomes scarce rather quickly in Fantasy drafts, and Arcia’s current rank of 61st among outfielders and No. 207 overall makes him a prime target as your draft enters its latter stages.

One quick word of caution: Arcia has dealt with back injuries during his career, so keep an eye on his health status before tabbing him on Draft Day. The Twins figure to be rather awful again in 2015, but keep in mind that there are no style points in Fantasy Baseball — a three-run homer in Minneapolis on a Wednesday afternoon still counts the same as a Saturday night blast in the Bronx.

Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays

We included Pompey as part of our sleepers series, and the 22-year-old looks to be a big part of the future in Toronto after swiping 43 bases and batting .317 with nine homers across three minor-league levels in 2014. I saw Pompey in the Arizona Fall League last November, and I can vouch that this young man turned some very knowledgeable heads with his impressive skill set. Though he was an impressive-looking player to watch, his final AFL slash line was something of a mixed bag: .257/.358/.371 with no homers, two RBI and nine steals in 19 AFL games. He can run like the wind, but his power has yet to fully develop — though when he does something like this , we can envision just how good he could be someday.

Pompey is listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, so there is certainly room for him to add some bulk without unduly compromising his speed. Even if Pompey’s average is problematic, he does seem to have a fairly sharp batting eye, (.367 career minor-league OBP) which should help to keep his OBP at a serviceable level.

A cautionary note: Pompey’s meteoric rise through the farm system has resulted in him playing only 43 games at Double-A and above — though it’s noteworthy that he posted a decent 9.3 percent walk rate during his 17-game MLB cup of coffee last season.  The center-fielder’s job in Toronto seems to be his to lose, so the best-case scenario would have him tearing it up this spring and winning the leadoff hitter’s spot. If he stays in that role all season, he figures to score triple-digit runs as the table-setter for what looks like a potent offense.

Even if his power doesn’t develop this season, Pompey’s speed alone makes him a viable Fantasy option; 40-plus stolen bases are in play here, folks, and he could turn out to be an absolute, well…steal at his current ADP of 271 (NFBC).

Steven Souza, Tampa Bay Rays

Souza was the main cog in the three-team deal that sent the Rays’ Wil Myers to San Diego, and Tampa Bay hopes that the talented 25-year-old will become a mainstay in the team’s revamped lineup. He appears to have the tools for success, as he hammered out a spectacular .350/.432/.590 slash line with 18 homers, 75 RBI and 26 steals at Triple-A Syracuse en route to winning the Nationals’ Minor League Player of the Year award.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound prospect’s rare blend of power and speed makes him an intriguing Fantasy option, and his refined batting eye should earn him a fair share of free passes …. which, of course, equates to more chances for stolen bases. The Rays finished 26th in homers and tied for 25th in stolen bases last season, so this is clearly a team in need of an offensive jump-start — and Souza could be the guy that provides that spark.

The Rays’ outfield situation is a bit muddled, with Desmond Jennings the likely starter in center and Kevin Kiermaier, David DeJesus and Brandon Guyer in the mix with Souza for the corner spots. Kiermaier finished tied for third on the team with 10 homers last season, but a closer look at the stats shows that he faded badly after a very hot start. DeJesus is a solid but unspectacular veteran, while Guyer is a 29-year-old with only 307 career at-bats in the major leagues.

Souza’s impressive skill set gives him the inside track to a starting gig in St. Petersburg, and with a full season’s worth of at-bats he could very well reach the rarefied air of a 20-HR/20-SB season — a level which only five players achieved in 2014.

Well, that’s my look at a few possible 2015 Fantasy breakout outfielders, poised to deliver a big year. If you choose to wait through the early rounds, these are some names to know as your draft reaches its middle and later stages.

Mookie Betts Photo Credit: Eric Kilby

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