Breakout players are what every fantasy owner hopes to find in each sport. They usually lead to championships because you are getting more value out of the players you select. Think about football season. People who drafted Adrian Peterson got exactly what they wanted and expected from him, but that didn’t guarantee them a championship. Now think about the owners that got Arian Foster and Darren McFadden in the middle rounds, those are the players that led teams to the top of their leagues. These are the MLB players that should be able available as fantasy baseball sleepers in 2011 fantasy baseball.
Rajai Davis – OF – Toronto Blue Jays
Davis might be the best option for fantasy baseball owners looking for cheap steals late in drafts. While Davis has been around for a while, this may be his real breakout season. He stole 50 bases in 61 chances last year for the Oakland A’s, but has never really put up solid numbers in any category outside of that. Davis should be what the Jays were hoping Fred Lewis would be last year. A leadoff man that can create runs for them when they aren’t hitting. In front of the Jays big bats he should be able to total a lot of runs and should post better batting average numbers because he will see better pitches.
Max Scherzer – SP – Detroit Tigers
Scherzer began his breakout last season much like Andrus, but unless you owned him you would likely never know. He had a horrible start that skewed his stats for the season. After 8 starts he was 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA. He was sent to AAA where he changed up his mechanics. Upon returning he went on a season ending tear. Scherzer finished his last 23 starts with a 2.46 ERA. Expect him around 15 wins and to have 200+ strikeouts, and likely the hype that he should have received last season.
Brett Gardner – OF – New York Yankees
The Yankees have shuffled their lineup over the last few games with Brett Gardner taking over the leadoff spot and Derek Jeter moving down a spot. This is a great idea by the Yankees because Jeter has always been more of a natural second hitter. While the big name in this move is Jeter, the bigger fantasy impact will be on Gardner. While he may struggle at first hitting at the top of the lineup, it will benefit him either way. He will gain somewhere between 50 and 100 at-bats. That should put him around 600-700 plate appearances if he is playing close to everyday. Based off Gardner’s stats from last season in which he stole 47 bases and scored 97 runs from the bottom of the lineup, there is no reason that he couldn’t get 120+ runs and 60+ steals with that many extra chances. Keep watch leading up to your draft on Joe Girardi’s final decision because it could vault Gardner’s value into the top 30 outfielders.
Elvis Andrus – SS – Texas Rangers
Andrus broke out last year by posting a solid season, but I see him making another giant leap. While his defense has always been there, he has been adding something to his game each year. Last year he finally took it upon himself to become a terrific base stealer. This year’s challenge will be to improve his OBP, which in turn will improve his steals, runs scored, and batting average. If he falls past the top 5 shortstops in your draft be sure to grab him.
Pedro Alvarez – 3B – Pittsburgh Pirates
Alvarez may be one of the most undervalued people in fantasy baseball drafts so far this year. He has the potential to put up huge power numbers for the Pirates. He is locked in at third base in Pittsburgh this year and the fact that his ADP is well below that of Michael Young and close to Chipper Jones is a travesty.
Gordon Beckham – 2B – Chicago White Sox
Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen seem to want him to bat second the order and that should allow Beckham have the breakout season that many expected from him in 2010. He struggled through the early months, but it showed Chicago’s confidence in him that they never sent him back to the minors. He surged at the end of the season and should carry it over into this spring. The White Sox are encouraging him to run more and he has the potential to develop 20 HR power. He could easily take the crown of top second basemen soon if he lives up to his enormous potential.
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