This week in our hitter profiles we are talking breakouts.  So what is the difference between a breakout and what we have already covered in our sleeper posts (v1.0 here and v2.0 here)?  Well, a breakout is like putting bacon on pizza.  We already know that pizza is good, but that additional topping just made it one of the best.  Whereas a sleeper is like realizing your nerdy classmate is now the CEO at a tech company.  It makes so much sense now, but we missed the signs before it happened.   Now that we have our painfully mandatory analogies out of the way, let us jump into a few of my favorite breakouts for the 2023 fantasy baseball season.

Vaughn Grissom

The perfect spot to start when differentiating between a breakout and a sleeper.  Going in the 15th round, Grissom is known by many and therefore will require you to be aggressive in the draft to grab him due to the number of folks talking about and hoping to grab him in the draft.  What makes him a breakout is simply that he is worth that grab and certainly worth jumping a number of rounds to do so.

So starting with the concerns, Grissom is only 22 years old with 41 MLB games under his belt.  During the short stint in 2022, he had below average exit velocities and hard hit rates.  On the flip side, he ran out an impressive 20/20 pace on a .291 average during those 41 games.  In the minors, he has not hit below .300 since Rookie ball and successfully stole bases at a 85% clip.  Grissom has the confidence of the Braves staffers and should get a chance to sit atop a lineup that will produce plenty of runs (third most in 2022).  This one is about a talented player in the right situation.  I will go out on a limb and project a 15/20 season with a .280 average and 90 runs.

Yordan Alvarez

Yordan??  How can you call him out as a breakout?  Well, esteemed Razzball reader, I am here to tell you that Yordan has yet to hit the limits of his potential.  Yes, he is going at the end of the first round but that is a discount for what he will deliver this season.  Consider this comparison across between two slugger’s 150 game pace in 2022:

These two are going right next to each other in early drafts.  Soto had a down year in 2022, but if there was one player (outside of Aaron Judge) that I would bet on hitting 50 HR, it would be Alvarez.  I expect he will deliver top 5 production in 2023 being more valuable than guys like Soto, Bobby Witt Jr., and Ronald Acuna Jr.  While I do not expect him to go in the top 5, he has to be strongly considered in the 6-10 range and might even slip into the second round.

Ryan Mountcastle

2023 was a decent year for the young Oriole as he continues to front a youth movement In Baltimore.  Even with adjustments to the Camden outfield walls, Mounty still popped 22 dingers and knocked in 85 runs in 145 games.  He actually had worse results in the second half thanks in park to a drop in BABIP and HR/FB rates.  That performance has driven him to a 13th round draft position in the early draft goings.  Going into his age 26 season, we should expect some level of growth in a lineup that was better than expected last year.

So what brings him to our breakout list?  First of all, while his power was down he had a large gap in expected homers at 27 compared to his actual results mentioned above.  This lack of luck in the power department is also highlighted by the biggest gap in the majors between his SLG and xSLG amongst qualified hitters.  Second of all, despite some numbers being down in the second half, we saw improvements month over month in his plate discipline.  Walking below a 5% clip early in the season and gradual climbs the last three months peaking over 10% in September/October is notable.  Moreover, his strikeout rate remained level.  With a combination of luck and improvement in skill, Mountcastle is my favorite breakout candidate in 2023.