The early season waiver wire is starting to dry up with hot starts snatched up and no more James Outman or Josh Lowe breakouts there for the finding.  Or are they?  For the discerning fantasy owner, there is opportunity everywhere.  While those offseason breakout lists were good fun, maybe we can find 20 homers or 40 steals sitting there for the taking in mid-May.  I cannot promise a championship, but there are a few breakout candidates that deserve a second look.  This week, our hitter profiles search for talent that you will wish you had before the rest of your league wises up for the rest of the 2023 season.


Mid-Season Breakout Candidates

Anthony Volpe

Volpe was one of the hottest hitters coming into the season with a breakout spring.  However, sitting at the Mendoza line is not the ideal way to excite the Bronx faithful.  Despite the early struggles, he has been the expected terror on the base paths at over a 40 steal a season pace.  His respectable walk rates for a rookie have helped him maintain relevance in many fantasy lineups.  So why is the breakout potentially coming for Anthony Volpe?  Well for starters, a .258 BABIP for a speedster like Volpe is bound to rise.  In addition, since May 1st his exit velocities are averaging over 91 MPH supporting strong hard hit rates over 50%.  He is a young developing ball player, but he has the Yankees trust and has seen the quality of his contact continuing to improve with strong patience at the plate.  Volpe is going to break out, it is just a matter of when it all comes together.

Max Kepler

Kepler is owned in only 5% of Yahoo leagues and after three years of disappointing performance, it is not surprising that the fantasy community has written off any signs of life.  Flash back to 2019 and Max jacked 36 big flies while nearly breaking 100 runs scored and runs batted in apiece with a .252 average.  Fast forward to 2023 and the Twins still see promise trotting out Kepler time and again.  This season, he has six homers with 31 R + RBI and a paltry .214 average.  While those numbers do not scream breakout, we need to look deeper starting with the quality of contact over at Baseball Savant:


Do you see it too?  The best barrel rate and exit velocities of his career are certainly a welcome sight.  That xBA of .258 is nearly identical to his 2019 breakout season.  Maybe we should not be surprised that Kepler is back on the map after years of 90%+ shift tendencies.  Extrapolate his stats and we have a 30 homer season with 170 runs and RBI.  Don’t look now but over the last 14 days Kepler has four homers and half of his counting stat production despite a comical .156 BABIP.  Let me repeat, he is free for the taking on the waiver wire.

Miguel Vargas

Getting overlooked in Los Angeles is a substantial feat in itself, but as a rookie starting for the Dodgers Miguel Vargas has been overshadowed by James Outman.  With the Gavin Lux injury, Vargas has been given every opportunity to run with the second base job.  Hitting .219 with four homers is not lighting up the night sky, but hitting in the middle of the Dodger lineup has reflected nicely in those counting stats with nearly 20 runs and RBI apiece.  Sitting just below 50% ownership in Yahoo leagues, Vargas has turned it on of late.  Since the beginning of May, Vargas has hit .235 with three homers despite a .207 BABIP and exit velocities over 90 MPH.  In the minor leagues, Vargas held BABIP levels well into the mid .300s pointing to better days ahead in Los Angeles.  Vargas could be approaching Outman conversations if his luck had been reversed.  He will not set the world on fire with his power, but ample counting stats and a .300 average the rest of the season are certainly within reach.


Bonus Deep League Breakout Candidate

Ryan Noda

Noda was a rule 5 pick for the Athletics out of the Dodgers system this offseason.  He has been making noise in Oakland in a very Oakland Athletic way.  A .250 hitter with 25 homer power in the minor leagues, Noda has found himself in the two hole on most nights in the majors.  While his numbers have not jumped off the page, he has hard hit rates over 40% the last few weeks and has been scoring runs in bunches thanks to a 22% walk rate over the full season.  Since the beginning of May, his barrel rate has been nearly 19% with a 50% flyball rate yet no home runs.  In deep leagues, there are worse things to do than follow Billy Beane for advice especially with a guy putting up a 156 wRC+.  Noda might go nowhere, but keep your eye on this rookie.