Everyone in their fantasy draft is looking for the Jose Bautista. Everyone is looking for the next breakout star in baseball. Those guys are few and far in between.
However, those guys are out there and we are here to help find them for your fantasy team in 2011. Here are the top-10 breakout candidates for 2011 courtesy of The Ghost of Moonlight Graham.
Players are ranked in no particular order.
Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays
In his first year in Toronto, Morrow increased his K’s/9 from 8.1 to 10.9 and lowered his BB/9 from 5.7 to 4.1 in 146.1. While Morrow does still struggle with his control from time to time, but really turned things on in the second half last season (3.69 ERA and 13 K’s/9) and I can’t get his August 8th start out of my head when he struck out 17 and only gave up one hit against the Tampa Bay Rays.
I say Morrow puts it all together in 2011.
Chris Johnson, Houston Astros
Because the Astros were irrelevant in 2010, I think few people realized that Johnson had one of the best second halves of any rookie in baseball. Johnson hit .316/.348/.510 with 11 HR’s in the second half of last season.
Put those numbers over an 162 game schedule and Johnson is putting up an 18 HR and 90 RBI season. Johnson is turning the magical age of 27 in 2011 and is primed for a breakout year in Houston.
Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins
Perhaps the biggest no-brainer on this list. Stanton hit 22 HR’s in just 100 games with the Marlins in 2010. Stanton has “light tower power” and his talent is limitless.
He will be the Marlins’ starting right-fielder on Opening Day and 35-40 HR’s and 10-15 SB’s is not out of the question with is this stud.
Travis Snider, Toronto Blue Jays
The second Blue Jay on this list, Snider will get every chance in 2011 to be the man in right field for Toronto. Snider hit 14 HR’s in 82 games and saw his K Percentage decrease from 32.4 percent to 26.4 percent, OPS increase by 19 points and even stole six bases.
Is a .270 average with 25 HR’s and 10 SB’s out of the question for Snider? I don’t think so. And those numbers as pedestrian as they look, would make Snider a top-20 OF in fantasy baseball.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
Before his injury, Santana was hitting .260/.401/.467 with six HR’s in 192 plate appearances. If you translate those numbers over 162 game season, Santana would have put up the same slash line, but with 22 HR’s 130 BB’s, and 11 SB’s. For a 24-year-old catcher, that is simply amazing.
If healthy, Santana will be a top-five fantasy catcher.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
After looking like his career was at a crossroads at the beginning of 2010, Scherzer came on really strong in the second half. He had a 2.47 ERA and was pitching like a man possessed. I think he can carry that second half over to 2011 for a full year.
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
In 18 starts as a rookie, Bumgarner went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA and struck out 86 in 110 innings. He is a four-pitch pitcher, who at the age of 21 already has tremendous poise and command on the mound.
The only thing that I can see holding Bumgarner back from being a complete breakout fantasy star is not getting enough wins. Giant pitchers have a tendency to leave games either down 2-1 or tied 2-2. Other than that, look for Bumgarner to take the next step in 2011.
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
I wrote about Kimbrel the other day in my “Top-Five Fantasy Winners From This Offseason” post, so everyone knows my mancrush on him already.
Kimbrel had a 0.44 ERA and 40 K’s in just 20.2 IP in 2010. Now that he will be with the Braves for a full year and will have saves added to the mix, Kimbrel could be a top-10 fantasy closer. Remember, Wagner was a top-10 closer last year in most fantasy formats and the Braves should be just as good in 2011 as they were last year.
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
It seems like we have been talking about Bailey for 10 years now, but the kid is still only 24 years old. Sometimes when a player gets rushed to the majors and is clearly not ready for that, it takes them a little longer to develop. That’s what happened to Bailey.
But in the second half of last year, Bailey seemed to figure things out. He had a 3.55 ERA and struck out 59 in 58.1 IP. Pitching on a good Reds team and in the NL Central, I will go on record and say Bailey wins between 15-20 games and has an ERA around 3.75 in 2011.
Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles
Matusz was much, much better than his 10-12 record and 4.30 record indicates. Most of the damage done against Matusz was done in the first half of the season when the Orioles were god awful.
However, when you take a look at his second half numbers, you realize Matusz is the real deal. He was 7-3 with a 3.63 ERA and averaged 7.9 K’s/9 in 14 second half starts.
Matusz should also be the benefactor of an improved Orioles defense with the additions of Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy and Derrek Lee in the infield and overall an improved Orioles team.
Others who just missed the cut: Bud Norris Logan Morrison, Daniel Hudson, Jeremy Hellickson
You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg