MLB: Boston Red Sox at San Francisco Giants
D. Ross Cameron / USA TODAY Sports

My Breakouts 1.0 column came out in mid-January, and not much has changed since then. I mean, most players have only logged about a half-dozen appearances in spring action, so how much could anything have changed in that time?

Which is to say, as I update my Breakouts list and refine my picks for the 2024 season, I still mostly stand by that initial list of 12. There are a few players I've cooled on a bit, but there's definitely nobody I've gone from targeting to fading in the seven weeks since that first list was published. So, while I may not be pounding the table for Vinnie Pasquantino, Zack Gelof, or Orion Kerkering the same way I was previously, I still like each of them quite a bit.

But, as I'm really getting into my 2024 drafts, I haven't found myself drafting those players as often as I expected. So, for Breakouts 2.0, I'm culling them from the list. Among the 12 players featured in Breakouts 1.0, here are some quick thoughts on the eight who made the cut for 2.0 before we get to the new names: 

Returning from Breakouts 1.0 

  • Bo Naylor, C, Guardians – Naylor brings a unique skill set to the table as a catcher, and a best-case scenario might see him following in J.T. Realmuto's footsteps as the next five-category star at the position. 
  • Royce Lewis, 3B, Twins – Given all that Lewis has had to overcome, it's hard to overstate how impressive it is that he's hit .307/.364/.549 in the majors. There are MVP-level outcomes in his profile. 
  • Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates – As I wrote in Monday's newsletter, there are first-round outcomes in play for Cruz, who could legitimately play like a super-sized Francisco Lindor
  • Riley Greene, OF, Tigers – Staying on the field has been the primary challenge for Greene, but he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in his non-throwing hand and took a big step forward as a hitter last season. There's "Nick Castellanos with a better average and a dozen steals" upside here, which might be a top-25 player. 
  • Tarik Skubal, SP, Tigers – Pitchers are funny. Two years ago, Skubal looked destined to be a No. 4 or 5 SP. Then he had flexor tendon surgery, came back throwing nearly 2 mph harder last season and looked like the best pitcher in baseball – and that's not an exaggeration, as only elite closer Felix Bautista had a lower expected ERA than Skubal among pitchers who faced at least 200 batters in 2023. Oh, and now this spring, he's throwing even harder, averaging 97.4 mph with his fastball. What if he's just the best pitcher in baseball?
  • Yoshinobu Yamamoto, SP, Dodgers – What if Yamamoto is the best pitcher in baseball? I wrote about both him and Skubal as first-round candidates in 2025
  • Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Orioles – Rodriguez scuffled at the start of last season, but he simplified his arsenal after a trip to the minors and came back to post a 2.58 ERA over his final 13 starts. Among the second-year starter class, Rodriguez has the fewer innings concerns after throwing 163.1 last season, so the path to a top-12 SP finish might just be as simple as, "Repeat what already worked."
  • Eury Perez, SP, Marlins – Perez isn't a finished product yet. He's tweaking his curveball in the spring, and his command of his fastball and changeup left something to be desired last year. Also, he had a 3.15 ERA over 91.1 innings last season and he won't turn 21 until a few weeks into this season. You want to bet on this profile. 

And with that, here are the nine new names for Breakouts 2.0: 

New names for Breakouts 2.0

Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox 

This is another one where the breakout case might just be as simple as, "Just do what you did in the second half again." Casas hit .305/.406/.590 from July 1 on, with a 40-homer pace, and while the Red Sox did protect him from some of the tougher lefties on the schedule, I'm not sure they really needed to: In 97 PA against them, he had a .340 expected wOBA, and that'll play. He sported terrific quality of contact metrics even before the breakout, which is what made it easy to buy into his second-half success. There's going to be some swing-and-miss in Casas' game, but Fenway Park should help make up for some of what he loses on the batting average side of things. Could Cases hit .300 with 40 homers? It's a lot easier to buy the possibility when he spent half of his rookie season doing exactly that. 

Nolan Gorman, 2B, Cardinals

Gorman had an up-and-down 2023, but on the whole, I think we got a lot more good than bad from him. Take his work against southpaws. There are still some questions about how he'll handle lefties, but what we saw in 2023 was incredibly promising, as he hit .260/.361/.480 against them, with underlying numbers to back it up. His quality of contact metrics were terrific, and backed up the idea that Gorman could be a 35-homer hitter in an everyday role. He's likely always going to be a batting average liability, but if Gorman plays everyday, he's going to hit 35 homers and might get to 40 with a swing so tuned for maximizing power. 

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates

Hayes is a player I've always wanted to bet on, because there's long been such a solid skill base here. He's always had good plate discipline with plenty of raw power even when it didn't show up in the surface level numbers, and the fact that he's been one of the best defensive players in the game was a sign to me that he's the kind of player who puts in the work to maximize his physical tools. He started doing that on the hitting side over the final few months of 2023, as he added a toe tap to his swing setup and started hitting the ball in the air and to the pull side more frequently, something he needs to do to maximize his plus raw pop. Hayes hit 10 of his 15 homers from August 1 on, with a .299/.335/.539 triple-slash line. He's off to a hot start this spring with two homers in his first five games, a sign that he might be carrying over what he learned. A 25-homer, 10-steal season is within Hayes' grasp. 

Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox

With Duran recovering from toe surgery and the Red Sox looking at a looming crunch in the outfield, there's some concern about his playing time this spring, but I think that's pretty much all in his hands. He started to top into his dormant raw power in 2023 while wreaking havoc on the base paths, and I genuinely think there's a ceiling outcome here where Duran hits 20 homers and steals 40 bases. Is it the likeliest scenario? Certainly not, both because Fenway will hold his power upside back and because those playing time question marks aren't going away. However, Duran is being talked about as the team's leadoff hitter this spring, and he did steal 12 bases in 36 games out of that spot in 2023. This could be a better than expected Red Sox lineup, and if Duran can stay healthy at the top of it, the ceiling is huge. I didn't include him in my "Potential 2025 first-rounders" column Monday, but maybe I should have. 

Henry Davis, OF, Pirates

Honestly, I'm putting Davis here because I forgot to include him in sleepers last week, and that was a huge oversight. Davis is a key part of my plans in basically every two-catcher league, including my Tout Wars team that I drafted last week, though as you might be aware, he's not actually catcher eligible to open this season. That's expected to change fairly early on this season, and the 24-year-old former No. 1 overall pick brings an uncommon skill set to the position, led by plus-plus raw power and double-digit steal potential. He scuffled in the majors while learning a new position on the fly, but his minor-league numbers speak to his considerable upside: In 122 games, mostly at Double-A, Davis is a career .286/.415/.532 hitter with 25 homers and 20 steals. The hope here is he splits playing time behind the plate with Yasmani Grandal, while also seeing the occasional start once or twice a week in the outfield and at DH. Davis has been on fire to open the spring, with three homers in his first six games, and he absolutely has top-10 potential at catcher as soon as he's eligible. And he might be good enough to be worth using in the outfield even if he doesn't. 

Bobby Miller, SP, Dodgers

The other big-time second-year starter, Miller was a glaring omission for me alongside Perez and Rodriguez in Breakouts 1.0, and I'm here to make amends. Because there's a chance Miller is even better than either Perez or Rodriguez. He doesn't have the security of Rodriguez, nor Perez's extreme precociousness, but he's got plenty going for him in his own right, including a legitimate five-pitch mix where every pitch might be a plus one. Miller's strikeout rate in the majors was strangely muted (23.6%) despite how impressive his stuff looked, but with a 29.9% mark in his minor-league history, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a big step forward there. He might not get much more than 175 innings after getting to 138.2 last season, but even that's less of a concern these days than it once was. Miller could be the best pitcher on a staff with multiple Cy Young contenders. 

Cole Ragans, SP, Royals

Ragans just keeps adding velocity to his fastball. In 2022, he averaged 92.1 mph with it; last April, he was averaging 95.8 mph out of the Rangers bullpen, and then he was up to 97.0 mph by the time September rolled around as a starter for the Royals. He's already hitting 101 mph early in spring. Ragans pitched like an ace in Kansas City's rotation, with a 2.70 ERA and 2.43 FIP over 11 starts, and it doesn't look like he lost any of the stuff that made him so dominant. There are some command concerns here, as well as some injury/workload questions, but he might be dominant enough to overcome both. He needs to be drafted as a top-24 starter at this point, and even that isn't his ceiling. 

Chris Sale, SP, Braves

Since coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2021, Sale has made 31 starts with a 3.93 ERA, 1.185 WHIP, and 182 strikeouts in 151 innings of work. He's done that despite, you know, coming back from Tommy John surgery, while also dealing with a number of other maladies. It's probably not reasonable to expect the now 35-year-old to be healthier moving forward than he has been, but he is at least currently healthy; he dealt with a fractured rib cage during the spring of 2022 and then was recovering from a fractured wrist last spring. His velocity is up a couple of ticks between this spring and last, and he's struck out nine batters in 4.2 innings through his first two spring outings. None of this guarantees that Sale will remain healthy, let alone effective, in 2024. But the vibes here are better than they've been in literally years, and with the Braves offense backing him up, a return to Fantasy prominence seems pretty reasonable to expect. 

Mason Miller, RP, Athletics

The Athletics have already said they don't view Miller as their immediate closer, preferring instead to test him out in high-leverage situations before handing him the role in his first season pitching out of the bullpen. But make no mistake about it: If Miller stays healthy, he's going to be the closer for the A's, and the only question is when it'll happen. Miller, who averaged 98.3 mph with his fastball last season while working primarily as a starter, was above 101 mph nine times in his spring debut last week, maxing out at 103 mph. Miller has 107 strikeouts in 72.2 innings of work between the majors and minors, and I genuinely think he could be one of the most dominant relievers in baseball … if he can stay healthy. His primary competition for the A's closer role is Lucas Erceg (4.75 ERA in the majors last season; 5.07 career ERA in the minors) and Dany Jimenez (3.51 MLB ERA, but with 5.3 BB/9 in 59 innings of work), which is to say, the only hurdles in Miller's way are the checkmarks the A's want to see him cross off. That might not happen until June; it might happen in March. Even pitching for a bad team, I think there's a path to Miller being a legitimately elite Fantasy closer this season.