2024 MLB breakouts: Who will make a fantasy baseball splash this season?

You predict the right breakout, well, you’ll likely find fantasy baseball success. In the spirit of wish casting, the Yahoo Fantasy and MLB crews reveal their top breakout candidates for the 2024 season.

Don’t overlook Cardinals’ young slugger

A year ago, we were talking about Jordan Walker as one of baseball’s top prospects and a potential NL Rookie of the Year candidate. While his poor defense and inconsistent first half kept him firmly out of award discussions, it’d also feel like a stretch to call his rookie year some kind of dramatic disappointment considering he was still a comfortably above-league-average hitter (116 wRC+) as a 21-year-old.

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Now, entering his sophomore season with seemingly a fraction of the hype, Walker is still younger than some of the hitting prospects that currently reside near the top of this year’s top-100 lists like Wyatt Langford, Dylan Crews and Colson Montgomery. I was both encouraged and impressed by the degree to which Walker was able to elevate the ball more as the season went on, directly addressing a primary concern entering his rookie year about his plus raw power being dampened by too many ground balls. I’d love a few more walks and some more success against left-handers mixed in but on the whole, Walker’s raw ability just seems too loud to overlook too casually at this stage in his young career.

It may be a few more years before he’s a fully actualized superstar, but I could see the makings of a more substantial breakout as soon as 2024. Jordan Shusterman

Former Dodgers’ top prospect set to shine with Chicago

Michael Busch was as thoroughly blocked in Los Angeles as a prospect can be, given the number of all-star and Hall of Fame-level players presently on the Dodgers roster. But there was also no question that Busch had proven everything he possibly could in the high minors; he was a near-perfect hitter at Triple-A last season, slashing .323/.431/.618 with 27 homers and 57 XBH over 98 games. He needed to be relocated in the worst way.

Thankfully, the Cubs came along to break up another team’s roster logjam. After being flipped to Chicago back in January, Busch now has a clear path to regular at-bats at first base and DH. He’s been raking in spring training, per his usual (.273/.360/.636, 2 HR), not that there was much doubt about his early-season playing time. Busch now finds himself in a favorable situation in which he should feast on right-handed pitching while fielding a position he can handle. He’s a great bet to hit for average with run production and 25-or-so homers. — Andy Behrens

The Giants’ No. 2 starter looks like a steal

Kyle Harrison still needs to improve his control, but the best lefty pitching prospect in baseball is poised to break out in 2024. He posted a 35.6 K% in Triple-A last year and will benefit from pitching in a park that dramatically decreases home runs. Harrison oddly struggled mightily against left-handed batters (.333 BAA) once reaching the majors after not surrendering a single home run to a lefty in Triple-A (.171 BAA) all season.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

He posted a 0.87 WHIP with a 25.7 K-BB% against right-handed batters during his brief work in San Francisco, so while both splits figure to regress, one could view them as quite encouraging. Harrison is already the Giants’ No. 2 starter, so expectations are high. He’s been a steal in fantasy drafts. — Dalton Del Don

Former top pitching prospect should put it all together

MacKenzie Gore has perhaps the most important building block in pitching: a special fastball. The lefty’s heater averaged 95 mph last year, has elite extension and stays on plane. It’s the type of offering that should dominate, but the lack of fastball command and a shallow arsenal meant Gore was merely solid rather than outright fantastic. But the 25 year old still has all the traits that made him one of the game’s top pitching prospects not too long ago. And even though the Nats have a bad reputation for developing pitchers, Gore is considered an analytically inclined guy who spent significant time in a pitching lab during the winter.

There aren’t many left-handed starters who throw this hard and I’m betting on Gore to figure out the rest of the puzzle. Jake Mintz

Health the only obstacle in the way of a monster season for this third baseman

Royce Lewis has been through a lot in a short time in the big leagues. The former No. 1 pick from the 2017 MLB Draft has suffered not one, but two torn ACLs and has had to claw his way back to form. But if 2023 was any indication, Lewis is due for a monster ’24 season.

The Twins’ third baseman carried a .309/.372/.548 slashline with 15 homers in just 58 games last season and showed the makings of a player who is beginning to tap into his true potential. Every projection with Lewis is always contingent on health, but if he can stay healthy, even in a lineup with Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, Lewis could be the one who carries Minnesota to new heights. Russell Dorsey

Enjoy the draft discount on this burgeoning star outfielder

Perhaps it’s a mild cheat to include Riley Greene on a breakout list, because he was on his way to breaking out last year. Two injuries held him to a partial season — a stress fracture in his fibula and a late-season elbow injury that required September surgery (he’s fine now, looks good this spring). Last year’s .288/.349/.447 slash has him looking like a future star, and we’re also chasing pedigree here — Greene was the fifth overall pick in his draft class. If Greene plays a full season, 20-plus homers and double-digit steals are likely in his age-23 season.

There’s plenty of red-shaded juice on Greene’s Baseball Savant page — he hits the ball hard and earns the positive rate stats on the back of his card. Detroit’s poised to make a run at the weakened AL Central, and Greene will probably bat second in a respectable lineup. Enjoy the OF 36/151 ADP Greene currently carries in Yahoo; I promise you the price will go up significantly next spring. — Scott Pianowski

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