MLB Players Ready to Break Out in the 2021 Season
Randy Arozarena burst onto the scene in early September and never looked back. In the span of two months, the 25-year-old Cuban went from a virtually unknown commodity to setting the record for the most hits and home runs during a single postseason.
It’s safe to say the Rays outfielder enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2020.
Looking ahead toward 2021, who are the next breakout players in the MLB?
There may not be another Randy Arozarena lurking, but I’ll point out six unheralded players poised to make a difference. Consider these guys as sincere fantasy baseball sleepers when your draft rolls around.
Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals
- DOB: 10/23/98
- Position: LF
Don’t be too concerned with Dylan Carlson’s first stint with the Cardinals – that was a small sample size and he was just getting his feet wet. Focus on his numbers across AA and AAA in 2019 where he batted .292 with 26 homers and 28 doubles (126 games).
Once the Redbirds recalled their young left fielder on September 18th, Carlson delivered 11 RBI during the last 11 games while hitting .286. Mike Schildt saw enough to insert Dylan into the cleanup slot in the playoffs – a decision that paid off. The switch-hitting southpaw looked sharp (.333, 4 BBs, 3 Ks) despite losing the Padres in three games.
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels
- DOB: 7/30/93
- Position: 1B
Those who tuned the Angels out in September may be unaware, but LA has a legit first baseman in town. And it’s not Albert Pujols.
Jared Walsh settled into a serious groove once he earned a full-time spot in Joe Maddon’s lineup during the final month of the year. The left-handed power hitter hit .337 with nine jacks and 26 RBI in just 86 at-bats. That includes an OPS of 1.113 – a number that was only bettered last year by the Nationals Juan Soto.
Sure, lots of guys can get hot in any given month, but there’s substantial evidence pointing toward Walsh being able to sustain an extremely high level of play. This dude was a total masher for the Angels AAA-affiliate in 2019. Across 98 games in the PCL, Jared hit .325 and launched 36 homers en route to posting a 1.109 OPS.
Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles
- DOB: 2/18/97
- Position: 1B/LF
Between left field, first base, and designated hitter, Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde is going to find ways to incorporate Ryan Mountcastle into his everyday lineup. The 23-year-old wasn’t introduced to the Majors until late August of last season, but every indication is that he’s here to stay.
In 35 games at the big league level, Mountcastle registered an impressive .333 BA and drove in 23 runs. And while the 5 homers may not jump out, 42 hits and a .386 OBP most definitely do.
The former first-round pick in 2015 demonstrated that his lofty AAA numbers in 2019 (.312, 25 HR, 83 RBI 35 doubles) were anything but a fluke.
Tejay Antone, Cincinnati Reds
- DOB: 12/5/93
- Position: P
With Trevor Bauer likely on his way out as one of the top free agents in baseball, most are looking toward Tyler Mahle filling the void behind Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. I’m looking at Tejay Antone.
It’s quite clear that Tejay Antone proved his worth in the minors, and this dude was nothing short of spectacular in 2020 with the Reds.
Working as both a starter and a reliever, Antone K’d 45 batters in 35.1 innings and posted a 2.80 ERA. His .169 xBA (expected batting average) ranked in the top 3% of the league. Tejay may begin the year in David Bell’s bullpen, but I suspect he’ll be elevated to the starting staff sooner rather than later.
Bobby Dalbec, Boston Red Sox
- DOB: 6/29/95
- Position: 1B/3B
Everything about this kid screams at being one of MLB’s breakout players in 2021. Bobby Dalbec joined the Red Sox on August 30th and homered in his second big league at-bat, and he turned into a mainstay in Boston’s lineup from there on out.
Don’t expect the 6’4” corner infielder to hit .300+ or steal a bunch of bases, but you can count on him sending lots of balls over the Green Monster at Fenway Park. Dalbec carried his power surge from the minors (32 homers in 2018 and 27 in 2019) straight into Beantown tallying eight homers despite only logging 80 official at-bats.
Don’t be surprised if Alex Cora moves Rafael Devers across the diamond to clear the way for Dalbec to take over at the hot corner.
Ty France, Seattle Mariners
- DOB: 7/13/94
- Position: 2B/3B
A midseason trade from San Diego to Seattle opens the door for everyday playing time for Ty France in 2021. Adding to the intrigue surrounding France as one of the top sleepers in fantasy baseball is the fact that he can play multiple infield positions.
The SDSU product slashed .305/.368/.468 in 155 plate appearances between his time with the Padres and Mariners, and check out his video-game-like numbers from AAA in 2019.
Ty France – 2019 AAA Batting Statistics
As Seattle looks to build on their third-place finish in the AL West, look for Ty France to be an integral part of the squad.