Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2013: Young Studs Poised for Breakout Seasons

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 1: Brett Lawrie #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays slides across home plate in the seventh inning to score a run during MLB game action against the Minnesota Twins on October 1, 2012 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

While there are still a few weeks before the official start of spring, Major League Baseball is getting ready to step back into the spotlight soon. That means it is time to start figuring out what to do with your fantasy draft. 

Coming off one of the best rookie classes we will ever see in 2012, there is going to be tremendous pressure on a lot of young players this season. While no one is going to turn into Mike Trout, there are a number of talented young studs who seem ready to breakout. 

We don't want to limit ourselves to just rookies, though. These are players under the age of 25 who have spent time trying to adjust to the big leagues and appear ready to take the next step in their development. 

Here are the top young stars to bet on in fantasy baseball this season. 


Toronto Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie

Following an impressive, albeit brief, debut in 2011, expectations were sky high (probably too high, if you are honest with yourself) for Lawrie in 2012. He failed to live up to them, hitting just .273/.324/.405 with 11 home runs, 48 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 125 games. 

Since we need instant results and overreact when a player starts hot or slow, no one is even aware that Lawrie is still playing anymore. It also doesn't help Lawrie's fame that the Blue Jays have been spending money and adding players like they are the New York Yankees. 

But don't be so quick to sell Lawrie under the bus. He is still an immensely talented player who battled youth and an oblique injury last season. He can be his own worst enemy at times, though; because he is such an emotional player, he lets little things get to him. 

Oh by the way, Lawrie just turned 23 years old. He has plenty of big years ahead of him. He has the power and speed to be a 20-20 player this season. Given the depth of the lineup in Toronto, he could approach 100 runs scored and 70-75 RBI. 


Kansas City Royals 1B Eric Hosmer

As high as the expectations were for Lawrie last season, Hosmer was the most talked-about young player in the American League on Opening Day 2012. He was going to be the face of the Royals, an MVP candidate, and lead the turnaround for this franchise. 

While Hosmer certainly has the talent to do that, things never came together for him last season. He hit just .232/.304/.359 with 14 home runs, 60 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 152 games. For perspective, he hit 19 home runs in just 128 games as a rookie in 2011. 

A big part of the problem for Hosmer was that his swing was out of whack. He was never able to fix it during the season, but the Royals might have found a solution by hiring a new hitting coach to show him what he was doing wrong last season. 

At just 24 years old, there is still time for Hosmer to figure things out and become the superstar he appeared destined to be heading into the 2012 season. There was nothing in his peripheral stats to suggest that his performance won't improve.

Hosmer just has to make a few adjustments to start hitting the ball in the air more, as his flyball percentage dropped from 31.7 in 2011 to 27.9.


Kansas City Royals RP Greg Holland

When the Kansas City Royals lost Joakim Soria to Tommy John surgery last March, the team gave Jonathan Broxton the first chance to close because he was the "proven" guy in that role. 

However, anyone watching the Royals knew that their ace reliever was Greg Holland. After Broxton was traded to Cincinnati at the trade deadline, Holland finally took over as the closer and turned in a great season. He finished with 16 saves, an ERA of 2.96 and 91 strikeouts in 67 innings. 

While some would argue Holland already had his breakout season, I think this is the year that fantasy owners truly recognize how good he has been now that they can reap the rewards of him saving games for what should be an improved Kansas City team. 

One thing that would concern me a little bit is Holland has an extreme flyball rate (56.6 percent in his career), but it helps that he plays his home games in a pitchers' park, so a lot of those flyballs are likely to turn into outs. 

Saves are always in demand for fantasy owners, and Holland is a great, underrated option you can get well after the elite closers, like Craig Kimbrel and Mariano Rivera, have come off the board.