Predicting breakout seasons is the holy grail for front office executives and fantasy baseball players, one of baseball’s most profitable prognostication challenges. The 2018 season will have its own Justin Smoak and Yonder Alonso, players that significantly improved their outlooks for at least a time, but identifying those players is trickier.
ZiPS can spit out a projection that tells me that Corey Seager has a 4.2 percent projected shot at hitting 40 homers, the best percentage for any player who hit fewer than 25 in 2017, but it can’t tell me whether or not 2018 will be one of the 95.8 percent of years in which he falls short of that total. Projection systems, including ZiPS, see things in millions of seasons, but we only get exactly one 2018. But being hard isn’t an excuse, so let me run down some of the breakout candidates with the most interesting upside in the season to come.