MLB Breakout Players

2023 MLB Breakout Candidates: Alvarez Ready To Rake

Pitchers and catchers have reported and baseball season is just around the corner.

We could talk about Cy Young candidates or World Series sleepers, but let’s get a little more in the weeds to kick off spring training.

Every season a few young names break out in a big way. Last year, it was Luis Arraez, Andres Gimenez and Jeremy Pena, and this year more names will surely join the list. You can’t predict every breakout — that’s kind of the point — but these three guys certainly have indications they have what it takes to burst onto the MLB scene in 2023:

Francisco Alvarez (C, Mets)

Alvarez had only the smallest cup of coffee at the end of the 2022 season, but he absolutely raked in his brief MLB taste. If you slide your filters down to just five batted balls, nobody had a higher barrel rate than Alvarez last season (not even Aaron Judge).

Sure, it’s a small sample size, but that MLB success built on his minors mashing. Across New York’s upper minors last year, Alvarez hit .260, with a great walk rate, and 27 homers in 112 games. His overall minors career numbers are even better.

The Mets brought in Omar Narvaez and have veteran Tomas Nido to compete for spots behind the plate, but Alvarez’s bat is certainly big-league ready. If he can gain the MLB team’s trust as a receiver, Alvarez has a chance to be the regular catcher for a team with World Series aspirations. If he gets that shot, don’t be surprised if he’s quickly in the discussion as one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball.

Isaac Paredes (INF, Rays)

Paredes already kind of broke out last year. After the Rays acquired him from the Tigers, the young infielder posted a .740 OPS that ranked 14 percent better than average and hit 20 homers with Tampa in 2022. But he could take another step this year.

While Paredes’ quality of contact wasn’t great last year, he has basically every other tool. He hit 20 home runs in just 331 at-bats and ranked within MLB’s top 15 percent in chase rate, walk rate and defensive outs above average. With a walk-to-strikeout ratio better than Aaron Judge and Brandon Nimmo, he’s got one of the best approaches in baseball. Pair that approach with towering power, and Paredes is consistent contact away from being a five-tool guy.

Despite the solid season overall, his .195 batting average on balls in play indicates he was pretty unlucky at times. Sure, some of that low BABIP is his extreme fly-ball tendency, but if Paredes can push his batting average up from .200 to even .230, he’ll be a potential all-star.

Hunter Greene (SP, Reds)

You probably saw Greene lighting up radar guns last year with his 102 MPH heater. But what you might not have seen was the homer issues and inconsistency that prevented him from truly breaking out as a rookie. 

In 24 starts, Greene earned a 4.44 ERA that grades out almost exactly league average. While his FIP indicates it was an appropriate ERA and there wasn’t too much bad luck involved, there are reasons to believe he’ll be better in 2023. First off, I’ll bet on 100 MPH any day, especially when Greene pairs it with a high-whiff slider.

As well, a dive deeper into Greene’s advanced numbers show signs for positive progression. The Reds righty posted a strikeout rate minus walk rate that was better than Yu Darvish, Nestor Cortes and Shane Bieber’s — who all received Cy Young votes last year. What hurt his ERA and FIP was a high homer rate.

But, that number was inflated by a home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB) 4.2 percent above average. If that inches closer to the expected average, Greene’s got the chances to be a 250-strikeout pitcher with a mid-threes ERA — the type of guy who earns Cy votes and is a top choice in your fantasy baseball leagues.