2017 MLB Preview: Top-5 Breakout Pitchers

THE BREAKDOWN PITCHER STATS


Every season a handful of little-known pitchers will come out of nowhere and end the season in the Cy Young conversation. Here are five pitchers that are poised to have breakout seasons on the mound in 2017.

Aaron Nola

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Philadelphia Phillies

Numbers don’t lie, especially not in fantasy sports. Sometimes you just need to dig a little deeper. Nola’s 4.78 ERA and 6-9 record in 2016 was nothing special overall, but he might have already broken out and we didn’t even see it.

Nola started 12 games at the beginning of the season prior to injuring his elbow. In those 12 starts, he posted a 2.65 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 15 BB and 85 strikeouts in 78 innings pitched (per CBS Sports). Post injury, Nola started eight more games and was only able to go 33 innings and produced a 9.82 ERA, 2.06 WHIP, 14 BB and 36 strikeouts.

If Nola is anything close to the pitcher we saw in his first 12 starts of 2016, and is able to stay healthy this time around, he could be a stud in 2017.


Daniel Norris

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Detroit Tigers

Norris was the major piece in the 2015 mid-season trade of David Price from the Tigers to the Blue Jays. Clearly he’s been considered a valuable prospect for a while now, but this could be the season he finally turns into a major part of Detroit’s rotation.

In a limited showing with the Tigers last season, Norris struck out more than a batter an inning with a solid 3.38 ERA and 4-2 record. There’s some growing hype out there that this could be the year that Norris puts it all together for a full season. He and Nola are both just 23 years old.


Carlos Rodon

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Chicago White Sox

Rodon was a staple in Chicago’s rotation last season, pitching 165 innings over 28 starts. On the plus side, he certainly showed durability as just a 23-year old. The downside was that Rodon wasn’t as good as expected, finishing below .500 with an ERA north of 4.00.

Surprisingly, Rodon was a little bit better in 2015 as a rookie, accumulating a 3.75 ERA and a winning record in 23 starts. He managed to punch out a batter per inning, which actually did carry over (and slightly improve) in 2016. With Chris Sale out of the picture, the White Sox rotation is now in the hands of Rodon. They trust this kid, and many believe he’s ready to take the giant leap towards becoming an ace this season.


James Paxton

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Seattle Mariners

If you’ve been doing your research this season, you probably haven’t come across a “breakout pitchers” list that doesn’t feature Paxton ahead of the 2017 season. At 28 years old, he’s by far the oldest guy on my breakout list, but he’s a unique case.

Paxton’s numbers were less than stellar in 2016 — 3.79 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings and a 6-7 record. That said, what you read about Paxton’s mechanics make him an intriguing breakout candidate. He added two miles per hour to his fastball last season, which by all accounts is his best pitch. Entering this season, Paxton has been working hard on his curveball and off-speed pitches in order to keep batters on their toes more. Albeit against minor league competition, Paxton recently threw 80 pitches with a focus on working in more off-speed pitches than usual, and he wound up striking out eight in just 4.2 innings. Paxton has a chance to put up significantly improved numbers in 2017.


Noah Syndergaard

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New York Mets

Ever heard of this guy? Amazingly “Thor” is still just 24 years old, and already considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. In 2016, Syndergaard started 30 games and pitched 183.2 innings, striking out 218 hitters and posting a 2.60 ERA. So how could he possibly break out this season?

Syndergaard has a whole different level he can take things to. He went just 14-9 last season, which keeps him out of the elite class reserved for only the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner. This is the season “Thor” becomes the third member of that group.

If he’s able to reach this level, what it really means is expecting more dominating individual performances … or a higher fantasy ceiling on any given day. Kershaw (who missed nearly a third of the regular season) pitched three complete game shutouts last season, which Syndergaard failed to do once. This is his year to put up some whopping fantasy outings.

Hit me up on Twitter with comments or questions: @julianedlow.

 


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