While we still have most of the 2023 MLB regular season ahead of us, it’s not too early to start highlighting players who have broken out to become fantasy superstars over the first two months. Here’s a look at five players that’ve stood out, starting with a young power hitter from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cardinals 2B/DH Nolan Gorman only hit .226 with 14 home runs across 89 games last season, a bit of a disappointment given his tools and production in the Minors. Gorman’s second season, though, has gone much better. In his first 44 games of the 2023 campaign, Gorman blasted 13 homes and 39 runs batted in, the latter of which is tied for fifth in the Majors and tied for first among second basemen.
The 23-year-old adjusted nicely to fastballs this season. Gorman hit just .194 off the heat in 2022, but that his average against fastballs jumped up to .317 over the first two months of the 2023 campaign.
Rangers 3B Josh Jung was one of our fantasy rookie hitters to watch in 2023, thanks to prodigious power at the plate. Thus far, Jung’s proven to be one of the best third baseman in the league. Through his first 45 games, Jung hit .268 with 11 home runs and 33 runs driven in, as well as 33 runs scored. Jung’s 11 bombs is first among all rookies and in the top five in the league among third basemen.
The 25-year-old will strike out a lot and is prone to chasing at time, but he’s shown improved vision at the plate — at least compared to his initial go-around in the Majors, when he hit just .204 across a small sample size of 102 plate appearances. Jung’s fit in quite nicely in a stacked Rangers lineup that includes Adolis Garcia and Marcus Semien.
Mariners OF Jarred Kelenic did not do well in his first two seasons in the Majors. The 23-year-old hit just .168 over 558 plate appearances between 2021-22, yet still showed flashes of brilliance in the Minors in both those campaigns. Fast forward to 2023, and Kelenic has looked like the star outfielder the M’s hoped he would become when he was acquired in the Edwin Diaz/Robinson Cano trade. Kelenic hit .296 through his first 46 games of the 2023 campaign, and ranked among the league’s best outfielders in both home runs (10) and stolen bases (13).
Even when Kelenic struggled to put ball in play in 2021 and 2022, Kelenic — if one were to combine his numbers from both seasons into one campaign — managed to belt 21 home runs. The power’s been there, and a refined approach (look down below to see how his swing has changed between ’22 and ’23) has unlocked a new gear.
Last season, Rangers 1B Nathaniel Lowe cemented himself as a top-tier option at first base when he batted .302 with 27 home runs. This year, his younger brother Josh Lowe — a former 2016 first-round pick and part of the same draft that netted Tampa Nathaniel — has broken out himself. In his second season in the Majors, Josh owned a .307 batting average with 11 home runs and 34 runs batted in.
Lowe’s greatly benefited players who scooped him up early, as he’s put up top-15 outfielder production in fantasy this season. While it’s likely he won’t touch the 35 home run pace he’s on, he does serve as a valuable hitter who should remain a strong option so long as he continues to make consistent contact.
No player in baseball might be more of a bigger surprise in 2023 than A’s outfielder Brent Rooker. The 28-year-old struggled to find footing over the course of his first three seasons in the Majors, but beat out Cristian Pache and JJ Bleday for a spot in the Oakland outfield this spring. Since then, Rooker hit .270 with 11 bombs and driven in 32 for an A’s team that’s largely depended on the 28-year-old for offensive production.
The former Mississippi State star was one of the most prolific power hitters in college baseball in 2017, and showed glimpses of the kind of hitter he could be in the Majors someday. It took a while, but Rooker — player largely available in fantasy league for much of the first month — has turned into a breakout sensation.