- Dan Szymborski, ESPN Insider
These projections also appear in the March 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Computerized projections have come a long way in the last 15 years. With the constant march forward of technology, the models for projecting players are able to do a lot more than they could in the early days of sabermetrics.
While basic midpoint projections are very useful when applied correctly, fantasy players need more than that. After all, competing in your fantasy league isn't just an exercise in overall accuracy of evaluating players, but taking better calculated risks than the other guys.
To get an idea of the fantasy players with the biggest short-term upsides in 2012, we asked the ZiPS projection system to evaluate which players in each 5x5 fantasy category have the best odds of beating their established levels of play by a certain amount. (For players who spent time in the minors, we used minor league translations.)
For example, ZiPS says Evan Longoria has a 43 percent chance of beating his two-year home run average (27) by at least 10 jacks.
For breakout pitchers, click here.
Despite already being one of the best players in baseball, ZiPS sees Longoria as having a big homer season or two in him. Still not 27 years old until after the 2012 season, Longoria still has the opportunity to develop more power, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.
Given Brett Lawrie's age, the odds that his 2011 power will represent a real step forward are quite high. A 29-year-old going from 8 total home runs to 27 total, despite playing harder levels, would be a reason for more skepticism, but in a 22-year-old, it's more likely a real improvement. Just don't expect Lawrie to hit .353 going forward as he did in Triple-A.
Like Lawrie, Eric Hosmer is also not done developing and has the potential to continue to improve his home run count.
You're probably surprised to see both Pedro Alvarez and Mike Stanton on this list. The former because he's been so terrible, and the latter because he's already one of the league's best home run hitters. Let's address them separately.
We all know Alvarez has been a big disappointment, but the power potential is still there. Besides, he could hit 30 homers in a full season of playing time and still be a liability in other facets of the game.
As for Stanton, his power is historically impressive given his age, and he's one of the few players in baseball with a real shot at hitting 50 home runs in a season. Of course, much of this depends on how the Marlins' new park plays.