Kole Calhoun - OF, LAA
Despite a tremendous 2013 campaign and a fortuitous placement atop the Angels lineup, Calhoun remains overlooked in many fantasy leagues. If he gets off to the fast start he's capable of, he won't be widely available for long.
Calhoun, a former eighth-round pick, has had nothing but success in the minors. Last year in Triple-A he really stepped it up, hitting .354 with a 1047 OPS in 59 games. His well-rounded performance was marked by solid power (33 XBH and 12 HR), good speed (10 SB and six triples) and excellent plate discipline (32/32 K/BB).
Unsurprisingly, he translated that success to the big-league level, hitting .282/.347/.462 with eight homers in 58 games for the Halos.
This year he's on the MLB roster from the start, and if Opening Day was any indication it appears that he'll routinely be batting in the leadoff spot, in front of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. That will provide the speedy outfielder with plenty of opportunities to score runs if he's getting on base, which hasn't been an issue for him in the past.
Last season Calhoun batted mostly in the bottom half of the order, and that might have been part of the reason Mike Scioscia didn't run him very often (only four steal attempts). The 26-year-old has good -- not elite -- speed, and his presence atop the lineup in front of several noted run producers should lead to an uptick in aggressiveness. In 23 spring training games, he was 4-for-5 on steal attempts.
As a talented young player with a lot of outside circumstances working in his favor, Calhoun looks like one of the game's best early-season breakout candidates.
Nate McLouth - OF, WAS
For a time, it seemed like McLouth's career was headed straight down the tubes. Following a second straight disappointing season in 2011, the outfielder was released by the Braves. He latched on with his former club, Pittsburgh, but the Pirates dropped him just two months into the 2012 season with a .140 batting average.
The Orioles took a chance on McLouth, adding him a week after he was designated for assignment by Pittsburgh, and in Baltimore he experienced a reawakening. In 55 games with the O's, McLouth hit .268/.342/.435, establishing himself as an asset once again. He continued to look solid in 2013, posting a 729 OPS with 31 doubles, 12 homers and 30 steals while serving in an everyday capacity.
Despite the quality fantasy production, McLouth enters this season as an undervalued commodity, unowned in more than 90 percent of fantasy leagues. Much of that has to do with his role; he's technically a fourth outfielder now that he's joined up with the Nationals. But Washington signed him to a $10.75 million deal so they figure to use him often.
McLouth could easily move into a regular role if Denard Span's struggles worsen (his 707 OPS last year was worse than McLouth's) or Jayson Werth -- who has missed 114 games over the last two years -- gets hurt.
Playing time looks to be the only real obstacle for McLouth at this point. He's got a fantasy-friendly skill set and if he's in the lineup he'll likely be batting in front of some heavy hitters.