Givanni Damico | February 23rd, 2019
Now that squads have pretty much all reported to Florida and Arizona, we will start projecting, predicting, and prophesizing on what will happen in 2019. Here are 10 players that should break out this year.
Adalberto Mondesi, 2B (KC)
Many people might say that Mondesi already broke out last season, but he only appeared in 75 games. He hit .276/.306/.498 with 14 home runs, 37 RBIs, and 32 stolen bases. If he played all 162 games, he would have been on pace for 70 stolen bases. This speed is absolutely game-changing and revolutionary, and when you put it with a good batting average and sneaky power, this man is a future star. I’d also like to say that if he stayed on the same pace and played all 162 games, he would’ve hit between 30-35 home runs. Obviously, there is no guarantee he would’ve stayed on this exact pace, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless. The Royals will struggle this year, but not as much as last year. I expect Mondesi to be one of the best players on that team.
2019 Projections: .281 BA, 27 HR, 78 RBIs, 52 SB (if healthy all year)
Ketel Marte, 2B (ARZ)
Ketel Marte has consistently hit around .260 for the last three seasons. Last season, he demonstrated some power that we have not seen from him before, as he hit 14 long balls. The Diamondbacks are another team that will struggle this season, but Marte, at just 25 years old, should end up being one of the bright spots on that team. As I said in my Diamondbacks preview, I think he has the potential to be an all-star, but I doubt he will be because he isn’t well-known/popular.
2019 Projections: .271, 17 HR, 72 RBIs, 15 SB
Richard Urena, SS (TOR)
Urena played a little bit last season (99 at-bats) and hit .293 with one home run and six runs batted in. His strikeout rate was very high at about 30%. Urena will be 23 once the season starts and I can see him becoming an everyday starter, but not right out of camp. It’d be a lie to say that he looked big league ready last year, due to his high strikeout rate and his extremely high BABIP because of his high amount of strikeouts (.424). Scouts said that Urena would likely be forced into a utility role because of his relatively weak bat, but I disagree. Urena will never be a power hitter, but if he can get his strikeouts in order, I think he can be a capable, everyday starter. I put him on here because I think he will finally gain respect as a player of the future this year, but not as a starter quite yet.
2019 Projections: .278 BA, 7 HR, 36 RBIs, 9 SB
Ronald Guzman, 1B (TEX)
Guzman struggled to hit for average since entering the MLB. I think he’s in the perfect place to shine on this Rangers team because he will be able to get plenty of at-bats once again. He slashed .235/.306/.416 with 16 home runs and 58 RBIs. Guzman had a 28% strikeout rate which unfortunately is becoming the new normal. In my opinion, his strikeout rate will go down this season and he will be an effective everyday starter. I like the raw power that Guzman has and I believe he is capable of hitting 30 home runs in a season. He needs to get better at reading major league pitching and his bat control is quite weak as well.
2019 Projections: .251 BA, 22 HR, 71 RBIs, 2 SB (may be a bit ambitious)
Lucas Giolito, SP (CWS)
I watched a lot of White Sox games, and man did Giolito struggle. He had a very rough season. He went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA and walked five batters per nine innings while only striking out 6.5. These numbers are atrocious, but Giolito was a top prospect for a reason and I am not ready to write him off. After last season, the only way to go is up. Despite struggling massively in almost every month, Giolito showed promise in the month of August. He appeared in six games, going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA and striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings which is far and away better than any other month. When he pitched in September and October though, he regressed back to his old ways, maybe even worse. He went 0-4 with a 9.27 ERA while only striking out 5.6 batters per nine innings. I am convinced that this year will be significantly better for both Giolito and the team as a whole.
2019 Projections: 14-11, 4.23 ERA, 165 SO, 72 BB, 1.219 WHIP
Clint Frazier, OF (NYY)
Frazier hardly played last year because of concussion issues that he dealt with throughout the entire season. Acquired in the Andrew Miller trade with the Indians, many view Frazier as one of the future Yankees’ stars. Well, the future is now. This year is a make-or-break year for him. Frazier himself stated that he wants to fight for the starting left fielder job with Brett Gardner. Last year was very frustrating for him and he is very ambitious for this season. I’ll admit, he’s definitely a wild card. As a Yankees fan, there’s nothing that I want more than for Clint Frazier winning the starting job over Brett Gardner. I love Brett Gardner and I always have, but he fell off significantly last year after a fantastic 2017. I think Gardner is important to keep around as a veteran presence and rotational outfielder, but I think the Yankees need to give Frazier his chance right out of the gate. Because of his lack of experience, my projection will be pretty rough.
2019 Projections: .261 BA, 22 HR, 70 RBIs, 13 SB
Jaime Barria, SP (LAA)
I watched Jaime Barria multiple times last season and he definitely has the ability to be a dominant starter. He was relatively inconsistent, though, posting a poor K-BB ratio. He only struck out seven batters per nine innings while walking about 3.5 batters per nine. I’d like to see his strikeout rate go up and his walk rate go down. He pitched well though, posting a 10-9 record with a 3.41 ERA. Everyone is projecting for Barria to have a worse season than last year, which is possible, but unlikely in my opinion. Barria can only improve his strikeout and walk rates (not necessarily, but you know) so I think he’s slated for even more success this year.
2019 Projections: 13-8, 3.46 ERA, 129 SO, 45 BB, 1.198 WHIP
Dansby Swanson, SS (ATL)
It’s now or never for Swanson. He has had two terrible seasons in a row and is not playing like the top prospect that he once was. He hit sub-.240 over the last two seasons with 14 home runs last year and six the year before. He’s not showing any promise anywhere. He has average speed, he’s been average in the field, and below average at the plate. If he doesn’t perform by the trade deadline, I’d trade him for anything they can get at this point. Also, I realize that we are often far too quick to give up on players and coaches in the whole sports realm, not just baseball. But for someone who was so highly touted as one of the best, and seeing him not perform like a top 25 shortstop, it shows that there might not be a ton of room to grow. Despite everything I said, I think he will breakout this year. There is added pressure on him because he knows that it is make-or-break. As I said in my Braves article, I think that they are more of a fringe playoff team at this point, but a great performance from Swanson can boost them right in.
2019 Projections: .273 BA, 19 HR, 80 RBIs, 13 SB
Yoan Moncada, 2B (CWS)
Moncada was terrible last season. He’s another prospect that is looking like he might not work out, but I’m not ready to give up on him yet. He struck out an astonishing 217 times last season. That is 33% of the time he stepped up to the plate. His walk percentage also took a dip. He hit .235 with 17 home runs. I don’t think that Moncada will ever hit for a good average, but he has a lot of power in his bat that he hasn’t channeled yet. He needs to lower his strikeout rate a lot. It can’t get any worse or even stay the same. He has to cut about 50 strikeouts off of this to be even a little bit more effective.
2019 Projections: .254, 26 HR, 78 RBIs, 16 SB
Kyle Tucker, OF (HOU)
Tucker struggled in his 64 at-bats in the big leagues last season, hitting just .141. He will have more of an opportunity this season as he will probably make the team right out of Spring Training. I don’t know where he’s going to play this season. It could be at DH ahead of Tyler White, maybe even in right field over Josh Reddick. Personally, I think it’s time for Tucker to get an opportunity. Josh Reddick struggled last year with a .242 BA and just a 1.8 WAR. Reddick just turned 32, and Tucker just turned 22. Tucker will play the whole season at 22 as well. There’s no pressure on the Astros to start Tucker this year since he is still very young, but I’d much rather give him experience over the regressing Josh Reddick. My projection for Tucker is if he has at least 350 at-bats, which I think he should get.
2019 Projection: .267 BA, 13 HR, 61 RBIs, 8 SB
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