Givanni Damico | March 26th, 2019
MLB Player Projections: Team-By-Team
Welcome back to part two of my “Players who are likely to break out in 2019” series. For this article, I will be giving one player for each team that I think will have a breakout season. The list will go in alphabetical order so that it’s easier to find your team. Also, if I mentioned someone in part one, they will not be mentioned again in part two.
Despite having a winning record, Godley had a very underwhelming season in 2018. He walked an ungodly (pun intended) number of batters (81) in just 178.1 innings pitched. This rate is acceptable for a reliever, but you don’t want a top-three guy in your rotation to be a liability. He let up nine hits per nine innings as well. He ended the season with a negative WAR, but I think he will flip the script this year. He is listed as the #2 starter on the depth chart behind Zack Greinke. Barring an injury, his innings pitched should be higher this year and I could see his strikeout rate increasing. Godley gave up nearly 40% hard contact last year which will very rarely result in a successful pitcher. He’s going to have to lower this number by at least five percent this season. He could be a very solid second guy.
In the games that I watched, Toussaint looked very promising. His control was atrocious though, as he allowed a whopping 6.5 walks per nine innings. Granted, he only pitched 29 innings, but his walk rate can be nowhere near this number if he wants to have a successful year in 2019. This was really one of the only issues that I had with Toussaint last year because he only gave up 5.6 hits per nine, so walks were what cost him most of his runs. If he can bring this down to around 3.5 walks per nine, he should have a very solid season.
There is a lot of promise in Chance Sisco. He struggled mightily at the plate but his defense was very solid. He has done very well at the plate in Spring Training, slashing .292/.485/.792 with four home runs and more walks than strikeouts. He will be that guy behind the plate this year and will get a full chance to show his offensive ability. Sisco can be a 20 home run guy, but I think he needs to worry about hitting for average more so than power. Defensive catchers will always have their place in the MLB, but if Sisco can add that offensive element, he could be an All-Star.
With Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly gone, Ryan Brasier will have a more instrumental role in the bullpen. He appeared in 34 games last year, pitching 33.2 innings. He should pitch at least 50 innings this year, especially with how weak the Red Sox bullpen is. I’ve said before that Brasier should be the closer rather than Matt Barnes, but that looks unlikely. If he continues to shut batters down like he did last year, he will be a recognizable name and could be on his way to an All-Star game.
Rodon started the fifth most games out of the pitchers in the White Sox rotation last season. This was due to injury, but this season, Rodon is going to be the “ace” of the rotation. He should get a lot of innings and hopefully lower the number of batters he walks. None of his stats jump off the page as really good or really bad. He has just been mediocre. This year will be a big developmental year for Rodon because it will allow us to see if his true potential can be a number one or number two guy, or if he will always be a number four or number five. Other candidates for the White Sox breakout included Tim Anderson and Daniel Palka, but they have both proved themselves enough where it wouldn’t be a “breakout” for them.
The Cubs were a hard team to find a breakout player for because their entire lineup, rotation, and bullpen have all proved themselves as good players. For Schwarber, there is room for improvement. He has the ability to hit 40 home runs and is capable of hitting at least .250. A good line for 2019 for him would be something like .256 BA, 38 HR, 81 RBI
He will probably get more outfield reps than last season which will allow a better chance for these numbers to come to fruition.
Just like for Carlos Rodon, this is a prove it year for Luis Castillo. Castillo had a solid debut season in 2017, going 3-7 (no run support) with a 3.12 ERA and 10 K/9. In 2018, the percentage of hard-hit contact that Castillo gave up jumped by nine percent, leading to an increase in home runs allowed. Castillo will probably be the number two or number three in the Reds’ rotation this season. I consider this his last chance to prove himself as a really good player who can be an ace or even a number two.
Bauers came over from Tampa Bay in the offseason. This was a really under-the-radar pick up for the Indians because Bauers will most likely be the starter for the Indians. Bauers is young and has great upside. He does a great job getting on base and has raw power. With Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion gone, the job is wide open and Bauers’ job to lose.
Originally, I thought Garrett Hampson was going to win the starting second base job, but Ryan McMahon has been killing it in Spring Training (.434 BA, 3 HR, 11 RBI). After losing D.J. LeMahieu during the offseason, the second base position is wide open. McMahon and Hampson are very different players. McMahon is more of the power hitter, while Hampson is a contact hitter with speed. Both guys will be very valuable for the Rockies, but McMahon’s power in Colorado at second base is a huge advantage. If he continues his tear into the regular season, he will easily break out as a stud this year.
In 96 at-bats last season, Greiner didn’t make too much of an impact. He was not given too much of an opportunity, but this year he will get many more reps as James McCann is no longer with the team. It’s between him and John Hicks right now, and it seems like the Tigers favor Greiner for the Opening Day job as of now. Greiner has impressed in Spring Training (.313, 1 HR, 8 RBI). Greiner does have some raw power. Detroit is a tough place for someone like him to play because it’s not as easy to hit balls out as it is in Colorado or the Bronx. He does have good gap power and solid defense which is more than could be said for John Hicks.
Woah, an old man? This list isn’t necessarily just for young players who will break out this season and thrive for the rest of their career. Chirinos is someone that I expect to have a career year. He’s moved from the Rangers to the Astros. He’s got the short porch in left field which plays well into his ability as a pull hitter. To be successful, Chirinos seriously needs to cut down the strikeouts from the 140 in 2018 (in 360 at-bats). Over 33 percent strikeout rate is unacceptable and Chirinos will never be a successful hitter with that number. He should cut this down and hit with more power this year, making him a “breakout” candidate.
I’m going to be honest, and say that I didn’t pay attention to the Royals at all last season. I didn’t even know this guy existed. He performed very well in limited action last season, showing good power and the ability to hit for average. His plate vision is fairly impressive as well. He has done well for himself in Spring Training as well (.333 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI). He is guaranteed to be the Opening Day starter and it is well-deserved. I’m really excited to see if O’Hearn’s momentum from 2018 and Spring Training will carry into 2019.
Despite Tyler Skaggs being listed at the top of the rotation, I expect a better year from Heaney this season. He is doubtful for the season opener, but he should be back by mid-April. He was finally completely healthy last season and pitched pretty well. As long as this left elbow inflammation isn’t a major setback for Heaney, he should make more strides towards being an ace this season. If he can get his ERA under 3.75 and go the entire season without a major injury, I’d consider that a breakout year and an important year for his development.
Barnes has never gotten a chance to start because he has always been second fiddle behind Yasmani Grandal. This is the year for Barnes. He is solid defensively, but he needs to prove himself offensively. He can’t hit sub-.225 with under seven home runs. This is a make-or-break year for Barnes. If he has a bad season in 2019, I think that 2019 will be his last year as a starter in his MLB career. At this point in his career, Barnes is easily replaceable so he has to prove his value by hitting at least .240 with 15 home runs. Barnes has a unique ability (for a catcher) to play in the infield as well, so his opportunities will be maximized in 2019.
I’m not going to lie, I was about ready to give up on Brinson after last season. Last season was one of the most disappointing seasons for a prospect (as a position player) that I have seen in the last few years. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was bad. Brinson had so many opportunities to show his value and he did not do so. I’m hopeful for him this year. He is the starting center fielder with no one else competing for the job. Brinson has done pretty well in Spring Training (.277 BA, 5 HR, 8 RBI) but this is against lower-tier pitchers. I know Brinson is a good fielder, but he has to have a really good season at the plate for me to maintain faith in him. Hopefully, he can be one of the few bright spots for the Marlins in 2019.
I love me some Orlando Arcia. What made me recognize Arcia as someone who could easily break out is his 2018 Postseason. He hit .360 with two home runs in the playoffs last season. There is serious upside here. He has only hit .250 in Spring Training, but I really believe that Arcia is someone who can hit .280 with 15 home runs. I know this because, in 2017, he hit .277 with 15 home runs. I don’t know why he fell off last season, but I expect him to be back in 2017 form in 2019.
Oh, no. I’m actually putting faith in Byron Buxton again. This is the fourth year in a row that I have put faith in Buxton to actually live up to his hype. I will give him this: Buxton is already one of the best fielders in the game, if not the best. Buxton has absolutely torn it up in Spring Training, hitting .455 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. Buxton has that raw power that you wouldn’t expect from someone with his play-type. He also contains absolutely elite speed. Buxton has raked in Spring Training and been a let-down before, but I believe in him this year more so than any other year. Last year he was hindered because of injury and spent almost the entire year in Triple-A. He has no excuses in 2019. This is the year of Byron Buxton.
Every Mets fan should be hyped for Pete Alonso. In Spring Training, Alonso has hit .356 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. He will be a liability in the field at first base, but he deserves the starting job over Todd Frazier all day every day. Alonso has 40 home run potential. Hopefully he can carry over his Spring Training batting average into the regular season, but obviously, that is quite unrealistic. I expect Alonso to hit around .265 with 25 home runs this year. I would give him more home runs if he was going to be the everyday starter, but we don’t know if he will be or not.
German has been impressive in Spring Training and has been named to the Opening Day roster. German will be a part of the rotation (confirmed)for at least as long as Luis Severino is out. As a Yankees fan, I’d much rather see German as a starter than Luis Cessa. German has great stuff, he just needs to gain more fastball control. A lot of his earned runs allowed last year were because of batters that reached because of a walk. He reminds me a lot of how Luis Severino looked in his rookie year. He had all the stuff, but for whatever reason, he would get lit up every now and then. German has had ample time to improve on 2018 and I expect a great year for him.
You could argue that last season was a breakout year for Profar and I would agree with you. There is still more untapped potential in Profar, though. I’d like to see him get his batting average around .275 because he has that ability. Profar is a utility man who can play anywhere, so as long as he keeps hitting, he will stay in the lineup.
Pivetta has been impressive in Spring Training thus far. He is everyone’s favorite starting pitcher to break out this season and I had to ride the wave. Despite his struggles in 2018, it was a serious improvement from 2017. He needs to keep going up and ride the momentum into 2019 and continue improving. He gives up too much hard-hit contact. He needs to pitch more to the soft contact rather pitching to the strikeout which is what results in a lot of these hard-hit balls. Pivetta will get an abundance of innings in 2019 and should be another solid piece for the Phillies’ rotation.
Honestly, last season was a good year for Musgrove. His record isn’t impressive due to the lack of run support from his teammates. He was a good prospect at one point but he hasn’t really lived up to expectations, making this an important season for him. His lack of walks in 2018 was the most impressive stat. If he carries that into 2019 and gets his strikeouts up, it should be a good year for Musgrove. I’d love to see his ERA dip below 3.50 this year as well.
Joey Lucchesi will take over as the ace of the Padres’ rotation this season. Last season, Lucchesi was impressive. He didn’t have a great record (like Musgrove) because of a lack of run support. I can almost guarantee that he will improve on his ERA this season. Lucchesi’s problem was that 81 percent of the contact that he gave up was either hard-hit or medium contact (40.6% hard-hit). As I’ve said in the past, this never results in success for the pitcher. It can’t get much worse than that for Lucchesi which makes me believe that his 2019 will be one of the better breakout seasons out of all the players on this list.
Duggar has been announced as an Opening Day starter. The Giants’ outfield depth is almost non-existent which will give Duggar plenty of opportunities to make an impact in 2019. He has hit .341 in Spring Training without a home run, but power is not Duggar’s game. Duggar has good range in the outfield and can hit for average. His power may develop over time, but I wouldn’t expect him to hit more than 10 home runs this year. Home runs will be even harder for him because San Francisco is not a batter-friendly ballpark. Hopefully, he can hit around .280 and steal some bases to make up for his lack of power.
I promise that I am not putting Santana on here because he hit a grand slam in the Mariners’ first regular season game in Japan. I’ve always been a huge fan of Santana and I know that he has great upside. Santana has already broken out in 2017 when he hit .278 with 30 home runs and 85 RBIs, but he is on here because people don’t recognize his talent. He can hit for both average and good power. This combination is pretty rare in today’s game. He dealt with injuries for most of last season, but he is with a new team where he will have an opportunity to be an everyday starter. I’m rooting for you, Domingo.
A lot of people are probably thinking: Didn’t Hicks already break out last season? No. I wasn’t impressed by Hicks in 2018 at all. Sure, he can consistently throw between 102-105, but if he can’t locate and be effective, who cares? His 3.59 ERA is solid, but he is going to be the everyday closer in 2019 and you want your closers to have sub-3.00 ERAs for the most part. His 5.2 BB/9 is far too high for my paste. I’d like to see him tone down the velocity if it means he will locate better. I know everyone is enthralled with his ability to throw so hard, but as a Cardinals fan, would you rather see someone who throws 105 but walks six batters per nine innings or someone who throws 100 and walks three batters per nine innings. Plus, for how fast he throws, his strikeout rate isn’t impressive. I expect a lot more from Hicks this year.
I’m not really sure how Meadows had a negative WAR. I thought he had a really great season, especially since these stats are only in 59 games played. Meadows will have the opportunity to be an everyday starter this season which will allow him to prove his value. Hopefully, he can hit somewhere around .280 with 20 home runs this year, but that might be asking too much. Either way, Meadows is a great all-around player and was a great addition for the future of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kiner-Falefa actually put together a really solid campaign last year. He can play both catcher and third base and has some sneaky speed. He is a pretty good hitter, but he lacks power. Power will most likely never be a part of Kiner-Falefa’s game, but his ability to hit for average backs that up. He has hit .440 in limited Spring Training at-bats, flashing his upside and making his argument for the starting catcher position.
Jansen hasn’t had the greatest Spring Training, but he will still be the Opening Day catcher. This job is Jansen’s to lose as the only player behind him is Luke Maile. Jansen has good power for a catcher and can hit for average as well. He hit .275 with 12 home runs during his time in Triple-A in 2018. Jansen is one of the best catching prospects right now. The time is now for Jansen. Can he have a Gary Sanchez-esque rookie year? That might be too much to ask, but I’d expect nothing less than a .250 batting average with 15 home runs.
Wrapping up this list is one of the top five prospects in baseball, Victor Robles. These 2018 stats were only in 59 at-bats. If Robles can average three home runs per 60 at-bats while also hitting .290, it’s pretty safe to say that Robles will be a future hall of famer. Robles has elite speed and elite fielding ability. An outfield of him and Juan Soto is something that makes Nationals’ fans drool. If only they still had Bryce Harper… what could have been? Robles is one of my personal favorite prospects that I’ve ever watched because he can do it all, and I expect him to do it all in 2019.
Check out my first “Breakout Player Projections” article right here
Check out “MLB Players Who Could Slump in 2019″ article right here
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