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Thursday, June 27, 2019

10 young MLB players poised for breakout seasons in 2019

Byron Buxton

Baseball players are constantly making tweaks and adjustments to their stances, their deliveries, and their mental approaches to the game. The sport is challenging and tough to adapt to; sometimes players conquer the minors and get to the majors only to find that it’s a lot harder than they may have expected it to be. As such, the sport allows for a lot of disappointments — but a lot of breakout stars, too. Sometimes guys need a couple seasons before it all clicks and they become standout players.

Here are ten MLB players who could really break out and put themselves on the map in 2019.

10. Harrison Bader, OF, Cardinals

To become a true standout player, Bader will have to overcome his issues against right-handed pitching. However, the fact that he mashes lefties and plays strong outfield defense is enough to ensure that he has a chance to bust out and become an impact player at the MLB level. Bader only got 379 at-bats last year and stole 15 bases while hitting 12 homers. With a full season of action, he’s a good bet to be the next 20-20 player.

9. Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets

Alonso hit 36 home runs over two levels of the minor leagues in 2018, and while he may fall victim to service time manipulation to start the season, it’s a pretty solid bet we’ll see him in the majors at some point before 2019 is over. In his spring debut, he blasted a home run, demonstrating just what the Mets would be missing out on if they send him down. His defense needs work, but the bat will play at any level. He could hit some eye-popping home runs as a rookie.

8. Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Royals

Mondesi has been around for a while — in fact, in 2015, he was the rare player to make his MLB debut during a World Series game. Since then, he’s been a bit part player for Kansas City, but he should inherit the shortstop job full-time in 2019. He gave Royals fans a taste of what he can do in the second half of the 2018 season, when he hit .286 after the All-Star break with 11 home runs in 54 games. That’s a 30-homer pace, and while that may be ambitious, there’s no doubt that Mondesi can play at this level.

7. Ramon Laureano, OF, Athletics

For the moment, Laureano is best known for perhaps the throw of the 2018 season. It’s a decent bet he’ll be known for a bit more than that once the 2019 season concludes. Laureano hit .288 in his limited cameo, homering five times and stealing seven bases. He has shown increased power in the Oakland organization, has an incredible outfield arm, and has the speed to steal 30 bases. He could be an impact center fielder this season with the potential to morph into a bright young star.

6. Nick Pivetta, SP, Phillies

At first glance, Pivetta’s 5.33 career ERA isn’t much to look at. Dig deeper, though, and there’s a pitching profile to get excited about. In 164 innings in 2018, Pivetta saw his strikeout rate increase to over 10 per nine, fanning 188. He also cut his walks down to 51. Better defense behind him would help, and he does need to trim his home run rate, but the presence of a lot of strikeouts and a manageable amount of walks translates to a pitcher who could have a bright future.

5. Amed Rosario, SS, Mets

A widely-heralded prospect, Rosario made his full-season debut in 2018 and was stereotyped as a speedy, but light-hitting shortstop. There is some reason to believe the light-hitting part may not be accurate. Rosario’s bat improved significantly in the last month of the season, as he hit .283 with eight stolen bases in 28 games. Rosario may never be a power hitter, and his defense has been a disappointment, but he’s still just 23, and there’s a lot of potential left in that bat.

4. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins

Some will say Buxton already had his breakout season, but even in 2017 he was a .253 hitter who didn’t hit 20 home runs or get on base much. Injuries took away his 2018. Now, Buxton believes he’s fixed his swing, which he hopes will allow him to reach the potential many felt he once had. The early spring results are encouraging — he has two home runs and 10 RBIs in his first two games, not that it means much — and really, there’s at least some thought that Buxton has more to show us that we haven’t seen yet.

3. Josh James, RP, Astros

James demonstrated his potential when he touched triple digits in the playoffs, even as he occasionally struggled to get outs and harness his stuff. Traditionally a starter, James may have the chance to earn a spot in the rotation this year, and few things are quite as exciting as a dynamic young pitcher with the arm to consistently hit 100 MPH. James racked up 29 strikeouts in 23 regular season innings at the end of 2018. That’s likely a harbinger of things to come.

2. Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox

Jimenez was almost certainly ready to play in the big leagues last season, but service time considerations ensured he didn’t make it to Chicago. It may be a few weeks before he does in 2019 as well, but the White Sox have reached the point where they just can’t hold the guy back. The top-five prospect hit .337 in the minors last season and has the potential to be an impact bat from his first day in an MLB lineup. He’ll be a serious Rookie of the Year contender and a potential breakout star early on.

1. Tyler Glasnow, SP, Rays

Glasnow has long been heralded as an elite arm who put up outstanding minor league numbers, but he has never been able to translate those numbers into MLB success. That may change in 2019 judging from his late-season success after being dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays as a centerpiece in the Chris Archer deal. He posted a 3.23 ERA in August after the deal, made one disastrous start against Toronto that inflated his ERA, then finished with a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts. There’s a lot to like there, and a lot of reason to believe he could finally fulfill his lofty potential.



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