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#pounditSaturday, January 16, 2021

5 MLB players in line for a big season

Bo Bichette

Sometimes you can tell which MLB players are poised for a big season. Sometimes, the hints lie in the previous season’s performance — while the overall numbers may be underwhelming, there can be a huge surge in production for the latter part of the season. Sometimes, they’re returning from injury, or got a badly-needed change of scenery.

Whatever the reason, there are definitely some MLB players poised to have a big year. Here are five worth keeping an eye on.

5. Dinelson Lamet, P, Padres

This little-known Padres pitcher is well worth paying attention to in 2020. The 27-year-old made a comeback from 2018 Tommy John surgery last year, and his numbers were very impressive. Though his 4.07 ERA was fairly pedestrian, he struck out 105 batters in only 73 innings. Once Lamet got back in a rhythm, he was better — his ERA was 3.60 over his final nine starts, and opposing batters hit just .214 against him. If he stays healthy, he could become one of the NL’s surprising aces.

4. Victor Robles, OF, Nationals

Robles was overshadowed by the emergence of Juan Soto in 2019, and understandably so. Still, Robles isn’t much older — he’s only 23 — and has shown he can hit at the MLB level. In his first full season, he hit 17 home runs, stole 28 bases, and played really good center field defense. Now that he’s been through the league once, expect continued improvement. Robles has the ability to be a five-tool star for Washington for years to come, and that could start this year.

3. Zack Wheeler, P, Phillies

Wheeler never seemed entirely comfortable with the Mets, as evidenced by the comments he made after departing the organization this offseason. Now that his future is secure in Philadelphia and he appears to be healthy, good things should be in store. He kept his walks down in 2019 and struck out a batter an inning. By all indications, his ERA should have been lower than 3.96, but the Mets’ defense and some bad luck hurt him. He has a chance to take a step forward with the Phillies in 2020, and could become the ace he was once forecast to be.

2. Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays

Bichette burst onto the scene in 2019, hitting .311 with 11 home runs in only 46 games. He’ll get a full season as Toronto’s shortstop in 2020, and there’s no reason to believe his numbers will get much worse. At a full 162-game pace, Bichette would have hit 39 home runs. That combined with the batting average — especially at a position like shortstop — is the profile of a superstar. Bichette should only keep improving as he gets more comfortable in Toronto.

1. Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox

Yoan Moncada understandably got a lot of the prospect hype among Chicago’s talented young core, but Jimenez is actually two years younger and already doing some things better. Jimenez hit 31 home runs last year, six more than Moncada. Jimenez was also a .311 career hitter in the minors, meaning there’s likely some room to grow from his .267 average. Even if that doesn’t go much higher, Jimenez has it in him to consistently hit 40 home runs and become one of the game’s elite power hitters.

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