Since joining GOS I’ve tried my hand at predicting just about everything regarding the upcoming MLB season. From my shot at award winners, free-agent destinations, and playoff picks, all had one thing in common: everyone has a general idea of who is likely to win [insert award or feat.] In other words, it was fairly simple.
But being the true competitor I am, I began to crave more of a challenge. Thus, this week I figured I would give myself just that: Picking the guys who weren’t good in 2018 but will be in 2019. The breakout stars, if you will.
Disclaimer: In this article, my definition of ‘breakout’ consists of players who don’t qualify as rookies (Hence no Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., or Eloy Jiminez). These are also players who haven’t had a significant stat increase in their careers.
Calhoun finished last season a husky 230 pounds and a defensive liability in left field. After Rangers GM, Jon Daniels and former manager, Jeff Bannister publicly challenged Calhoun to make changes, he seemed to listen. He recently came into camp down to 199 lbs., with just under 17% body fat. He also has the fastest bat speed out of the entire Rangers roster, something he wasn’t close to at the end of last season. Calhoun seems to have rebooted his career and lifestyle this winter with the changes he’s made. It’s a sleeper pick–considering Willie Calhoun isn’t guaranteed a starting spot–but looking at the steps he’s taken this offseason, I’ll take my chances with him.
Surprise, surprise. The Cleveland Indians have yet another under-the-radar stud on the mound. Even more surprising, Bieber has a chance to be one of their best. If you look past Bieber’s 4.55 ERA you can see some extremely promising numbers. He, like many of the other pitchers on this list, had very good strikeout totals in year one, which almost always translates to success later on. On top of that, he came into Spring Training with a shiny new change-up that could solve some of the problems he faced in his rookie year. I don’t want to call any of these choices a “lock”, but if there was one here, it would be Bieber.
One of the biggest pieces that headed back to Tampa Bay in the Chris Archer deal, Tyler Glasnow was once one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He was always dominant in Pittsburgh’s minor league system, but could never figure it out in the Majors. That is, until, he was shipped to Tampa Bay. The stats don’t represent it well, but he showed significant signs of improvement. The 4.20 post-trade ERA was inflated by one bad start. His walk rate dropped dramatically, under the instruction of the pitching factory that Tampa Bay has built. In addition, Rays camp has reported improved mechanics in Glasnow’s delivery, which could add some much-needed consistency in his game. Give him a full season in South Florida, and he’s going to be a tremendous second option to Blake Snell.
Rosario is in a very similar situation to Glasnow. Once a highly touted prospect, Rosario hasn’t exactly lived up to that hype in Queens the past two seasons. But he hasn’t been that disappointing either. He’s been a plus defender and mediocre hitter since being called up on August 10th, 2017. However, for the hype he received, the Mets want more, and understandably so. Well, lucky for them, I think 2019 is the year for those wishes to come to fruition. Last season, he improved batting average over thirty points after the All-Star Break. Furthermore, a deeper dive into the advanced metrics show drastic strides from July on, such as walk and contact rate. Add that with the fact that he’s just 23, and has had a full offseason to improve and mature. As I said, If Rosario was to have a breakout, 2019 is the year.
Of everyone on this list, Pivetta might be in the best situation to truly break out. He’s pitching with a new and improved lineup that offers more run support. Furthermore, he now has a new defense that likely makes the plays that the 2018 Phillies didn’t. His high ERA may leave concern with some, but his abnormally high strikeout stats and good walk rate give me no worries in this pick. Just like his rotation-mate in Aaron Nola two seasons ago, Pivetta is in all the right conditions for an eye-opening year in Philly.
Honorable mentions: Dereck Rodriguez, Trevor Story, Ramon Laureano, Joey Gallo, David Dahl, Zack Eflin, Jorge Alfaro, Lewis Brinson