Written by: Jake Tillinghast
Follow him on Twitter: @JTillinghast27
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
I will be taking you team by team with a player or 2 I expect to have a breakout 2020 season. Looking into their player profiles, and find areas they excelled in, but also have room for improvement, and maybe some trends to look for going into the season. Some players have already “broke out” a bit on this list, but will go into detail why I think that player has more left in the tank to prove to the league, such as Rangers OF Joey Gallo. Enjoy, and feel free to comment below with your own breakout players!
Be sure to check out the NL Team Player Breakouts for 2020 done by @ConnellyDoan https://prospectsworldwide.com/2020/07/06/nl-breakout-players-for-2020-all-teams/
- OF Anthony Santander
A switch hitter with solid bat to ball skills, showed power from both sides of the plate. He could be a doubles machine and show some power with his swing he possesses. The O’s do not have much going for them on their big league roster in 2020, they do have a few prospects on the way, but if Santander can turn into an everyday player for the O’s going forward, they could have a nice, cheap option in the OF for a few seasons. Or someone they can move at the deadline to clear room for a more long-term option that fits the window they see themselves being able to get back to contending in. Very poor BB% at just 4.7%, will need to improve to hold any continued success, even the slightest improvement should be simple, and extremely beneficial.
- OF Austin Hays
Made some exciting plays down the stretch in a downright dreadful season for the club, giving them some optimism heading into 2020. Hays has some tools to be excited about and shouldn’t have a problem winning a job this season with the O’s in 2020 after that strong showing to end the year. Hays’ 2019 debut came during September call ups, and played virtually every day until season’s end. In 21 games (just 68 AB) managed to up a strong .309/.373/.574/.947 line, .393 wOBA, .265 ISO, 146 wRC+ with 4 HR 2 SB. While also showing his best BB% 9% then at any level he has played. And a lower than normal K% for himself at 17%. Yes, an extremely small sample size, but improvements nonetheless and something for the O’s to work with heading into 2020.
Now don’t get your hopes up, there is no comparison between the 2 other then this catch, not a knock on Hays in the slightest. I am excited to see Hays get his chance to showcase his skills at the games biggest stage.
BOSTON RED SOX :
- OF Alex Verdugo
Long time coming, finally getting his chance to be an everyday player after being traded to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts deal. All the talent and makeup to become a great player in Boston. I think this trade will turn out to be a win for the Red Sox even with trading one of the best players in baseball, who clearly wants to test the free-agent waters, and rightfully so, he earned it. But good on the Red Sox for making a decision the fan base wouldn’t like but would be best for the organization going forward. Getting Verdugo and a Top 100 prospect in 2B/SS Jeter Downs with a nice offensive profile. Verdugo looks so confident and comfortable in the box and has the bat to ball skills to compliment it all. Smashing FB in 2019 with a .360 Avg backed by a .320 xBA, .423 wOBA, and very low 10.4% Whiff% rate. A low 13% K rate in 2019 (Top 7% in the league). It would be nice to see him continue to improve on getting the ball off the ground a bit more, with the improved park factors moving into Fenway, which quite honestly fits Verdugo as a hitter very well. I don’t expect him to ever be a big power hitter, but I do expect him to turn himself into a yearly .290/.350/.465 15-20 HR with 40 2Bs. 60 Grade FLD to go with a 60+ ARM that is strong and just as accurate. Verdugo has a chance to be a very good player for the Red Sox. I get a lot of Nick Markakis vibes when watching Verdugo on both sides of the ball.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX :
- OF Eloy Jimenez
With all the focus on his teammate Luis Robert this year, and last year his rookie counterparts getting the majority of the exposure and praise (Reigning AL/NL ROY Yordan Alvarez, Peter Alonso, Vlad Jr, Tatis Jr, Bichette Jr, to name the top few) Eloy quietly enjoyed a 31 HR rookie season in just 468 AB. Ranking in the 92 percentile in the big leagues in Hard-Hit contact according to Baseball Savant. With an average I expect Eloy to improve his contact rates as he showed throughout the minor leagues, and slightly plate discipline as he progresses and learns to pick up offspeed pitches more effectively and knock out a little of his swing and miss on those pitches. Something that popped out to me when researching Eloy has a 19.4% WHIFF% against FB. Against the breaking/offspeed pitches (as classified by Baseball Savant) his WHIFF% jumped up to near 46%.. Not out of the norm to swing and miss vs breaking pitches at his age at the big league, but given Eloy’s talent and ability to square balls up, I believe he will become more selective in his approach like he displayed in the minor leagues and be able to pick and choose his spots with the offspeed pitches as he gets himself in better counts. With the White Sox lineup around Eloy, the sky’s the limit for him to put up incredible numbers in his sophomore season.
CLEVELAND INDIANS :
- OF/DH Franmil Reyes
One of my favorite power threats in the league, and a dark horse to lead the league in HR in 2020. Reportedly shedding nearly 20 pounds this off-season and saying he feels more powerful than ever. Worried the lost weight might take some power with it? Franmil thinks differently… “Honestly I was scared of that. But when I take the break in December and I came back in January, how I was hitting the ball, I never hit it like that before,” Reyes said. “I feel really powerful right now.” You can read the full article here . His defense needs as much work as pitchers need work trying to find ways to keep him in the yard. But maybe shedding some pounds will give him the boost athleticism/speed needed to track down balls more efficiently in the outfield. Let’s move to the bat.. His moneymaker. This guy can mash with the best of them. Consistent hard contact like Franmil displays can only lead to good things, Ks will always be a part of his game. That will come with 80 RAW PWR. The Indians could use a jolt to their offense, especially from the right side this season after a year they disappointed with the bats. A full season from Franmil might just be what they are looking for.
- SP Aaron Civale
Nasty stuff. Just the next young Indians pitcher to come through the pipeline, and one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball in my opinion, this guy has some of the nastiest movement on some pitches in the game. Sinker/Cutter dominate pitcher mixing in Sliders to righties, CB to the lefties and occasional CH Misses barrels (2.4% allowed in 2019 top 1% in the league) according to Baseball Savant. 95th percentile in CB Spin rate (2930 avg spin) ranked 3rd in the bigs only behind Walker Buehler and Sonny Gray, and slotted right in front of Gerrit Cole, some pretty good company. He has the potential to add some Ks to his game with the added use of his offspeed pitches. Opposing hitters hardly touched his SL. Throwing 124 SL in 2019 (111 to RHH only 13 to LHH) hitters managed a whopping .080 avg.. Virtually unhittable, only using this pitch 14.4% of the time. His CB turned to be the unhittable pitch for the Lefties, only throwing 54 of them, but only turning in a .077 AVG against it, the Righties had a much better time vs the CB hitting a wild .500 granted a very small sample size, 41 total CB thrown to RHH with batters going 4-9. Civale has all the talent to turn into just another great homegrown Indians starting pitcher to virtually come out of nowhere.
|Pitch||% Used||%vsR||%vsL||Avg Against||Avg Spin||Whiff%||Avg Exit Velo|
Look for Civale to work in the SL more often vs the RHH, and CH vs the LHH and mix in the CB a bit more frequently, if so I think he can take a big jump in the K department. While maintaining the GB rates above league average due to working low in the zone. Take a look at these charts supplied by Baseball Savant. The Horizontal movement he gets on his pitches all grade out very strongly except for his sinker and 4seam FB(which is hardly used).
DETROIT TIGERS :
- OF Victor Reyes
Acquired by selecting him with the 1st pick in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, the Tigers have taken their time with Reyes. And it seems to be paying off 2 years later. He struggled with the bat but has always shown top-end speed. A free swinger, not looking to draw a ton of walks, but if the Tigers can help develop his plate discipline and get him to be a bit more selective and work the count, he will find himself on base more frequently and able to put his game-changing speed to work more often. He showed some ability to draw more walks and make more contact in the lower levels in the minors but as he has moved up the strikeouts have increased, the walks have decreased. I never expect Reyes to be a big time power threat at the big league level, even with the 6’5” size, but I do expect him to be able to knock out 15HR, 25+ 2Bs 7+ 3Bs with 20+ SBs. He hit .304 last yr in the bigs in 292 AB, which I don’t see him being able to sustain, more likely falling in the .260-.275 range. With all this being said, Victor can still turn into a decent player with the skills he carries onto the field. His defense has improved from 2018 to 2019. Table below:
A switch hitter, improved defense, borderline elite speed, improving with the bat, projectable size (6’5” 215). There is a lot to like here with Reyes and if he can continue improving his all-around game, we are looking at a solid big leaguer. He reminds me so much of another rule 5 selection, although he probably will never reach the status this man did during this career. They are extremely different in size, but their play styles are very similar. That man is Shane Victorino. Speed, not a ton of power, put the ball in play. Reyes will have to improve his defense even more and eye at the plate, and contact rates to reach the Victorino comp, but even if he turns into 75% of the player Victorino was, the Tigers have something to work with.
HOUSTON ASTROS :
- SP Josh James
A late riser through the Astros farm system, still quite honestly trying to understand how to harness his new arsenal. Before the 2018 season, James was sitting 91-94 MPH with the FB, discovered he had sleep apnea, worked with a Dr. over the offseason, and changed his sleeping habits, and had his tonsils removed in the process. The next season Josh was hitting 95, 97, 99, 100+ on the gun. You can read the full story here. A fascinating read. Heading into the 2018 offseason, he wasn’t looked at as a part of the Astros future plans quite honestly; he probably wasn’t going to be much more than a spot starter, or bullpen depth in low leverage situations to that point in his career. But everything changed in 2018, virtually becoming a new man.
Still looking to consistently command his new FB and build his offspeed off of it is a work in progress. But the flashes are there. It’s just a matter of James putting and becoming the pitcher he is capable of becoming. When he can locate the FB, it is virtually unhittable. but he just has some trouble consistently doing that, leading to a 13.2% BB rate, allowing hitters to zero in on zones, making him much more hittable. His stats on the outside look pretty rough in 2019. Posting a 4.70 ERA and that ugly 13.2 BB% but that doesn’t tell the whole story, he pitched a whole lot better than those stats show. Below paints out his short MLB Career to this point a bit more.
|Year||IP||xFIP||xFIP–||Soft%||Med%||Hard%||AVG Against||ERA||WHIP||K/9||BB/9||SwStr %|
Some things that stand out to me. In 2019, his BB/9 and hard contact % both struggling mightily. Before 2018, James was never a power pitcher. Now he is. Making this transition virtually at the big league level was never going to be an instant result. But I think this is the year he can put it all together, and put a very productive season together for the Astros whether that be in a bullpen role or even working as an SP as he did in the minors. I will leave you with his Savant rankings.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS :
- SP Brad Keller
Another former rule 5 pick on this list. Has done a ton of learning on the fly, and pitched fairly well in his time in the league to this point. A FB/SNK, SL Pitcher he gets predictable at times, especially when hitters decide to spit on his SL and focus in on his FB virtually making him a 1 pitch pitcher. And not having an overpowering FB, that’s a recipe for disaster. But that is all about to change in 2020. Keller has been working on a new weapon. A Curveball. Keller goes into depth here about the CB addition. Adding another pitch will be extremely beneficial to Keller as he works to keep hitters off balance more and try to generate a few more swings and misses. Not having a CH, the CB should help him with LHH, giving them another pitch to think of and keep them off balance. And as Keller mentioned in the video above, the return of Salvador Perez will only help him, and the entire pitching staff with his ability to control the staff and keep his pitchers working to their gameplans.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS :
- SP Dylan Bundy
A trade acquisition for the Angels this offseason, the Angels are hoping Bundy can provide them with quality innings to a staff who has had a whole lot of struggles the past few seasons. High FB Spin grading in the 85th percentile, but hitters have consistently been able to square it up pretty consistently. Giving up a staggering SL opposing batters posted a .433 wOBA… A major cause for concern.. 2018 his Slider had a 50% WHIFF%. In 2019, backed that up with a 47% WHIFF% rate. A pitch that he uses to put away hitters. His GB rates rose in 2019, up to 42%. After averaging roughly 35% over the first 3 years of his career. Something that will turn out to be extremely beneficial if he can continue that trend. Not having to be the ace of the staff really for the 1st time in his career, should put him in a better mindset with less pressure on his shoulders, not to mention the change of scenery, and a much better park to pitch his home games in. The addition of Mickey Callaway to the Angels staff should prove to be great for Bundy and the entire Angels staff. A very strong pitching mind within the game that knows how to get the most out of his staff. Where Callaway goes, pitchers generally perform. And I think that will magic will spread to Bundy and the Angels staff as a whole.
MINNESOTA TWINS :
- LF/1B/DH Brent Rooker – PROSPECT
An older prospect (25), drafted as a college senior in 2016, is someone who might benefit greatly from the expanded rosters that are expected to happen due to the corona-virus situation. Not a good defensive player by any means, but can fill in at LF/1B, as well as DH. Focused primarily in LF during the 2019 season, seems to be a start to improve on defense. While the range will never be great, or probably even above average at any point of his career, if he can turn into a defender who makes the routine plays, not costing the pitching staff runs There really is not a spot for Rooker in the lineup to start the season and will be a bench player/platoon at best early on with the deep veteran lineup the Twins have. But will at some point debut and have a chance to carve out a role if he can hit. Has hit RHP Very well. If he can learn to hit Lefties more consistently he could be a productive hitter in a deep Twins lineup. 65 Grade RAW Power. Needs to cut down the swing and miss a hair capable of drawing walks to go with those strikeouts. Extreme Pull% that has virtually risen with every level he has been at peaking at 55.2% in AAA during the 2019 season. He steps just slightly into the bucket but has a fairly simple swing that generates good bat speed and a whole lot of power to the pull side. He needs to improve his pitch selection and overall plate coverage, as well as continued improvement on defense to be a more complete player than just the power bat he is known for at the moment. Reminds me so much of Phillies 1B Rhys Hoskins. From the power, paired with an average hit tool, mediocre defense, will strikeout a good amount, but also draw a high amount of walks per season, both having trouble with hard breaking pitches away. When given the chance to show his talent in Minnesota this season, don’t be surprised if Rooker comes out swinging a hot bat and provide just another power bat for the Twins to roll out there.
NEW YORK YANKEES :
- RP Michael King – PROSPECT
We would have probably seen a lot more of King pitching for the Yankees last summer if not for a Spring Training injury holding him out until after the All-Star break, nevertheless, he managed to make his debut late in the season pitching 2 innings out of the bullpen. Now healthy, King looks like another prospect who will more than likely benefit from the increased roster sizes in 2020. With extra arms needed, especially for the Yankees, a team dealing with so many injuries the past year and already seeing main cogs of their rotation go down (Severino who is out for the year and Paxton who will miss some time to start the year no doubt but was slated to miss the 1st half of the season before the seasons’ delay) during Spring Training this year. King has posted strong numbers throughout the minors except for 2019 after coming back from that elbow injury. Very good control. Sinkerballer, not going to overpower many hitters, but beats them with command and lives low in the zone. With the star-studded Yankees roster when healthy don’t have a ton of glaring holes to be filled, but a season like we are heading into, King is the perfect type of depth pitcher for the Yankees with the ability to throw multiple innings in the rotation or out of the bullpen. His long-term value is probably just that, in the back end of the rotation, or middle relief. He won’t ever have the elite stuff to lock down the later innings but can be a valuable 2-3 inning piece of a bullpen. Possibly even serving as an “Opener” going 1 time through the order before handing it off to the studs in the Yankee pen.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS :
- CF Ramon Laureano
If he was not hiding away in Oakland, he probably would not be on this list. One of the best defensive CF most people probably has never even heard of unless you are more than the average baseball fan. Consistently robbing hitters of extra-base hits, Home runs, and taking extra bases with his range, speed, and unmatched arm talent, putting fear in any base runner willing to test his arm. In just 170 career games.. Laureano has 19 assists!
The range to even get to those balls in the first place, and next to the arm? 1st one overthrown, but the arm strength to make that throw, and then overthrow it.. And how about the 2nd video? Straight to the chest. Near 320ft away, running away from the direction of the throw stops, sets feet, crow hops, and fires a perfect strike not many big leaguers can make. A true 80 grade Arm capable of making any throw on the field. Offensively, Ramon likes hunting the FB.
Consistently pushing Fastballs. With fairly even L/R Splits. The biggest hole in his game is the BB% at the plate. Ramon played a good portion of 2019 with a sore shoulder forcing him to play quite a bit of RF, but was still able to be very productive not only in the field but with the bat as well. With a full healthy season, Laureano is capable of putting up big numbers on the offensive end with GG caliber defense at a premium position.
- 1B/OF Evan White – PROSPECT
The Mariners locked their #4 prospect with a 6 year $24 million deal before he even saw a pitch at the big league level.. A big commitment to a player 0 experience, but a chance for the club to save some money down the line if he can turn into the player they believe he can. Slated to start at 1B to start the year for the big league team now that service time is beyond the Mariners concern it’s time to see what they have in Evan White. Strong and flashes Plus plus (70) grades defensively, and moves extremely well for a being a 1B only throughout the minors. Very athletic. Generates plus bat speed and doesn’t get beat in too often. Slight cause for concern when watching some video of White from 2019, he has a slight hitch throughout his load that leads to him struggling against higher velocity up in the zone. A mechanical adjustment that is fixable, but something that will get exposed by pitchers capable of elevating their high velo FB against him. He has been a pretty heavy pull hitter throughout the minors as well, coming in right around 47% his 3 seasons. He starts his hands very low and tight to his stomach. I think if he started his hands in a slightly higher position, and eliminate that unnecessarily hand movement that I feel is leading to the hitch in his swing. Giving him a better chance to catch up to the higher velocity up in the zone that has given him fits as he has moved from level to level.
TAMPA BAY RAYS :
- 1B/3B/LF/DH Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
A very productive hitter for the Yokohama Baystars of the NPB with a career slash line of .285/.382/.528/.910. A surprise signing by the Rays in my eyes, not due to the talent of Yoshi, but with the depth, the Rays already have in the corner OF and corner IF positions. But bringing Yoshi in means 1 of 2 things. The Rays didn’t trust their other options to be complete enough to get through a full season, or the Rays just liked Yoshi that much and didn’t care what was blocked with his arrival. Either way, Yoshi should have no issue fitting into the Rays culture and finding playing time with the Rays’ creative ways of moving players around and his ability to play a few positions. Speaking 3 languages will make his transition into the league and Rays clubhouse fairly simple. A powerful swing to all fields with discipline at the plate, should translate well to the bigs and see him settle in nicely in the middle of the Rays order.
TEXAS RANGERS :
- 2B/3B/OF Nick Solak
Had a chance to play down the stretch for the Rangers after the mid season trade from the Rays for RHP Peter Fairbanks. Known for his bat, and incredible makeup which was evident to scouts and evaluators as a pre-draft prospect. Solak came up hot in 2019 and helped himself earn a role moving into the 2020 season with the club. A poor defensive player, with the Rangers talking about moving him around the field a little with the ability to play 2B/3B and learning the OF. Manager Chris Woodyard said during Spring Training the Solak would be the teams starting LF “if the season started today” Clearly we are still waiting for the season to start, but I don’t see much changing on that front and Solak should be able to step into the starting LF spot for the Rangers. But he is in the league for his bat.. A strong line drive approach at the plate. Plate discipline that has remained fairly consistent in the 11-12 BB% throughout the minor leagues and into his first taste in the big leagues. Baseball Savant has him pegged in the 89th percentile in Sprint Speed. The player that comes to mind when watching Solak and thinking what he may be in a few years is Tommy Pham. Similar profiles, bat first, good patient approach, similar swing path to the balls with the line drive driven mentality towards driving the ball, both with some pop and ability to have a strong OBP yearly and knock out 20HR any given season.
- OF Joey Gallo
Ya ya.. Gallo is already a pretty good and productive player for the Rangers while being one of the most feared power hitters in all of baseball. The 1st player in Major League history to record 100 career HR before 100 career singles (a pretty wild stat to think about). Most think his game stops there; a big power threat. Most don’t see the improvements he has made in his game to become a better overall player. According to statcast, in 2017 Gallo had a Barrel rate of 22.1% (2nd only to Aaron Judge, the man who in my opinion should have won the 2017 AL MVP award. Moving into 2018, Gallo led the MLB in barrel rate at 22.5%, 2nd was Khris Davis at 17.2%. In 2019, Gallo had a shortened season in 2019 due to injury, playing in just 70 games his numbers were ridiculous:
In 2019, Gallo was on a mission to:
- Become a better overall hitter, settling for more base hits while not sacrificing his power
- Improving his walk rate and becoming a more selective hitter overall taking more walks, also a few more Ks with getting deeper in counts was bound to happen.
- Leading the league in Barrel rate once again
- Improving his chase%.
- 2018 posted a 29.2% chase%
- 2019 down to 20.4% chase%
Gallo has a career Hard Hit rate of 50%. When he makes contact and the more mature he gets, it seems he is finding more ways to make consistent contact, he is the best power hitter in the league in my eyes. And now, he has more to offer than just an HR bat. A very capable defender in the OF, Baseball Savant had Gallo tabbed in the 67th percentile for outfielder jump, while Fangraphs had him at +1 DRS in CF. Paired with ++ arm strength, being a former catcher and 3B, the arm can play anywhere. In my eyes, Joey Gallo will turn himself into an all-around star this upcoming season.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS :
- 2B/OF Cavan Biggio
Just 1 of the few stud rookies the Blue Jays called up for their MLB Debuts in 2019, all hoping to have any types of careers their fathers did would be incredible. Cavan has a really interesting profile. An uppercut swing that generates some good pop, but with some swing and miss as well. A hitter who consistently works deep into counts, with an incredible walk rate that has been fantastic throughout the minors and continued to hold in his rookie year (16.5%; Top 2% in the MLB). Biggio ranked 1st in the league with a 44.2% SwSP% (Sweet Spot %), right in front of Mike Trout 44.1%. Hit pretty well against the FB; hitting .277, with a .507 SLG, .403 wOBA, hitting 13 of his 16 HR against FBs. Struggled against offspeed/breaking pitches, as most young hitters do in their 1st crack at big-league pitching. Grading out in the 80th percentile in Sprint Speed according to Baseball Savant, Biggio has a nice mix of Power, Speed, and Plate Discipline. He is extremely versatile defensively, playing 4 positions, 1B (33 innings), 2B (735.1 innings), LF (6 innings), RF (61 innings).
Agree? Disagree? Have your own picks to breakout? Comment below! Let’s discuss!
Be sure to check out the NL Team Player Breakouts for 2020 done by @ConnellyDoan https://prospectsworldwide.com/2020/07/06/nl-breakout-players-for-2020-all-teams/
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