2019 AL Central
Reynaldo Lopez is just one breakout candidate in the AL Central. Who are the others? (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

Baseball is the one true sport that is always unpredictable. You can hit a line shot that results in an out and a bloop off the end of the bat that results in a hit. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Baseball is also a sport where prospects flop and pop from season to season. Prospect rankings are never reliable.

Before the start of the 2019 MLB Season, we’re going to go division by division to project which players have the best chance to break through and reach stardom. Starting with the AL Central; who are the top breakout candidates to watch in 2019?

Jake Bauers – First Baseman (Indians)

Jake Bauers came to the tribe in the 3-way deal that sent Edwin Encarnacion packing and brought back Carlos Santana. Bauers figures to play a sort of first base, DH, corner outfield sort of role. Light tower Bauers has a ton of power in his bat hitting 11 bombs in 323 at bats. The bad news is need to become a more complete hitter. .203 average isn’t cutting it. Bauers is a guy the Indians are counting on to make that next step and they need him to. The outfield in Cleveland is a mess.

Byron Buxton – Centerfielder (Twins)

I love the Twins this year. I’m all in on them winning this division. There was about 7-8 guys I thought about using for the Twins but I’ll stick with two. It’s time for Byron Buxton to become a top 5 centerfielder. Buxton has the tools to become an all-timer on the defensive end. He just never hits enough. A .156 average sent him back to AAA in 2018. Buxton was the second pick in his draft class for a reason. If he ever figures out how to hit, watch out. 2019 is a make or break year.

2019 AL Central
Are the Twins getting the 2017 Miguel Sano or the 2018 version? Let’s hope Sano figured his shit out (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Miguel Sano – 3rd Baseman (Twins)

Talk about another guy who fell off the face of the earth. The Twins were so frustrated with Miguel Sano in 2018 they sent him all the way to A ball. Progressions are not always linear so all we need is for Sano to get back to his 2017 season. 126 OPS+ and 28 bombs will do the trick. If Sano and Buxton both hit, the Twins are winning that division.

Jeimer Candelario – 3rd Baseman (Tigers)

The Tigers stink. I essentially pulled up their roster, closed my eyes, and pick a random name. Just kidding, (but also not kidding) Jeimer Candelario is the type of guy who can take the next step. Canderlario is a former Cubs farmhand but was moved because there is no place on the roster for him. He’s going to get all the chances in the world to make the Tigers. When Canderlario was first dealt to the Tigers, he hit .330 in 27 games in 2017. Enter 2018 and came back down to earth fast hitting .224. This is a young player that can get a hell of a lot better and hopefully be the hot corner for Detroit for years to come.

Adalberto Mondesi – Shortstop (Royals)

Adalberto Mondesi is already really good but look for him to become an All-Star very soon. Just entering age 23, Mondesi hit .276 in 2018 and was a 3.2 WAR player. Mondesi hits the ball hard and has the potential to become an elite hitter. What he really needs work with is his glove. Mondesi has taken huge leaps forward defensively over the past year. I remember watching him as a rookie and he couldn’t even sniff a ground ball hit to him. Now he’s not a bad fielder. The sky is the limit for Mondesi. Don’t be shocked if he’s hitting .300 and 20 bombs this year.

Reynaldo Lopez – Starting Pitcher (White Sox)

The Adam Eaton heist hasn’t turned into much of a heist. Lucas Giolito stinks. Reynaldo Lopez has been just okay. A 3.91 ERA for a 3rd year pitcher is okay. However, his ERA has dropped from 4.91 in 2016 to 4.72 in 2017. Now that he’s under 4, why can’t Lopez continue to improve and get into the 3.30 range? Lopez gave up 25 long balls in 32 starts. Cut those down to about 15 and you have something. I also love the way he pitches. Nobody brings the duck lips harder than Lopez. That has to count for something.