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 East; who are the top breakout candidates to watch in 2019?
Dylan Bundy – Starting pitcher (Orioles)
One of these years, Dylan Bundy is going to blow our pants off. 2019 should be the year. Bundy, 26, has been up and down in his brief MLB career. Bundy has a ton of talent, he’s just never consistent. Bundy was the 4th overall pick in the 2011 draft for a reason. Bundy went 8-16 in 2018. In the 16 losses, he pitched towards an 8.40 ERA. In his 8 wins, he pitched towards a 2.48 ERA. That gives you a snapshot of who Bundy has been. He’s either been awful or good. No in between. Injuries have reduced Bundy’s velocity over the years and he’s been walking too many guys. If Bundy can get completely healthy and reduce his walk totals, I think you’re looking at a really good pitcher.
Cedric Mullins – Outfielder (Orioles)
Cedric Mullins was a late season call up by the Orioles a year ago and all he did was rake… until he didn’t. Mullins was called up in August and smacked his way to a .317/.386/.556 batting line in 18 games. Once the calendar crossed over to September, Mullins started to stink. Mullins hit just .187 the rest of the way. Mullins is a switch hitter and was abused by left-handed pitching (.156 against lefties – .264 against righties). Mullins is going to get a chance to play every day with Adam Jones out of town. If the Orioles centerfielder can figure it out, they will have a nice building block moving forward.
Rafael Devers – 3rd Baseman (Red Sox)
August 13th, 2017, Rafael Devers was on the verge of stardom when he took a 103 MPH Aroldis Chapman fastball to the opposite field for a game-tying home run in the 9th inning. Devers looked like he arrived but then his stock took a bit of a dip. Devers hit .240 in 2018 and was regarded as one of the worst defenders in the league. However, I think people forget that Devers just turned 22. This is a kid that played in the Majors at the age of 20. That’s so difficult.
Devers raked in the postseason with a .311 average in 51
Eduardo Rodriguez – Starting Pitcher (Red Sox)
Pure stuff wise, Eduardo Rodriguez is on the verge of greatness. Injuries have been what’s been holding him back. Eddie has had major knee troubles thus far but is a really underrated starter. I bet you would have never guessed that ERod went 13-5 with a 3.82 ERA in 2018. Now Rodriguez has been working with the Red Sox staff to add a slider to his pitching repertoire. In the past, Rodriguez almost threw an in between pitch that sort of looked like a slider but almost looked like a change up. It sat too flat and hitters took advantage. Cleaning up the offspeed pitch and staying healthy could take Rodriguez to an All-Star level starter.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – 2nd Baseman (Blue Jays)
Everybody knows about Uli Gurriel but his younger brother is pretty good too. In just 249 at-bats with Toronto, Gurriel produced an OPS+ of 107 and smacked 11 homers. Not too bad for a 2nd baseman. Heading into year two, Gurriel could take the leap just like his big brother. The Blue Jays need him to do just that. Can you imagine an infield with Vlad, Bo Bichette, and Gurriel?
Rowdy Tellez – 1st Baseman (Blue Jays)
I had the opportunity to work in a AAA clubhouse in 2018 and Rowdy Tellez was one of the many players I got to see live in person. Tellez is a house at 6-foot-4, 220. It’s not a jacked 220 either. Just big. That works in baseball because the ball jumps off his bat when he makes contact. Tellez was a late season call up by the Jays and he delivered a 154 OPS+ in 70 plate appearances. I’m sure the Jays would love for Tellez to take at-bats away from the immobile Kendrys Morales.
Gleyber Torres – 2nd Baseman (Yankees)
Gleyber Torres was a productive 2nd baseman as a rookie for the Yankees but he has more in the tank. I don’t think anyone is doubting that. .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers is great for a middle infielder. No one is denying that. I just happen to think that Torres has the potential to become that best player at his position.
2019 could be that year. MLB.com listed Gleyber Torres as the 9th best 2nd baseman in baseball. What’s interesting is that they also listed teammate D.J. LeMahieu two spots ahead of him. Progressions for young players are not always linear. Does Torres become one of the best at his position or is he the odd man out of the lineup when Didi Gregorius returns to the lineup? That’s baseball for you.
Greg Bird / Luke Voit – 1st Base (Yankees)
It wasn’t too long ago that Greg Bird was smacking home runs in the playoffs to beat the Indians. Then people got sick of Peter Griffin singing ‘Bird is the word’ and Greg fell off the face of the earth. You have to really suck to have a -0.6 WAR. Then we have Luke Voit who has a minor league journeymen who the Cardinals gave away for Chase Shreve who also sucks. Voit hit .322 down the stretch for the Yanks and became a serious threat in the lineup. The good news is New York has two bites at the apple with this one hoping that one of these guys can become a productive first baseman.
Austin Meadows – Outfielder (Rays)
The Chris Archer trade may go down as one of the worst deals in the history of the Pirates organization. Austin Meadows is reason number one. The former Pirates farmhand hit .287 with 6 homers in 187 at-bats with the Rays in 2018. Meadows is a former
Tyler Glasnow – Starting Pitcher (Rays)
Tyler Glasnow is Archer heist part two. Glasnow is 25. Archer is 30.
- Glasnow – 4.27 ERA, 11.0 K per 9, WHIP 1.272
- Archer – 4.31 ERA, 9.8 K per 9, 1.375 WHIP
The Rays not only got Meadows, they also got the better pitcher. Glasnow is an interesting building block because he’s 6-foot-8. He’s also been much better since entering the Rays system. Pre All-Star break he allowed a .240 average. Post All-Star when the trade happened he allowed a .196 average. The Rays have something here.