2019 NL Central
Josh Bell is an up and coming stud for the Pirates. What other players in the NL Central have a chance to bust out in 2019? (Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

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?

Kyle Schwarber – Big boy bat (Cubs)

I hate National League baseball and one reason why is I don’t get the chance to watch Kyle Schwarber just rake. It’s a headache trying to watch him field. I don’t understand why the Cubs just don’t cut bait and send him to the AL where he can thrive but I guess that’s the reality we live in.

Schwarber has way to much talent to be hitting .220 on a regular basis. I’ve had enough of it. Schwarbs has hit 56 homers the past two years but he’s not getting on base enough to cancel out his defense. 2019 might just be the year where Schwarber turns into an offensive powerhouse.

Jordan Hicks – Reliever (Cardinals)

Jordan Hicks is a flamethrower. He will blow 105 MPH right past your ear hole. It’s scary to watch come out of his hand. Hicks might be the Cards closer of the future. Hicks might be the next great Cardinals starter. I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what to do with him. What I do know is Hicks is a weapon. He strikes guys out and never gives up home runs. Hicks has the potential to be great.

Brandon Woodruff / Corbin Burns – Starting Pitcher (Brewers)

The Brewers need a starting pitcher so bad that they just might consider hosting open tryouts soon and signing bums off the street. It’s ugly. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burns need to become part of the solution, not the problem. That includes two things. Eat innings and pitch quality innings. None of this opener BS.

Colin Moran – 3rd Baseman (Pirates)

Colin Moran came over the Pittsburgh as the main piece in the Gerrit Cole trade. In year one as a starter, Moran was solid. .277 average and 11 home runs. Now heading into year two, Moran can elevate himself into the .300 range. Moran has always been a guy that hits in all levels of the minors. If the Pirates want to make the Cole trade look respectable, Moran needs to become a premier 3rd baseman. He’s on that path so far.

Josh Bell – 1st Baseman (Pirates)

Josh Bell is a player I’ve liked for a long time. In 2017, Bell hit 26 bombs but that number went down to 12 in 2018. Bell gets on base a ton with an OBP of .357. He has a good eye at the plate but the power comes and goes. More of a line drive hitter than a big masher. That’s not really a bad thing. If Bell can repeat that 2017 power and increase his average slightly, Bell will become one of the best first baseman in the sport.

Jesse Winker – Right Fielder (Reds)

I don’t love what the Reds have been doing recently. This is a team that needs a new GM in the worst way. One guy I do like is Jesse Winker. Not defensively, of course. He had a Defensive WAR of -1.9. That’s horrendous. But, offensively, Winker rakes. In 471 career at bats in the majors, Winker is a .299 hitter with 14 homers. He also rarely ever strikes out. Just 70 punch outs in those AB’s. He’s a special bat in the lineup. Now it just remains to be seen if the Reds are smart enough to make him a regular in the lineup. This franchise hasn’t proven that they do anything smart the past 5 years.