It’s that time of the year. Players are reporting to spring training and baseball is right around the corner. Every single year there are a handful of players that take the leap that you didn’t necessarily see coming. I’m going to try to identify those candidates for the upcoming season. Who are the top 2020 AL East breakout candidates?
2020 AL East Breakout Candidates
It’s tough to pick a pitching candidate on the Orioles. If you wanted to hit home runs last year, go to Camden Yards. Baltimore gave up 305 home runs last year which was 35 more than the next worse team. Hunter Harvey is a guy who has been floating around the minors for the organization forever. Often times not really pitching to his capabilities. Harvey made 7 outings for the O’s to close out the year. A WHIP of 1.105 and ERA of 1.42 in 6.1 innings makes his as good of a candiate as any on this team.
Talk about ending the year strong. 68 at-bats and Austin Hays exploded on the scene. A batting line of .309/.373/.574 is no joke. Yes, short sample size but it looks like Hays belongs. Baltimore needs cornerstone players. Hays looks that kind of guy who can blossom into a quality regular.
Boston Red Sox:
Darwinzon Hernandez has serious potential. Hernandez has filthy stuff. On the flip side, he can’t hit the broad side of a barn. He led AA in walks in 2019 while he was in the minors. He walked 7.7 batters per 9 in the majors. He also struck out 16.9 batters per 9. If Hernandez can limit the rollercoaster and put together more of the good stuff, we’re looking at a special player. We could also be looking at a train wreck. That’s baseball for you.
Can Michael Chavis catch up to big league fastballs? We’re going to find out soon. Chavis crushes breaking balls. Can’t hit the high fastball at all. He chases it out of the zone constantly too. I think this chart pretty much wraps it up. If Chavis can adjust, look out.
New York Yankees:
I’ve said this before. When I worked for the IronPigs, Touki Toussaint and Michael King were the most dominant starters I saw. King had a down 2019 but he wasn’t healthy at all. In 161.1 minor league innings in 2018, King had an ERA of 1.79 and under a 1 WHIP. Nobody could touch him in AAA that season. I think there’s something there.
This one is more of a dart throw. Most of the Yankees lineup offers predictability. If New York suffers injuries in the outfield again, Estevan Florial may get his shot. Florial’s bat really disappeared this past year but is a former revered prospect. He’s also on here as trade bait as New York looks to improve at the deadline.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Okay, I’m cheating here. Glasnow is a stud, but it’s time for him to do it for a full season. In 12 starts, Glasnow had a 1.78 ERA. It’s time for him to take another step forward and do it over 35 starts. Glasnow has Cy Young potential. The Rays stole him.
Manuel Margot is a stud defender. Now it’s time for his bat to take a step forward. The Rays obviously saw something or they wouldn’t have traded for him. I’m going to trust that Erik Neander knows what he’s doing and can get more out of him. Margot has been a consistent .235-.245 hitter with limited power. With a 10 percent improvement, we’re looking at a real asset.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Elvis Luciano is an interesting story. The Blue Jays snagged him because of a weird rule in the Rule 5 Draft. He’s the first player to play in the Majors born in the 2000’s. His 2019 season was ugly but that’s fine. This is a dart throw. Luciano is a project but it could be only a matter of time until he pops.
Talk about flying under the radar. All of the attention goes to Vladdy Jr. Rightfully so, however, Bo Bichette is a superstar. In limited time last year, Bichette posted an OPS+ of 144. That’s big time. That’s a higher OPS+ than JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Freddie Freeman, and Nolan Arenado. This is a superstar that is coming in hot.