2018 MLB Breakout Players
Let’s start with a grand cliché: luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. In order for us to get along we have to agree that no single player on a MLB roster or radar is the least bit lucky.
Next, let’s assume Malcolm Gladwell nailed it when he said 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field.
Finally, let’s assume the average peak athlete starts their physical maturation around the age of 16 with the probability of peaking naturally around age 24. This is much more an assumption on my part but I’m the guy with the damn keyboard so follow along. It should take around 11 years of “deliberate practice” to hit 10,000 hours so I look for players around 25-26 that haven’t seen it all click yet in the bigs.
When I start thinking breakout players each season I spend time looking at these three factors. They breakdown a bit more simply but I want you to think I’m thorough. So: let’s look at: opportunity, pedigree, and age.
Without further gabbing and bullshit… My Breakout Players for the 2018 MLB season are:
(Keep in mind: The stat projections are me tempering my own expectations. I think the players on this list are going to play so far above expectations that you’ll all be naming your babies after me.)
Dylan Bundy – 25 years old –
I’m starting with an Orioles pitcher because there has to be a reason they haven’t spent big in free agency this season. They have to be betting that Bundy is going to be amazing this year.
Plain and simple, the Orioles need an ace and he’s been groomed to be once since before hair sprouted on his nuts. The pedigree is there, the opportunity is there, and he’s improved almost every time he’s stepped on the mound.
2017 Stats: 13 W, 9 L, 4.24 ERA, 169.2 IP, 152 K, 51 BB
2018 Stats (projected): 17 W, 6L, 3.30 ERA, 205 IP, 195K, 55 BB
Tim Anderson – 24 years old –
This guy didn’t start playing baseball until he was 16 years old!!! He was a state champion basketball player. So, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say he’s a freak of an athlete. He’s going to be the only guy I ever look at and believe he’s hit 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” in eight years.
He’s going into his third year as the starting short stop for the White Sox. He swings a lot, striking out far too much for anyone to think he’ll ever solve it. I think he’s solved it. The rumors from the off-season say he’s improved. This is a potential 25/25 short stop people. And you can steal him in the last round.
2017 Stats: .257 avg., 151 Hits, 72 Runs, 17 HR, 15 SB
2018 Stats (projected): .270 avg., 165 Hits, 90 Runs, 25 HR, 25 SB
Jorge Soler – 26 years old –
Soler was once such a prized prospect from Cuba that some scouts believed he was a better signing than Yoenis Cespedes. Truth be told, Soler was just a big strong 18 year-old when cash money started raining down on him. Who among us would make it rain nightly at the nearest Cheetah Club. (Put your hands down.)
Soler missed a ton of time last year and it’s easy to assume more stats if he stays healthy. He’ll DH a ton and play some outfield while his bat does all the talking. The kid got serious and bought a Peleton this offseason slimming down a bunch of pounds. Remember, he can hit! Seriously, he’s gonna hit!
2017 Stats: .144 avg., 14 Hits, 7 Runs, 2 HR, 0 SB
2018 Stats (projected): .270 avg., 135 Hits, 65 Runs, 25 HR, 4 SB
Delino DeShields – 25 years old –
There’s almost always something special about the kids of former big league players. DeShields’ papa was a star for the better part of a decade and he’s handed over some speed and the same “go for it all” mentality.
The leadoff spot is his and he’ll be anchoring centerfield all year long. A once first round pick of the Astros (a team that got a lot of those right) has had seen his share of adversity in the bigs. Now, with a few years under his belt I expect him to explode with the opportunity. This could be your stolen base league leader.
2017 Stats: .269 avg., 101 Hits, 75 Runs, 6HR, 29 SB
2018 Stats (projected): .278 avg., 160 Hits, 100 Runs, 12 HR, 41 SB
Yasiel Puig – 26 years old –
Puig has been on everyone else’s list once or twice in the past and it’s fair that many have given up on him because of his antics. Listen carefully; I love his antics. He is the type of player the MLB needs every team to have three of if baseball is going to capture the hearts of a younger generation.
Now, let’s talk numbers. Puig was banished to the minors in 2016 and after one month he returned to LA with a renewed sense of focus. Last year say Puig finally prove himself to be an every day contributing team player. The base running blunders decreased, the missed cut-off men faded away, and the Dodgers got a glimpse of their fan favorite becoming an adult. This is the year he challenges for the MVP award.
2017 Stats: .263 avg., 131 Hits, 72 Runs, 28 HR, 74 RBI, 15 SB
2018 Stats (projected): .285 avg., 170 Hits, 85 Runs, 40 HR, 110 RBI, 25 SB
Matt Harvey -28 years old –
Harvey is a bit older than most on my list but I’m including him because I honestly believe he couldn’t feel his fingers last season. If you’ve ever thrown a ball you know that touch, that sensation alters everything. Now, throw the ball 96 miles per hour without that feel. I’m amazed Harvey didn’t kill anyone in his 92 innings last season.
So, thoracic outlet syndrome requires surgery. Apparently it takes around 16 months for the effects of that surgery to subside. Its been longer… we all heal differently. Harvey was once the Dark Knight. In 2018, the Dark Knight returns!
2017 Stats: 5 W, 7L, 6.70 ERA, 92.2 IP, 67K, 47 BB
2018 Stats (projected): 12 W, 6 L, 3.25 ERA, 160 IP, 155K, 33 BB
There are a few other fellas I’m feeling strongly about…
- Kolten Wong should lock down second base for 150 games and provide around 15 homers and swiped bags.
- Bryon Buxton should spend this summer becoming one of the top ten players in all of baseball. He’s got a skill set that I think only Trout can rival.
- Starlin Castro is the old man on the Marlins roster and likely just playing to be trade to a team in need for the playoffs. He’s a quiet stud good for 20 homers from the middle infield.
Images from: Getty Images (found on Yahoo Sports, Si.com, Toronto Star, Chicago Tribune)