With a new Major League Baseball season upon us, hopes spring eternal for many teams across the league. Likewise, there are players in each MLB camp who have those same aspirations for their individual seasons, many of which are looking to make a name for themselves in a new fashion.
A year ago D.J. LeMahieu and Daniel Murphy made significant rises in their game to battle for the National League batting title. Likewise, Aaron Sanchez and Kyle Hendricks exploded on the scene to play major roles in their clubs reaching the postseason on the mound. Who stands to be this season’s biggest breakout talents?
Let’s have a look at seven candidates who could be on the brink of stardom in the new baseball year.
Alex Bregman, Astros
After roaring through four levels of the minors in under a year, the team did everything they possible could to get Bregman into their lineup late last season, trying the 22-year-old at shortstop, left field, second and third base. He responded with eight home runs, 34 RBI and a .791 OPS over 49 games, proving his place as a major portion of the Astros immediate push for AL West supremacy.
After helping Team USA to a World Baseball Classic, he’ll settle in on the hot corner this year and for the foreseeable future, joining Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve in baseball’s best young infield.
Kevin Gausman, Orioles
Long heralded as the O’s ace of the future, Gausman finally showed the type of talent and consistency that made those predictions so prevalent over the past few years. After the All-Star break last season, he won eight of 15 starts, along with a 3.10 ERA.
He’ll get the .ball on Opening Day this season, as Baltimore will hang much of their hopes for a return to the postseason on his shoulders.
Randal Grichuk, Cardinals
The streaky St. Louis slugger showed both his best and his worst last season. After early season struggles saw him be demoted to Triple A Memphis and his place in the Cardinal future in doubt, Grichuk made the most of his second chance. Over the final two months, he connected for 12 home runs and a .909 OPS. In the new year, he’ll be looked to potentially hit cleanup for a Cardinals club looking to put a similarly inconsistent 2016 behind them.
Robbie Ray, Diamondbacks
A crafty left-hander who can also channel some overwhelming stuff from his arsenal as well, Ray posted four games of double-digit strikeouts a year ago and finished in fourth in the NL in K’s with 218. The only thing standing between Ray and potentially rapid rise up the ranks of pitchers in the game is honing his control and a bit more luck with balls in play (he allowed a .355 BIP average). But the talent is clear.
Gary Sanchez, Yankees
The biggest breakout star of the late part of 2017, Sanchez nearly won the American League Rookie of the Year award in just two months. After hitting 20 home runs in his first 51 big league games, Sanchez is expected to carry the weight of a Yankees team that showed some significant potential late in the year. While continuing to produce at the rate he did last year is impossible, he should still begin a run as an All-Star mainstay this summer.
Trevor Story, Rockies
Story set a handful of rookie home run records last season, and kept the level of production carrying through the rest of the year. A torn UCL in his hand unfortunately ended his season short of setting even more high marks and challenging for NL Rookie of the Year honors. However, there should be every expectation that he picks up where he left off at last year — a beeline towards 30 homers, and beyond.
Dansby Swanson, Braves
There is superstar potential in Swanson, the top pick in the 2015 Amateur Draft. He will take over everyday the everyday shortstop role in Atlanta this year, with the type of expectations of being an immediate franchise cornerstone at the position like no other player has carried since Derek Jeter. The Braves are turning the page to a new era in franchise history; new ballpark, renewed manager and a young leader at the Keystone, set to carry the expectations into reality.