Breakout candidates for every club in 2020

February 19th, 2020

No matter how many free agents you sign or big trades you make, the best way for any team to improve immediately is to have breakthrough seasons from their young players, that season in which it all comes together for them ... that season they make the leap. We saw Christian Yelich do it a couple of years ago, and Ketel Marte last year (among others). It’s when a good, promising player becomes a great one. It’s what we’re all waiting and hoping for.

With that in mind, we take a look at the breakout candidate for every team, the player each team is hoping makes The Leap this year. They’re not superstars yet ... but they might be soon.

Blue Jays -- , 3B: He didn’t take over the league instantly when he showed up last year. He may well have been saving that for this year.

Orioles -- , LHP: OK, maybe “superstar” is too ambitious here. But Means was an All-Star in 2019, and he could be even better this year.

Rays -- , LHP/DH: With top prospect Wander Franco maybe a year away, McKay could be the two-way player we’ve all been waiting for in 2020.

Red Sox -- , LF: He’s been more “good” than “great” to this point in his career, but we know the talent is there. If the Red Sox are going to surprise folks in the post-Mookie Betts era, they’ll need Benintendi to find a new level.

Yankees -- , SS: He already kind of made The Leap last year, but it seems like there is more to come. In fact, one projection system sees him hitting 40-plus homers in each of the next five years!

Indians -- , CF: Mercado was a godsend for a team that desperately needed outfield help last year. If the Indians are going to hang in this year, they may need him to take an even bigger step forward.

Royals -- , SS: He led the Majors in triples (10) and stole 43 bases -- despite only playing 102 games. Imagine if he played 162.

Tigers -- , RHP: He’s the best right-handed-pitching prospect in the game, and his first appearance with Detroit this year could be the most exciting moment of the Tigers' season.

Twins -- , CF: If he can even play 140-plus games in a season, he has MVP potential. But will it happen before it’s too late?

White Sox -- , LF: He was starting to really put it together late in the year, and he obviously has light-tower power. He might be the best candidate on this entire list, a dark horse to hit 50 homers.

Angels -- , RHP/DH: He’ll be back on the mound early in the season on a team poised to contend. This is what we were all waiting for.

Astros -- , RF: He’s been on top prospects list for so long he kind of feels like a bust, even though he’s just 23 years old and had a 30-30 season in the Minors last year.

Athletics -- , CF: We’ve all seen the highlights of his rocket arm, and he’s always had OBP skills. Now let’s see what goes down when he gets to play a full season.

Mariners -- , LHP: He hasn’t had the best results lately, but everyone watching him can see what he’s capable of. A huge part of the Mariners’ future.

Rangers -- , OF: Last year was supposed to be his breakout season, and it would have been had injuries not bitten him. If he can stay upright, 2020 is the year.

Braves -- , RHP: He made his big splash last year, and now the restrictions are off. Can he be an old-school Atlanta ace?

Marlins -- , RHP: He was an All-Star last year, but he proved durable in the second half, perhaps even more impressive and important.

Mets -- , SS: His offense has improved every year since he made his debut, and his defense appears to be improving as well. Can he continue to keep taking it up a notch?

Nationals -- , CF: He’s already among the best defensive center fielders in baseball, and there’s potential for more with the bat.

Phillies -- , 3B: Last year was more like what the Phillies had in mind when they extended him before he played his first big league game. Can he make a proportionally larger jump in 2020?

Brewers -- , 2B: The Brewers lost a lot of talent this winter, and they are counting on Hiura (who hit .303/.368/.570 in 84 games last year) to help fill that void.

Cardinals -- , OF: The Cardinals believe their top prospect can show up from the Minors (perhaps early in the season) and solve much of their outfield problems. They better be right.

Cubs -- , CF: He’s the youngest regular on an increasingly older team, and he may be the only guy who can play center field every day.

Pirates -- , RHP: The Pirates might not have a ton to showcase this year, but Keller (65 strikeouts in 48 innings last year) will be a must-see every start.

Reds -- , CF: The Reds brought in a lot of veterans with hopes of winning the division this year, but their hopes rest as much on Senzel, their most hyped prospect in recent years who hasn’t quite figured it out.

D-backs -- , RHP: We’ve seen what he can do in a brief stint, posting a 2.94 ERA in 64 1/3 innings last year. But a forearm injury sidelined him for much of the season. Can he put it together for 150-plus innings?

Dodgers -- , 2B: He’s the No. 2 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline, and we already saw last year that he can handle big league pitching. He could make an already scary lineup that much more frightening.

Giants -- , RHP: There really isn’t anyone to choose from on this veteran-laden team, so I’ll select the 2014 first-round pick who struck out roughly a batter per inning last season.

Padres -- , SS: Clean up the defense and stay in the lineup all year, and you’re looking at an MVP candidate.

Rockies -- , OF: If there were ever a time to finally have that “wow” season we were promised when he was high on prospects lists, now is it.