MLB Preview 2019: Who will be this year's breakout stars?

Yahoo Sports

A new Major League Baseball season brings with it a new chance for success — whether we’re talking about a team or a player. In the case of some players, it’s also the chance for this to become *their* year.

Every year brings breakout candidates, the people who are going to end 2019 in a much better place than they started it, the players who are going to propel their teams to new heights.

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It’s a preseason tradition to pick breakout candidates, and we’re nothing if not consistent. So here are some breakout stars of 2019, as predicted by Yahoo Sports MLB’s team of baseball opinion-havers:

Shane Bieber

You might not realize it if you just look at his 4.55 ERA, but Shane Bieber had a promising year for the Cleveland Indians in 2018. The 23-year-old struck out over a batter per inning and had one of the lowest walk rates in baseball. He may have even pounded the zone a little too much. If Bieber can fish for weak contact and whiffs on pitches out of the strike zone in 2019, he could see his numbers improve. Even if he doesn't, he might be in for an ERA reduction. Bieber's FIP was a much more promising 3.23. Cleveland already has a dominant rotation. If Bieber delivers on the promise he showed last season, it won't be a question, they'll have the best rotation in baseball. - Chris Cwik

Nick Pivetta

On the surface, Nick Pivetta's numbers don't look all that great (it's hard to dress up a 5.33 ERA in 58 career starts). But once you get a look at his strikeout numbers, you can see why he's still got a spot in the Philadelphia Phillies rotation. In 33 games in 2018, he struck out 188 batters. That's 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, not far out of the top ten in MLB last year, and the best strikeout rate of the Phillies rotation. He's had flashes of brilliance, but hasn't been able to make it stick. With a much improved defense behind him this season, Pivetta has a decent chance of being able to put it all together. Not bad for a guy who was the return from the Washington Nationals when the Phillies traded Jonathan Papelbon. And yes, that is 100 percent true. - Liz Roscher

Nick Pivetta of the Phillies is one pitcher to watch in 2019. (Getty Images)
Nick Pivetta of the Phillies is one pitcher to watch in 2019. (Getty Images)

Eloy Jimenez

Eloy Jiménez of the Chicago White Sox, but only because he’ll have to be. The White Sox blew all the goodwill with their fans by whiffing on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Jimenez’s big bat has the potential to get South Siders feeling good again and the new contract he signed will let him get started right from opening day. - Kevin Kaduk

Adalberto Mondesi

The Kansas City Royals won't be good, but they'll be a good source of entertainment this season thanks in large part to Adalberto Mondesi. After a painfully slow start to his career, the 23-year-old shortstop put it together over his final 54 games in 2018, hitting .286/.318/.517 with 11 homers and 27 stolen bases. Those are some juicy numbers that highlight his upside, particularly with his legs. There will still be growing pains. He's not the most patient hitter. But if develops that aspect, look out. - Mark Townsend

Ronald Acuña Jr.

You might argue with me that Acuña is long past a breakout. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2018. And in Atlanta, fantasy baseball and MLB superfan circles, you’re right. But here’s my take: 2019 is the year the Braves outfielder becomes a face-of-baseball type star. It’s the year the general sports fan starts to realize the greatness that is Acuña — the tools, the swagger, the personality. He has it all. He can be baseball’s next vibrant star who goes mainstream. In a sport, of course, that doesn’t have too many of those. - Mike Oz


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