Potential Breakout Stars for the 2020 Season: American League

American League
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American League Six Potential Breakout Players

Every year before the season starts, there is plenty of optimism in the air for every team in the American and National Leagues. Teams are excited thinking about what lies ahead and the potential reward that lies at the end of the journey. Furthermore, teams are looking forward to seeing which of their players have the biggest impact on the teams results. Sometimes, those individuals weren’t primary pieces to the puzzle for teams at the start of the season.

As such, right now is the perfect time to examine all thirty teams and identify ten individuals who could be potential breakout players this season. Breakout players can be in the form of someone who has played in the major leagues for a couple years now. In addition, it could be in the form of a young rookie who came up at the end of last year or someone who could break camp with their respective team.

Regardless, all twelve of the individuals in this mini-series are going to be players that you are going to want to circle and watch very closely this season. As mentioned before, sometimes the biggest rewards come in the form of the least known group of players.

This mini-series will be divided into two parts with the first part happening below and focusing on six potential American League players.

American League East

1. SS Gleyber Torres (New York Yankees)

New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres is a significant part of the Yankees current roster after leading the team in home runs last year. The great news is that while Torres has already shown what type of player he can be, his ceiling has the chance to be even higher which is scary for opposing teams. Torres is still very young, as he is entering his age 23 season, and has the tools to be a true five-tool player. If Torres is able to take that next step forward on both sides of the baseball, it is going to be a huge asset for the Yankees this coming season.

During his age 22 season last year, Torres hit: .278/.337/.535 with 152 hits, 26 doubles, 38 home runs, 90 RBI, 48 walks, and 129 strikeouts. Furthermore, Torres was named an All-Star and had a .296 Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). Coming up as a prospect in the Chicago Cubs system, Torres received high marks in nearly every category on the scouting scale. The ceiling is still high and 2020 could be Gleyber Torres breakout year.

2. LHP John Means (Baltimore Orioles)

Baltimore Orioles left-handed pitcher John Means has the makings of a breakout starting pitcher. Means was very effective for the Orioles last year and was the team’s lone representative at the All-Star Game. Furthermore, Means was so effective that he finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting last season. If both of those things indicate anything, it’s the fact that Means is a very effective pitcher and could be the frontline anchor for the Orioles moving forward into the future.

Last season, Means finished the year with a 3.60 ERA over 155 innings of work. In that span, Means recorded a 1.13 WHIP, 121 strikeouts, and a 4.5 Wins Above Replacement value. Some computer projections predict that Means will regress a bit, but given that he is entering his age 27 season, there’s still a lot of promise in the tank. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a left-hander in any starting rotation.

American League Central

1. LF Eloy Jimenez (Chicago White Sox)

Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez is the guy to watch if you are looking for a player with big time power this coming season. Jimenez has been talked about as a vital part of the White Sox future core group for a few years now. At the age of 22, Jimenez received his official big league call-up last year and definitely made an impact for the White Sox. Eloy Jimenez was one of the main prospects that went back to the Southsiders in a trade that sent left-handed starting pitcher Jose Quintana to the Northsiders – the Chicago Cubs before the July 31st Trade Deadline in 2017.

One thing that really stood out about Jimenez last season was the fact that he didn’t really become a feared hitter at the plate until after the All-Star Break. From the All-Star Break until the final game last year, Jimenez hit: .292/.328/.546. Over that span, Jimenez had 15 home runs and 41 RBI. For the White Sox to be a postseason team this year, Jimenez needs to take that next step forward and mesh in the lineup with the other promising youngsters the team possesses.

2. 2B Luis Arraez (Minnesota Twins)

Minnesota Twins second baseman Luis Arraez could be quite an addition for the team this year. Aaraez made his official MLB debut last May with the big league club and had quite an impact on the team at that point. When the Twins called up Arraez, they were likely planning on keeping him up for a short period of time. However, Arraez ended up finishing the season with the big league team and showed enough over those 92 games, to be penciled into the starting role at second base this year.

Projecting ahead to this coming season, the Twins will likely have a very strong lineup again. With the addition of third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Twins improved both offensively and defensively. As a result, the power and production that Arraez provides the team could be an added bonus. Last season, over 366 plate appearances, Arraez recorded a .399 on-base percentage and a Weighted On-Base Average of .360.

American League West

1. RHP Jose Leclerc (Texas Rangers)

Texas Rangers right-handed relief pitcher Jose Leclerc was a phenomenal reliever just two years ago. At that time, Leclerc finished the regular season with a 1.56 ERA over 57.2 innings of work with 85 strikeouts and an Opponent Batting Average Against of .126. As with any relief pitcher, the year-to-year results can differ dramatically because of how volatile relievers are. However, Leclerc is one that could provide tremendous value for a Texas Rangers team hungry to make it back to the postseason.

As the closer of the Texas Rangers, Leclerc will have a critical role in closing out games for the team. However, over the last two seasons, Leclerc has recorded 26 saves over 34 save opportunities. At 26-years old, Leclerc has the stuff and the confidence to thrive in that role with the Rangers. The coming 2020 regular season very well could be the year that he breaks out and proves his worth once again.

2. CF Ramon Laureano (Oakland Athletics)

Oakland Athletics centerfielder Ramon Laureano might be the most underrated centerfielder in the game of baseball right now. Laureano made several highlight-reel plays at that position last season. Furthermore, Laureano is really strong on both sides of the baseball and has the bat skills to be a power bat in the Athletics lineup. Heading into his age 25 season, Laureano looks primed to take that next step forward and become even better at his craft this coming season.

Last season at the plate, Laureano hit: .288/.340/.521 with 125 hits, 29 doubles, 24 home runs, 67 RBI, 27 walks, and 123 strikeouts. When you add all of that together, it equaled out to a runs above average (RAA) value of 21. In the field defensively, Laureano provided plenty of speed and athleticism to make those critical plays. While some of the defensive metrics for Laureano rated poorly, his defense is not something to sleep on.

Final Thoughts

In the end, there are going to be plenty of players that come out of nowhere and breakout this year. Above are six individuals who possess plenty of talent, athleticism, and heart for the game of baseball to make that happen. Only time will tell what ends up happening, but if you placed a bet on these six individuals, there’s a high likelihood that your bet would pay off huge dividends this year.