National League Six Potential Breakout Players
Last time around, the focus was on identifying six potential breakout stars in the American League. To conclude this mini series, the focus will now shift over to the National League. Spring Training is underway, but now is the prime time to start identifying potential names to circle on team’s rosters.
Every season, there are always a handful of players that come out of nowhere. Everyone can make all of the predictions they want before the season starts. Furthermore, everyone can write and read all of the team previews they want. However, there are always that handful of players that surprise us.
As such, that’s where a series like this comes into play and why it’s important. As a reader, you might be preparing for an upcoming Fantasy Baseball Draft. Maybe you want to study players before the season starts or you just love watching those players who come out of nowhere. Regardless, a series like this is one that any baseball fanatic will enjoy in every regard.
With that being said, here are six National League potential breakout stars for this coming season.
National League East
1. 3B Austin Riley (Atlanta Braves)
Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley feels like a superstar in the making. Despite having a disappointing season in many regards last year for the Braves, Riley is one of those players to watch this season. With Josh Donaldson out of the equation, the Braves have a significant question mark at the hot corner. Donaldson did a fabulous job in a full-time role there last year split time between first and third base as well as left and right field last year. However, his natural position is at third base and as a result, if Riley is able to handle the position full-time, watch out.
During his age 22 season last year, Riley hit: .226/.279/.471 over the span of 297 plate appearances. In that span, Riley recorded 18 home runs, 49 RBI, 16 walks, and 108 strikeouts. The Braves are likely to go with a platoon of Riley and Johan Camargo at third base, but if Riley shows enough this spring he may very well end up with the full-time job. In reality, that would probably be the better route to go for a Braves offense that will look to make up the offense left behind by the absence of the aforementioned, Josh Donaldson.
2. CF Brandon Nimmo (New York Mets)
New York Mets centerfielder Brandon Nimmo has a new void of confidence heading into this season. All offseason long, the Mets were rumored to be looking for an upgrade in centerfield and were most notably connected to Starling Marte, former centerfielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates who is now with the Arizona Diamondbacks. As a result, Nimmo could very well flourish knowing that the Mets have confidence in him heading into this season. For the 26-year old, Nimmo has yet to put everything together over an entire season, but this feels like it could be the season where that happens.
One thing that really stands out about Brandon Nimmo is his plate discipline. Nimmo concluded last season with a walk rate of 18.1% over the span of 254 plate appearances. Last year, Nimmo played 69 games at the big league level so if he plays an entire season with the major league squad, then the Mets might be in for a quite a treat. Besides the plate discipline, don’t sleep on the power either. Nimmo concluded last season with a Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) of .293.
National League Central
1. 2B/SS Luis Urias (Milwaukee Brewers)
Milwaukee Brewers second baseman/shortstop Luis Urias will head into the 2020 regular season in the first year with the Brewers organization. Milwaukee acquired Urias in a trade with the San Diego Padres this offseason. Right now, things on the Brewers depth chart look a bit jumbled as Keston Hiura is slated in as the starting second baseman and Orlando Arcia is likely to be the starting shortstop. However, now with Urias in the fold, Arcia has some competition this spring. At 22 years old, Urias is very capable of far exceeding expectations and taking off.
Last season with the Padres, Urias hit: .223/.329/.326 over 249 plate appearances. In that span, Urias had a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) value of 81 and a 22.5% strikeout percentage. However, it’s important to note that Urias only played in 71 games and was only 21 years of age. With another major league season under his belt, Luis Urias might very well take that next step forward and be a sneaky acquisition by the Brew Crew from this past offseason.
2. RHP Dakota Hudson (St. Louis Cardinals)
St. Louis Cardinals right-handed starting pitcher Dakota Hudson could be primed for a big season. Coming up through the Cardinals organization, Hudson received a lot of praise and his skill set was illustrated enough for the organization to draft him during the first round of the 2016 Amateur Draft. Looking ahead to this season, the Cardinals are expecting Hudson to step into their number two spot of their rotation. From a skill standpoint alone, Hudson is more than capable of doing that and could provide St. Louis with quite a 1-2 punch when coupled with fellow righty and ace, Jack Flaherty.
Last year, Dakota Hudson finished fifth in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Furthermore, Hudson posted a 3.35 ERA over 175.2 innings of work with a 7.0 K/9 rate and a 1.40 WHIP. For Hudson to take that next step forward, he will need to rely more on his slider and sinker pitches. Both of those are effective pitches for Hudson and when thrown effectively, can result in some serious swing-and-miss action by opposing teams hitters.
3. National League West
1. SS Nick Ahmed (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed might very well be the most underrated shortstop in all of baseball. After all, Ahmed is a guy that has won two Gold Glove Awards the last two consecutive seasons and continually makes critical defensive plays at the position. In addition, Ahmed is the type of player that you want in the clubhouse as he is a leader for the rest of the team and someone that displays a lot of heart for the game of baseball. Based on the last two seasons alone, it’s fair to say that the 2020 regular season might be a very special one for Nick Ahmed.
Last season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Nick Ahmed was a force at the plate. Ahmed recorded 19 home runs, 82 RBI, and a .280 BABIP over the span of 625 plate appearances. Although, where Ahmed really shined was in his defense at the shortstop position. Ahmed recorded 18 Defensive Runs Saved last year alone. It might seem hard for Ahmed to top what he did last season with Arizona, but it’s definitely not out of the question.
2. 2B Ryan McMahon (Colorado Rockies)
Colorado Rockies second baseman Ryan McMahon is a special talent. During his first two years in the majors, McMahon struggled with both sides of his game – at the plate and in the field with his defense. However, last year McMahon seemed to start clicking on quite a few cylinders and started to put together everything. The effect from last season and simply having yet another year of big league experience under his belt, could pay off big dividends for the 25-year old this coming season.
Last year over the course of 539 plate appearances, McMahon hit: .250/.329/.450 with 24 home runs, 83 RBI, and 5 stolen bases. Although, McMahon really shined from a power standpoint at the plate. Over that span, McMahon recorded a career high 91.4 MPH exit velocity and the highest Hard Hit Rate of his career at 47.7%. When coupled with the likes of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, McMahon could give the Colorado Rockies yet another tremendous power bat in their lineup.
All in all, the six names on this list are potential breakout candidates for the 2020 regular season. Some of the names will come through and surprise us all, while others might end up having a disappointing season. Only time will tell what ultimately happens, but one thing is for sure – the idea of players coming out of nowhere is what makes the game of baseball so much fun. Every season, you can make all of the predictions and read all of the team previews you want, but the game is played on the field and no one knows who that handful of players that come out of nowhere might be this year. However, these six individuals are definitely names to circle.