Who Is Baseball's Breakout Hitter In 2019?
This is one of 10 burning questions in our 2019 MLB season preview. To see all of our bold predictions, click here. All answers to the question are from Baseball America’s editorial team.
Carls Collazo: Tyler O’Neill, Cardinals. Consider this: O’Neill was 15 percent better than the average hitter last year despite a 40 percent strikeout rate. Joey Gallo is the only player to strike out that frequently with an OPS+ greater than 115. If O’Neill can cut down his swing and miss even slightly he should be a dangerous hitter in St. Louis’ lineup with 40-plus home run potential.
Justin Coleman: Ramon Laureano, Athletics. Laureano is known for having an impressive defensive skill set, showing off his plus arm and excellent speed last season. He should be able to build off of a .288/.358/.474 in 48 games last season, thanks in part to a 42 percent hard-hit rate.
J.J. Cooper: Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays. I’ve long been a believer in Hernandez’s power and solid athleticism. He hits the ball hard and he squares up balls consistently when he makes contact. Hernandez has already shown he can hit for power. Cutting his strikeout rate would help him greatly.
Matt Eddy: Max Kepler, Twins. A tantalizing combination of plate discipline and hard contact could portend an offensive breakthrough.
Kyle Glaser: Willy Adames, Rays. Adames blossomed at the end of last season and showed a tantalizing mix of contact ability, patience, power and speed, even beyond was even expected. After getting his first taste of the majors, he’s ready to explode in 2019.
Kegan Lowe: Harrison Bader, Cardinals. Bader had a mini-breakout in 2018, but it felt like he received more attention for his stellar defense and elite sprint speed than his offensive production. There were just 10 players who hit 20-plus home runs and stole at least 20 bases last season, but Bader—who hit 12 home runs and stole 15 bases—has the potential to add to that total.
Josh Norris: Tommy Pham, Rays. Pham’s average exit velocity in 2018 was 92.8, which ranked ninth in baseball. His hard-hit percentage was 49.9, placing him just outside the game’s ten best in that category. All that loud contact should translate into national recognition.