Who Will Be The Breakout MLB Hitter Of 2021?

Image credit: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Photo by Tom DiPace)

This is one of 10 burning questions comprising Baseball America’s 2021 MLB Season Preview. To see the full preview, click here. Below, our staffers pick the hitter most likely to break out in 2021 and offer a brief explanation as to why. 

Ben Badler — Alec Bohm, Phillies. Bohm has impressive plate coverage for a long-armed, 6-foot-5 hitter, with patience and impact power. After finishing tied for second in NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, he’ll take another step forward

Alexis Brudnicki — Anthony Alford, Pirates. Could this year finally be the year the perpetual prospect gets regular at-bats and can string his game together? Alford has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, so this pick is tied to his health, but he will always be one of the most intriguing athletes whose potential you’d love to see come to fruition.

Mark Chiarelli — Clint Frazier, Yankees. Frazier’s ability to find the barrel and do damage in limited action, combined with his track record of elite bat speed and above-average power potential, make for an enticing combination. Now it appears he’ll finally have the chance to prove himself in a full-time role.

Carlos Collazo — Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays. Vladdy Jr. has quietly been a solid or better hitter in his first two seasons, but he’s in line to break out and fully become the hitter everyone envisioned when he was baseball’s No. 1 prospect. In terms of improvement from 2019 to 2020, Guerrero ranked ninth in hard-hit percentage increase (38.7% to 50.8%) and sixth in average exit velocity increase (89.4 mph to 92.5 mph). The next step is going to be getting the ball in the air more frequently—he had a 54.6% groundball rate in 2020, 10th-highest among qualified hitters.

J.J. Cooper —Dylan Carlson, Cardinals. Carlson looked like two different hitters if you compare his first stint in the majors in 2020 with his return after a demotion. The addition of Nolan Arenado means that he won’t be asked to do too much, but his well-rounded tool set should give the Cardinals an above-average hitter with above-average power.

Matt Eddy — Trent Grisham, Padres. Grisham turned in a fine season as a 23-year-old first-time regular a year ago, but the young center fielder will take his game up a level by leading off all season for an explosive Padres lineup. He and Jake Cronenworth are young hitters who epitomize the grinding hitting approach the Padres have adopted.

Kyle Glaser — Kyle Tucker, Astros. Tucker quietly clicked midway through last season and emerged as one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters down the stretch. Look for him to rise into the upper echelon of American League outfielders in 2021.

Josh Norris — Willi Castro, Tigers. Castro put together 36 excellent games in 2020. In 2021, he should prove to be a critical piece of Detroit’s continuing rebuild while playing a key position.

Chris Hilburn-Trenkle — Gavin Lux, Dodgers. Lux struggled mightily in 2020 and was left off the Dodgers’ World Series roster, but the 23-year-old second baseman was off to a strong start this spring and looks more like the guy who was named the 2019 Minor League Player of the Year.

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