Major League Baseball is filled with great players in the field, the batter’s box, and on the mound. That’s because, more than almost any other sport, new stars breakout each season. For whatever reason, players find the recipe for success that they didn’t have up to that point. Whether it is because their role is expanded or they’re back from injury or any number of reasons, breakouts frequently happen in an MLB season.
The 2019 season has officially begun and it’s time to peg a select few players to become stars. Now, it is difficult to narrow this down to just five, as there are viable options all around the league. To be considered for this list, we’re not picking players who are starting the season in the minor leagues. That leaves out prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jiminez. We’re trying to focus on people who have had chances in the majors and this is the year that should be their best.
5. Shane Bieber – Cleveland Indians
Shane Bieber made his debut for the Cleveland Indians in 19 starts last year. He went 11-5, showing a penchant for winning. With a 4.55 ERA, there’s still definite room for improvement. That’s where this season comes into play. Bieber is poised for a breakthrough similar to the one teammate Trevor Bauer went through. One reason everyone is high on Bieber is his strikeout to walk numbers. Bieber struck out 118 batters in 114.2 innings, and only walked 23. With a fastball reaching 93 mph and an impressive slider/curveball/changeup repertoire, expect big things from Bieber. He could end up as the best fifth starter in all of baseball.
4. Ketel Marte – Arizona Diamondbacks
For the past few years, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ offense has been led by Paul Goldschmidt. With his move to St. Louis, the Diamondbacks need someone to shoulder that load. Enter Ketel Marte. He doesn’t seem like an obvious choice. Marte wasn’t a highly touted prospect and much of his career so far has featured inconsistencies. That being said, he shrugged off a slow start last year to improve his power, contact, and discipline at the plate. He’s also 25, which is usually a good year for your first big season. The athletic player will get a chance to become a household name by moving to center field and being featured in all sorts of highlight reel web gems.
3. Amed Rosario – New York Mets
Think of Amed Rosario as a true breakout possibility. He’s been around for a while now, racking up over 750 plate appearances and the numbers aren’t that impressive. We’re talking a .255 average, 13 homers, and 61 RB. That would be strong for a season, but these numbers span more time than that. However, he has steadily improved his strikeout rate, is developing more power and maintains his great speed. For about the final two months of the 2018 season, Rosario hit .303 and that projects to something similar this season. He could be the difference between a playoff push and the cellar for the Mets.
2. Jose Alvarado – Tampa Bay Rays
It should come as no surprise that the Tampa Bay Rays have another quality pitcher in their system. The franchise has developed many great ones over the past decade or so. Jose Alvarado has the potential to be one of, if not the best of the bunch. In a strong 2018, he struck out 80 hitters in less than 65 innings and had a fantastic 2.29 ERA. More impressive is the fact that he struck out nearly half the batters he faced in the final two months of the season. Really try to grasp that staggering number. His teammate Diego Castillo also nearly made this list, giving Tampa Bay a formidable pitching duo moving forward.
1. Victor Robles – Washington Nationals
Last season, outfielder Juan Soto was the breakout National. Victor Robles has the chance to be next in line, especially with the departure of Bryce Harper. One of the top prospects in baseball, Robles teased Washington fans in 2018. In a short stint with the major league club, Robles was electric. He showed off power, speed, and the kind of flair you need to be a star. He’s also starting the season in the everyday lineup. As long as he can avoid the injury bug that plagued parts of his minor league career, Robles is a favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year.