There is no shortage of players in baseball with amazing offensive potential, and we all know that with any new season, any player can have a breakout season. Advanced baseball metrics don't always tell you what a player will do, and some players simply defy the math.
Players like Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and DJ LeMahieu, all strong players throughout their careers, turned things up more than just a notch recently. Those are just two examples. Let's take a look at five players who had strong seasons in 2019, and could be standout players in 2020.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr - 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
No one was surprised at Guerrero's performance in 2019. Son of the Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., the 2019 Rookie of the Year candidate certainly has baseball in his veins. Per Baseball Reference, Vlad Jr ended his rookie season with a slash line of .272/.339/.433 with 15 homers and 69 RBI. The rookie also had an above averages OPS of .772, and his 105 wRC+ is stellar for such a younger player.
The expectations were high for Guerrero in 2019, and I think many (including myself) were surprised when the season ended and Astros' Yordan Alvarez (Rookie of the Year) had better numbers than Guerrero. Guerrero was inconsistent with too many highs and lows and hit way too many ground balls for an expected power hitter. A look at his spray charts, per Fangraphs, show his problem with too many grounders. Some of that can obviously be attributed to his youth and inexperience facing big league pitchers.
What will Guerrero Jr do in 2020? Per Fangraphs, ZIPS Projections for Guerrero's 2020 shows an improvement over his slash line in 2019, and project a .285/.349/.497 with an .846 OPS. ZIPS also projects 25 homers and 93 RBI for Vlad in 2020. Steamer Projections show a slash line prediction of .296/.364/.502 and a nice 128 wRC+.
Based on what we saw in 2019, those numbers seem safe, but I think it's entirely possible that Guerrero finds his zone, improves his launch angles, and does even more than expected. He has all the tools to exceed any projections.
Bo Bichette - SS, Toronto Blue Jays
Great fathers, and sons with great potential, is starting to seem like a theme here. Another Blue Jay who had a solid 2019, Bo Bichette is the son of Dante Bichette, who was a 14-year veteran and a four-time All-Star.
Bo got off to a fantastic start as a rookie in 2019 with a solid slash line of .311/.358/.571 and a fantastic .930 OPS. While ZIPS and Steamer projections show a little regression for Bichette in 2020, there is no lack of confidence in the young 22-year old (just turned on March 5th). Speaking with Sportsnet's Arash Madani, Bichette exuded confidence, and Madani was impressed with how even-keeled, super-chill, and confident Bo is going into 2020.
With a very unorthodox swing and data that seems to suggest a regression from his 2019 numbers, Bo is a more "iffy" prediction for me to have a powerful 2020. Still, I don't think he will regress as much as some projections, and it wouldn't surprise me to see his numbers eclipse what he did in his rookie season.
Eloy Jimenez - LF, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox had an eventful offseason, and have a depth of talent that some prognosticators say could see them make a run at a title in 2020. I project them to be somewhere around 85 wins for 2020, and they'll need to do better than that to win the AL Central.
One young, talented player that will certainly improve their chances is Eloy Jimenez. Eloy slashed .267/.315/.513 in his rookie season last year with an .828 OPS, and also belted 31 homers and 79 RBI.
The downside for Eloy are numbers such as his 26.6 K% and 6.0 BB%, which he will certainly need to improve if the whole of 2020 is as strong as the final two months of 2019. ZIP and Steamer, always conservative, show projections of improvement for Jimenez, but I think Eloy's numbers will be better.
Jimenez surged the last couple of months of 2019 and he went on a 14 homer run that showed great promise. Eloy will have to see those breaking pitches and off-speed pitches better, but if he can put those pieces of the puzzle together, he could belt as many as 45-50 homers.
Gavin Lux - 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Gavin Lux only played in 23 games with the Dodgers in 2019, but according to Baseball Reference, he slashed a respectable .240/.305/.400. Every young rookie needs time to adjust to big league pitching, but Gavin has a lot of the attributes required to be a breakout hitter in 2020.
Split between Double-A and Triple-A play in the minors, Gavin wowed with a slash of .347/.421/.607 with a 1.028 OPS. In 113 games he hit 25 doubles, 26 homers, and drove in 76 runs. Additionally, Fangraphs shows Lux had a cool wRC+ of 188.
With such a small sample size in the majors, other factors that are impressive with Gavin are his plate discipline (he rarely chases bad pitches), exit velocity, and his foot speed.
Fernando Tatis Jr - SS, San Diego Padres
Tatis' rookie season in 2019 was amazing and showed just a glimpse of what the young, 21-year old rookie is capable of achieving.
In just 84 games, Tatis slashed .317/.379/.590 with an OPS of .969. With other notable stats like a wRC+ of 150. 3.6 WAR, and efficient contact rates on balls both in and outside of the zone, Tatis is primed to do even more with a full season of play.
In 2019, Tatis his 22 homers and drove in 53 runs in those 84 games played. Both ZIPS and Steamer (which are conservative projections) have Fernando going 20/60 and 30/80, but don't be surprised if Tatis exceeds those numbers. If Tatis stays healthy and plays an entire season, he has the potential to hit closer to 40 homers and 100 RBI.
Tatis will need to fine-tune his plate discipline, make better decisions with his At-Bats, and improve his defense to be in any MVP conversation, but he does have that potential.