Baseball Players Who Will Become Stars This Year

  • Christian Yelich Miami Marlins breakout

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Christian Yelich

    MARLINS

    There’s no doubt you’ve heard of Yelich’s better-known teammate, MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has made quite the reputation for himself in Miami, blasting ticker-tape homers and gunning people down from the outfield.

    His counterpart in left field is no slouch himself. Just 23 years old, Yelich already has a Gold Glove to his name, and his slash lines (.284/.362/.764) in 2014 were almost identical to his production in an abbreviated rookie campaign.

    The question will be whether Yelich can add a little more power to his game to supplement the defense and base-running prowess. Good news: He should still be naturally putting on weight as he heads into his mid-20s, which could help his extra base hit totals grow naturally. Don’t be surprised if he’s in the All-Star Game this summer.

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  • Kolten Wong Cardinals breakout

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    Kolten Wong

    CARDINALS

    You may remember Wong from his breakout performance in last year’s NLCS. Wong racked up five XBH’s (two home runs) and slugged .833 against the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants, looking every bit like the talent he’s been projected to be.

    Betting on Wong certainly requires a bit of a leap of faith; he hasn’t hit well for average in the pros despite hitting .305 at the minor league level, and his strikeout rate has gotten worse since making the leap as well. So what is it exactly that Wong has to offer?

    Power from a middle infielder is highly sought after, and his playoff explosion on top of his 15 homers in limited big league duty lends hope that he’ll compensate for his poor average with a power surge. Unlike in years past, he also has an open path to the Cardinals starting lineup, with St. Louis all but ensuring he will be “the guy” at second for St. Louis this season. Increased reps will give him more chances to shine.

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  • Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    James Paxton

    MARINERS

    Nobody likes being assigned the “if he can stay healthy” tag, but James Paxton is a prime example of a big talent who simply needs his body to hold up.

    Paxton was dominant in the closing stretch of 2013, winning all three of his starts and turning in a 1.50 ERA to boot. He looked primed to breakout last season – but unfortunately, a 2-0 start was derailed by a stint on the 60-day DL. Paxton missed about four months of the season, unable to cash in on his early momentum.

    I’m betting on the injury bug not hitting him as hard this season, despite the fact that he has already suffered a forearm strain in spring training. The Mariners already have a couple of the best top-end starters in baseball, and if Paxton can stay on the field, they are going to be a nightmare for opposing batters to deal with.

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  • Jose Quintana White Sox breakout star

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    Jose Quintana

    WHITE SOX

    Quintana is among the more established names on this list, entering his fourth major league season in 2015. He’s had a stellar first couple seasons for Chicago, but based on his improvement since entering the bigs, it still feels like his trajectory is on the up-and-up.

    Several key stats have jumped dramatically since Quintana’s major league debut in 2012, most notably SO/9 (5.3 to 8.0) and FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching for the unaware – (4.23 to 2.81). Quintana cut down on home runs and walks allowed dramatically last season, with his record skewed a little bit by his lack of run support.

    Bank on Quintana benefitting from another year of experience and making his biggest leap yet.

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  • Xander Bogaerts Red Sox breakout star

    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Xander Bogaerts

    RED SOX

    If you’re going to bet on a 22-year-old baseball player – a murky proposition at best – you might as well stake your claim on one of MLB’s highest-regarded prospects. Enter Bogaerts, one of the brightest young talents in baseball and the undisputed starter for Boston at short this season.

    That last bit is important; Bogaerts was shifted to third to accommodate Stephen Drew last season, a radical change that even established players would struggle to make. This year, Bogaerts has the middle-infield spot locked up, and he will get a chance to live up to the staggering hype that preceded his big league arrival.

    He’s the biggest wild card of the bunch, but it’s a gamble worth taking.

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  • Christian Yelich Miami Marlins breakout
  • Kolten Wong Cardinals breakout
  • Jose Quintana White Sox breakout star
  • Xander Bogaerts Red Sox breakout star

Tracking and predicting the success of baseball’s youth is one of the most challenging exercises in sports. Many up-and-comers are plucked out of high school, having proven little against comparable talent, and are subsequently thrown into a robust minor league system. Outside of the most obsessive prospect hounds, you’d be forgiven if you lose track of everyone but the “next big thing” talents like Bryce Harper.

Even if we can’t be certain, trying to project who will break out in a major way is a fun way to kick off the season. By the dog days of summer, many fanbases will have to face harsh reality checks, but the spring brings with it almost eternal optimism. Anyone can theoretically make the next step into prominence, even if some players making “The Leap” are more likely than others.

This isn’t to say that any of the players listed onward are going to become one of the best athletes on the planet, like say a Mike Trout, but bigger and brighter things are on the horizon. Maybe that means they’ll turn in an impressive playoff performance, or maybe it’s as simple as turning in a few standout highlights. Whatever the case is, these guys are on the verge of more success, more recognition, and more adulation from the public.

While our eyes are still wide with hope, let’s try to pinpoint who is destined to hop up a level during the 2015 MLB season. These are the Baseball Players Who Will Become Stars This Year.

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck

image via Jeffrey Phelps/Getty Images