One of the consistently wonderful aspects of professional sports are the players that really blossom into superstar quality athletes during a season. These players aren’t part of the preseason hype by the mass media but make a name for themselves with their play on the field.
As we embark on a historical, abbreviated 60-game season next week, here is a list of one player on each AL Central club that may be ripe for a 2020 breakout.
Chicago White Sox – Dylan Cease
The White Sox arguably are going into this season with the most improved club over last season. The starting rotation gets a lot of attention from All-Star Lucas Giolito and the additions of veteran left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez. Sophomore right-hander Dylan Cease is coming off a rollercoaster 14-start rookie campaign where Sox fans captured a glimpse of his potential as he struggled at times with control.
Now that top pitching prospect Michael Kopech’s return has been suspended until 2021, expect Cease to develop into a very relevant piece of the White Sox’ rotation. Cease will take a big leap towards becoming a top-of-the-rotation starter for Chicago for years to come during his first “full” season. Fantasy baseball owners would be wise to consider taking a flier on the young righty in the later rounds of upcoming drafts.
Cleveland Indians – James Karinchak
Cleveland Indians fans caught a brief glimpse of James Karinchak last season when he debuted in the final two weeks of the season. Many Cleveland depth charts don’t even feature the right-handed power arm with a mid-to-high-90s fastball plus a nasty curve and change in his mix. Expect Karinchak to not only be a part of the 2020 Indians bullpen but even appear in critical late-inning situations down the stretch for the Tribe.
Brad Hand is the Cleveland closer for the moment but do not be surprised if the 24-year-old Karinchak quickly finds himself regularly pitching in the most crucial situations out of the ‘pen. Karinchak could eventually develop into a closer of the future in Cleveland following his 2020 breakout season.
Detroit Tigers – John Schreiber
The Detroit Tigers have several young prospects on the horizon and Casey Mize could be making an impact in the Tigers’ rotation as soon as this season. However, since Mize is so highly-rated, we’ve decided to go with a second-year arm out of the Tigers’ bullpen. Mize could be the stud, impact player the Tigers are expecting this year but his “breakout” season is more likely to come next year.
26-year-old right-hander John Schreiber made his debut at the MLB level last season, pitching 13 games in relief between his early August cup of coffee and expanded roster time in September. Schreiber’s low-90s four-seam fastball is complemented by his curveball but he has been working on his changeup and should use that more this season. Schreiber struggled with control in Lakeland in March but should be ready to go and make an impact out of the Tigers’ 2020 bullpen.
Kansas City Royals – Nicky Lopez
Some may say that Nicky Lopez had a bit of a breakout after his early-season promotion to Kansas City as he finished his rookie season hitting .240 and 22 doubles during his 2019 rookie season. Lopez will improve on those metrics as the 25-year-old middle infielder continues to get more exposure to MLB pitching in 2020. Lopez was a career .296 minor league hitter during parts of four professional seasons shouled improve and get closer to .300 in 2020.
Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi could provide the Royals with a formidable double-play combination in the coming decade and those that aren’t aware of Lopez today will by the end of this season. The Royals will be looking to Lopez and fellow teammates Brett Phillips, Ryan O’Hearn, and potential rookie Nick Heath to emerge as impact players on the rebuilding Kansas City baseball club.
Minnesota Twins – Luis Arraez
It may seem crazy to look to a rookie who debuted last season hitting .334 in his first 94 MLB games as a candidate for a breakout season, but that’s exactly the potential Luis Arraez has as an MLB hitter. The 23-year-old second baseman advanced from Double-A to MLB in the first few months of 2019 and with 2020 being his first full season, he could be a strong pre-season candidate for a batting title this year.
Arraez will benefit from hitting in front of a potent Twins lineup and get on base for the sluggers behind him to drive in. Expect Arraez to be among the league leaders in hitting, runs scored, and runs created as he advances into his second MLB season. Arraez has hit at all levels of the game, and while he does not look to develop into a power hitter, he’s an old school top-of-the-lineup hitter that will be invaluable to the 2020 Minnesota Twins playoff run.