5 MLB rookies poised for breakout seasons

Oakland Athletics pitcher Jesus Luzardo
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball fans have been waiting longer than ever for the 2020 MLB season. Now that it’s less than a month away, following a captivating offseason and a prolonged delay, we can look ahead to an exciting group of rookies taking the field.

Rookies are one of the most exciting things about each season. Every year we see new faces get their first full taste of the majors and a few find a way to become household names. Even in a 60-game season, something that fans and players will get used to, this year’s rookie class will deliver a few breakout seasons.

The 2020 season should provide even greater opportunities for young players thanks to the National League adding to designated hitter and rosters expanding to create more chances. Let’s now take a look at five MLB rookies poised to breakout seasons.

Jesús Luzardo, starting pitcher, Oakland Athletics

We saw a glimpse of what Luzardo is capable of when he made his MLB debut during the 2019 season. Oakland’s electric southpaw came out of the bullpen and posted a 16-3 K-BB ratio with a 1.50 ERA across 12 innings, then threw three shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game. While it might sound crazy, this 22-year-old could emerge as the Athletics’ ace by the middle of the season.

Luzardo brings a dynamite fastball, a changeup that will crush the dreams of veteran hitters and a nasty curveball that will help him generate strikeouts. Durability has been the lone concern with him and he would have faced an innings cap in a full season. Now with a 60-game schedule, Luzardo can stay fresh all year and dominate. We wouldn’t be surprised if he records a 3.5 ERA and takes the mound for the Athletics as their postseason ace.

Gavin Lux, second baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers

Arguably the second-best prospect in baseball, Lux is simply incredible to watch when he is on the diamond. He utterly crushed pitching in the minors in 2019, posting a .313/.375/.521 slash line at Double-A followed by an eye-popping .292/.478/.719 slash in 49 games at the Triple-A level. Oh, he also hit 28 home runs across the entire 2019 season.

While fans didn’t get to see a lot of Lux this past season in Los Angeles, everyone knows what he is capable of at the plate. A player with a 60-hit tool already and the chance to become an All-Star hitter and he pairs it with some tremendous pop. He’ll be hitting in an absurdly loaded Dodgers’ lineup and could post a .850 OPS in his first full season.

Carter Kieboom, third baseman, Washington Nationals

In the middle of spring training, the Nationals likely wondered what they were going to do with Kieboom. He struggled defensively at the hot corner, but he offers the kind of power that needs to be in a lineup. Now that the NL will have the designated hitter, Washington will always be able to find him a home.

Kieboom’s first taste of the majors (.128/.209/.282) didn’t go well, but he has shown plenty of talent in the minors. He isn’t just a power hitter, his .378 OBP in his MiLB career demonstrates his great approach at the plate. He’ll see time at third base, second base and designated hitter this season and we’d bet on him hitting 10-plus homers with a .500-plus SLG

Brendan McKay, pitcher. Tampa Bay Rays

McKay, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft, attracted a lot of eyes as a potential two-way star. However, he hasn’t quite put it together as a hitter against professional competition and he struggled even more when he reached the majors. Now, that said, he made it to the majors so quickly because he is outstanding on the mound.

McKay’s 5.14 ERA this past season looks ugly, but he also recorded an impressive 10.29 K/9 with a respectable 2.94 BB/9. He really started to figure things out and the Rays love his versatility to pitch out of the bullpen or as a starter. This will be one of the best teams in baseball this season and McKay will be a big reason why.

Dylan Carlson, outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals almost certainly would have kept Carlson at the Triple-A level if this was a normal year. Now that it isn’t an option and a new spot in the lineup has opened up, St. Louis can add a player who could become one of its best hitters.

Carlson hit 26 homers in 489 at-bats between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. During that time, he also showed off some wheels with 20 stolen bases in 120 games. A savvy player with a great approach at the plate, Carlson should now be a mainstay in the Cardinals’ lineup and could be crucial to their playoff hopes.