As the offseason progresses, every team is preparing for next season by adding pieces to their rotation and lineup, while locking up some depth as well. Because unexpected variables can happen throughout the year, you can never have too many productive players on one club. Therefore, organizations sometimes sign veteran players who can still contribute coming off the bench, but every now and then new players arrive proving they deserve just as much of an opportunity as any veteran. Here’s a look at which outfielders could breakout out in 2020.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
If you didn’t pay close attention during the second half of the season to the Toronto Blue Jays, then you missed out on one young, exciting team that might be one or two years away from finishing their rebuild. They have a ton of controllable talent up and down their lineup, and have added Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chase Anderson, and Tanner Roark to their rotation since November. Gurriel Jr. might be overshadowed by names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio because of their family ties, but he could be just as important to this rebuild.
After being signed as an international free agent from Cuba before the 2017 season began, Gurriel Jr. joined the minor leagues but didn’t spend much time there. He reached the majors during late April of 2018. For his rookie season, Gurriel Jr.’s performance wasn’t too impressive as he generated slightly above league average numbers with a 103 wRC+, per FanGraphs. However, in 2019 the power appeared and Gurriel Jr. was no longer average, ranking 16th in the American League out of players with 300 or more plate appearances, with an ISO mark of .264. His rise in power also helped him reach the 82nd percentile in hard hit percentage and expected slugging percentage, according to Statcast. If Gurriel Jr. finds a way to walk a bit more and continue to display as much power as he did on 2019, he could become a middle of the order bat capable of fast tracking their rebuild combined with the rest of that young core.
With the signing of Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, and other veteran players acquired via free agency by the White Sox, many expect them to compete for the division title come 2020. There are still a few prospects coming through the pipeline who can contribute, while multiple pitchers returning from Tommy John Surgery can make an impact. In 2019, their prospects did nothing but produce. One of the them was Eloy Jimenez. He appeared in 122 games for the White Sox this season.
Unlike Gurriel Jr., many people predicted Jimenez would display above-league average power because he spent more time in the minors proving he would. Come his rookie season, Jimenez did just that, hitting 31 home runs over 504 plate appearances. He might have produced a lower ISO compared to Gurriel Jr., but his hard hit percentage placed 14th out of all players with 300 or more batted ball events, per Statcast. That’s good enough to land in the 92nd percentile considering hard hit percentage, and the 87th percentile in average exit velocity. Jimenez might not have been the best hitter on the team during 2019, and with the added veterans it will be difficult to accomplish that feat in 2020, but his raw power cannot be underestimated as he enters his sophomore season.
Even though Tauchman displayed power during his Yankees debut, one of the biggest strengths he showed is his plate discipline. He walked 11.5% of the time, helping him generate a .361 OBP, and chased pitches only 22.8% of the time compared to the league average of 31.6%, according to FanGraphs. Although injuries ruined the ending of Tauchman’s season in 2019, he surely left an impression on plenty of fans and the organization itself. From July 5th to September 8th (last regular season game Tauchman played), he produced a robust 161 wRC+. What’s even more impressive is that the two-month, 173-plate appearance performance wasn’t overshadowed by one skill, but rather well-rounded. Tauchman continued to receive a similar walk rate, but lowered his strikeout rate, and saw a rise in his power as well. He might be considered the fourth outfielder on the Yankees’ depth charts but his potential was unveiled fully this season in the Bronx.