MLB 2020 breakout candidates, part two: the infielders. With the regular season almost two weeks away, here are my three infielders who are candidates to have a breakout season in 2020.
3. Nico Hoerner, 2B, Chicago Cubs
2019: 20 games, .282/.305/.436, .741 OPS, 3 home runs, 17 RBIs
With Addison Russell gone, and Ian Happ having struggled last season, the door is wide open for Nico Hoerner. He will have the opportunity earn the starting second base job out of spring training. David Bote and Daniel Descalso are other options, but all signs point toward Hoerner getting the job.
Hoerner came into 2019 as the Cubs’ top prospect. After tearing it up between rookie ball and Double-A, Hoerner got promoted during September call-ups and started right away.
Hoerner likely won’t hit over 20 home runs, but he plays solid defense and could project to hit over .300 down the road. The recently retired Ian Kinsler feels like a perfect player comparison, given they each hit for average and play solid defense. If Hoerner can earn the opening day starting second base spot and take a step forward, he could be in for a breakout rookie season in 2020.
2. Scott Kingery, 3B/2B, Philadelphia Phillies
2019: 126 games, .258/.315/.474, .788 OPS, 19 home runs, 55 RBIs, 15 steals
As of now, it’s unclear exactly where Scott Kingery will play around the diamond. Jean Segura may move to second, pushing Kingery to third. However, if Philadelphia’s top prospect, Alec Bohm, earns an opening day roster spot, Kingery may move to CF, taking the place of Adam Haseley. Regardless, Kingery showed his value as a utility player last season, and will definitely be an everyday player in 2020.
After a horrendous rookie season in 2018, Kingery finally broke out of his shell in 2019, hitting 19 home runs with a .788 OPS while playing every outfield position in addition to second base, third base, and shortstop. Across the diamond, he is a plus defender and will be an essential piece of the Phillies’ team in 2020.
Ideally, Kingery would like to be able to find one position and stay there for the majority of the season. Third base seems most likely unless Bohm gets promoted at the start or early into the season. If Kingery can learn to walk more, and cut down on the strikeouts, he could be in line for a breakout season in 2020.
1. Adalberto Mondesi, SS Kansas City Royals
2019: 102 games, .263/.291/.424, .715 OPS, 9 home runs, 62 RBIs, 43 steals
At age 24, Adalberto Mondesi comes into the season as one of the most underrated, unheard of players in the MLB. Next to Whit Merrifield, Mondesi and the Royals have one of the most under-appreciated middle-infield pairs in the MLB. After playing well at the end of 2018, and the first half of last season, Mondesi may be able to raise his game to an all-star level in 2020.
Mondesi first broke into the bigs at the end of 2016 but didn’t earn a full time playing spot until the second half of 2018. Quietly, Mondesi performed like one of the best infielders in the MLB during that period, with 11 home runs and 27 steals in the final 54 games of that season. In 102 games last season, Mondesi took a minor step back, with his OPS dropping to a .715 mark. Despite missing the second half of the year due to injury, Mondesi was still second in the MLB with 43 steals, and first in the league with ten triples.
In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m very high on Adalberto Mondesi heading into the 2020 season. He showed he could be a top-tier shortstop in 2018, and played at a high level at the start of 2019 before the injury bug hit. As one of the fastest players in the league, Mondesi has the potential to become an all-star this season. He just needs to improve his power numbers, draw more walks, and stay on the field.
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