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2024 MLB Season: Breakout candidates

As the 30 teams begin to get ready for the gruelling 162-game season, some players are ready to break out and become rising stars.

Here are 10 players you should keep an eye out for this season as Spring Training is coming to an end and Opening Day is rapidly approaching.

Jarren Duran, CF, Boston Red Sox

Boston’s new leadoff hitter is one of the fastest and strongest players in the MLB. Jarren Duran was once Boston’s top prospect, and he’s finally made his way to being an everyday starter. 

Duran is entering his 3rd full season in the Majors and took a massive step forward last season as he hit .295 with 24 stolen bases in 102 games. 

His season was cut short due to a foot injury, but the speedy outfielder is back and better than ever. Alex Cora has already confirmed that Duran will be the Red Sox’s leadoff hitter in 2024, so as long as the 27-year-old can stay healthy, he will have plenty of opportunities to shine this season. 

Evan Carter, OF, Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers are reigning World Series Champions, and a lot of the success can be attributed to the rookie Evan Carter. 

Carter was a 2nd round pick in 2020 and quickly worked his way through the Minor Leagues and earned a promotion to the big leagues with a few weeks left in the regular season. In 23 regular season games, Carter hit .306 with a 1.058 OPS. 

His success at the plate didn’t stop in September as he was named to Texas’ playoff roster and hit .300 with a .417 OBP in 17 postseason games. Carter played a huge role in the Rangers’ World Series title, and his rookie status remains intact in 2024.

Wyatt Langford, LF, Texas Rangers

Wyatt Langford has yet to see an MLB pitch, but that might not be the case for much longer. 

Langford was the 4th overall pick in last year’s draft and went through four levels of Minor League baseball in just a few months. After starting in Rookie ball, he was promoted to High-A, Double-A, and he finished the year in Triple-A. 

In total, Langford hit .360 in 44 career Minor League games last season. The former Florida star has not been out of college for a year yet and is one of the most exciting prospects in baseball. If Langford makes the team out of Spring Training, the Rangers will be a very young and dangerous team.

Tarik Skubal, P, Detroit Tigers

Entering his 4th season in the league, Tarik Skubal has high expectations. The lefty struggled in his first two seasons with a 9-16 combined record, but he completely turned it around in 2023. Skubal had a 2.80 ERA paired with a 0.90 WHIP in 15 starts after returning from injury. 

The 27-year-old had 102 strikeouts while allowing only 58 hits in 80.1 innings, so he was as efficient as one could be. In a few starts in Spring Training, Skubal has seen an uptick in his velocity and looks ready to be the new ace of the Tigers.

Jackson Holliday, 2B, Baltimore Orioles

As a #1 overall pick, there is a lot of pressure to perform well - especially when you’re just 20 years old. Jackson Holliday is the #1 prospect in baseball and made his way through the Minor Leagues with ease. 

Just two years ago, Holliday was facing high-school pitching. Last season, Holliday went through Single-A, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A and managed to hit .323 with a .941 OPS. 

Holliday wasn’t expected to make the team out of Spring Training, but he has been hitting even better than expected, and there is a 50/50 shot he could be Baltimore’s second baseman on Opening Day, according to many analysts. If Holliday gets his chance, it could be a big year for the kid.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

It’s not common for shortstops to be 6' 7", but Oneil Cruz is anything but ordinary. The 25-year-old was expected to be the starting shortstop last season, but he made it just 9 games into the year before suffering a season-ending injury. 

Cruz fractured his fibula in a collision and missed nearly all of the year, so he’s looking to play his first full season in 2024. 

The ridiculously tall shortstop has more than just height too - he has a rocket for an arm, elite speed, and light-tower power. If Cruz can stay healthy, he can do big things for the Pirates. 

Kyle Harrison, P, San Francisco Giants

Kyle Harrison got his first taste of big league action last year as he appeared in 7 games, all starts, and recorded a 4.15 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP. The left-handed starter is San Francisco’s #1 overall prospect and has been phenomenal in the Minor Leagues in two years. 

Since the Giants are thin at pitching this season, Harrison is expected to be the #2 starter behind Logan Webb. At 22 years old, Harrison has a lot of potential and has the opportunity to shine in 2024 with his starting role. If he can continue to strike hitters out at a high rate and limit the home runs, the Giants have a superstar on their hands.

Nolan Jones, CF, Colorado Rockies

Not much has gone right for the Rockies in the last year or so. The Kris Bryant contract is looking worse each day, but there is finally something exciting happening in Colorado, and his name is Nolan Jones. 

The former 2nd round pick was traded from the Guardians to the Rockies after his rookie season, which saw him hit .244 with a .681 OPS. However, his sophomore season was completely different. 

Jones appeared in 106 games and slashed a .297 average and a .931 OPS for the Rockies. He also is speedy with one of the strongest arms of any position player in the league, so he’s expected to become a rising star in 2024.

Christopher Morel, 2B, Chicago Cubs

Christopher Morel was a highly regarded prospect in the Cubs’ system, and when he finally reached the MLB in 2022, expectations were sky-high. However, Morel hit just .235 with a 32.2% strikeout rate in his first year. 

Morel bounced back nicely in 2023 with a .247 average and launched 26 home runs in just 107 games. Strikeouts are still an issue, but he makes up for it by being a versatile player who can perform anywhere on the field. 

The 24-year-old will get the opportunity to play every day in 2024, and that should give him the chance to become elite.

Zack Gelof, 2B, Oakland Athletics

Although he’s no longer a rookie, Zach Gelof is still very new to the big leagues. Gelof appeared in 69 games last season and hit .267 with a .841 OPS, as he was the silver lining in Oakland’s terrible season. 

The second baseman launched 14 home runs and 20 doubles in just 69 games which was incredibly impressive. Gelof started to get a lot of attention at the end of the season, and there is no doubt he will be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. 

Gelof’s elite mix of speed and power will be a welcomed sight in Oakland’s offense this year, and paired with Brent Rooker and Esteury Ruiz, the Athletics might be able to scrap their way to a decent season.

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