Every year in MLB we get players that breakout. Sometimes we even get players that turn into Superstars. There is also another class of player that we see each and every year in Major League Baseball. And that player type is the ”X-Factor.” In this piece, we will focus on the 15 National League teams. And the players who will represent in 2019 as the X-Factor.
National League East
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year’s Sophomore season is going to be the biggest X-Factor for the Atlanta Braves. If Acuña can prove that 2018 wasn’t a fluke season. The Braves will have a good chance to repeat as NL East Division Champs.
Miami Marlins: Jorge Alfaro
The newly acquired backstop is going to have big shoes to fill replacing JT Realmuto in Miami. But the positive point here is that Alfaro will now be able to play pressure-free and develop into the next great backstop.
New York Mets: Wilson Ramos
The “Buffalo” as he’s affectionately known is going to be vital to the success of the Mets. The Mets have struggled to have a consistent catcher since Mike Piazza. And if Ramos may be able to finally give the Mets some stability at that position.
Philadelphia Phillies: Rhys Hoskins
Hoskins looks to be the biggest beneficiary to the addition of Bryce Harper. This is likely to be permanently planted in the spot just behind Bryce and will do damage because of it.
Washington Nationals: Trea Turner
With Bryce Harper no longer in the fold and Ryan Zimmerman aging (and usually injured) the face of the Nationals franchise falls to Trea Turner. The talent is there for Turner to turn into the next DC Superstar. His speed and contact ability make him a problematic at-bat for pitchers. And the Nationals move on, the burden will fall squarely on the legs of Trea Turner.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras
The catcher is the captain of the infield and the therapist of the pitching staff. And when it comes to Willson Contreras he can also rake as well. The Cubs are going to have a tough time in the NL Central in 2019 but if Contreras takes a step forward, they will have an easier path to the NL Central crown.
Cincinnati Reds: Michael Lorenzen
The game is trending towards extreme versatility, towards the Two-Way player. And the Cincinnati Reds have an advantage in that department with Michael Lorenzen. So whether from the mound or the plate, Lorenzen can impact what the Reds do this season in a big way.
Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Moustakas
Second Basemen, Mike Moustakas, yes you read that correctly this season for the Milwaukee Brewers Mike Moustakas will play secondbase predominately. Moustakas moving from third to second will be an interesting storyline to follow this season. But it will be how Moose impacts both sides of the ball that will have the biggest impact in the Brewers repeating as NL Central champs.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jameson Taillon
Jameson Taillon is likely to be slotted into a predominant role with the Pirates rotation. And when examining and comparing the NL Central, pitching will be the biggest factor for success. And for Pittsburgh that falls on the shoulders of Jameson Taillon.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina
A running theme of this list focuses on the captain and leader of the infield, the catcher. And no other catcher in baseball is as highly respected and admired as Yadi Molina. When you consider the incredible depth of knowledge that is housed in the field general like, mind of Yadi you see the game differently. Yadi is beloved by all and his insight and ability will be the biggest factor in pulling out the best of the Cardinals pitching staff.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray
The NL West is going to look at little bit different this season with some teams changing the roles they’ve played the last few seasons. One such team is the Diamondbacks. The loss of Patrick Corbin in free agency is going to fall squarely on the shoulders of fellow southpaw Robbie Ray to make up the different left behind by Corbin. If the DBacks are to have any chance at the NL West of the Wildcard.
Colorado Rockies: Trevor Story
When the Colorado Rockies are brought up the name that pops into everyone’s mind is Nolan Arenado. Which makes sense. But for the Rockies to be truly successful they can’t only rely on Nolan, and that’s where Trevor Story comes into play. Trevor Story is an underrated plus defender at shortstop with incredible power potential. The add in the Coors Field effect and you have a dangerous combination. The health and increased production of Trevor Story will determine where Colorado ends up at season’s end.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw
Health, health, health. The biggest X-Factor for the Los Angeles Dodgers is the health of their Ace, Clayton Kershaw. kershaw has struggled to be healthy over the past couple of seasons. And while the Dodgers have still been strong enough to keep the rest of the NL West Division at an arm’s length, the distance is tightening. If Clayton Kershaw regains his once healthy and durable form, the stronghold the Dodgers have had on the NL West will easily remain intact.
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado
The 300 million dollar man now residing in sunny San Diego is the biggest key factor for the Padres. When you paid a player that much money and he takes up such a significant portion of your payroll he is vitally important to the end goal of the team. Another reason Manny is so important to the future of the Padres is what he means as a leader in that locker room for all the young prospects coming. The top-tier talent that San Diego has coming up the ranks will look to Manny as a guideline and as their leader. How Manny goes, so go the San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner
Much like Clayton Kershaw, the San Francisco Giants Ace, Madison Bumgarner is the most important player for their 2019 season. The final year of Bruce Bochy as a Major League Manager. And you know that those homegrown Giants stars are going to want to give “Boch” a proper sendoff. But that finish will be heavily reliant on the left arm of Madison Bumgarner.