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-Factors.” In this piece, we will focus on the 15 American League teams. And the players who will represent in 2019 as the X-Factors.
American League West
Houston Astros: Alex Bregman
Alex Bregman is the lifeblood of the Houston Astros. And Bregman is also a sleeper candidate for the AL MVP. Alex Bregman has the on-field skills to warrant this inclusion, but it’s about his intangibles that make him stand out above the rest.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Matt Harvey
All anyone will be speaking about in Anaheim is Mike Trout and his nearly half a billion dollar contract over the next 12 years. But for the 2019 season, there is another player who’s positive impact will have a great effect on the team’s overall success and that’s Matt Harvey. For the Angels to be successful, they will need their pitching to deliver in a big way. And if Matt Harvey can come close to the “Dark Knight” version of his former self, he can be the catalyst to the Angels success. Because Mike Trout will always do his part but it’s now about the guys around him stepping up, and Harvey can be that guy.
Oakland Athletics: Matt Chapman
An underrated superstar because he plays in Oakland, Matt Chapman is the best player you may not know. Already a stud defensively in Major League Baseball. Chapman has also increased in his offensive game. And if Chapman takes that next step offensively looking out for a sleeper MVP candidate, not just the A’s X-Factor.
Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager
Kyle Seager is a primes candidate for Comeback Player of the Year in Major League Baseball. Seager is still very young and a plus player overall. And while many may count Seattle out based on their offseason, players like Seager can help deliver a quiet surprise from the great Northwest.
Texas Rangers: Matt Davidson
As we spoke yesterday in our piece on the National League X-Factors and the Cincinnati Reds’ Michael Lorenzen. The Rangers Matt Davidson is embarking on the Two-Way Player journey from the opposite angle. Davidson wasn’t having the best time with the Chicago White Sox. But late last season when they let him step on the mound something happened. Davidson got outs. Ultimately the union with the White Sox wasn’t meant to be, but the Rangers were willing to step up. And if successful in getting outs and driving runs in, Davidson and the Rangers can bring fans out to the ballpark.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jimenez
The young man has yet to play in a Major League game and has already gotten a lengthy and prosperous payday. That being said, the future hopes of the Chicago White Sox offense rest on the young outfielder. And even though Jimenez is unlikely to break camp with the White Sox when Spring Training is over. By the season’s end, Eloy will be the White Sox most effective offensive player.
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor
Starting the season in the Injured List isn’t an ideal way to kick off the 2019 season. But for Francisco Lindor, it won’t seem like anything more than a small blip on the radar. Francisco Lindor is the most important piece to the Cleveland Indians roster. Yes, they have impactful starters like Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. And yeah they have an MVP candidate in Jose Ramirez. But at the top of the Indians lineup and the captain of the infield as Lindor goes, so go the Indians.
Detroit Tigers: Nicholas Castellanos
The one remaining asset of value for the Detroit Tigers is Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos has slowly started to take his offensive game to the next level. Not quite reaching JD Martinez-esque transformation level yet. Nicholas has blossomed at the plate. Coming out of the gate hot is even more critical for Castellanos and the Tigers because of maximizing his value in a trade. The Tigers have one more move of significance to make, and it’s trading Nicholas Castellanos.
Kansas City Royals: Whit Merrifield
The Royals will be an interesting ballclub to watch this season as not much is expected of them. One player that will likely represent those hopes and dreams of Royals fans is Whit Merrifield. Whit has incredible talent and ability. And the team will rely on his ability to shoulder much of the burden for the young ballclub. Even with that being said, expect a good season out of Whit Merrifield.
Minnesota Twins: Jose Berrios
The Ace of the Minnesota Twins, Jose Berrios is going to have a monster season. I believe in Berrios so much so that I’ve predicted a Cy Young Award-winning season from Berrios. The Twins will be in the hunt for the AL Central, and it will be on the strength and electric fastball of Jose Berrios.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy
Not much will be expected of Baltimore this season. And that narrative will play right into their hands. The O’s former top prospect Dylan Bundy will be the biggest benefactor of this overlooking ideal. As he will ascend to another level as a starting pitcher quietly and without pressure. And when the O’s fly once more Bundy will be better because of it all.
Boston Red Sox: David Price
Former top prospect, former ace of a staff, former scapegoat, David Price was once all these things. But now following an empowered postseason performance looks to catapult himself back into the elite starter status. David Price’s season will be the most significant telltale sign for the Red Sox quest to repeat.
New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez
The forgotten slugger is Gary Sanchez. After the 2016 cameo, it was believed that Sanchez would be the next megastar in the Bronx. In 2017, Sanchez would be overshadowed and outshines by a rookie home run barrage. Which left Sanchez in the backseat. Last season, an MVP acquisition all but took his name off the marquee, and his performance suffered for it. (And other factors like injuries.) But for the New York Yankees to have success and achieve the only goal that the team has had since 1973, winning the World Series, Sanchez performance is crucial. A massive bounce-back season has to unfold for the Yankees to win it all. The Yankees will need their version of Cerberus to win it all. And one of those heads on this Bronx Beast is Gary Sanchez.
Tampa Bay Rays: Ryne Stanek
In thirty years when the ”Opener” is not just recognized but celebrated. The award will be named after Ryne Stanek. The Tampa Bay Rays will employ this strategy yet again in 2019. And if you look that the statical information before and after the openers use you will see its benefits. And that man most synonymous with its usage is Ryne Stanek.
Toronto Blue Jays: Vlad Guerrero Jr
The powerhouse prodigy likely to walk away with the 2019 Rookie of the Year even before stepping on the field this season is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Vladdy Jr has dominated at the dish across every level of professional baseball. And though service time manipulation and an oblique strain will delay his Major League debut, Vladdy Jr will come out swinging. The approach is very much like his father’s except for one key difference; Jr has an eye at the plate. The ability to recognize pitches and lay off them will possibly make Vlad Jr even more dangerous than his father. And that’s quite a compliment.