While the 2020 season was only cut to 60 games due to COVID-19, fans were still able to get a small sample size on their team’s development in hopes for a World Series Championship. But despite some players who broke out in the shortened season, not everyone has transitioned into 2021. In fact, 2021 has had some of its own breakout stars who weren’t part of the picture in 2020. Here are some of the rising names amongst hitters and pitchers.
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
There is no question that this list should start off with the explosion of Jesse Winker in 2021. Jesse Winker has been in the picture for a breakout season since 2019 but instead continued to stick in that mediocre range. Now in 2021, he has finally cracked out of that spectrum. Through 42 games, Winker is hitting .359, which leads the National League. He also has 13 home runs and 29 RBIs to tag along with that. Winker also leads the National League in Slugging percentage and OPS. Winker is already an early front-runner for NL MVP and as long as he can continue to crush homers and keep his strikeout percentage low, Winker is in a perfect position to achieve that.
John Means, Baltimore Orioles
Who would have thought that John Means would become a legitimate ace for the Baltimore Orioles? Certainly not most. After an average season in 2019, Means was unable to maintain the same consistency in 2020. Means averaged 4.53 ERA in 10 starts in the shortened season. Means in 2021 has been ecstatic, even outside of the no-hitter he threw on May 5th against the Mariners. In 10 starts, Means has maintained a 1.79 ERA, which leads the league in the American League. He also has a 4-0 record, which is more impressive considering the Orioles are last place in the AL East by a mile. But Means also is lowest in hits over nine innings and WHIP amongst all AL starting pitching. Means will likely be top three in Cy Young voting if he can keep up this high-level consistency.
Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels
Jared Walsh’s initial breakout season came during the 2020 shortened season when he ended the season hitting nearly .300. However, this season he has only elevated his hitting to a new level. Through 48 games, Walsh has been hitting .316 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs. The one downside for Walsh is that his strikeout percentage is at a much higher rate at 24 percent compared to 13 percent the season before. Walsh is already bringing significant change to an Angels hitting lineup that has struggled in years past. He can make those changes already mentioned, he will become an even more important hotter than he already is for the Los Angeles Angels who are trying to go to the postseason for the first time since 2014.
Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers
Freddy Peralta has been on the radar for a breakout season for a few seasons now but hasn’t quite taken that step forward until 2021. 2020 was solid for Peralta, maintaining a 3.99 ERA, an improvement from 2019. This season has put Peralta in the conversation for NL Cy Young. He has managed a 4-1 record with a 2.54 ERA. Other major improvements are his WHIP at 0.946 and hits over nine innings at 4.3. Peralta’s role going forward will be critical for a Brewers team trying to rebuild their rotation. Peralta can round out a solid trio with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.
Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers
Adolis Garcia is another major-hitting surprise this season. He was basically non-existent during the shortened season, only appearing in three games. But since then, he’s been one of the most popular up-and-comers this season. Through 42 games, Garcia has been out of this world, hitting .282 homers and 41 RBIs. Garcia is the current leader for homers in the American League. With Garcia still eligible for rookie of the year, he will likely be a frontrunner in the race as long as he keeps up this incredible pace. He will be a major piece for the Rangers moving forward as they are trying to rebuild their roster.
Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins
Trevor Rogers’s great spring training made him an early candidatefor an improvement season but has already surpassed all expectations to start 2021. Rogers has earned a 6-2 record with a 1.75 ERA. Not only is he still a rookie and is a frontrunner for the NL ROTY award, but he is also in the conversation for NL Cy Young as well. His numbers to start have been incredible and his production will be extremely key if the Marlins want to continue their progression. Rogers can round out a solid trio featuring Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez. For now, there is no question that Trevor Rogers is already the ace for the Miami marlins going forward only into his second season in the majors.