Baseball

Top 20 Breakout MLB Stars of 2018

By Ryan Finklestein - April 16, 2019

With a new year and a new season right around the corner, it is time to take a look back at the baseball players that announced themselves as stars in 2018.

There were some players that we expected to be great, like Ronald Acuna Jr. who was the top prospect in baseball before he made his debut.

Other players like Max Muncy came out of nowhere to have a monster season.

Casual baseball fans may not have heard of a lot of guys on this list but after the seasons they had in 2018, it is time to remember the  names of this year’s breakout stars.  

20. Max Muncy

At 27 years old, 2018 was a real make-or-break year for Max Muncy. Muncy made his major league debut in 2015 but failed to stick to a big-league roster.

In 2018, Muncy finally proved that he belonged in the MLB. Muncy played all over the infield for the Dodgers and showed immense power, hitting 35 home runs.

19. Dereck Rodriguez

Ivan Rodriguez Jr. probably goes by his middle name of Dereck because he wants to build his own legacy separate from the Hall of Fame career his father had.

Well Dereck sure made a name for himself in 2018, as he became one of the better starting pitchers in the National League. Rodriguez made 19 starts for the San Francisco Giants and pitched to a 2.81 ERA.

18. Eugenio Suarez

Playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Eugenio Suarez has really flown under the radar thus far in his major league career. This year, Suarez put the baseball world on notice as he made his first All-Star team and showed that he is one of the game’s best run-producers.

Suarez hit over 20 home runs with 70 RBI over his previous two seasons, before breaking out as a fringe-MVP candidate this year. In 2018, Suarez hit .283 with 34 home runs and 104 RBI.

17. Javier Baez

Javier Baez had shown plenty of flashes of being a two-way star in the past, but this year he finally put it all together.

Baez led the National League in runs batted in with 111, on his way to winning his first Silver Slugger. Baez also hit 34 home runs and had 83 extra-base hits. He ended up becoming the Cubs best player and finished second in the MVP voting.

16.Walker Buehler

Walker Buehler had a great rookie season in 2018 in which he pitched to a 2.62 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings pitched.

Where the Dodgers pitcher really established himself as star though was in the NL West Tie-Breaker Game.

Buehler was given the nod to start the game ahead of incumbent ace Clayton Kershaw and pitched a gem, allowing just one hit. He continued to pitch great throughout the postseason and has established himself as the ace of the future for the Dodgers.

15. Ozzie Albies

Ozzie Albies flashed his potential in 2017, as he hit .286 with 28 RBI in 57 games played at the big-league level. This year, Albies was given the keys to second base from the start of the season and he responded by putting together the first of what will likely be many All-Star seasons.

While providing great energy both on the field and in the dugout, Albies finished the season with 24 home runs, 14 steals, 72 RBI and 105 runs scored.

14. Matt Chapman

One thing that the Oakland Athletics knew coming into 2018 is that if they started Matt Chapman, they were going to get an elite defensive center fielder. What they did not know is that he would break out offensively into one of the best players in the MLB.

Chapman hit .278 with 24 home runs, 68 RBI and scored 100 runs. Wins above replacement is a great stat to measure a player’s value both offensively and defensively and Chapman’s 8.2 WAR was seventh-best in the MLB. He also won his first Gold Glove Award in 2018.

13. Alex Bregman

Alex Bregman ascended to the top of the ranks among a team full of stars with the Houston Astros in 2018. Bregman led the American League in doubles, with 50, and went to the All-Star game for the first time.

Bregman hit .286 on the season, with 31 home runs, 103 RBI and 105 runs scored.

12. Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez had already broken out as a star prior to 2018, but his season can still be considered a breakout campaign due to the incredible year that Ramirez had.

Ramirez joined the elusive 30-30 club this year, as he hit 39 home runs and stole 34 bases. Ramirez won his second Silver Slugger and eclipsed 100 RBI for the first time.

11.Patrick Corbin

Patrick Corbin had one incredible contract year in 2018, pitching to a 3.15 ERA with 246 strikeouts in 200 innings pitched.

Corbin just cashed in on that season in a big way, as he signed a six-year $140 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

10. Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins proved that he had star potential in 2017, when hit 18 home runs in just 50 games played for the Philadelphia Phillies.

This year, Hoskins became that star player, leading the Phillies with 34 home runs and 96 RBI.

9. Edwin Diaz

Edwin Diaz was no slouch heading into 2018. He had 52 saves in his first two seasons playing for the Mariners and had struck out 177 batters in 117 2/3 career innings pitched.

Diaz somehow reach new heights this year, leading the MLB with 57 saves as he more than doubled his career total. Diaz had a sparkling 1.96 ERA and was a huge reason that the Mariners won 89 games despite having a -34 run differential on the season.

The outstanding season that Diaz had made a big impression on the New York Mets, as they just traded two of their top prospects in a deal to acquire the closer.

8. Blake Snell

Blake Snell already proved that he belonged in the MLB prior to the 2018 season, but this year he established himself as one of the best starting pitchers in the game.

Snell led the American League with a 1.89 ERA and had 221 strikeouts in just 180 2/3 innings pitched. Snell was awarded with the AL Cy Young Award following the season.

7. Miguel Andujar

People are always quick to knock Miguel Andujar for his defense, which is a valid criticism, but the fact remains that this man can absolutely rake.

Andujar had no problem adjusting to the big-league level, hitting .297 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI. To further illustrate the immense power that Andujar possess, he added 47 doubles and two triples to his home run total for 76 extra-base hits.

6. Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres came into 2018 as the New York Yankees top prospect and it was not long before he showed why talent evaluators were so high on the young middle infielder.

Torres hit .277 in his first MLB season, with 24 home runs and 77 RBI. Where Torres separates himself from his teammate Miguel Andujar is his defense. A natural shortstop, Torres provided the Yankees with Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base.

5. Aaron Nola

This was Aaron Nola’s third season as a mainstay in the Phillies rotation, but his first performing at a Cy Young level. Nola would have actually won the Cy Young in most seasons, but he did not win the award due to Jacob deGrom’s historic season.

Nola went 17-6 in 2018 and pitched to a 2.39 ERA, while striking out 224 batters in 212 1/3 innings pitched.

4. Juan Soto

Juan Soto was not even supposed to be on the radar in 2018, but injuries to the Washington Nationals outfield led them to promote the 19-year-old.

Despite being a teenager, Soto adjusted to baseball’s highest level with ease hitting 22 home runs and driving in 70 runs.

3. Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani was a star before he even played a game in the MLB, as he was dubbed the “Japanese Babe Ruth” due to his ability to both pitch and hit at the highest level.

Ohtani had plenty of hype to live up to coming into 2018 but he rose to the occasion and met all of those lofty expectations.

As a starting pitcher, Ohtani made 10 starts and pitched to a 3.31 ERA. At the plate, Ohtani hit 22 home runs and 61 RBI. Following the season Ohtani was named the AL Rookie of the Year.

2. Ronald Acuna Jr.

Ronald Acuna Jr. entered the 2018 MLB season as the top prospect in all of baseball and he sure did not disappoint once he debuted at the end of April.

Acuna ended up hitting .293 in his first big league season, with 26 home runs, 16 stolen bases and 64 RBI. Acuna helped the Atlanta Braves reclaim the NL East crown for the first time in five years and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

1. Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich had already won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove Award coming into the 2018 season, as it seemed like he had already met his full potential at the big-league level.

Then Yelich got traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he became the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Yelich won the batting title by hitting .326 with 36 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 110 RBI, all of which were career-highs.