What is a breakout player? Someone that can provide excess value and has already shown glimpses of stardom in the major leagues. Maybe it’s a prospect that has had success in the minors and is now ready for that new role in the next level. Or a young player that has come up and struggled right away. Let us take a look at four breakout players at shortstop for 2022.
Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
Witt Jr is the third-ranked overall prospect at MLB Pipeline and the Royals consensus top prospect. This is a five-tool player projected as a 20+/20+ player in the majors coming off the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award.
Upon being promoted to Omaha last year, he slashed a .285/.352/.581 slash line with 17 home runs and 46 RBIs in just 62 games. Witt does not need any more time in the minors in 2022. It's a crowded middle infield suddenly with Nicky Lopez, who is coming off a solid season, Whit Merrifield, and of course, the inconsistent Adalberto Mondesi. The Royals will make room for Witt - he is going to be a superstar.
Willy Adames, Milwaukee Brewers
When Adames was in Tampa Bay, he complained that he could not see the ball while in the batter’s box. He caught heat for those comments, but the numbers don’t lie - as a Ray, he hit .219 with a .624 OPS at home and .291 with an .858 OPS on the road to go along with 75% of his home runs coming away from Tropicana Field. After being traded to the Brewers, he took it to a completely other level hitting .285 with 20 home runs and an .886 OPS.
With a 10%-barrel rate with a 112.5 MPH max exit velocity last season, Adames showed that he has the bat skills. Now that he is expected to hit second in the Brewers lineup and with a full season away from the Trop, 25-28 home runs and a .270 average is not out of the question. Getting away from Tampa and the Trop was exactly the medicine Adames needed to jumpstart his career and become a 2022 breakout shortstop.
Ha-Seong Kim, San Diego Padres
It seems like everyone has already given up on Kim. He did struggle to a slash of .202/.270/.352 over 298 plate appearances. People are forgetting that this was his first year playing in the United States and he still needs to adjust to major league pitching as well strike zones plus playing every day.
Kim was a superstar in South Korea and had a reputation as being plated disciplined and as the purest hitter in the KBO. He hit for power and there is evidence of that in his numbers last season in MLB with a 40% fly-ball rate, 48.6% pull rate, and 11% home run to fly-ball rate. Kim needs to play every day and may get a boost with the new DH rule since his versatility will allow him to replace other players who slide into the DH role for a breather from the field.