Ethan Hearn – Picture by Stephanie Lynn

When it comes to breakouts, most of them tend to happen in the lower levels of the system. Very occasionally, we’ll see somebody break out at Double-A, but South Bend, and Myrtle Beach is where the magic usually happens.

For me, a breakout usually occurs when a player makes an uptick in their performance that increases their potential. It’s not just about putting up good numbers for a 2 to 3 month stretch, it’s a really a re-envisioning of what that player can be and how they might fit in with the major league squad someday.

 In 2023, there are almost too many guys who could break out. The reason for that is there are a lot of players who have not put it all together yet. There are plenty who could do that next season, but there is no certainty that they will. 

Here is a list of guys by position who have a chance to really step it up next year and increase their standing in the organization.

C – Ethan Hearn, Adan Sanchez, Carlos Altuve

For me, Ethan Hearn would be my odds-on favorite to break out in 2023 as he finished 2022 strong at Myrtle Beach. Hopefully, the power he displayed last year along with hitting for average in the second half will reappear to start the year in South Bend.

1B – Haydn McGeary

I am really pulling for McGeary to just tear it up next summer wherever he is assigned. I could see him beginning the year in Myrtle Beach or South Bend. I don’t care where it is, I just want to see a 6‘5“ right handed hitter just destroy some baseballs.

2B – Jefferson Rojas

Some of you may be wondering why Pedro Ramirez isn’t on this list. That’s because he’s already broken out…twice. As for Rojas, he’s been drawing some buzz lately with some recent video on Instagram of him in instructs. He will likely be in Arizona at age 18 and play next to Alexis Hernandez.

SS – Cristian Hernandez, Alexis Hernandez

Seeing either one of the brothers catch fire next summer is going to be a lot of fun. Now that they’re both stateside, it’ll be interesting to watch them both try and adjust. For Cristian, he did not really have a bad year last year, it was decent and it looks like he’s smoothed out some things in the swing that should benefit him this year in Myrtle Beach where it is a little harder to hit the baseball out of the ballpark. As for Alexis, he might flash from time to time, but he’s more likely to break out in 2024.

3B – Chris Paciolla

If Ethan Hearn is my top player to break out, Paciolla would be in second. So far, I love the fact that he can hit for power already, and that he still growing some. He’s going to improve physically and he may be driving some baseballs over the fence in the second half of the year at South Bend if he catches fire at Myrtle Beach the first half.

OF – Parker Chavers, Christian Franklin, Andy Garriola, Ke’Shun Collier, Jefferson Encarnacion

Every single one of these guys just needs the same thing – a chance to play every day. Chavers and Franklin missed almost all of last year. While Garriola and Collier did not play much after signing, Encarnacion basically missed the last 3 years.

RHSP – Kenyi Perez, Cade Horton, Brandon Birdsell, Nick Hull, Luis Rujano, Mason McGwire, Nazier Mule, Kevin Valdez, 

One thing I have tried not to do this winter is to figure out where every one of the pitchers listed above is going to be. Most of them are going to be at Myrtle Beach while a couple will be at South Bend and a few will stay back in extended spring training. But most of last year‘s draft class has a chance to really step it up in their first full season. I am excited to see what all of them can do along with where they do it.

LHSP – Jackson Ferris, , Drew Gray, Carlos Garcia, Luis Aquino

Garcia returns to the organization after being suspended for all of 2022 while Aquino will be getting a fresh start after coming over from the Mariners’ system where he had some really high strikeout rates but also battled some injuries. Garcia is my guy and he just needs a chance to get back on the horse.

RHRP – Johzan Oquendo, Saul Gonzalez, Wilber Rodriguez, Elian Almanzar

These are my four relievers who should pop this spring. Oquendo and Gonzalez will probably be in South Bend while Rodriguez and Almanzar should be in Myrtle Beach. All four can fill up a zone and the radar gun, it’s just a matter of controlling their pitches. Out of all the categories, this is also the one that we’re going to see someone come from out of nowhere, which would be a true breakout.

LHRP – Branden Noriega, Chase Watkins

Watkins should be where he can hopefully be healthy on opening day and pitch all season. He’s a big kid who I once thought could possibly be a starting pitching candidate. But once he got healthy, the bullpen role suits him fine. And as long as he stays healthy, he should easily be a breakout candidate. Also, his left-handedness makes him a little bit more valuable as a prospect. As for Noriega, I don’t have any expectations other than the fact that he can throw hard. We’ll see if he can get it over the plate early and often.

I know I’ve left people off this list who could possibly break out next year. Most are guys who just haven’t got their careers going yet. 2023 is an opportunity to stay healthy and play every day, it’s going to be an exciting year, especially at Myrtle Beach, as there are a lot of things up in the air about who is going to be pitching where and who’s going to be hitting in Myrtle Beach versus South Bend.