Each spring, sports media is filled with predictions for the upcoming season. CBS Sports and The Athletic always name a candidate from each team they predict will be a “breakout” player in the upcoming season. This season, CBS Sports is pegging reliever Jake Cousins as the Brewers’ pick. The Athletic names former MVP Christian Yelich.
There are plenty of reasons to believe in Jake Cousins after his great 2021 season. That’s why I would say this is a lazy pick for a breakout candidate. Cousins’ performance last season is basically a textbook example of a breakout season. He set a Brewers’ franchise record by going through his first 17 Major League games before giving up a run in his 18th. Even after breaking his streak, Cousins remained dominant on the mound, save for a brief slide in September. If he repeats his performance from last season, it would be a great success but not a breakout.
This pick makes a lot more sense for a “breakout” player than Cousins when you look at the 2021 season. 2021 wasn’t as bad for Yelich as 2020, but it was still a far cry from his 2018 MVP season or his statistically even better 2019. A lot of things, however, are looking to be in Yelich’s favor in the upcoming season. Former Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines’ departure gives Yelich a fresh start. So far in 2022 spring training, Yelich’s batting average is .285. Spring training often isn’t a great indicator for the regular season, but I would say this is a cause for optimism. If the MLB follows through on their threat to ban the defensive shift, this could help Yelich a lot too.
At the end of the day, I don’t particularly agree with either of these media teams’ definition of “breakout”- a former MVP and a record-setting pitcher. I do think Yelich and Cousins are both showing all the signs of having a great season this year. However, they’ve both already had their breakouts. I look forward to seeing a player no one would expect rising through the ranks.
My personal guess is pitcher Alec Bettinger. He made his MLB debut last season and ended with a 13.50 MLB ERA and 4.75 AAA ERA. He’s a gutsy player and I think that will translate to offseason work and improvement. I hope we see that payoff with his breakout season this year.
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