June 22, 2021

Szymborski’s Breakout Candidates for 2020 (FanGraphs)


Predicting breakout candidates is one of the hardest and most frustrating tasks for anyone who tries their hand at baseball soothsaying. By its very nature, a breakout (or breakdown) projection is a low probability event. If it wasn’t, it would be the basic projection! Your big hits will be next to some embarrassing mistakes. For example, if I were of a mind to gloat about having said in this 2018 piece for ESPN that Christian Yelich had a peak Joey Votto/Will Clark season in him, I couldn’t get around the fact that the player listed right after Yelich was Danny Salazar, who has appeared in one game since that article ran.

So what constitutes a breakout season? Is it a player making a significant change in one aspect of their game? A bounce-back season? Is a top prospect showing improvement a breakout? Or is it a sudden step forward along broad lines? I’d argue that it’s any and all of these things. I used to try to statistically define a breakout season, but in the end, I found no purely mathematical estimation that was satisfactory. As I’ve written this piece over the years, I’ve gone with a more abstract definition: when a player, capable of contributing to…

Read “Szymborski’s Breakout Candidates for 2020” at FanGraphs