Top 2024 Breakout Candidates for Each Team in the AL West

These AL West breakout candidates have shown flashes of immense upside, but they have yet to establish themselves as the stars they can be.

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners making his major league debut pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum.
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 02: Bryce Miller #50 of the Seattle Mariners making his major league debut pitches against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the first ining at RingCentral Coliseum on May 02, 2023 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

With the past two World Series champions coming out of this division, it’s safe to say the AL West is filled with talent up and down. Superstars are featured throughout the division, and plenty of young talent is on the way as well. We’re refraining from including rookies in this series of breakout candidates, but there are plenty of second and third-year players who could take a step forward in 2024.

The Texas Rangers will look to defend their World Series title, but the Houston Astros are a perennial threat and the Seattle Mariners have taken steps toward contention in each of the past few years. The talent that emerges from within could ultimately be the difference maker in deciding which of those three teams comes out on top.

Many of these AL West breakout candidates have shown flashes of immense upside, but they have yet to establish themselves as the key contributors they can be.

Houston Astros Breakout Candidate: RHP Hunter Brown

2023 Stats: 29 GS, 155.2 IP, 5.09 ERA, 10.29 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 1.8 fWAR

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At times last season, it appeared that Hunter Brown was about to become a huge piece of the Astros starting rotation as a rookie. Ultimately, he didn’t quite reach that point, but he will only get better with time. He could make the Astros rotation one of the best in baseball if he takes another step forward.

Brown started the season hot with a 2.37 ERA in his first five starts, finishing the first half of the year with a 4.12 ERA. The second half was much less kind to him, as batters adjusted and his arm wore down. He posted a 6.57 ERA after the All-Star break.

However, he was fairly unlucky, especially down the stretch, and his end-of-season numbers are not very indicative of the pitcher he can be. Brown had a 4.27 FIP and an even lower 3.52 xFIP as a rookie, while throwing far more pitches than he had before in his career.

His slider got hit around much more than anything else last season, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Brown begins to prioritize his curveball. He used the two pitches equally last year. It is entirely realistic to expect a strong step forward for Brown in his second season.

Honorable Mention: C Yainer Diaz

The offense in Houston features many established stars who have already proven their value. One player who probably already had his “breakout” last season checks in here, as he’ll now be featured in an everyday role.

Yainer Diaz will take over as the full-time starting catcher this season after going deep 23 times in just 355 at-bats last year. He could easily hit 30 home runs while playing strong defense behind the dish.

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Los Angeles Angels Breakout Candidate: RHP Chase Silseth

2023 Stats: 16 G (8 GS), 52.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 9.63 K/9, 4.47 BB/9, 0.2 fWAR

He seemingly wasn’t ready for a full starting role last season, but Chase Silseth could quickly become one of the better pitchers on the roster in Anaheim. With five true offerings, he has the makings of a true starter but needs to improve his fastball numbers from last season.

Silseth’s array of offspeed offerings played very well, especially for a rookie. He generated whiff rates over 30% on his slider and splitter, which he threw 23.1% of the time and 16.7% of the time, respectively. His cutter, although he threw it just 8.7% of the time, was rarely hit hard. Finding a way to locate and limit damage on his fastball will be the key for Silseth.

Another thing that held Silseth back last season was an 11.8% walk rate, which meant he did not last very long in some appearances.

Once he became a regular rotation piece, Silseth made seven starts and posted a 3.21 ERA with an impressive 1.10 WHIP in the second half of the season. However, he only tossed 33.2 innings in that time, and a concussion kept him out for most of September.

Having only 81 MLB innings under his belt may prevent Silseth from being a full-time rotation piece in 2024. Still, he could prove he is ready with a strong start to the season.

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Honorable Mention: SS Zach Neto

As the first member of the 2022 draft class to debut, Zach Neto was quickly given a prominent role for the Angels as they tried to salvage their last season with Shohei Ohtani in town. He showed flashes of upside as a quality everyday shortstop, but a few minor injuries and a lack of offensive consistency held him back in his rookie season.

Neto will be the shortstop in Anaheim this year, as he tries to make more of an impact at the plate. He could definitely take a big step forward with a healthy season.

Oakland Athletics Breakout Candidate: 2B Zack Gelof

2023 Stats: 69 G, 300 PA, .267/.337/.504, 14 HR, 14 SB, 133 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR

You could argue that this guy already broke out last season in his quietly excellent rookie campaign, but he could fully establish himself as a core piece this year.

After being drafted in the second round in 2021, Zack Gelof moved through the Oakland Athletics system rapidly before being called up midseason in 2023. He had a .930 OPS in Triple-A to start the year and then posted a very impressive .841 mark with the A’s.

He flashed a versatile skillset as his 91st percentile sprint lead led to 14 stolen bases, and his ability to find the barrel resulted in 14 home runs. Furthermore, Gelof proved to be an above-average defender at second base and can be an option at shortstop if needed.

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Gelof was already impressive last year, but he could be even better with improved discipline. He whiffed at a 33.7% clip and struck out just below 30% of the time. If he’s able to reduce some of the swing-and-miss in his game, he could take another step forward.

It may be unrealistic in just his second season, but Gelof has legit 30/30 upside if he continues to work on his plate approach. His natural ability to drive the ball all over the field will only help him continue to hit in a place like Oakland this season.

Honorable Mention: RHP Mason Miller

The radar gun certainly believes in Mason Miller, and so should you. The fireballer made an impression in his debut last season by flashing over 100 MPH countless times.

Miller was shut down due to a forearm issue after his first four career starts, and his numbers took a bit of a hit upon his return late in the season. He seems to be on track to pitch out of the bullpen to prevent injury, but he will be the most electric arm in Oakland regardless of his role.

Seattle Mariners Breakout Candidate: RHP Bryce Miller

2023 Stats: 25 GS, 131.1 IP, 4.32 ERA, 8.15 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, 1.9 fWAR

The Mariners have a real shot to boast the best rotation in baseball, and that will become even more plausible with a step forward from their two young starters. It starts with Bryce Miller, who features one of the more impressive fastballs you’ll see. It’s not particularly fast at an average of 95.1 MPH, but it has sharp vertical movement and he commands it excellently.

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In his rookie season, Miller walked less than 5% of batters he faced in large part due to that aforementioned elite fastball. His slider was a solid second offering, but he lacked a true strikeout pitch in his first MLB season.

The bigger issue was his lack of a third trustworthy offering. Miller throws a sweeper, sinker, changeup, and curveball but didn’t feature any of them more than 10% of the time.

The development of Miller’s additional offerings could make the difference in him taking another step forward. His command of the zone should lead to more strikeouts if he can improve his secondary pitches.

Miller has the ability to be a true star, but he won’t be pressured to perform like an ace right away as the fourth starter in Seattle.

Honorable Mention: SP Bryan Woo

The other young starter in Seattle is just as deserving of a mention as Miller, but he is less of a breakout candidate since he performed better last season.

Bryan Woo limited hard contact very well in his rookie season and prevented hitters from doing too much damage against him. His expected metrics were much better than his standard ones, and the duo of him and Miller could prove to be truly great moving forward.

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Texas Rangers Breakout Candidate: UTL Ezequiel Duran

2023 Stats: 122 G, 439 PA, .276/.324/.443, 14 HR, 8 SB, 107 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR

The reigning World Series champions really don’t have many breakout candidates because they’re already primed to defend their title. If we were including rookies, the obvious choices would be Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford. Carter was batting fourth for the Rangers during their World Series run, and Langford is one of baseball’s best prospects.

For this exercise, I’m going with utilityman Ezequiel Duran. He was a useful piece for the Rangers last year and could become a true multipurpose weapon off the bench in 2024. He’s going to be used as a backup at a variety of positions and will have a chance to improve upon a strong first full season.

With excellent arm strength and speed, Duran can be a quality player in many ways. If he can reduce his chase rates and display more patience at the plate, he could run into 20 home runs while serving a valuable role in Texas.

Honorable Mention: RHP Owen White

The Rangers will need to piece things together on the pitching side while they wait for Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle to return to the mound.

One young pitcher who could make a difference is Owen White, who debuted last season, albeit briefly. I’m cheating a bit by including someone who will still be a rookie, but White could be a valuable piece in Texas with his strong ability to force groundballs and soft contact.

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