Top 2024 Breakout Candidates for Each Team in the AL East

In a division that is already loaded with star power, each team in the American League East has players who are ready to break out in 2024.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 01: Anthony Volpe #11 of the New York Yankees runs to first after hitting a single during the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on April 01, 2023 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Baseball’s toughest division continues to get better. With four of five teams finishing last year with winning records, and the 82-80 Yankees adding Juan Soto to the mix, it will be a bloodbath yet again to take the crown in the American League East.

And what makes this division that much more fun?

The fact that the competition is only getting better. With top prospects knocking on the door and young players that have shown flashes of bursting onto the scene, there are several players in this division that are primed for breakout seasons in 2024.

Let’s dive in on who that could be.

Ad – content continues below

Baltimore Orioles Breakout Player – Grayson Rodriguez

It was a tale of two halves for Grayson Rodriguez in his rookie year. In the first half, he looked like a lost soul, to the point where him and his 7.35 first half ERA were sent back to Triple-A.

He returned in the second half looking like the blue chip prospect he was always touted to be. Rodriguez posted a 2.58 ERA across 13 starts in that time, with opponents hitting just .227 against him. He played a pivotal role in the Orioles racking up 101 wins and cruising to an AL East title.

Rodriguez’s fastball has flames coming out of it. The average velocity on it sits above 97 MPH and really gets on top of hitters, creating great extension off the mound. The problem is, that was the pitch that was most hit around in his inaugural season, posting a -7 Run Value.

The good news for G-Rod? He already has two very effective secondaries in his slider and changeup, which continuously gave opposing lineups fits. Hitters hit just .201 against his changeup and slugged a miniscule .172 against his slider.

If Rodriguez begins to find more positive results with his heater, it will not be long before he is the clear cut ace of the Orioles staff.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Westburg

Ad – content continues below

Tampa Bay Rays Breakout Player – Ryan Pepiot

Ryan Pepiot has already found big league success. Across a pair of seasons, he holds a 2.76 ERA. But he has only thrown 78.2 innings.

This is no fault of Pepiot’s, as he was stuck behind a flurry of dynamite Dodgers arms once he cracked the big leagues and could never quite break into the rotation permanently. But now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays (as a part of the Tyler Glasnow trade), he will be slotted into the rotation with a chance to prove himself over a full season. Especially with the injuries of Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen.

Pepiot had one of the best changeups in his draft class back in 2019. His walk rate plummeted from ‘22 to ‘23, walking just over one batter per nine, and he gave up just a .156 average against his fastball last season.

For Pepiot, the key to a breakout year is much more about volume of work than effectiveness. But now being given full reigns to a rotation spot, look out for the Butler product to truly burst onto the scene.

Honorable Mention: Taj Bradley

Toronto Blue Jays Breakout Player – Davis Schneider

For 35 games, Davis Schneider lit the world on fire. Not only was he on pace for above a nine fWAR season (yes, that almost certainly wouldn’t have sustained but it is fun to think about), but he slashed .276/.404/.603/1.008 in that time.

Ad – content continues below

Paired with a 176 WRC+ and a hair below a 15% walk rate, Schneider was a revelation for a Blue jays team fighting for their lives to get into the playoffs.

And if all of that isn’t enough, he also flashed the leather on the other side of the ball, posting three OAA at second base in his very limited sample size.

Schneider more than hit his way through the minor leagues, posting nine home runs with an .812 OPS across two levels of A-ball in 2021, 16 bombs and an .823 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022, only to follow it up with 21 round trippers and a .969 OPS in Triple-A Buffalo in 2023.

And yet, his numbers actually continued to elevate once he got to the majors.

His strikeout rate was through the roof at 30.5%, and it will be intriguing to watch how the league adjusts to Schneider as he is set to enter his first full season in the big leagues at age 25. But after the showcase that he put on to end 2023, it is impossible to not circle him with a bright highlighter as a prime breakout candidate in 2024.

Honorable Mention: Genesis Cabrera

Ad – content continues below

New York Yankees Breakout Player – Anthony Volpe

Anthony Volpe’s rookie season was not all sunshine and roses. 

The 21-year-old heir at shortstop had his share of struggles throughout 2023, including finishing the year with a .666 OPS, while barely hitting above the Mendoza line (.209). So no, it was not the smooth-sailing inaugural season that some other top prospects have had in recent years, such as Corbin Carroll, Julio Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman, to name a few.

But development isn’t linear for players. Some guys take a little bit more time to accelerate to their potential, especially when you are just 21 years old and had never played above Double-A before your debut.

Volpe was a three-fWAR player as a 21-year-old. Overall, that’s a really good year, especially for a rookie. AND the way a majority of those wins were corralled were thanks to his impressive defense that he flashed. 

Volpe posted 15 DRS and one OAA manning the six-hole in the Bronx, showing quality range and a strong arm. The Yankees have been plugging and playing at shortstop for the last few seasons. Now they appear to have their long-term answer, as Volpe’s defense alone is enough to make his team a full step better. And he may very well only get better with time.

At the dish, when you have a 20-20 season as a rookie, that cannot be ignored. Despite reaching base at a very low volume, Volpe still showed his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, along with his well above average speed to make him a threat on the base paths.

Ad – content continues below

Volpe flashed his bag of tools in many ways throughout year one. Be on the lookout for him to truly take the next step in 2024.

Honorable Mention: Oswald Peraza

Boston Red Sox Breakout Player – Jarren Duran

Jarren Durran broke out to some extent last season with a .295 average, .828 OPS and a 120 WRC+. He is also blazing fast, having swiped 24 bags a year ago with his sprint speed ranking towards the top of the league (96th percentile to be exact). 

It was the first real success that he had seen in the show.

All of that said, he hit just eight home runs and didn’t walk much in his age 26 season. Additionally, despite his plus speed, his outfield defense has been very suspect after posting a DRS of -5, -6 and -7, respectively, over his first three stints in the majors. There is plenty of room for him to get better moving into the upcoming season.

After struggling in the big leagues in parts of 2021 and 2022, Duran really started to flash his potential at the plate last year. But even after a 2.5 fWAR season, there is still room for him to grow. He hits the ball with authority, and possesses both power and speed. He has all of the tools to make 2024 his true coming out party.

Ad – content continues below

Honorable Mention: Kutter Crawford