By: Noah Wright
WAR is probably the best all encompassing stat to determine a player’s contributions both with the bat, and in the field. There are 2 mainly accepted versions of WAR to me, that being bWAR (Baseball Reference WAR), and fWAR (Fangraphs WAR). Clearly, there have been some huge breakouts in 2019, so who have some of those players been? To qualify, they need to have at least played a full season in 2018 for this list, nor have any sort of fantastic performance in the past (so sorry Bellinger).
- Lucas Giolito (3.7 fWAR difference):
To put it lightly, the former Nationals top prospect pitcher was god awful in 2018. His fWAR was actually in the negatives, and his ERA ballooned above 6. The White Sox’ hurler has pitched in 124 and two thirds innings, producing a stellar 3.39/3.47 ERA/FIP, along with elite strikeout numbers (10.8 K/9), and has only given up 3.2 BB/9. His hard hit % has also been reduced to just 29.9% after being 32.7% in 2018.
- Rafael Devers (3.4 fWAR difference):
Back in 2017 when Devers broke into the MLB, he looked like one of the best future bats for the Red Sox. While his defense wasn’t stellar, it was still very usable, and if worse came to worse, first base could always be an alternative. But a sophomore slump hit Devers like a train. His OPS dropped by .088, while seeing his usable defense come into question whether or not he would have to be moved to a DH/1B kind of player. But Devers has put those doubts to rest. Through 485 plate appearances, Devers has a .323/.372/.567 line, and a career high 22 home runs. Currently, his OPS+/wRC+ sits at 138/139, while leading the league in doubles (37), hits (144), and total bases (253). His defense has also been much better, with a positive UZR (.5), 0 dWAR, and -3 UZR.
- Ketel Marte (2.4 fWAR difference):
Last year, Marte was your typical league average batting, above average fielder type of player with plus speed. His OPS+/wRC+ was 102/104, while carrying a .768 OPS, and 1.2 dWAR. Marte always flashed the talent to be an all-star level player, but never put it all together, that is until 2019. Through 472 plate appearances, Marte has an outstanding .315/.377/.568 with 23 home runs, and a 140/143 OPS+/wRC+. That also comes with elite defense in centerfield (11 DRS, 7.2 UZR), while providing league average defense up the middle (-1 DRS, -.7 UZR), which equates to an overall 1.3 dWAR.
- Yoan Moncada (1.9 fWAR difference):
Another breakout White Sox, Yoan Moncada, like Giolitio, was not having a great 2018. He was striking out 33.4% of the time to oppose a 10.3 BB%. But after Moncada was moved to third base, his bat also saw a huge tick in performance. Right now, Moncada is batting .301/.358/.535 with 20 home runs, while stealing 7 bases. His defense isn’t winning any Gold Gloves, but it’s definitely not Miguel Andujar unusable level (-6 DRS, 2.6 UZR).
- Matt Boyd (1.7 fWAR difference):
Before 2019, Boyd was nothing more than a backend fifth starter. Granted, Boyd isn’t a Cy Young contender, but he has shown so much improvement between 2018 and 2019. Through Boyd’s 138 innings, the right hander has an incredible 12.0 K/9 against a BB/9 of 2.0. His K/BB ratio is 6.23. His ERA might be 3.91, but his FIP is 3.46 and his WHIP is 1.130. Plus his ground ball % has spiked to 35.8%. However, Boyd has struggled with the long ball. He has already given up 23 home runs this year. Last year, he gave up 27 in 170 and a third innings.