One of the best parts of MLB is watching young players come into their own and establishing themselves as stars. The game is so difficult and the seasons are so grueling that finding a spark can be remarkably tough, even for prospects that come up with all-world expectations.

Yet, in 2024, there's a big group of talented young players who have only showed flashes of star talent in the past, but are blossoming in the new season. So, let's assess this group of breakout talents and ask ourselves – which MLB players are destined for their first MLB All-Star Games – perhaps when we weren't expecting them to do so?

One quick rule to add before we get into it: no obvious stars that have already broken out will be allowed even if they missed out on the MLB All-Star Game last year. The most prevalent examples here are Bobby Witt Jr. and Gunnar Henderson, who didn't make the trip to Seattle in 2023 but dominated the second half so soundly that they each secured top-ten MVP finishes.

No, we need true breakout candidates who are making their mark for the first time now in 2024.

Elly De La Cruz, Reds

We all remember Ellymania, the first month that Elly De La Cruz came up to the majors and stole every eyeball across the baseball world with his electric five-tool skillset. Though he was only up for a month before the Midsummer Classic, people were halfway-seriously asking if De La Cruz should represent the Reds in last year's All-Star Game. And, well, that didn't quite work out.

De La Cruz struggled mightily for most of the second half, striking out at an alarming rate while seeing his OPS+ shrink all the way to 89%. He was 11% worse than a league-average hitter. In 2024, though, he's on a mission to prove all the hype was justified.

With five home runs and seven stolen bases, De La Cruz is on pace for a 45/60 season (we know, it's obviously a little early to project that out). Yes, he's still chasing balls out of the zone at a concerning rate, but you can get away with that when you're in the 96th percentile in all of baseball in barrel rate. It's beautiful to watch when De La Cruz makes hard contact, and when he gets moving around the bases… forget about it.

The ultimate tiebreaker: baseball needs De La Cruz in the MLB All-Star Game. He's a huge needle-mover in a sport desperate for pop culture relevance and anytime he does something jaw-dropping, Ellymania resurfaces all over the web. The thought of an EDLC inside-the-park home run in the Lone Star State is enough to make the league office salivate.

CJ Abrams, Nationals

Washington Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams (5) fields the ground ball of Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Teoscar Hernández (37) during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Not many people were watching Washington Nationals baseball at the end of last summer, and it's hard to blame them for it. But quietly, CJ Abrams worked his way through the worst of his early career struggles and put up very respectable numbers for a 22-year-old–especially as a power-speed threat.

He ended up with 18 home runs and 47 stolen bases, indicating he could be a special player if things clicked in the batter's box.

Flash forward to 2024 and Abrams is going berserk to start the season. He hit his fifth home run to lead off the game Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, putting him on pace for 45 this season. He's only stolen three bases, but unless there's some lingering injury he's dealing with, it's a near certainty he'll start swiping bags again soon. He's 11th in all of baseball with a 1.014 OPS and is in the 96th percentile with a .331 expected batting average.

When the Nationals traded Juan Soto to the Padres, they acquired a package of prospects the likes of which we'd never seen traded before in Major League Baseball. Abrams was certainly no afterthought in the deal, but one could argue he was the second- or even third-most valuable piece at the time, with Mackenzie Gore and James Wood being dealt alongside him.

But if Abrams continues blossoming the way he is now, he'll be one of the most valuable pieces not only on the Nats, but in the entire sport. He's also got one of the best nicknames in the game: “The Alien.”

Reid Detmers, Angels

We knew from watching him throw a no-hitter in 2022, in just his 11th career start, that Reid Detmers had some nasty stuff. But he hadn't put it all together and some of his stats in 2023 were slightly discouraging. But in 2024, Detmers has come out and shut up anyone who was doubting him with a masterful performance to begin his age-24 season.

Through four starts, Detmers has three wins, 30 strikeouts in just 22.2 innings and an MLB-best 1.61 FIP. He's mowing hitters down with his fastball, throwing it at a 49.5% clip and is effectively mixing in three quality off-speeds to keep hitters mystified on both sides of the plate.

With the departure of Shohei Ohtani, the Angels were left with no clear ace on their pitching staff. Well, Detmers has proven to be the answer to that query so far. Sure, they're hovering around .500, but the Halos have had some encouraging results this year, particularly with Mike Trout getting back to his absurd levels of production.

If Detmers keeps up his torrid pace, the Angels won't go away as quietly as we might have thought as the season wears along.

Kutter Crawford, Red Sox

Flip a coin here between Kutter Crawford and the Red Sox' other breakout starting pitcher, Tanner Houck, who threw a complete-game, 94-pitch shutout against the Cleveland Guardians Wednesday night. Hey, both could even make it if they keep up this torrid pace. But if recency bias is cast aside, Crawford might have the slight edge in the long run.

Though he was used as part-starter, part-bulk reliever in 2023, Crawford ended up with a top five xWOBA among all pitchers last season, ranking ahead of both Cy Young winners, Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell. He had elite stats allowed on his four-seamer and sweeper and when Andrew Bailey took over as Red Sox pitching coach, he basically said, “Kutter, you're gonna throw both of those pitches until you're sick of it.”

Now, in 2024, Crawford has a ridiculous 0.42 ERA and 0.80 WHIP through 21.1 innings pitched. Hitters continue to be mystified by both the four-seamer and the sweeper and Crawford has also, appropriately, made drastic improvements to his cutter.  Even at the age of 28, Crawford appears to have truly taken a huge step forward in his development and will be bound for Arlington if he stays the course.

Spencer Steer, Reds

Cincinnati Reds designated hitter Spencer Steer (7) hits a single against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at T-Mobile Park.
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Let's come back to the well in Cincinnati. Because for all the headlines De La Cruz gets for being the dynamic talent he is, it's former 29th-round pick Spencer Steer that's been catalyzing this Reds offense.

With 18 RBI, Steer is tied for fourth in all of baseball, right alongside Mookie Betts, Adolis García and Teoscar Hernandez. He's only got three home runs, but in many ways, that's encouraging, because he's spraying the ball all over the yard and after popping 23 of them last year, we know the dingers are still yet to come.

Steer has been a tour-de-force for the Reds in 2024, while making the Twins rue the day they traded both him and Christian Encarnacion-Strand to Cincy for half a season of Tyler Mahle.

And what's most encouraging about this start from Steer is there isn't a single peripheral stat that suggests this breakout is a fluke. His hard-hit percentage has skyrocketed, he's striking out a lot less and he's even taking more walks. Spencer Steer might not just make the 2024 All-Star Game if he keeps this up, but a whole bunch more MLB All-Star Games in the future.