Well folks, the Major League Baseball season is officially under way. While the rest of us were sleeping or getting ready for work over the last two days, the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners were putting on a showcase of offensive prowess, scoring a combined nine runs in two games. But for the rest of us, the (other) real season starts next week when the rest of the league gets under way, on this side of the Pacific.
So what do fans do for that last weekend of spring training? Well, they can load up on knowledge of possible break-out candidates for the 2012 season, and since I have drafted in all of my leagues, I have no problem sharing my All-Breakout Team for 2012.
2012 MLB All-Breakout Team
Yasmani Grandal – San Diego Padres – Catcher
Yonder Alonso gets a lot of publicity for being the prize of the Mat Latos trade, but Grandal may be just as important to the Padres future. A switch-hitting catcher with power, Grandal played across three levels in 2011. He has absolutely torn the cover off the ball during Spring Training, but will likely start 2012 at Triple-A to further season (read here as start his arbitration clock later) as he’s only played 113 games in the minors. Still, Grandal will likely be a call-up around June and could a solid mid-season addition for a team looking for an upgrade at catcher.
Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks – First Base
Goldschmidt came up in 2011 with a lot of hype and proceeded to hit 8 home runs in 156 at-bats to close out the regular season. That said he also struck out at an alarming rate of once every three at-bats. Still, he showed a reversal of that during the NLDS, when he tried to carry the D-Backs into the next round by hitting a robust .438 with another pair of home runs and 6 RBI. He’ll need to cut down on his strike-outs, but his power is legit and he could easily crank out 30-plus home runs in the thin desert air.
Dustin Ackley – Seattle Mariners – Second Base
Ackley is a huge part of the Mariners’ future and is a big reason why they are pushing a youth movement in Seattle. After a solid rookie campaign that saw him hit .273 with 6 home runs, 16 double, 7 triples, 36 RBI across 90 games. That’s not bad production out of a 23-year-old second baseman. Ackley is already off to a solid start in 2012, hitting his first home run and driving in a pair during the opening series against Oakland in Japan. He should be on everybody’s radar as a player to watch in 2012.
Zack Cozart – Cincinnati Reds – Shortstop
Cozart is somewhat old for a rookie, entering 2012 at the ripe age of 26-years-old, but he made the most out of his cup of coffee in 2011, playing in 11 games and getting 12 hits, including a pair of home runs. He enters 2012 as the starting shortstop for the Reds, and he isn’t showing any signs of letting that go thanks to a solid spring. His power numbers in the minors are solid for a shortstop, so we may be talking about a possible 15-20 home run season from a shortstop. Take into consideration that he plays his home games in the launching pad of Great American Ballpark, and you have the recipe for a sleeper.
Brett Lawrie – Toronto Blue Jays – Third Base
I’ve already spilled the beans on Lawrie, but I cannot stress enough how much of a stud hitter he is going to be. His long term defensive position may be second base, but that won’t slow down his bat.
Dayan Viciedo – Chicago White Sox – Outfield
Viciedo has looked horrible this spring, despite being anointed the starting left fielder heading into camp. Still, the White Sox didn’t ship Carlos Quentin out of town simply for cost cutting purposes. The kid they call “The Tank” will be a legitimate power hitter in the bigs and at 23-years-old, should be a part of the White Sox outfield for years to come.
Ben Revere – Minnesota Twins – Outfield
Revere got a big taste of the majors in 2011, appearing in 117 games and doing a decent job, despite the injuries around him. Coming into 2012, the fleet-footed outfielder will be given a starting job. He doesn’t have a lot of power in his stick, but he makes up for it on the base paths with a boatload of stolen bases. Comparatively speaking, a good starting point would be Michael Bourn, and if the M&M boys are healthy in 2012, Revere could be adding a lot of runs scored too.
JD Martinez – Houston Astros – Outfield
There isn’t a lot to be excited about with the Astros in 2012, but I’ve decided that there are at least two players worth keeping an eye on in Houston, with Martinez being the first. Martinez got his shot after the trade of Hunter Pence and put up a solid .264 with 6 home runs and 35 RBI in 53 games played. Combined with the 13 home runs he hit in the minors before his call-up, and the kid could actually give the Astros a reasonable approximation of Pence n 2012, minus the stolen bases.
Jordan Zimmerman – Washington Nationals – Pitcher
Stephen Strasburg gets all the hype in Washington, and rightfully so, but Zimmerman is another young arm that the Nationals are building their rotation around. He enters 2012 a year removed from his own Tommy John surgery, and faired decently in his first year back with an 8-11 record, 124 strike-outs, and 3.18 ERA during the 2011 campaign. He won’t be as electric as Strasburg, but he’ll cost you a lot less on draft day. Oh, and unlike Strasburg, his Tommy John training wheels should be fully off in 2012.
Bud Norris – Houston Astros – Pitcher
Norris is the other Astro on this list, and rightfully so. Don’t let his 2011 record of 6-11 fool you. Instead, we need to focus on Norris’s 3.77 ERA and 176 strike-outs. Playing for Houston won’t do his record any wonders, but entering his prime, it isn’t without reason to expect him to further improve upon all subordinate stats. He has above average stuff and on another team; he’d be a top flight fantasy option. Still, gain from other players’ mistakes and don’t let Norris slide by.
Drew Pomeranz – Colorado Rockies – Pitcher
Pomeranz was sort of an after thought in 2011, as he appeared in only four games, but that just means he will fly under the radar. Pomeranz was the key acquisition in the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians at last year’s deadline, and he’s shown why this spring, by surrendering only a single run across 11 innings pitched thus far. He’s got a stellar 10.6 K/9 rate and has surrendered only 3 home runs over 101 innings pitched in the minors. He will pitch his home games in Coors Field, but with the advent of the humidor, that isn’t as much of a stigma as it once was. He is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate in 2012.