15 NL East Breakout Candidates for the 2012 Season
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The term breakout can be used to describe multiple situations.
For a long time veteran who never quite reached their MLB potential, a breakout season could be one where they finally perform to the level they were expected. Whether they achieve a new level of success in the big leagues or record high statistical numbers around the board, a breakout season for a vet could make the difference between being a bench player or an everyday guy.
For a rookie, a breakout season can be the same as above. The player can have great stats or replicate stellar minors performances on their way to big league stardom, but a rookie can also breakout in another way. In some ways, a rookie who breaks into the league is already having a breakout season as they are breaking out in the form of reaching the level of major league baseball.
For a guy with a few years major league experience, a breakout year could mean moving up a level in stardom from an average player to a star. It could be having a year like Jose Bautista did in 2010 by discovering power he or the league didn't even know existed. It could even be as simple as bettering what is expected based on previous seasons and minor league experience.
Whatever the reason, any player, even a star, is capable of having a breakout season. Whether it be a handful of guys achieving rookie success, two pitchers who never really lived up to expectations, or a few stars in the making who are ready to make their mark on the league, here are 15 guys in no particular order who could have big seasons in 2012.
PHI Phillies: 1B/ LF John Mayberry Jr
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John Mayberry had a great season last year, and based on previous career numbers it could be said that 2011 was a breakout year for him. However, Mayberry still has a lot more to show and 2012 could be the year that he puts it all together as an everyday major league player.
In 2011, Mayberry hit .273 in 267 at-bats that were recorded in 104 games played. Now all of these numbers are huge improvements from Mayberry's previous career high of 57 at-bats in 39 games, but they still show that he has room for further growth.
Mayberry spent most of 2011 splitting time in left field with Raul Ibanez. He also played a few games at first, which was his position for four years at Stanford University.
2012 will be Mayberry's chance to prove to the Phillies that he can be an everyday player. With Ibanez gone and Ryan Howard injured, Mayberry will likely spend time on the diamond for close to all 162 games. Games and at-bats won't be the only numbers likely to increase if John sees everyday playing time. Look for Mayberry to hit around .285, 20 HR and 80 RBI, if he breaks out and lives up to the potential the Phillies started to see in him last season.
MIA Marlins: RP Steve Cishek
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Steve Cishek had a solid rookie season in the Miami pen and with Heath Bell now closing for the Marlins, Cishek could have the all important role of setup man in 2012.
Cishek was a major piece in Miami's bullpen last season as he made 45 appearances and pitched 54 total innings. He posted an ERA of 2.63 and averaged a little over one strikeout per inning.
Although Cishek was good last season he still has room to improve. He gave up 45 hits and 19 walks during the 54 IP. These numbers aren't horrible, especially for a rookie, but they do show that he can improve and that he still can have a breakout season.
In 2012, Steve's role in the bullpen will likely be known after spring training. He can use the spring to work on his fielding (which is probably the weakest part of his game) and come into 2012 having a breakout year as a reliever.
Look for Cishek's possible breakout to include less walks and less errors with possibly a handful of holds as the 8th inning go-to.
NY Mets: 1B Ike Davis
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Ike Davis will be one of the few names that are actually recognizable on the Mets 2012 roster, and even then he will only be in his third season as a big leaguer. With Jose Reyes gone and the Mets currently in free fall mode, a healthy season for Davis could be one of the few bright spots the Mets are likely to have in 2012.
Davis finished off a solid rookie campaign in 2010 as a midseason call-up with a .264 average, 19 HR, 33 doubles and 71 RBI in 147 games played. He also shined with the glove as he posted a .993 fielding percentage. Davis' rookie season left the Mets feeling optimistic as Davis and a handful of other prospects mark the future for the club.
For Davis, it looked like 2011 was going to be his breakout year as he stormed out of the gate early in the season.
However, his torrid start was stalled by a series of injuries that left him only playing in 36 regular season games. In those games Davis hit seven HR, eight doubles and a total of 39 hits. His numbers were all indicators that Davis has the potential to be a guy capable of hitting 25-30 HR, 40 doubles, 100 RBI and a .290+ average.
Even with the Mets drifting away from contender and toward the bottom of the NL East cellar, Davis's breakout 2012 season could be something that gives the organization hope for the future rebuilding of the team.
ATL Braves: RP Arodys Vizcaino
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Arodys Vizcaino will be the next rookie name to add to an already stellar Atlanta bullpen. With the intense workload put on both Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters last season, Vizcaino's contributions will be vital in keeping the other bullpen arms fresh. He will likely be called upon in a large role next season.
Vizcaino made his major league debut in the Braves bullpen in 2011 by appearing in 17 games, recording 17 strikeouts and nine walks while posting a 4.67 ERA and giving up 16 hits. Those stats don't exactly jump out at you, but Vizcaino did show that he has potential and that he will likely be a mainstay in this bullpen for years to come.
With likely a full season to pitch at the major league level in 2012, Vizcaino could be primed for a breakout. He now has the experience of pitching against big league hitters so he has something to work on in the offseason. He also has a great arm and has already displayed his talents solidly as a strikeout pitcher which will bode well for him in a division of strikeout prone hitters.
WAS Nationals: SS Ian Desmond
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Ian Desmond is one of those players who throughout his career has been good but not great. That said, it is obvious he has the potential and room for improvement and it is quite possible that it all might come together for him in a breakout 2012 season.
In 2011, Desmond posted an average of .253 to go along with 25 stolen bases, 49 RBI, 27 doubles and 65 runs. His stats don't jump out drastically. In fact, all of them are relatively average for a major leaguer.
The area that Ian needs to work on is contact. His strikeout numbers are pretty high and if he can increase the amount of contact he makes not only will he cut back on the amount of strikeouts, but he will also increase his average.
Likely to have better protection in the lineup next season with Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman hopefully having better stats in 2012, Desmond will have the opportunity to get on base and score runs.
If he breaks out in 2012, expect him to steal 30-35 bags, record 60 RBI and score at least 85 runs.
PHI Phillies: RP Justin DeFratus
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With former closer and setup man Ryan Madson gone due to free agency, the Phillies could be holding an open casting call of their bullpen arms to fill the 8th inning role.
Justin DeFratus might just be one of the guys to have a shot at earning the job.
Last season the Phillies auditioned rookie Mike Stutes and another young gun in Antonio Bastardo for the all-important 8th and 9th inning roles. While both shined for the first half of the season, the innings worked took a toll on the two young arms and they fizzled out as the season ended.
The lack of trust in Bastardo and Stutes coupled with September call-ups gave DeFratus his chance to make the major league club. He only pitched a total of five innings but it was obvious that this righty has some pretty good stuff.
DeFratus will likely be thrown in with a group of guys who are just trying to make the team. With only closer Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras and David Herndon assured roles in the pen, DeFratus will be competing against likely candidates in Bastardo and Stutes as well as other rookies including Phillipe Aumont, the top prospect acquired in the Cliff Lee to the Mariners trade.
Now of the potential players to make the roster and make an impact, Aumont is said to be at the top of the list. If he has a break-out season it could be expected based on his prospect value.
DeFratus on the other hand is someone that rose through the minor league system somewhat unexpectedly but who is now ready to shine on the major league stage. He proved he could pitch against big league hitters in 2011 and now the next step is for him to make the bullpen and have a breakout season.
MIA Marlins: RF Mike Stanton
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I suppose it isn't exactly fair to say that a guy who in his first two major league seasons hit a total of 56 HR hasn't broken out yet, but in the case of Mike Stanton, I think he can still grow and become a perennial All-Star candidate.
All of that could and likely will begin when he truly breaks out in 2012.
As mentioned Stanton has incredible power. In 2010, his rookie season, he hit 22 HR in 100 games to go along with 21 doubles and a .259 average. In 2011, it was more of the same as Stanton played in 150 games and hit 34 HR, 30 doubles, 87 RBI and increased his average to .262.
Stanton has improved each year in the majors and that pattern should continue in 2012. I won't put exact numbers on what his breakout season could yield, but the way this kid is built he is certainly capable of a 40 HR and 100+ RBI season.
Stanton is a very similar player to the Phillies Ryan Howard, and like Howard, the biggest area of concern for Stanton is in his strikeout numbers. Stanton struck out 166 times while walking only 70 times.
If Stanton can improve his contact and cut down on his strikeouts while continuing to showcase his power, 2012 could be his year to win MVP...
And that would be a breakout from star to All-Star.
NY Mets: C Josh Thole
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With Ronnie Paulino gone, it looks like Josh Thole will be the guy the Mets look towards for the majority of the catching duties in 2012. Thole, with a few years experience under his belt, has improved in various aspects of his game, especially his defense.
With continued work and improvement, Thole could be primed for a breakout year in 2012.
Last season Thole's role with the Mets greatly increased. He had the majority of catching duties, and in 114 games played (which was a career best) he averaged .268 with 17 doubles and 40 RBI.
Although there is nothing spectacular about Thole's game, he has managed to improve each year as a major leaguer and in 2012 it should be more of the same.
As the number one catcher, expect Thole to have even more at-bats and more offensive consistency. He may not be a guy who will steal bases or hit a lot for power, but his strikeout numbers are manageable and show that he makes a solid amount of contact. This means he can likely hit for about a .280 average or above in 2012.
Now that might not seem like a great breakout season, but if he can establish himself as an everyday catcher for the Mets through improved offense and defense, it will bode well for his future and the team's future...
And that is a breakout that the Mets certainly can use from one of their young and hopeful future stars.
ATL Braves: RHP Julio Teheran
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With Derek Lowe traded and talks that Jair Jurrjens might be next, it looks like the Braves are ready for their young arms headed by Teheran and fellow rookie Randall Delgado to take over the reigns at the back of the rotation.
In preparation to one day be Atlanta's top ace, Teheran's potential breakout in 2012 could bring the beginning of the era of the young arms in Atlanta sooner than expected.
Julio Teheran did not exactly perform at the top level expected when he made his major league debut in May. In 8.2 IP, Teheran gave up five earned runs and two home runs in the loss. After the unimpressive start, Teheran was dropped back to the minors where he shined against AAA hitters going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA.
Because of his stellar season, he was once again given a chance with the Braves during the September call-ups where he got his first career win.
Teheran showed future potential in his September starts, but he also showed the obvious minor to major league growing pains as he gave up two home runs and six total earned runs in only eleven innings pitched.
Spring training will really show how prepared Teheran is for the major leagues, but with the starting experience under his belt, don't be surprised if he has a stellar rookie season.
Expect Teheran to breakout from last season's struggles to win at least 12 games as a full time starter and for him to get his ERA under 3.50 by the end of the 2012 season.
WAS Nationals: Stephen Strasburg RHP
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There is no doubt that Stephen Strasburg is an All-Star in the making. The only question is when will he finally break out into the pitcher all of the baseball world is expecting?
One of the more hyped prospects to grace the baseball stage, Strasburg has yet to play up to the great potential the Nationals see in him. Unfortunately for Strasburg, injuries have kept him from pitching an entire season and an early in his career Tommy John surgery wasn't something the Nationals wanted for him. Despite the surgery however, the hope is Strasburg will come back as good as he was in college.
With the minors and injuries aside, 2012 could and by all means should be the year Strasburg turns the hype once surrounding his debut into pitching excellence.
There is no reason to believe that Strasburg will have great struggles at the big league level. Although it is a small sample size, his 2011 starts showed that he is ready and able to handle major league hitters. In five starts, Strasburg allowed only four runs in 24 innings while also striking out 24. He is a power pitcher and if he can manage to stay healthy for the entire 2012 season he should see at least 25 starts.
If the Nationals offense can help provide run support, he could easily win 15 games in 2012.
PHI Phillies: RHP Kyle Kendrick
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Before you automatically go and discredit this article upon seeing his name, bear with me.
Honestly I found it hard to convince myself to put his name on this list, but as far as potential break out shocks go, this would be one of the biggest.
After his stellar rookie campaign, Kyle Kendrick never really panned out as the Phillies had hoped. Since going 10-4 in the 2007 season, Kendrick has not been able to put it together for an entire season and has found himself bounced between the majors and minors as both a long reliever and starter.
Despite his lack of success however, Kendrick has gotten chance after chance to right his ship. To his credit, Kendrick did finish his 2011 off strong as he stepped in as both a spot starter and relief pitcher. He managed to win eight games in 15 starts, and in a career high 34 games pitched, Kyle posted career lows in ERA, batting average against and WHIP.
With Roy Oswalt gone, Kendrick, Joe Blanton, Vance Worley and recently acquired free agent pitcher Dontrelle Willis will be competing for two spots in the rotation. Based off of last season's late push and previous spring training success, Kendrick likely could find himself as the fifth starter come April.
If Kendrick makes the team (and it is a big if) there is a possibility that he could emerge and have the breakout season the Phillies have been hoping for. It will likely be his last chance with the team as the 2013 season will make him arbitration eligible and all sources point to the Phils willing to part with him.
All that could change however if Kendrick has one heck of a season and proves to the team his confidence issues are behind him.
MIA Marlins: RHP Ricky Nolasco
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Ricky Nolasco has never really been the pitcher the Marlins hoped he would be.
A great talent and a strike thrower, Nolasco's lack of success can be attributed to inconsistency. A good pitcher, yes, but Nolasco is going to have to be better than that as he joins a 2012 rotation set to feature a hopefully healthy Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
A great season by Nolasco gives the Marlins their own big three to rival the stars in Philly and it gives them a realistic shot to win the NL East.
The best way to describe Ricky Nolasco's six year MLB career is through various ups and downs.
During his first full season with the Marlins, Nolasco went 11-11 with a 4.82 ERA in a combination of starts and bullpen work. The next season he pitched in only five games. 2008 was Nolasco's first really successful year as he recorded 15 wins. The next two seasons he also amassed the 12 win mark, going 13-9 in 2009 and 14-9 in 2010. In 2011 he went back to his old struggles however as he finished 10-12 with a 4.67 ERA.
Nolasco may have had solid seasons, but he has never had the breakout season that the Marlins are going to need from him going forward. The 30 year old pitcher is in the second year of a three year contract and with the Marlins rebuilding with star power, he will have to prove he can pitch consistently to have a future with this team.
If Ricky can put it all together in 2012, he can have the breakout season he has been waiting for.
Winning 15 games and finally getting his ERA below 3.50 would be just what Nolasco needs to help him regain his confidence and what the Marlins need in order to compete against the Big Three in Philly.
NY Mets: 2B/ SS Ruben Tejada
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Ruben Tejada is one of the handful of second basemen on the Mets roster with little or no major league experience, but out of all of the possible candidates for the job, he is the one with the most potential.
Tejada's rookie debut only saw him play in 78 games and post a very low .213 average. The Mets did not think too much of this and likely chalked it up to it being his rookie season.
Whatever the reason, the Mets once again put him on the field in 2011 and he improved exponentially. In a little over 100 more at-bats, Tejada increased his average by almost .80 points to .284 and his on base slugging percentage by over .100 points from .588 to .696. He also hit above the MLB average .321 for OBP by recording a .360 clip.
In all of these numbers increasing, Tejada still has room for improvement. His glove and defense have always been good, but the Mets will look for him to duplicate and even improve his 2011 season offensively. Tejada has a lot of speed and one of the areas he can improve is using that speed to score more runs and create more run opportunities.
If Tejada plays a full or close to full season, it could be a breakout with 75+ RBI and 80+ runs with an average in the .285-.295 range.
ATL Braves: SS Tyler Pastornicky
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Whether or not Tyler Pastornicky makes the team out of spring training is uncertain, but most insiders believe that he will at least see time on the major league roster at some point in 2012.
Pastornicky, who had been by all means an average hitter, had a breakout season in the minors when he played for AA last season.
Tyler hit a career best .299, significantly improving his previous AA best of .254. He also recorded 20 stolen bases, 50 runs and 13 doubles before he was promoted to AAA Gwinett where he continued to tear the cover off of the ball. In 27 games Pastornicky hit at a .365 clip stealing seven bases and scoring 15 runs.
Pastornicky is a speed guy and someone who the Braves could use to compliment Michael Bourn in the lineup. Last season the Braves struggled on the base paths with a stolen base percentage of only 64, ranking them 3rd worst in the National League.
Tyler brings the Braves speed on the base paths with 146 steals in four minor league seasons. Pastornicky still needs to work on his discipline on the base paths, but with the Braves base coaches he should turn into a well rounded base stealer or at the very least someone to get on base and score runs.
Expect Pastornicky to continue his 2011 campaign and break into the league in 2012 with 20 steals, 70 runs and a solid .280 average.
WAS Nationals: RF Bryce Harper
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The question isn't if Bryce Harper will make his major league debut in 2012, it is when.
Likely with an opportunity to win a job out of spring training, it is possible he could be in the majors as soon as Opening Day.
There is no doubt that Bryce Harper is a future star and there is no doubt the Nationals have acknowledged this stardom. In fact, last season they even put Jayson Werth in center to according to GM Mike Rizzo, to "find out if they had a center fielder in house."
Although the Nationals continue to have interest in trading for a CF, they have Werth to fall back on. With Werth in center, all indications point to Bryce Harper being the starting right fielder at some point in 2012.
Bryce has had the national spotlight on him since before he finished high school.
Sports Illustrated, ESPN and even major league scouts caught eye of him helping the 19 year old to make the decision to speed up his education and draft eligibility by dropping out of high school after two years and then attending junior college to receive his GED. By doing this, Harper became draft eligible in 2010 where the Nationals made the easy decision to pick him first overall.
The transition from high school to junior college to the minors would have probably been a problem for most 17 year olds, but Harper made it seem like a piece of cake.
In his first minor league stint, Harper hit .318 with 14 HR, 46 RBI and 19 stolen bases. A rare combination of speed and power, Harper moved from A to AA all in his first season in the system. His numbers did drop in the transition as he only hit .256 with three HR in 37 games.
Despite this, Harper has all of the tools necessary to be a major league player. The only shock about his potential 2012 breakout would be if he doesn't spend time on the major league roster even if it is just for September call-ups.