Every year several players out-perform their expectations and young players start rising into stars. Last year, we saw players like Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp and Nate McLouth break-out in a big way. These players were bargains for their draft positions in most fantasy drafts last year. Players like Rays' star third-baseman, Evan Longoria, showed glimpses of what he could do last year.This year they will come at a cost, but there are several players that can break-out this year.
Outfielder Josh Hamilton may have had the biggest break-out I can think of after his season last year. All Hamilton did was hit .304, smash 32 homers and drive in 130 RBIs after hitting only 19 and driving in 42 in 90 games in 2007. He could be a first-round pick in 2009.
Hamilton's teammate Ian Kinsler was one of the last second-basemen taken in most fantasy drafts. Kinsler went from hitting .263, hitting 20 homers and driving in 61 RBIs in 2007 to hitting .319, clubbing 18 home-runs and driving in 71 in only 121 games last year. Kinsler will be one of the top second-basemen drafted this year.
Pedroia wasn't really known for his power and only showed glimpses of his bright future in 2007. In 2008, Pedroia won the AL MVP. Pedroa's numbers rose from .317, 8 homers and 50 RBIs to batting .326, smashing 17 home-runs and driving in 83. He will also be one of the top second-basemen taken in 2009.
Matt Kemp showed what he could do in only 98 games in 2007, but put it all together in 2008. Kemp added stolen bases to his prowess and hit .290, slugged 18 homers, drove in 76 and stole 35 bases in 2008.
Nate McLouth was completely unknown in 2008 and became the Pirate's star after Jason Bay was traded. McLouth hit .276, homered 26 times and drove in 94 runs in a weak line-up. He also stole 23 bases.
Evan Longoria was called-up April 12th and never looked back. The Rays were hungry for more star power and let Langoria rip. He batted .272, hit 27 homers and drove in 85 runs. He was easily the choice for AL Rookie of the Year and helped the Rays get to their first post-season and to the World Series. Who can be this year's Langoria?
Who will step up in 2009? Here is a list of players that can make a name for themselves.
Adam Jones was one of the most talked about rookies coming into the season last year. Jones struggled at first but finished strong. He hits in an underrated Orioles line-up that scored 782 runs last year. His overall numbers were: .270 9 home-runs 57 RBIs 61 runs and 10 stolen bases. He will play everyday this year and will have his chance to shine. Projection: .280 20 home-runs 70 RBIs 80 runs 22 stolen bases.
Nicknamed "Salty", Saltalamacchia is one of the best prospects in baseball. He was the prize for the Rangers when they traded Mark Texiera to the Braves in 2007. His upside is huge and might be a top-10 catcher. Projection: .270 25 hrs 80 RBI 70 runs.
It was an up and down rookie season for Upton. His upside is through the roof. Upton's biggest problem is his lack of patience, but if he ever figures that out he can be a top 15 outfielder. He hit 15 homers, drove in 42 and hit .250 in only 356 at-bats. If he adds speed this year he can be a special player. It might be too soon for Upton, but his potential is too high to dismiss. Projection: .265 22 hr 80 RBI 80 runs 15 sbs.
Jackson had a nice season in 2008, but didn't quite show us enough power. Jackson has tons of potential and can bring his power to the table in 2009. The D-Backs lineup can be one of the best if their young stars start rising and Jackson can play a major role. Projection: .310 23 hrs 100 RBI 93 runs 15 sbs
Garko has teased us the past two seasons with his potential, but hasn't quite put it all together yet. He had an impressive 2008 by hitting .273 14 hrs 90 RBI 61 runs. His power upside is huge and if they can have a healthy Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, his numbers can be special. Projection: .280 30 hrs 100 RBI 80 runs.
Cameron Maybin has been named as one of the top prospects in all of baseball and was the key player in the Tigers trade for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Maybin has all the tools to become a superstar. He has the great combination of power and speed. He is only 21 years old, but this can be his year with opportunity. Projection: .250 18 hrs 77 RBI 86 runs 50 stolen bases.
He has already been compared to former Royals star slugger George Brett with his potential and his potential is unlimited. Gordon has the power to break-out and if the Royals lineup can improve this year, he'll have more opportunities. Projection: .280 30 hrs 90 RBI 88 runs 15 sbs.
If you're a baseball fan chances are you heard this kid's name before spring training started last year. Bruce has the potential to be a top outfielder. He hits in a hitter-friendly park and is in a decent lineup. Bruce showed us what he can do by hitting .254 21 hr 52 RBI 63 runs and 4 sbs. Projection: .277 36 hr 100 RBI 88 runs 12 sbs
Davis is a break-out waiting to happen. He proved he can flat out hit by hitting .285, slugged 17 homers and drove in 55 runs in only 80 games. He is going to rake and with Hamilton, Kinsler and Young hitting in front of him and hitting in one of the frienliest parks to hitters, Davis is going to shine. Projection: .283 36 hrs 104 RBI 80 runs 5 sbs.
Longoria won the Rookie of the Year in the AL, but he still has not shown us everything he can do. He has loads of potential and can easily be a top third-baseman. His lineup is even more improved this year with the addition of Pat Burrell. Longoria is going to have a David Wright-type break-out and watch out for this star in the making. Projection: .288 37 hrs 110 RBI 90 runs 15 sbs