MLB 2009 Breakout Team
Last Year Joey Votto knocked out 24 bombs in the Canadians MLB coming out party.
Hanley Ramirez continued to improve on his 2007 coming out party.
So who will it be in '09? Who's the one guy at each position you're going to wish your team had?
Before we get started—Honorable Mention goes out to Cameron Maybin as being the last cut on this year's squad. Maybe next year Cameron...actually I'd bet on it.
Chris Iannetta - Catcher Colorado Rockies
Behind the plate every team is looking for a Stud.
Ideally they want someone to handle the pitching staff, someone to give them a little pop from a normally defensively weak position.
Iannetta posted career numbers in 2008, his first 100 start campaign in the Big Leagues.
His line of .269/.390/.515 was more than respectable among catchers in the majors last year. But that OBP of .390 and the 18 bombs he managed in just 333 official at bats tells that there is more here than meets the eye.
Defensively at catcher Iannetta has made just one error in 1135 chances over this 182 game big league career.
In each of the last two seasons he has throw out 12 of 54 base stealers for a 23 percent rate of success in 100 games. Also in 182 career big league games, he committed just one error.
Chris Davis - First Base Texas Rangers
Following breakout seasons by Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler another Ranger is on the verge? You bet!
It looks like Davis has found a home in the Rangers lineup after sizzling through the second half of 2008.
Davis only had 295 at bats last season but he served notice.
His batting line was .285/.331/.549 and he managed 17 home runs and 55 RBI in half of a season. He split time between first and third base last year. Now with a solid foothold over at first, there is no reason to believe that Davis can’t be even more dialed in this season.
Based on his short stay in Oklahoma the 23-year-old projects out with a major league equivalency line of .280/.337/.543—which means that last year's number weren’t a fluke and all it’s going to take for him to put up 30 home runs and 100 plus RBI is staying healthy enough to get the at bats.
Howie Kendrick - Second Base Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Kendrick has all the skills to be a batting champion. Too bad he can’t seem to stay healthy. He has maxed out at 92 games in his young career.
Be it the hamstring from last year, or the broken finger from 2007. I’d like to think that Kendrick is more a run of bad luck than a walking band-aid.
He is still young at age 25 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him collect 190 plus hits, and swipe 20 bags if he can stay healthy this year.
**On a side note: With one home run in his first two games he is on pace to blow away his career high of four.
Troy Tulowitzki - Short Stop Colorado Rockies
After making a compelling case to be the 2007 Rookie of the Year, which he lost to Ryan Braun by a slim margin, Tulowitzki only managed to play in 101 games in 2008. He didn’t even manage to get hot as the injuries kept cropping up.
April 30: listed day to day with a quad injury
May 3: that quad lands him on the 15-day DL
June 20: The Quad again acts up costing him 46 games
July 5: Right hand injury day to day
July 21: Right hand missed 13 games
He couldn’t stay healthy and thus couldn’t duplicate his 2007 production.
I think he rounds back into form in 2009 and manages to put up a line to match 2007 in the .291/.359/.479 range and becomes a household name for years to come.
Even if it is a tough to spell Tulowit....oh you get it.
Alex Gordon - Third Base Kansas City Royals
Touted as a Rookie of the Year candidate two years ago, Gordon failed to live up to the expectations.
Over the last two years Gordon was so average in fact that he managed to make people forget that he lit the world on fire in Wichita. He was so good in fact he made the jump straight the majors from AA.
In 2006 he was a .325/.427/.588 hitter.
In 2008 he was a .260/.351/.432 hitter
Although his work at the hot corner could can still use work, he had 16 errors and ranked 11th in range factor among everyday third basemen last year. That put him squarely between Bill Hall of the Brewers and a rapidly declining Scott Rolen.
I think being an extra year removed for the expectations will help Gordon to Breakout in 2009.
Adam Lind - Left field/DH Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto outfield is young and talented, and Adam Lind is the poster boy. Early in 2008, he was heralded as the new everyday left fielder.
But soon after the hoopla faded, John Gibbons lost confidence in Lind, and Adam followed suit by getting down on himself. But then Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace took over, and a promise to the 25-year-old from Muncie, Indiana turned his season around.
“You will play everyday.”
The rest, as they say, “was history.”
Following Gaston’s arrival, Lind got hot. He batted .379/.396/.644 in July. Although Lind cooled off afterward, he hit for a very respectable total of .286/.321/.427 after the break.
He looks to having something going for himself. He managed just nine HR in 326 at-bats, but showed some developing gap power and speed with an additional 16 doubles and four triples on his resume.
2009 is the year that baseball fans outside southern Ontario, and Muncie, Indiana find out how good Lind is.
Adam Jones - Center Field Baltimore Orioles
Adam Jones showed the kind of five-tool potential last year that had Baltimore fans more excited every time took the field. He managed to swipe of 10 of 13 bases last year and has shown no signs of regressing on that front in 2009.
Jones batted a respectable .270 last year but managed to show almost no patience at the plate, generating only 23 walks vs. 108 strikeouts. He needs to improve on last year's .311 OBP to take his game to the next level.
In the field Jones was fifth in range factor behind Chris Gomez, Aaron Rowland, B.J. Upton, and Curtis Granderson. That is pretty good company to be in. Also Jones’ 37 extra base hits out of 61 and seven triples has given the Orioles every reason to think he could be something special
With a full time gig and a year under his belt look for Jones to get noticed in 2009.
Jay Bruce - Right Field Cincinnati Reds
Bruce was a first round pick of the Reds in 2005.
He’s a five tool talent that finally broke into the lineup in 2008.
He managed to power his way to 21 home runs and 52 RBI in only 413 at bats. His stat line of .254/.314/.453 should improve.
I am convinced he will be much better than that with a year of MLB hitting under his belt. Since class A ball Bruce has never batted less than .300 until last year.
In Dayton and Sarasota his combined line was .303/.364/.542
In Chattanooga he hit .333/.405/.562
In Louisville he batted .334/.375/.598
Based on his Triple-A minor league numbers Bruce projects out closer to .290/.328/.499 with 17 HR and 50 RBI. I think that Bruce will realize his .290 average this year, and considering those numbers are based on 377 major league at bats and Bruce has 4,123 last year, I think it’s safe to say he’ll improve on his power numbers this year with probably close to 500 at bats he could knock 25 or more out of the yard.