MLB Power Rankings: Where Your Team Stands Before Opening Day

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Where Your Team Stands Before Opening Day

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    We're just days away from Opening Day, and teams are putting the finishing touches on their 25-man rosters and getting ready to kick off the regular season.

    Like last week, not much has changed in the rankings, though there were a few tweaks here and there as rosters continued to take shape and a few more key players went down with injuries.

    After predicting each team's home run leader last week, I took a look at potential breakthrough candidates this time around and named who I feel will be each team's breakout player in 2013.


    *Note: Rosters taken from; all stats taken from

30. Houston Astros

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    Projected Breakout Player

    LF Chris Carter

    Long one of the game's top power prospects, Carter finally made some noise at the big league level last year with 16 home runs in 218 at-bats for the A's.

    The Astros acquired him in the deal that sent Jed Lowrie to Oakland, and he'll be asked to be a key run producer for them this year. His power should play well in Minute Maid Park, and he could be a valuable piece of the rebuilding puzzle in Houston.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    2B Jose Altuve
    1B Brett Wallace
    DH Carlos Pena
    LF Chris Carter
    RF Fernando Martinez
    CF Justin Maxwell
    C Jason Castro
    SS Ronny Cedeno
    3B Matt Dominguez 


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Bud Norris
    SP Lucas Harrell
    SP Phil Humber
    SP Brad Peacock
    SP Erik Bedard
    CP Jose Veras

29. Miami Marlins

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP Jacob Turner

    A top prospect in the Tigers organization, Turner was the key piece that the Marlins acquired in the Anibal Sanchez trade last July.

    He had a 3.38 ERA in seven starts after coming to Miami, and with Ricky Nolasco likely to be traded and little in the way of a proven arm behind him, the 21-year-old Turner could wind up as the ace of the Marlins staff by season's end. Turner will start the season in Triple-A, but has a ton of potential.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    LF Juan Pierre
    3B Placido Polanco
    RF Giancarlo Stanton
    C Rob Brantly
    CF Justin Ruggiano
    2B Donovan Solano
    1B Casey Kotchman
    SS Adeiny Hechavarria


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Ricky Nolasco
    SP Nathan Eovaldi
    SP Wade LeBlanc
    SP Henderson Alvarez
    SP Kevin Slowey
    CP Steve Cishek

28. San Diego Padres

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    Projected Breakout Player

    2B Jedd Gyorko

    The No. 71 overall prospect entering the season, according to Baseball America, Gyorko has posted back-to-back 100-RBI seasons in the minors and has played his way into a starting role.

    A third baseman by trade, Gyorko began transitioning to second base last season since he is blocked by Chase Headley. He will switch between second base and third base, depending on who the opposite pitcher is.

    His defense will be average at best, but he has the offensive tools to rank among the most productive second basemen in the game as a rookie.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    SS Everth Cabrera
    3B Jedd Gyorko
    1B Yonder Alonso
    LF Carlos Quentin
    RF Will Venable
    CF Cameron Maybin
    C Nick Hundley
    2B Alexi Amarista


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Edinson Volquez
    SP Clayton Richard
    SP Eric Stults
    SP Jason Marquis
    SP Tyson Ross
    CP Huston Street

27. Colorado Rockies

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    Projected Breakout Player

    3B Nolan Arenado

    Nolan Arenado will begin the season in Triple-A, but he has put himself in a good position for a call up, going 15-for-45 with four home runs and 12 RBI.

    After a breakout season in 2011, he took a step back last year, but he remains one of the top third base prospects in the game. He's the future at third base in Colorado, and while he may not have top-flight power, he should post solid offensive numbers across the board right out of the box.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Dexter Fowler
    2B Josh Rutledge
    LF Carlos Gonzalez
    SS Troy Tulowitzki
    RF Michael Cuddyer
    1B Todd Helton
    C Wilin Rosario
    3B Chris Nelson


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Jhoulys Chacin
    SP Jorge De La Rosa
    SP Juan Nicasio
    SP Jeff Francis
    SP Jon Garland
    CP Rafael Betancourt

26. New York Mets

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    Projected Breakout Player

    1B Ike Davis

    Generally, when a player has 32 home runs and 90 RBI as a 25-year-old, it's considered a breakout season. But Davis battled through an up-and-down 2012 season to put up those numbers.

    He hit just .201/.271/.388 with 12 home runs in the first half, and he was on the verge of being demoted at one point.

    After finishing the season with a .227/.308/.462 line, Davis is capable of significantly more, and he could rank among the top power threats in the NL this coming season.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Jordany Valdespin
    2B Daniel Murphy
    3B David Wright
    1B Ike Davis
    RF Marlon Byrd
    LF Lucas Duda
    C John Buck
    SS Ruben Tejada


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Jon Niese
    SP Matt Harvey
    SP Dillon Gee
    SP Jeremy Hefner
    CP Bobby Parnell

25. Minnesota Twins

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    Projected Breakout Player

    CF Aaron Hicks

    One of the Twins' most promising position prospects, Hicks played his way into a starting role this spring by going 21-for-60 with four home runs and 16 RBI.

    With Ben Revere and Denard Span traded this offseason, Hicks will be counted on to serve as a table-setter for what should be a solid lineup led by Josh Willingham and Joe Mauer. He's hit .271/.379/.421 over five minor league seasons, and he could put up similar numbers as a rookie, along with 20-plus steals.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Aaron Hicks
    2B Brian Dozier
    C Joe Mauer
    LF Josh Willingham
    1B Justin Morneau
    RF Chris Parmelee
    DH Ryan Doumit
    3B Trevor Plouffe
    SS Pedro Florimon Jr.


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Vance Worley
    SP Kevin Correia
    SP Mike Pelfrey
    SP Liam Hendriks
    SP Cole De Vries
    CP Glen Perkins

24. Chicago Cubs

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    Projected Breakout Player

    1B Anthony Rizzo

    The Cubs acquired Rizzo from the Padres for hard-throwing right-hander Andrew Cashner. And after he destroyed Triple-A pitching to the tune of a 1.101 OPS and 23 home runs in 70 games, he was called up on June 26.

    He had an .805 OPS and 15 home runs in 87 games in Chicago, and after starring for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic this offseason, he's poised to emerge as a top-flight run producer.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF David DeJesus
    SS Starlin Castro
    1B Anthony Rizzo
    LF Alfonso Soriano
    RF Nate Schierholtz
    3B Luis Valbuena
    C Welington Castillo
    2B Darwin Barney


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Jeff Samardzija
    SP Edwin Jackson
    SP Scott Feldman 
    SP Travis Wood
    SP Carlos Villanueva
    CP Carlos Marmol

23. Seattle Mariners

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    Projected Breakout Candidate

    1B Justin Smoak

    Acquired from the Texas Rangers at the deadline in 2010 as the key return for Cliff Lee, Smoak has failed to live up to his tremendous potential so far in two seasons in Seattle.

    He shortened his swing late last season and hit .341/.426/.580 with five home runs over the season's final month, and he has followed that up with a strong spring. It's a make-or-break year for Smoak, and he may have finally turned a corner in his development.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    RF Michael Saunders
    3B Kyle Seager
    DH Kendrys Morales
    LF Michael Morse
    1B Justin Smoak
    C Jesus Montero
    2B Dustin Ackley
    CF Franklin Gutierrez
    SS Brendan Ryan


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Felix Hernandez
    SP Hisashi Iwakuma
    SP Joe Saunders
    SP Brandon Maurer
    SP Blake Beavan
    CP Tom Wilhelmsen

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Projected Breakout Player

    LF Starling Marte

    The toolsy Marte shot up prospect rankings after posting an .870 OPS with 12 home runs and 24 steals in his first taste of Double-A action in 2011.

    He made his big league debut last July, holding his own over 167 at-bats with a .737 OPS and five home runs to go along with 12 steals. He's had a strong spring, and a 15-home run/30-stolen base season with an average approaching .300 seems well within reach.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    LF Starling Marte
    2B Neil Walker
    CF Andrew McCutchen
    3B Pedro Alvarez
    1B Garrett Jones
    C Russell Martin
    RF Travis Snider
    SS Clint Barmes


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP A.J. Burnett
    SP Wandy Rodriguez
    SP James McDonald
    SP Jeff Locke
    SP Jonathan Sanchez
    CP Jason Grilli

21. New York Yankees

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    Projected Breakout Player

    CF Brett Gardner

    Already established as a defensive stud and dynamic speed threat, this could be the year that Gardner puts together a more complete all-around offensive game to go along with his wheels.

    He has solid on-base skills (.355 career OBP) and is capable of hitting over .300, though he'll likely never show much power. With Derek Jeter expected to open the season on the DL, Gardner will find himself leading off, and he could stick atop the lineup with a strong first month.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Brett Gardner
    RF Ichiro Suzuki
    2B Robinson Cano
    3B Kevin Youkilis
    DH Travis Hafner
    LF Brennan Boesch
    SS Eduardo Nunez
    1B Lyle Overbay
    C Chris Stewart


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP CC Sabathia
    SP Hiroki Kuroda 
    SP Andy Pettitte
    SP Ivan Nova
    SP David Phelps
    CP Mariano Rivera

20. Chicago White Sox

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    Projected Breakout Player

    RP Addison Reed

    After a dominant showing in his first full pro season in 2011 (1.26 ERA, 111 K, 78.1 IP), the White Sox handed Reed the closer's job out of camp last spring. He went on to convert 29 of 33 save chances. However, he was far from dominant, with a 4.75 ERA and 1.364 WHIP, and he struck out just under a batter an inning.

    The 24-year-old has the stuff to be one of the game's elite closers. With a full season of experience, he should be ready to put up substantially improved numbers.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Alejandro De Aza
    3B Jeff Keppinger
    RF Alex Rios
    1B Paul Konerko
    DH Adam Dunn
    LF Dayan Viciedo
    SS Alexei Ramirez
    C Tyler Flowers
    2B Gordon Beckham


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Chris Sale
    SP Jake Peavy
    SP Gavin Floyd
    SP Jose Quintana
    SP Dylan Axelrod
    CP Addison Reed

19. Boston Red Sox

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    Projected Breakout Player

    3B Will Middlebrooks

    While Jackie Bradley Jr. has been the talk of spring training for the Red Sox and has a great shot at breaking camp with the team, I think he winds up back in the minors when David Ortiz returns.

    Instead, my pick here is Middlebrooks, who hit an impressive .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI over 267 at-bats as a rookie before a broken wrist ended his season in the middle of August. He has the potential to be one of the top third basemen in the league and a 100-RBI guy this year.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Jacoby Ellsbury
    RF Shane Victorino
    2B Dustin Pedroia
    1B Mike Napoli
    3B Will Middlebrooks
    DH Jonny Gomes
    C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
    LF Jackie Bradley Jr.
    SS Jose Iglesias 


    2013 Projected Rotation

    SP Jon Lester
    SP Clay Buchholz
    SP Ryan Dempster
    SP Felix Doubront
    SP John Lackey
    CP Joel Hanrahan

18. Cleveland Indians

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP Zach McAllister

    After awarding McAllister with the No. 4 spot in the Indians rotation early on this spring, Cleveland is hoping the 25-year-old McAllister can build off of a solid first full season in the majors last year.

    In 22 starts, he went 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA, and he may be the only current Indians starter who factors into the team's long-term plans. He doesn't have the ceiling of an ace, but he could emerge as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Michael Bourn
    SS Asdrubal Cabrera
    2B Jason Kipnis
    1B Nick Swisher
    C Carlos Santana
    DH Mark Reynolds
    LF Michael Brantley
    3B Lonnie Chisenhall
    RF Drew Stubbs


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Justin Masterson 
    SP Ubaldo Jimenez 
    SP Brett Myers
    SP Zach McAllister
    SP Scott Kazmir
    CP Chris Perez

17. Milwaukee Brewers

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP Marco Estrada

    After pitching mostly out of the bullpen in 2011, Estrada once again opened the season as a reliever last year. But he was in the rotation by the end of April.

    All told, he finished the year with 29 total appearances (23 starts) and went 5-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 138.1 innings of work. He'll be the No. 3 guy in a relatively inexperienced Brewers rotation, and at 29 years old, he still has time to take that next step.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    RF Norichika Aoki
    2B Rickie Weeks
    LF Ryan Braun
    3B Aramis Ramirez
    C Jonathan Lucroy
    CF Carlos Gomez
    1B Alex Gonzalez
    SS Jean Segura


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Yovani Gallardo
    SP Marco Estrada
    SP Kyle Lohse
    SP Michael Fiers
    SP Wily Peralta
    CP John Axford

16. Kansas City Royals

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    Projected Breakout Player

    3B Mike Moustakas

    A monster 2010 season, in which he hit .322/.369/.630 with 36 home runs and 124 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A, made Moustakas one of the top prospects in baseball and a potential future star.

    Though he had 20 home runs and 73 RBI in his first full big league season last year, he hit just .242/.296/.412, so he's capable of plenty more. If his spring performance is any indication (.431/.468/.759), Moustakas could be in line for a strong season.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    LF Alex Gordon
    SS Alcides Escobar
    DH Billy Butler
    3B Mike Moustakas
    C Salvador Perez
    1B Eric Hosmer
    RF Jeff Francoeur
    CF Lorenzo Cain
    2B Chris Getz


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP James Shields
    SP Jeremy Guthrie
    SP Ervin Santana 
    SP Wade Davis
    SP Luis Mendoza
    CP Greg Holland

15. Texas Rangers

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    Projected Breakout Player

    CF Leonys Martin

    A Cuban defector who signed a five-year, $15.5 million deal back in May of 2011, Martin put up stellar numbers in the minors last season with a .359/.422/.610 line and 12 home runs.

    He has a clear path to everyday at-bats following the departure of Josh Hamilton, and he seems to have won the starting job over Craig Gentry with a strong spring. He's a dark-horse candidate for AL Rookie of the Year and could turn some heads in his first extended action.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    2B Ian Kinsler
    SS Elvis Andrus
    DH Lance Berkman
    3B Adrian Beltre
    RF Nelson Cruz
    LF David Murphy
    C A.J. Pierzynski
    1B Mitch Moreland
    CF Leonys Martin


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Matt Harrison
    SP Yu Darvish
    SP Derek Holland
    SP Alexi Ogando
    SP Nicholas Tepesch
    CP Joe Nathan

14. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Projected Breakout Player

    RF Domonic Brown

    Brown entered the 2011 season as the No. 4 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, and the odds-on favorite to take home NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Instead, a broken hamate bone in his wrist sidelined him to open the season, and he's spent the past two seasons trying to get back on track. He's been fantastic this spring (.368/.429/.671, 7 HR, 16 RBI), and the breakout season we expected two years ago may finally be here.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    SS Jimmy Rollins
    2B Chase Utley
    3B Michael Young
    1B Ryan Howard
    LF Laynce Nix
    RF Domonic Brown
    CF Ben Revere
    C Erik Kratz


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Cole Hamels
    SP Roy Halladay
    SP Cliff Lee
    SP Kyle Kendrick
    SP John Lannan
    CP Jonathan Papelbon

13. Baltimore Orioles

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP Chris Tillman

    A highly touted prospect who was in the Orioles rotation as a 21-year-old back in 2009, Tillman opened last season in the minors. But once he got his shot in the rotation, he made the most of it.

    In 15 starts, the right-hander went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.047 WHIP, emerging as the ace of the staff down the stretch. Now, he'll be looking to prove he can do that over a full season, and he could very easily be the team's No. 1 starter by season's end.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    RF Nick Markakis
    LF Nate McLouth
    CF Adam Jones
    C Matt Wieters
    1B Chris Davis
    SS J.J. Hardy
    DH Nolan Reimold
    3B Manny Machado
    2B Brian Roberts


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Jason Hammel
    SP Wei-Yin Chen
    SP Miguel Gonzalez
    SP Jake Arrieta
    SP Chris Tillman
    CP Jim Johnson

12. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Projected Breakout Player

    CF Adam Eaton

    Though an elbow strain will sideline him for the first six to eight weeks of the season (h/t ESPN), Eaton remains a potential impact player once he finally gets on the field for the Diamondbacks.

    He impressed in a late-season audition last year after hitting .375/.456/.523 with 44 steals in the minors. The injury was no doubt a blow to what was expected to be a big rookie season, but there's no reason he can't still make a significant impact atop the lineup once he returns.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    3B Martin Prado
    CF Gerardo Parra
    2B Aaron Hill
    C Miguel Montero
    1B Paul Goldschmidt
    LF Jason Kubel
    RF A.J. Pollock
    SS Cliff Pennington


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Ian Kennedy
    SP Brandon McCarthy
    SP Trevor Cahill
    SP Wade Miley
    SP Pat Corbin
    CP J.J. Putz

11. Oakland Athletics

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    Projected Breakout Player

    2B Scott Sizemore

    Sizemore missed all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL after entering camp as the front-runner to be the starting third baseman. He now finds himself competing for the starting second base gig this spring.

    Sizemore came over from the Tigers in May of 2011 and had 11 home runs and 52 RBI in 93 games with the team. A 20-home run season is possible, and that number looks far better at second base than it would at third.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Coco Crisp
    SS Jed Lowrie
    RF Josh Reddick
    LF Yoenis Cespedes
    1B Brandon Moss
    DH Seth Smith
    3B Josh Donaldson
    C John Jaso
    2B Eric Sogard


    Projected Opening Day Rotation 

    SP Brett Anderson
    SP Jarrod Parker
    SP Tom Milone
    SP A.J. Griffin
    SP Daniel Straily
    CP Ryan Cook

10. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Projected Breakout Player

    OF Yasiel Puig

    Puig, who has yet to play above High-A and has just 23 minor league games under his belt, has been a man among boys this spring. He is 29-for-55 (.527 BA) with 10 extra-base hits and 11 RBI.

    The 22-year-old is a future superstar. And while it's unclear how he fits into the team's immediate plans with Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier manning the outfield, the Dodgers will find him at-bats if he keeps raking. 


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    LF Skip Schumaker
    2B Mark Ellis
    CF Matt Kemp
    1B Adrian Gonzalez
    RF Andre Ethier
    SS Luis Cruz
    C A.J. Ellis 
    3B Nick Punto


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Clayton Kershaw
    SP Chad Billingsley
    SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
    SP Josh Beckett
    SP Chris Capuano
    CP Brandon League

9. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP/RP Trevor Rosenthal

    Whether it is as a starter or a late-inning reliever, big things are in store for Rosenthal in his first full season in the majors.

    The flame-throwing right-hander made 19 relief appearances down the stretch last season and had a 2.78 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. He was in the running for the vacant No. 5 starter spot, but it appears he's headed back to the bullpen, where he'll be a key setup man.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Jon Jay
    RF Carlos Beltran
    LF Matt Holliday
    1B Allen Craig
    C Yadier Molina
    3B Matt Carpenter
    2B Daniel Descalso
    SS Pete Kozma


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Adam Wainwright
    SP Jaime Garcia
    SP Lance Lynn
    SP Jake Westbrook
    SP Shelby Miller
    CP Mitchell Boggs

8. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP Alex Cobb

    Cobb started last season in the minors, but he was in the Rays rotation by late May and stuck there for the rest of the season, going 11-9 with a 4.03 ERA.

    The 25-year-old has looked sharp this spring, posting a 2.81 ERA and striking out 28 over 25.2 innings of work. He's capable of stepping forward as a workhorse starter in the middle of the season, and him taking the next step would certainly help ease the loss of James Shields.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Desmond Jennings
    DH Matt Joyce
    3B Evan Longoria
    RF Ben Zobrist
    SS Yunel Escobar
    1B James Loney 
    C Jose Molina
    2B Kelly Johnson
    LF Sam Fuld


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP David Price
    SP Jeremy Hellickson
    SP Roberto Hernandez
    SP Matt Moore
    SP Alex Cobb
    CP Fernando Rodney

7. Los Angeles Angels

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    Projected Breakout Player

    CF Peter Bourjos

    An everyday player in 2011, Bourjos hit .271 with an AL-high 11 triples and a 4.5 WAR (h/t FanGraphs) while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.

    He was pushed to the bench last season with the emergence of Mike Trout, but with Torii Hunter gone in free agency, Bourjos will once again see everyday at-bats. The 25-year-old has upside and could be a second leadoff hitter out of the No. 9 hole.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    LF Mike Trout
    SS Erick Aybar
    1B Albert Pujols
    RF Josh Hamilton
    DH Mark Trumbo
    2B Howie Kendrick
    3B Alberto Callaspo
    C Chris Iannetta
    CF Peter Bourjos 


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Jered Weaver
    SP C.J. Wilson
    SP Joe Blanton
    SP Jason Vargas
    SP Tommy Hanson 
    CP Ernesto Frieri

6. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Projected Breakout Player

    3B Brett Lawrie

    A prime candidate to break out last season, Lawrie instead battled injuries and finished the season hitting .273 with 11 home runs and 13 steals over 494 at-bats. 

    Those were solid numbers for a 22-year-old, but Lawrie is capable of much, much more. He should emerge as a perennial 30/30 threat while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base. And despite a rib injury placing him on the DL to start the season, this could be the year that Lawrie officially announces himself as one of the game's top young stars.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    SS Jose Reyes
    LF Melky Cabrera
    RF Jose Bautista
    1B Edwin Encarnacion
    CF Colby Rasmus
    DH Adam Lind
    C J.P. Arencibia
    2B Emilio Bonifacio
    3B Maicer Izturis


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP R.A. Dickey 
    SP Brandon Morrow
    SP Mark Buehrle
    SP Josh Johnson 
    SP J.A. Happ
    CP Casey Janssen

5. Atlanta Braves

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    Projected Breakout Player

    SP Julio Teheran

    There are plenty of players to choose from for the Braves, as Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons and even Evan Gattis would be reasonable selections to break out. It's Teheran who gets the nod, though, thanks to his dominant spring performance.

    After a strong season in 2011, Teheran took a step back in his second go-around in Triple-A last year. Looking to win a rotation spot this spring, he's allowed just three earned runs on seven hits over 26 innings of work while striking out 35. He has the ceiling to be a true staff ace and may be the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner entering the season.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    SS Andrelton Simmons
    RF Jason Heyward
    LF Justin Upton
    1B Freddie Freeman
    CF B.J. Upton
    2B Dan Uggla
    3B Juan Francisco
    C Gerald Laird 


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Tim Hudson
    SP Kris Medlen
    SP Mike Minor
    SP Paul Maholm
    SP Julio Teheran
    CP Craig Kimbrel

4. Cincinnati Reds

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    Projected Breakout Player

    3B Todd Frazier

    Frazier was a pleasant surprise for the Reds last season. He stepped in for an injured Scott Rolen and went on to hit 19 home runs with an .829 OPS over 422 at-bats to finish third in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

    He's already 27 years old, so he may not have the upside of most second-year players, but he still has room to improve. With an everyday position and guaranteed at-bats, he should give the Reds another run-producing power threat in an already deep lineup.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Shin-Soo Choo
    2B Brandon Phillips
    1B Joey Votto
    LF Ryan Ludwick
    RF Jay Bruce
    3B Todd Frazier
    SS Zack Cozart
    C Ryan Hanigan


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Johnny Cueto
    SP Mat Latos
    SP Bronson Arroyo
    SP Homer Bailey
    SP Mike Leake
    CP Aroldis Chapman

3. Washington Nationals

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    Projected Breakout Player

    LF Bryce Harper

    With all of the hype that surrounded his debut season, which ended in NL Rookie of the Year honors, saying that Harper has yet to break out may sound crazy. There's no question he's capable of much more, though.

    The 20-year-old is hitting .431 this spring, and he's already been moved to the No. 3 spot in the lineup. He has as high a ceiling as perhaps any prospect ever, and a 30-home run, 100-RBI performance in his sophomore campaign is not out of the question.

    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Denard Span
    RF Jayson Werth
    LF Bryce Harper
    3B Ryan Zimmerman
    1B Adam LaRoche
    SS Ian Desmond
    2B Danny Espinosa
    C Kurt Suzuki


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Stephen Strasburg
    SP Gio Gonzalez
    SP Jordan Zimmermann
    SP Dan Haren
    SP Ross Detwiler
    CP Rafael Soriano

2. Detroit Tigers

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    Projected Breakout Player

    RP Al Alburquerque

    Injuries limited Alburquerque to just eight appearances last season, and he only has 49 big league appearances under his belt, but he's been impressive in that short sample size.

    In 56.2 innings of work, Alburquerque has a 1.59 ERA and 85 strikeouts, as he has legitimate swing-and-miss stuff. Prospect Bruce Rondon has been sent down to Triple-A, so Detroit will employ a closer-by-committee until someone steps up.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Austin Jackson
    RF Torii Hunter
    3B Miguel Cabrera
    1B Prince Fielder
    DH Victor Martinez
    LF Andy Dirks
    SS Jhonny Peralta
    C Alex Avila
    2B Omar Infante


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Justin Verlander
    SP Anibal Sanchez
    SP Rick Porcello
    SP Doug Fister
    SP Max Scherzer
    CP Joaquin Benoit

1. San Francisco Giants

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    Projected Breakout Player

    1B Brandon Belt

    In his first full season in the majors, Belt had just seven home runs and 56 RBI last season in 411 at-bats. However, he hit a solid .275/.360/.421, displaying the ability to draw a walk while flashing some pop with 27 doubles and six triples.

    He's been stellar this spring, hitting .433 with seven home runs and 17 RBI. A serious spike in his offensive production seems very possible. He'll never have prototypical power for a first baseman, but a 20-home run, 80-RBI season with an average around .300 is doable.


    Projected Opening Day Lineup

    CF Angel Pagan
    2B Marco Scutaro
    3B Pablo Sandoval
    C Buster Posey
    RF Hunter Pence
    1B Brandon Belt
    LF Gregor Blanco
    SS Brandon Crawford


    Projected Opening Day Rotation

    SP Matt Cain
    SP Madison Bumgarner
    SP Tim Lincecum
    SP Barry Zito
    SP Ryan Vogelsong
    CP Sergio Romo