Fact or Fiction for the Biggest 2013 Breakout Stars of the AL Central
Every year out of the gate, there are a few young players who are looking to take that next step in their career to become stars.
Players who covet the superstar status that guys like Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer maintain now are beginning to make a name for themselves and stand out among the rest of the elite players in the American League.
But some players hot starts are just hot starts.
Some relatively unknown players get on a roll to start a season; but once pitchers get a look at them, and they enter opposing team's scouting reports, their production drops drastically.
Here are my fact or fiction choices for six of the breakout stars in the AL Central:
Austin Jackson—Detroit Tigers: Fact
Detroit Tigers' center fielder Austin Jackson began his breakout process last season when he raised his batting average 51 points and had 47 fewer strikeouts than his 2011 campaign.
He posted career highs in average, home runs and RBIs a year ago and has continued his consistency so far this season.
The 26-year-old has a .285 average with two home runs and 10 RBIs so far this season. He has an on-base percentage of .347 and is on pace to earn a career high in walks.
The Tigers' bottom of the order has been miserable this season, so Jackson hasn't had many opportunities to drive in runs, and he's still on pace to threaten his career high from last season.
He's one of the best outfielders in the league and has amazing range in the spacious confines of Comerica Park. In his fourth full year in the major leagues, Jackson has learned how to play the game and is becoming a much more complete player.
Jackson has the most talent he's ever had behind him in the lineup and his 31 runs scored are the most in baseball.
With five stolen bases and the most runs scored in the league, Jackson is a perfect leadoff hitter and will help the Tigers vie for their third consecutive AL Central crown.
Salvador Perez—Kansas City Royals: Fiction
Salvador Perez's .279 average is fifth this season among AL players under the age of 25, but beyond that, Perez doesn't have a whole lot to offer.
Through 28 games, Perez only has one home run and nine RBIs, along with 20 strikeouts in 104 at-bats compared to only three walks.
Perez has hit at least .300 in each of his first two brief MLB seasons, but he doesn't have patience at the plate. He has three errors already this year and has only thrown out 33 percent of potential base stealers.
The 23-year-old needs to develop more of a complete game and sharpen up defensively. He was supposed to be one of the best young defensive catchers in the league this season—something he hasn't proven yet—and just been okay at the plate.
Zach McAllister—Cleveland Indians: Fact
In his second year in the Cleveland Indians rotation, right-hander Zach McAllister has proven himself as a promising, effective hurler.
After starting 22 games last season with a 4.24 ERA in his rookie year, McAllister hasn't suffered a sophomore slump, posting a 2.36 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 10 walks in 37.2 innings over six starts in 2013.
The 25-year-old has earned wins in each of his last two starts and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any start this season.
He has pitched at least six innings in four of his six starts this year and is coming off his best performance of his career on Tuesday, throwing 7.2 shutout innings against a good Oakland Athletics team.
Scott Diamond—Minnesota Twins: Fact
Minnesota Twins left-hander Scott Diamond is coming into his own this season.
In his second year in the Twins rotation, Diamond has a 3-2 record with a 3.03 ERA and has only walked three batters in 29.2 innings.
Diamond pitched well in his rookie season for the dreadful Twins last year, posting a 12-9 record with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts. He was the only Twins starter to remain in the rotation all season and was the only regular starter to boast a winning record.
The 26-year-old has beaten two of the best teams in baseball his last two starts, earning wins against the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox on May 1 and May 7, respectively.
Diamond has pitched at least six innings in four of his five starts, including the games against the Tigers and Red Sox where he gave up a combined two earned runs in 13 innings against the two first-place squads.
Diamond's two losses came at the hands of the first-place Texas Rangers and the New York Mets in his first start of the season, but his team only managed to score five combined runs in those two losses.
He's helping to keep the Twins' heads above water as the team currently sits at 15-15, which is much better than where Minnesota was last season after 30 games at 8-22.
Carlos Santana—Cleveland Indians: Fact
Catcher Carlos Santana is hitting .358 and is helping the Cleveland Indians play good baseball this season.
Santana's batting average and .455 on-base percentage both lead the team, and at 17-14, the Indians are staying in the race—for now—in the AL Central.
The 27-year-old is on pace for 42 home runs and 90 RBIs in his third year in the major leagues, which would crush his career highs in each category.
He won't maintain his torrid .358 pace, which is currently good for third in the entire AL, but because he's making solid contact and hitting line drives all over the field, he won't shrink down to his .252 average from last season.
Santana has the ability to be a star in this league and can help the Indians vie for a division title for years to come.
Addison Reed—Chicago White Sox: Fiction
Chicago White Sox closer Addison Reed has a respectable ERA so far this season, but he won't emerge as a young star by year's end.
Reed is 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA and 11 saves in 16 appearances this season, but he's blown a save and given up multiple walks in two of his last four appearances.
He has eight walks compared to 21 strikeouts this season and has given up at least one hit in six of his last eight appearances.
The 6-foot-4, 24-year-old doesn't have overpowering stuff and is only the White Sox closer because they don't have anyone better on their active roster at the moment.
The White Sox are in the basement of the AL Central at 14-18, and Reed won't help them climb out anytime soon.
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