Every MLB Team's Breakout Star, Bust After 2 Months of Baseball
"Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule."—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Through two months of the 2013 MLB season, every team has a guy who has been worth every single penny and then some. Unfortunately, every team also has a guy (or 20) who you wish would never put on your favorite team's uniform again.
This isn't just an MVP and LVP piece. You don't need me to tell you that Miguel Cabrera has been awesome or that Greg Dobbs has been useless.
It's about our expectations and calling out the guys who have most outperformed our preseason suppositions, whether for the good or the bad.
*All statistics on the following slides are courtesy of ESPN.com, fangraphs.com and spotrac.com and are accurate through the start of play on Thursday, May 30.
Breakout Star: Patrick Corbin (8-0, 1.71 ERA, 7.38 K/9)
Coming into the season, the position of Diamondbacks ace was very much in question. Many thought either Ian Kennedy or Brandon McCarthy would assume the role. Others believed in Trevor Cahill to get back to his peak performance from 2010 (which he has), while different sects thought maybe Wade Miley could be a star after his 2012 campaign.
Even if you wanted to pick a young gun, the smart money was on Tyler Skaggs.
Long story short, I don't think anyone foresaw these kinds of numbers from Patrick Corbin two months into the season. He's not only been the breakout star of the team, but one of the top five breakout stars in the entire game.
(Also considered Paul Goldschmidt, but he merely jumped from good to great, while Corbin went from "Who?" to "Wow!")
Bust: Miguel Montero (.190/.280/.276, 3 HR, 15 RBI)
Two consecutive years of playing 140 games has apparently really taken its toll on Montero.
His 2011 and 2012 stat lines are practically carbon copies of each other. Montero batted in the .280s both seasons while scoring 65 runs and getting 139 hits each year. Aside from the number of games played, 2013 has been anything but a repeat performance.
Breakout Star: Mike Minor (6-2, 2.47 ERA, 8.36 K/9)
Minor's first two-plus years in the big leagues were something of a failed experiment. At the All-Star break last season, Minor was 5-6 in 16 starts with an ERA of 5.97.
Since then, however, he's been a completely different pitcher and posted a 0.87 ERA in five starts last September. Thus far this season, eight of his 10 starts have been of the quality variety. His strikeouts are up, his walks are down and he's taken over as the ace of the staff while guys like Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen crumble to pieces.
(Evan Gattis also considered, but he's been relegated to a backup role.)
Bust: B.J. Upton (.146/.232/.247, 4 HR, 3 SB)
No one was ever going to confuse B.J. Upton with Tony Gwynn. Upton did accidentally bat .300 back in 2007, but he's been living within a few points of .240 for each of the past four seasons.
When the Braves paid over (see also: overpaid) $13 million for him this past offseason, they were willing to take a slight hit in the batting average department to get a guy who could potentially hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases.
The hit they've taken in batting average is about as bad as anyone could have possibly imagined, and what's worse is that Upton is only on pace for 12 home runs and nine stolen bases. In the month of May, he's batting .132 with one home run, no stolen bases and 30 strikeouts.
At what point do you just admit this is a sunk cost and make sure that Evan Gattis' bat gets into the lineup every day?
Breakout Star: Manny Machado (.332/.365/.517, 5 HR, 24 2B)
If you would rather have Mike Trout or Bryce Harper right now, that's your prerogative. But you need to at least acknowledge that Machado belongs in the discussion with those guys when talking about young position players you would want to build a franchise around.
As mentioned yesterday, Machado is on pace to break the all-time record for doubles. He doesn't even turn 21 until July, but he's about to make the first of his many entries into the MLB record book.
(Also considered Chris Davis since he's on pace for 58 home runs, but the Manny Mania is just more palpable right now.)
Bust: Troy Patton (22.2 IP, 5.16 ERA, 1.63 WHIP)
Having blown four of his six save chances since May 14, Jim Johnson has taken the brunt of the abuse when asking what has happened to the Orioles bullpen.
No doubt Johnson has struggled. He's typically a ground-ball pitcher, yet 14 of his last 20 in-play outs have been fly balls. Something isn't right with him. But it's probably just a brief slump.
Troy Patton, on the other hand, has been a complete mess for the better part of the past six weeks.
In only one of his 15 relief appearances since April 18 has he not allowed a runner to reach base. He has allowed at least one earned run in eight of those 15 appearances.
Patton had a 4.08 K/BB ratio in 55.2 innings in 2012 but has a 0.92 ratio so far this season. In 33 fewer innings of work, he has already walked as many batters as he did last season. He has also allowed the same number of runs to score in 2013 as he did in 2012.
Boston Red Sox
Breakout Star: Clay Buchholz (7-0, 1.73 ERA, 9.04 K/9)
Buchholz has been good in the past. You could really argue that his breakout occurred when he threw a no-hitter in the second start of his career in 2007.
He's never been this good across the board for this long, though.
His strikeout numbers are higher than they've ever been, and much higher than they've been for the past four years. He did have a 2.33 ERA in 2010, but his FIP (2.52) is more than a run lower than it was that season (3.61) and nearly two full runs better than any other season in his career (in which he pitched at least 25 innings).
With David Price injured and ineffective in 2013, Buchholz should take his spot in the annual discussion about whether he, Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander deserves the AL Cy Young.
Bust: Stephen Drew (.224/.331/.381, 3 HR, 24.2 K%)
Now, Lowrie is hitting better than .300 for Oakland, Melancon is going to shatter the MLB record for holds in a season with Pittsburgh and Hanrahan is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
If they just hadn't made any of those moves, they could have Lowrie right now instead of suffering through what is now Stephen Drew's third consecutive terrible season.
(Also considered Joel Hanrahan, but torn UCLs are more of a bad break than a bust—though he was pretty bad before that happened.)
Breakout Star: Travis Wood (4-3, 2.73 ERA, 6.0 K/9)
To an extent, he's been extremely lucky. Wood has the second-lowest BABIP among the 100 qualified pitchers, and he has a FIP of 3.76, which screams for some eventual regression in an unfavorable direction.
Thus far, he has done well to avoid the home run ball that plagued him so dearly last season. He gave up 25 round-trippers in 156 innings in 2012 but has only allowed five of them through 66 innings of work this year.
If he can keep keeping the balls in the park—which should be helped by his career-best 38 percent ground ball rate—it should be a solid year for the 26-year-old.
(Anthony Rizzo also considered, but his power has gone missing in the month of May after he hit eight home runs in April.)
Bust: Edwin Jackson (1-7, 6.11 ERA, 3.74 BB/9)
To an extent, he's been extremely unlucky. Jackson has the fifth-highest BABIP among the 100 qualified pitchers, and he has a FIP of 3.68, which screams for some eventual regression in a favorable direction.
However, he has a career ERA of 4.47 and isn't even halfway through the first year of a four-year, $52 million contract. I'm not exactly sure what the Cubs expected when they offered to pay Edwin Jackson the kind of money that Josh Johnson and Ryan Dempster are making, but I can promise he isn't fulfilling those expectations thus far.
Chicago White Sox
Breakout Star: Addison Reed (17 SV, 1.96 ERA, 10.17 K/9)
The White Sox did everything in their power in the first half of the 2012 season to instill zero confidence in Addison Reed as the closer of the future. After watching Hector Santiago and Matt Thornton have short-lived careers in the closer role, Reed struggled at times en route to a 4.75 ERA.
This year, the job was his from the get-go, and it seems he's never going to let go of it. Reed has converted 17 of his 18 save chances and has yet to give up a home run after being victimized by the long ball six times last season.
In a year where guys like Fernando Rodney and Jim Johnson are blowing saves on an almost nightly basis, it's good to know that there are still closers out there who can actually close.
Bust: Paul Konerko (.235/.302/.353, 5 HR, 19 RBI)
The White Sox no doubt expected numbers like these from a number of their regulars. Adam Dunn always has a poor batting average, and no one really knew what to expect with Tyler Flowers getting the everyday catching gig.
But these numbers are unacceptable from Paul Konerko. Over the past three seasons, Konerko averaged 32 home runs and a .304 batting average. He's just barely on pace for half that many home runs, and his batting average is lower than it has been in a decade.
(Also considered literally everyone who regularly swings a bat in a White Sox uniform who isn't named Alex Rios.)
Breakout Star: Homer Bailey (3-3, 3.08 ERA, 8.81 K/9)
Bailey has been good, but I'm not buying in just yet.
Seven of his 10 starts have come against the light-hitting Cubs, Marlins, Nationals and Phillies. All seven of those starts have been quality starts, and he has a 1.29 ERA and 9.37 K/9 in those games.
In his three starts against the Braves and Cardinals, Bailey has allowed all four of his home runs on the season and has an ERA of 8.80.
(Thursday night's start against the Indians not included in consideration, as all stats are through the start of play on Thursday.)
Still, Bailey has been one of the key components in giving Cincinnati one of the best ERAs in the league. He's come a long way from the days of people joking that Homer was an accurate name for him.
(Also considered Shin-Soo Choo, but he has cooled off over the past two weeks.)
Bust: Jonathan Broxton (21.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 6.33 K/9)
One of these days, the Reds are going to have to make an executive decision on whether Aroldis Chapman will spend his career as a closer or if they'll try to transition him into the starting rotation.
Perhaps they'll be able to better maximize his value by making him a starter, but as soon as you entertain the idea of taking him out of the ninth-inning job, you have to start thinking about who would take his place. It's safe to assume that the Reds' higher-ups get this far in the conversation and then look at Jonathan Broxton's name and have a minor heart attack.
To be fair, he hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been good enough to allow the Reds to properly consider what might be their best option. Dusty Baker clearly cares little about optimal output, though, so long as he keeps batting Zack Cozart second in the lineup.
Breakout Star: Justin Masterson (8-3, 3.07 ERA, 9.11 K/9)
One year removed from having the worst ERA among the 31 pitchers who threw at least 200 innings, Nasty Masty has been one of the better pitchers in the entire league.
He and Zach McAllister are solely responsible for keeping the Indians above .500 to this point in the season. With the exception of Trevor Bauer—who somehow had a 2.76 ERA despite a BB/9 of 8.27 in three starts—everyone else who has started a game this season for the Indians has an ERA of at least 4.95.
(Mark Reynolds also considered, but he has hit 44 home runs in a season before. The only breakout thing about his season is that he's striking out less than 30 percent of the time for the first time in his career.)
Bust: Chris Perez (16.2 IP, 4.32 ERA, 6 SV)
I made this decision even before his final horrible game that landed him on the disabled list.
Aside from one pretty good season in 2010, Perez has never really deserved to be in the closer role. Both Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith have been more valuable than Perez over the past three-plus seasons.
It's just a shame that it took an injury for him to lose the job. His ERA was already the highest it has ever been, and his 6.18 FIP indicates that it would've only gotten worse.
Breakout Star: Rex Brothers (23.2 IP, 0.38 ERA, 8.75 K/9)
Stretching the definition of "Star" here, since no one would ever classify a middle reliever as such, it's been quite a two-month stretch for Brothers.
Some of the peripheral numbers aren't great—4.18 BB/9, .300 BABIP, 2.51 FIP—but the only number that really matters is runs allowed, and he's allowing fewer of them than anybody.
(Wilin Rosario also considered, but 2012 was really his breakout year.)
Bust: Juan Nicasio (51.1 IP, 4.38 ERA, 5.96 K/9)
We're kind of grasping at straws here since the Rockies have been better than most people expected, but Juan Nicasio has been a one-man wrecking crew working against his own bullpen.
Nicasio is just barely averaging five innings pitched per start. By my count, he and Mike Pelfrey are the other pitchers to have made at least 10 starts without pitching into the seventh inning in any of them—and Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery 11 months before his first start of this season.
Nicasio has registered a quality start in just two of his 10 outings, which puts him near the bottom of the quality-start percentage totem pole.
Breakout Star: Anibal Sanchez (71.0 IP, 2.79 ERA, 11.28 K/9)
Maybe he just wasn't properly appreciated whilst toiling away in obscurity with the Marlins, but Sanchez was pretty solid over the past four seasons. He had an ERA between 3.55 and 3.87 each year to go along with some good-not-great strikeout totals.
We've come to expect a pitcher from the Tigers rotation to contend for the AL Cy Young, but this isn't our usual suspect.
Bust: Victor Martinez (.229/.275/.307, 2 HR, 24 RBI)
Excluding a very forgettable 2008 season, six of V-Mart's last seven seasons were among the best for catchers at the time. He batted better than .300 in each of those six seasons and averaged 19.3 home runs per year.
But then he tore his ACL and missed the entire 2012 season, and he hasn't been the same person since.
That hasn't stopped the Tigers from starting him at DH 45 times this season, though.
The lineup is surviving just fine without what used to be normal production from Martinez, but if he doesn't come around soon, they'd be much better just giving his at-bats to Matt Tuiasosopo.
(Also considered Alex Avila, but he's getting paid less than one-fourth of what Martinez is making.)
Breakout Star: Jason Castro (.279/.328/.467, 6 HR, 16 RBI)
You best believe those numbers equate to superstardom in Houston!
In all seriousness, Jason Castro is looking very good. A number of the Astros' plans for the future—Robbie Grossman, Marwin Gonzalez and Chris Carter to name a few—haven't exactly been working out, but between Castro and Carlos Corporan, they have a long-term catcher and a catcher they will probably trade for prospects before this season's deadline.
Bust: Brad Peacock (22.0 IP, 9.41 ERA, 1.91 WHIP)
Once upon a time, Peacock was going to be the next big thing in the Washington Nationals farm system.
But then they flipped him to Oakland in the trade for Gio Gonzalez, and Oakland shipped him to Houston in the trade for Jed Lowrie. Based on what he showed this season with Houston, the teams trading away Peacock look like geniuses right now.
He did have a K/9 of 7.77 in his brief time in the majors this season, but he also allowed 23 earned runs in less than 23 innings of work while walking 13 batters.
For what it's worth, he also has a 4.98 ERA in four starts in Triple-A since getting demoted.
(Philip Humber also considered, but at least he made two quality starts this season—Peacock had zero.)
Kansas City Royals
Breakout Star: Alex Gordon (.340/.379/.552, 6 HR, 31 RBI)
If you don't think this one counts as a breakout star because people have heard of Gordon before, save your vitriol until the next slide.
Gordon has been good for the past two seasons, but he shared the spotlight with either Billy Butler or Melky Cabrera. This year, he has been the lone star in the lineup, shining brightly amidst a sea of duds.
It looks like he'll be one of the few people giving Miguel Cabrera a run for his money in the race for the AL batting title. Gordon has never batted better than .303 in a season, but he's just now starting to hit his prime.
Bust: Jeff Francoeur (.217/.252/.309, 1 HR, 37 K)
I would say that it's time to give up hope on Francoeur if I thought there were any people left that are still disillusioned enough to have said hope.
Since the start of the 2012 season, Francoeur has a batting average of .231. Of the 15 people with at least 750 plate appearances and a batting average of .240 or worse, his 17 home runs and six stolen bases make him one of the three with a combined total of home runs and stolen bases less than 30.
Twelve of the guys are at least making regular contributions in some way, shape or form to almost justify their terrible batting average. But these three guys are pretty much the definition of worthless.
Who are the two aside from Francoeur, you ask? One of them is Carlos Pena, who is platooning at-bats in Houston with a guy on pace to set the single-season strikeout record. The other is Dustin Ackley, who is currently in Triple-A because even the Seattle Mariners couldn't stand to watch him anymore.
Here's another horrendous group of three that Francoeur is a part of: Francoeur, Eric Hosmer and Michael Young are the only players with at least 750 plate appearances and a negative WAR since the start of the 2012 season.
Francoeur "leads" that group with an incredible -2.1, meaning the Royals would literally be two wins better off by benching him and starting Jarrod Dyson in right (when he gets off the disabled list).
(Also considered Eric Hosmer since he's also on the list of negative WAR guys, but Francoeur really might be the biggest bust of anyone in the league.)
Los Angeles Angels
Breakout Star: Mike Trout (.298/.371/.558, 10 HR, 12 SB)
Obviously 2012 was Trout's breakout season. According to WAR, he had the ninth-greatest individual season since 1969, and Barry Bonds has tainted five of the eight best seasons with steroids.
Expecting him to ever do better than that is just crazy—although maybe it's not as crazy as how poorly a lot of people projected him to do this season.
A year after batting .326 with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases, ESPN projected he would bat .285 with 22 home runs and 46 stolen bases—and they were the most optimistic of the bunch. ZiPS had Trout projected for .285, 20 HR and 30 SB, while Steamer had him coming in at .297 with 18 HR and 27 SB.
After a slow April, he's batting .337 with eight home runs and eight stolen bases in the month of May and seems poised to not only outperform all of those projections, but maybe even outperform his 2012 numbers.
2012 officially put him on our radar. 2013 is pushing him towards Griffey and Pujols levels of expected greatness.
Bust: Joe Blanton (1-8, 63.2 IP, 5.94 ERA)
The only thing I'll add to that horrible stat line is that the Angels made him the 53rd-highest-paid starting pitcher before this season.
He has repaid them with the third-highest ERA in baseball.
(Also considered Josh Hamilton until he hit a pair of home runs over the weekend. You just never know when he's going to go on a hot streak.)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Breakout Star: Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-2, 2.89 ERA, 8.41 K/9)
It took a while to get here, but it's time to start a string of rookies being identified as breakout stars.
Ryu has been lights out for most of the season. Eight of his 11 starts have been quality starts, and he just threw a two-hit shutout against the Angels a few days ago.
With Shelby Miller struggling a bit in his last three starts, Ryu is officially making the NL Rookie of the Year a more interesting one.
Bust: Matt Kemp (.251/.305/.335, 2 HR, 17 RBI)
[Most of the author's commentary on Matt Kemp has been removed due to excessive profanity during an 850-word rant about why he should have known to take Carlos Gonzalez in the first round of his fantasy draft.]
Kemp is headed to the DL, and it might be good for him. He started the season recovering from shoulder surgery and has taken a few more bangs and bruises that have kept him from looking like himself just yet.
On behalf of all of his dejected fantasy owners, I'd rather see him spend a few weeks on the DL and come back strong than have him scuffle through another few weeks or months before finally admitting that something physically isn't right with him.
(Also considered Luis Cruz's .122 batting average, but he wouldn't even be playing if Hanley Ramirez was healthy.)
Breakout Star: Marcell Ozuna (.317/.361/.446, 1 HR, 3 SB)
Ozuna didn't get called up until the end of April, and he's still just 22 years old, so I wouldn't worry too much about the lack of home runs just yet. He did average 23 home runs per year and one home run every 20.4 at-bats in the minors from 2010 to 2012, so the power is coming.
If and when Giancarlo Stanton comes back, the Marlins are going to have one heck of a one-two punch in the heart of their batting order. It should be interesting to see if teams just start intentionally walking both of them in every at-bat in order to pitch to the rest of the lineup.
Bust: Adeiny Hechavarria (.187/.242/.324, 2 HR, 12 RBI)
Hechavarria is the epitome of all things Marlins.
He missed two weeks on the disabled list. He has the second-lowest WAR at his position and the second-worst UZR/150 at his position. He showed some promise with a grand slam and a bases-loaded triple in the same game against a broken Roy Halladay but has done virtually nothing else worth mentioning all season.
It would be one thing if he was meant to be a replacement-level player, but Hechavarria is the third-highest-paid player on the Marlins roster.
(No one else was considered for either position. Ozuna is literally the only silver lining on the team, and once salary and performance are considered together, no one even remotely approaches Hechavarria for biggest letdown.)
Breakout Star: Jean Segura (.360/.397/.560, 8 HR, 14 SB)
It's a shame he was given too many at-bats last season, because Segura would be the runaway favorite for NL Rookie of the Year right now.
Heck, he'll be a pretty solid candidate for NL MVP if the Brewers can figure out how to get into a playoff race.
One game pretty well sums up how good Segura has been and how frustrating it must be for Segura to play for the Brewers. In a 14-inning game on Tuesday night, Segura went 6-for-7 while the Brewers lost to a team that was in last place in the AL Central at the time.
(Carlos Gomez also considered—especially since he hit four home runs in a span of three days earlier this week—but Segura just better fits the definition of breakout star.)
Bust: Rickie Weeks (.181/.286/.275, 3 HR, 10 RBI)
Given the fact that Aramis Ramirez is making $10 million this year and Ryan Braun is making $9.5 million, how much do you think Rickie Weeks is making?
$5 million? $3 million? $19.99?
Just let that sink in for a few seconds.
So far this season, he has a WAR of -0.8, the second-worst batting average of the 120 players with at least 190 plate appearances and the third-worst slugging percentage. Just for good measure, he also has the absolute worst UZR/150 among second basemen.
In every way, he's worth more to whoever is playing against the Brewers than he is to the team paying him an insane amount of money.
Breakout Star: Oswaldo Arcia (.255/.318/.449, 4 HR, 14 RBI)
If a tree falls in Minnesota, does it make a sound?
Arcia has been solid in his first season in the big leagues—although he's currently at Triple-A while he recovers from a shoulder injury—but it still seems as though no one outside of the North Star State has even noticed.
Given how "well" some of the other candidates for AL Rookie of the Year have done at the plate and on the mound, don't be surprised if you start hearing Arcia's name a bit more often as we approach an appropriate point in the season to realistically start discussing the award.
Bust: Vance Worley (48.2 IP, 7.21 ERA, 1.67 K/BB)
What in the world happened to this guy?
He was a stud in 2011 with the Phillies, putting together an 11-3 record with a 3.01 ERA and a K/9 of 8.13. Now, he has literally the worst ERA in all of baseball.
I realize he was ineffective in 2012 before being shut down to have bone chips removed from his elbow, but this was the Twins' Opening Day starter. He was supposed to be the ace of the staff.
(Also considered Aaron Hicks, but he's quietly coming around. Hicks is batting .207 with six home runs and a stolen base in May. He's also cut down on his strikeouts a bit.)
New York Mets
Breakout Star: Matt Harvey (78.0 IP, 1.85 ERA, 9.69 K/9)
No kidding, Sherlock.
Harvey is merely the breakout star of the 2013 season right now. Every time he steps on the mound, we pay attention—which is one million percent more often than we were nationally paying attention to the Mets over the past five seasons.
Bust: Ike Davis (.160/.242/.245, 4 HR, 33.0 K%)
If Matt Harvey is the breakout star of the season, Ike Davis might be the bust of the season.
In the month of May, Davis is batting .154 with no home runs, five walks and 31 strikeouts. That's good enough for him to be in a tie with Yuniesky Betancourt for the worst WAR of the month.
There's a sabermetric stat called wRC+. It's basically a bell curve of how many runs you create compared against the rest of the league, and it accounts for park adjustments and all that minutiae that no one fully understands.
Well, in the month of May, Chris Davis is batting .370 with 10 home runs for a wRC+ of 229. Miguel Cabrera is batting .374 with 11 home runs for a wRC+ of 217. As you may have heard, they are pretty strong candidates for the AL MVP.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Ike Davis, who has a wRC+ of eight.
If you were in a class of 174 people with a professor that graded on a curve, Ike Davis' month of May is the equivalent of the hungover guy who misspelled his name before falling asleep on the exam. He would be doing worse than Sean Connery on a Celebrity Jeopardy! sketch on Saturday Night Live.
Have I driven the point home?
(Also considered any starting pitcher not named Matt Harvey.)
New York Yankees
Breakout Star: Vernon Wells (.263/.313/.457, 10 HR, 24 RBI)
Can you really be a breakout star when you were once one of the highest-paid players in baseball?
Considering the way Wells completely flamed out in Los Angeles, I'd say this is an allowable distinction.
No one expected much of anything when the Yankees traded for Wells this past offseason. Maybe he'd get something resembling regular at-bats while we waited for Curtis Granderson to come back from the disabled list, but his best-case scenario after that was a platoon situation with Ichiro Suzuki in right field.
With the way he's played for the first two months of this season, the Yankees should essentially spend the rest of the season setting the lineup around him rather than the original assumption of occasionally trying to find at-bats for him.
Bust: Ben Francisco (.114/.220/.182, 1 HR, 1 RBI)
The Yankees didn't take too much of a gamble on Francisco, signing him to a minor league deal this offseason after the Indians cut him. But even if they spent $1 on him, that dollar would have gone to better use ordering something off a fast food value menu.
In limited work, Francisco had just five hits in 44 at-bats before getting designated for assignment this past week.
As far as I can tell, no one has signed him yet. It doesn't seem likely that anyone will.
(Also considered Phil Hughes, but he has actually been pretty good outside of a few horrible starts that leave his overall stats in a below-average state of affairs.)
Breakout Star: Josh Donaldson (.332/.404/.556, 8 HR, 33 RBI)
Rather than recreate the wheel, I'm just going to paraphrase and refresh what I wrote earlier this week about Josh Donaldson.
If he maintains his current pace, he'll finish the season batting .332 with 24 home runs and 99 RBI.
In 2012, Buster Posey won the NL MVP by batting .336 with 24 home runs and 103 RBI. No one else in 2012 either matched or exceeded all three of Donaldson's projected numbers.
It's about time you realize that he's better than you realize.
Bust: Josh Reddick (.152/.266/.250, 1 HR, 5 SB)
I know he has missed about 20 games on the disabled list, but Reddick is only on pace for three home runs after being projected for 25 of them in the preseason by ESPN's fantasy gurus.
Maybe he'll bounce back to form after fully recovering from a wrist injury that bothered him for much of the season, but at this point it's looking like the 32 home runs in 2012 were more of a flash in the pan than a sign of things to come.
(Jarrod Parker was also considered here, but he has strung together four consecutive quality starts after a downright pathetic start to the season.)
Breakout Star: Domonic Brown (.262/.298/.519, 13 HR, 32 RBI)
Believe it or not, Brown is tied with Carlos Gonzalez for second place on the home run leaderboard in the National League.
He already has more home runs this season than he did over the three previous seasons combined. By the end of the weekend, he'll likely have a new career high for plate appearances in a season.
His on-base percentage is far from ideal, but it's nice to finally see him fulfill some of his power potential.
As someone with Phillies fans in both my immediate and extended family, I know that Brown has been one of the more frustrating players to watch before this season. You could tell that there was more there that he just wasn't tapping into, but he appears to have gotten there this year.
(Also considered Jonathan Pettibone, who has quickly become a serviceable fourth man in the rotation after injuries to Roy Halladay and John Lannan.)
Bust: Delmon Young (.222/.293/.383, 3 HR, 8 RBI)
Let's play a Delmon Young trivia game. You tell me which of these three facts about him is false:
1) Young was given a 50-game suspension in the minor leagues after throwing a bat at an umpire.
2) Young was given a seven-game suspension for a drunken anti-Semitic rant in New York.
3) The one-year, $750,000 contract that Young signed with the Phillies this past offseason includes a $600,000 bonus for losing eight pounds.
Trick question. They're all true.
He's a walking sideshow attraction, and that doesn't even include his complete apathy towards defense in right field.
Once a top prospect in the Rays farm system, at this point you just hope Delmon Young doesn't get into too much trouble or gain too much weight.
Breakout Star: Starling Marte (.296/.357/.447, 5 HR, 14 SB)
Lost amid the national love affair with Jean Segura and the assumption that Andrew McCutchen must be single-handedly carrying the Pirates offense to their .623 winning percentage is an impressive season by 24-year-old Starling Marte.
Through 51 games, he has played about as well as he did during the latter third of the 2012 season. Except this year, 90 percent of his games haven't been played for a team fading out of a playoff race towards complete obscurity.
He'll need to work on his walk rate (10 walks in 229 plate appearances) if he's going to remain a leadoff hitter, but that's a silly thing to complain about with a guy batting nearly .300.
(Also considered both Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, but I wrote about them yesterday.)
Bust: Jonathan Sanchez (0-3, 11.85 ERA, 5.27 BB/9)
If we're being perfectly honest, Sanchez's entire career has been a bust.
Once ranked as the best prospect in the Giants farm system not named Tim Lincecum, Sanchez has shown strikeout potential every season, but has also been more wild than deuces and one-eyed jacks in registering the highest walk rate over the past eight seasons.
Like the Yankees with Ben Francisco, the Pirates didn't take a huge financial risk on Sanchez, signing him to a minor league deal this past offseason. However, it was a huge risk in the standings to let him appear in five games before designating him for assignment.
Take his 18 earned runs out of the equation and the Pirates would have the best ERA in all of baseball.
San Diego Padres
Breakout Star: Jedd Gyorko (.269/.333/.434, 6 HR, 18 RBI)
At the end of April, Gyorko was batting just .247 and had yet to hit a home run. A bizarre start to the season, considering he had averaged a home run in every 21.4 plate appearances over the previous two seasons in the minor leagues.
His adjustment period was short-lived, as he proceeded to crank out six home runs while batting .292 in the month of May.
He has quickly and quietly evolved into one of the best second basemen in the National League.
Bust: Carlos Quentin (.220/.331/.440, 5 HR, 16 RBI)
Quentin has always been a streaky hitter, but he hasn't really stumbled into any hot streaks yet this season.
It looked like he was turning it on when he went 6-for-11 in a three-game series against the Diamondbacks, but he is just 2-for-10 since then with one run and one RBI.
You simply can't have a guy who represents nearly 14 percent of your entire payroll hanging out in a slump for the better part of two months and expect to be competitive in the standings.
(Also considered Burch Smith's unbelievable 18.41 ERA, but he isn't making nearly the money that Quentin is making. Also, he has pitched incredibly well in the minors, even if he hasn't been able to bring that success with him when his number has been called to the big leagues.)
San Francisco Giants
Breakout Star: Sergio Romo (13 SV, 3.00 ERA, 10.29 K/9)
His breakout campaign started in the 2012 playoffs and has continued through the first two months of 2013.
Romo has been very good for his entire career, but he apparently needed a full-time shot at the closer job for people to start noticing.
He has the third-lowest ERA of the 306 pitchers who have logged at least 250 innings since the start of the 2008 season. His 10.65 K/9 puts him in sixth place in that category among the same list of pitchers. His 5.90 K/BB is better than everyone except for Mariano Rivera.
When Mariano Rivera is the only person in front of you in a pitching category, you're a pretty darn good pitcher.
(Also considered Brandon Crawford, but he isn't leading the Giants in a single statistical category, unless you count his four-way tie for first place in triples.)
Bust: Ryan Vogelsong (46.1 IP, 7.19 ERA, one broken hand)
After recording a quality start in 69.5 percent of his starts over the previous two seasons, Vogelsong had just one quality start in nine tries in 2013 before landing on the disabled list with a broken hand.
He had the highest ERA in the league for most of the season until Vance Worley decided to claim that honor.
Matt Cain has certainly been disappointing in his own right, but his struggles don't even remotely compare to how poorly Vogelsong was pitching.
Breakout Star: Hisashi Iwakuma (5-1, 2.35 ERA, 8.55 K/9)
He has given up his share of home runs (10), but Iwakuma has the third-lowest ERA in the American League.
Though he has recorded a quality start in nine of his 11 starts, he only has five wins thus far on the season since it has been impossible to get run support in Seattle for the better part of the past decade.
Bust: Jesus Montero (.208/.264/.327, 3 HR, 9 RBI)
Remember when Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda seemed like such a blockbuster trade?
Montero was OK last season. It's safe to say the Mariners expected more than 15 home runs, but he was only 22 years old and expected to improve.
Unfortunately, he got considerably worse.
His batting average was down 52 points from last season before the Mariners optioned him to Triple-A.
(Also considered Dustin Ackley, but he was only marginally worse this year than he was in 2012 before getting demoted.)
St. Louis Cardinals
Breakout Star: Shelby Miller (62.1 IP, 2.02 ERA, 9.39 K/9)
Miller's rise to must-check-box-score-anytime-he-pitches-stardom was about as meteoric as anyone's this season.
Seemingly overnight, he went from great prospect to top-of-the-rotation starter. When Rick Weiner did his power ranking of the 30 rotations right before spring training, we weren't even sure if Shelby Miller would have a job this season.
Now we're just wondering if he can be this good all season and possibly contend for the NL Cy Young award as a rookie.
(Also considered Matt Adams, but he doesn't get nearly enough at-bats and hasn't done a darn thing in the month of May.)
Bust: Mitchell Boggs (14.2 IP, 10.43 ERA, 8.59 BB/9)
It seems unthinkable now, but with Jason Motte sidelined, Boggs actually started the season as the Cardinals' closer.
He has as many appearances this season in which he faced multiple batters without recording an out as he does appearances in which he hasn't allowed anyone to reach base.
His walk rate is the worst among all pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched, which is downright amazing since Trevor Bauer, Carlos Marmol and Henry Rodriguez have all pitched more than 10 innings.
Tampa Bay Rays
Breakout Star: Matt Moore (8-0, 2.21 ERA, 8.26 K/9)
Kindly look away from the high walk rate and low BABIP that will almost inevitably lead to a fair amount of regression.
On the nights where he finds the strike zone, Moore has been very solid. He has registered a quality start in each of his seven outings in which he's walked three or fewer batters.
(Also considered Alex Cobb, who has an identical strikeout rate with less than half the walk rate, but for some reason he doesn't get nearly as much fanfare as Moore.)
Bust: Fernando Rodney (5.40 ERA, 7.89 BB/9, five blown saves)
If you learn just two things from Rodney's disastrous start to the season, they are never, ever trust a closer other than Mariano Rivera in fantasy baseball and always renegotiate your contract after turning in the best season you can possibly have.
If Rafael Soriano was worth $11 million per year on the open market this past offseason, I have to assume Rodney could have renegotiated for more than $2.5 million this season.
Instead, he's getting paid less than he could and is blowing saves left and right in the season before he becomes a free agent.
Breakout Star: Mitch Moreland (.287/.332/.545, 10 HR, 24 RBI)
With Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli leaving town this past offseason, we were left to wonder how they would replace those 67 home runs.
Mitch Moreland isn't quite good enough to fill that gap by his lonesome, but it's looking like he could hit close to 40 dingers in his first season as the undisputed primary first baseman.
(Also considered Yu Darvish, but after the hoopla over his signing with Texas last January and performing quite well last season, Moreland resonates as more of a breakout candidate.)
Bust: Geovany Soto (.212/.316/.348, 2 HR, 5 RBI)
Between A.J. Pierzynski and Soto, the Rangers are paying more than $10 million to catchers this season.
Pierzynski has been a bit better than serviceable, but we are clearly five years removed from a 2008 season in which Soto batted .285 with 23 home runs.
I wonder what the Rangers' future plan is at catcher. Pierzynski turns 37 this offseason—which is approximately 84 in catcher years—and Soto will be a free agent who doesn't appear to merit re-signing.
Perhaps they're planning on throwing their hat into the Brian McCann sweepstakes.
Toronto Blue Jays
Breakout Star: Adam Lind (.302/.403/.491, 4 HR, 11 RBI)
Adam Lind was an absolute stud in 2009, batting .305 with 35 home runs.
It all went downhill from there.
Over the next three seasons, his walk rate was always lower than it was in 2009, and his strikeout rate was always higher. Most of the home run potential was still there, but his batting average and on-base percentage plummeted to the point that he was losing out on a platoon situation with Rajai Davis.
He's shown glimpses of the old Adam Lind this season. His walk rate is nearly double his career previous high, and his strikeout rate is lower than ever. The home runs haven't quite come around yet, but when you already have Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in your lineup, you'll gladly sacrifice some of Lind's power if it means he'll get on base 40 percent of the time.
Bust: Brett Lawrie (.209/.268/.374, 5 HR, 14 RBI)
There are a lot of bust candidates for the Blue Jays, but that'll happen when you're in a distant fifth place in a division that a lot of people expected you to win.
Brett Lawrie takes the disappointment cake, though.
His .209 batting average is good for the worst among Blue Jays who aren't named Henry Blanco.
The real shame is that it looked like he was finally turning a corner when he landed on the disabled list. Over his last five games before suffering an ankle injury, he batted .412 with a home run and two stolen bases. C'est la vie.
Breakout Star: Jordan Zimmermann (8-3, 79.2 IP, 2.37 ERA)
Zimmermann isn't going to blow you away with strikeouts. He was more of a flamethrower when he first came up in 2009 but has focused more on his control than on his radar gun readings since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Pitching to contact as a ground-ball pitcher with a solid infield has afforded him the luxury of pitching deeper into games, recording a quality start in nine of his 11 outings this year.
Bust: Danny Espinosa (.166/.197/.290, 3 HR, 1 SB)
Finding out that Espinosa has been playing with a broken wrist for more than a month may have increased my respect for him as a man, but it doesn't change the fact that he has been a complete black hole in the lineup all season.
He wasn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball before the injury either. When the "fatal" pitch hit him in the wrist on April 14, he was only batting .175.
To be sure, batting average has never been his forte. Batting .247 last season was a new career high for the defensive wizard who has the potential to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases when he isn't playing with a broken wrist.
Unfortunately, he also has the potential to strike out 200 times in a season, and that seems to be the only projection he could fulfill this year.
(Also considered Dan Haren for his terrible start to the season, but he has a quality start in five of his last seven outings.)