MLB Power Rankings: Updated Team-by-Team Breakdown

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Updated Team-by-Team Breakdown

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    With the month of August now halfway over, playoff races throughout MLB continue to heat up, and the field of teams vying for postseason berths is still relatively deep thanks to the second wild-card spot.

    In the National League, there appear to be six teams still legitimately in the running for spots. Over in the American League, that number is significantly higher, as nine teams still have legitimate playoff aspirations.

    As expected, those 15 teams make up the upper half of this week's power rankings, and teams continue to shuffle from there based on their recent performances.

    Aside from updated rankings, this week's content takes a look back at an article I wrote back on April 3 predicting each team's biggest breakout candidate and assesses whether those players have in fact broken out this season.

30. Houston Astros (41-82, Previous: 30)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-3

    vs. Texas Rangers (0-1)
    at Oakland Athletics (2-1)
    at Los Angeles Angels (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: LF Chris Carter

    What I said back in April:

    An imposing slugger at 6'4" and 245 pounds, Carter was long one of the top power-hitting prospects in the game. He finally broke through last season in a platoon role with Brandon Moss in Oakland.

    The 25-year-old hit 16 home runs over 218 at-bats, and the A's opted to use him as a trade chip this winter when they acquired Jed Lowrie from the Astros.

    He'll be a key run producer in the middle of a thin Astros lineup this season, and playing in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park and seeing regular at-bats, he could be in for a big season.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    While he's hit just .214 this year and struck out a whopping 164 times in just 383 at-bats, Carter does lead the Astros with 23 home runs and 62 RBI on the season.

    Carter's .754 OPS is respectable given his low average, and while Lowrie is having a nice season in Oakland, the Astros look to have gotten solid value from a player they weren't likely to keep long-term.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Texas Rangers (3)
    vs. Toronto Blue Jays (3)

29. Miami Marlins (47-75, Previous: 29)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Kansas City Royals (2-1)
    vs. San Francisco Giants (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Jose Fernandez

    What I said back in April:

    The No. 14 pick in the 2011 draft, Jose Fernandez went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 134 innings between Single-A and High-A during his first pro season last year.

    Late-spring injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi opened up a pair of spots in the Miami rotation, and the team opted to give the 20-year-old Fernandez the job.

    According to a piece in the Sun Sentinel, Fernandez will remain with the big league club as long as he's pitching well, though he'll be limited to 150 to 170 innings this season. That should still be enough for him to emerge as the best starter on the team.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Most viewed Fernandez as one of the top five pitching prospects in the game entering the year, as his future ace potential was evident even in the low minors last year. However, it's safe to say he's exceeded everyone's expectations.

    Through 23 starts, he's gone 8-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 139.2 innings of work while earning a trip to the All-Star Game.

    He's among the front-runners for NL Rookie of the Year right now, though getting shut down could keep him from that honor in a tight NL race.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (4)
    vs. Colorado Rockies (3)

28. Minnesota Twins (54-68, Previous: 25)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-5

    vs. Cleveland Indians (1-2)
    vs. Chicago White Sox (1-3)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: CF Aaron Hicks

    What I said back in April:

    With Ben Revere and Denard Span shipped out in separate trades this offseason, the Twins entered camp with two open spots in their outfield, and top prospect Aaron Hicks seized one of them.

    He hit .370/.407/.644 with four home runs and 18 RBI this spring, including a three-homer game against the Phillies.

    Over five minor league seasons, he's hit .271/.379/.421. His mix of speed and on-base skills should make him an impact table-setter for the Twins this year.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    The Twins gave Hicks everyday at-bats for the first two-plus months of the season, but he was never able to pull his batting average above .200, and he was hitting just .179/.249/.326 in 190 at-bats when he landed on the DL with a left hamstring injury on June 10.

    He returned in early July, but his numbers did not improve much, and he was demoted to Triple-A on August 2 with a .192/.359/.338 line to his credit in 281 at-bats.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. New York Mets (1)
    at Detroit Tigers (3)
    at Cleveland Indians (3)

27. Chicago Cubs (53-70, Previous: 22)

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    Last Week's Results: 1-5

    vs. Cincinnati Reds (0-3)
    vs. St. Louis Cardinals (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 1B Anthony Rizzo

    What I said back in April:

    The Cubs acquired Rizzo from the Padres for hard-throwing right-hander Andrew Cashner last offseason in a deal that could wind up being one of the best in franchise history.

    After he smoked Triple-A pitching to the tune of a 1.101 OPS and 23 home runs in 70 games to open the 2012 season, he was called up on June 26, and he served as the everyday first baseman the rest of the way.

    He went on to hit another 15 home runs with a .805 OPS over 87 games in Chicago, and he represents a key piece in the rebuilding puzzle alongside Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija. A 30-homer season and All-Star appearance seem like reasonable expectations.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    The Cubs signed Rizzo to a seven-year, $41 million extension on May 12, and at the time he had an .891 OPS with nine home runs and 28 RBI through the first 37 games of the season.

    His average has plummeted to .230 since then, but he's still managed a .748 OPS with team highs of 18 home runs and 65 RBI. He remains a key piece to the future puzzle in Chicago and a potential future All-Star, but he has not progressed as quickly as some thought he would this year.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Washington Nationals (4)
    at San Diego Padres (3)

26. Chicago White Sox (49-74, Previous: 28)

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    Last Week's Results: 5-2

    vs. Detroit Tigers (2-1)
    at Minnesota Twins (3-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: RP Addison Reed

    What I said back in April:

    The 24-year-old Reed entered last season as the top relief-pitching prospect in baseball, and he served as the team's closer for most of the season.

    It was an up-and-down rookie campaign, as he converted 29 of 33 save chances and struck out 54 hitters in 55 innings of work but posted a 4.75 ERA and 1.364 WHIP.

    The right-hander has the stuff to be one of the game's elite closers, and he should be more comfortable and productive in his second season in the ninth-inning role.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Reed opened the season in dominant fashion, converting each of his first 10 save chances with a 1.38 ERA and 11.8 K/9 in 13 appearances over that span.

    All told, he's 31-of-36 on save opportunities with a 3.30 ERA in 53 appearances on the year. While those five blown saves are the fourth-most in the American League, he has taken a step forward from last year and should continue to get better in the years to come.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Kansas City Royals (3)
    vs. Texas Rangers (3)

25. Philadelphia Phillies (54-69, Previous: 24)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-4

    at Atlanta Braves (1-2)
    vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: LF Domonic Brown

    What I said back in April:

    The No. 4 prospect in baseball entering the 2011 season, according to Baseball America, Domonic Brown was the heavy favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year honors that season.

    Instead, he was sidelined to open the season by a broken hamate bone, and he's spent the last two seasons trying to get his career back on track.

    With two open spots in the Phillies outfield, Brown made the most of his chances this spring and hit .356/.414/.633 with seven home runs. Still only 25, there's no reason to think he can't tap into his vast potential.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Tap into his vast potential he has, as Brown has emerged as not just the most productive hitter in the Phillies lineup, but one of the top power threats in all of baseball.

    He missed some time with a concussion, but over 415 at-bats he's hit .277/.325/.535 with 27 home runs and 78 RBI. It looks like he'll be a building block for the future as the Phillies head into their next era of personnel.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Colorado Rockies (4)
    vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (3)

24. Los Angeles Angels (55-68, Previous: 23)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-5

    at New York Yankees (1-3)
    vs. Houston Astros (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: CF Peter Bourjos

    What I said back in April:

    The Angels' everyday center fielder in 2011, Peter Bourjos hit .271 with an AL-high 11 triples and a 4.5 WAR (h/t FanGraphs) while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.

    However, he was forced to take a step back last season with the emergence of Mike Trout. He saw just 168 at-bats as a bench player last season.

    With Torii Hunter gone via free agency, Bourjos finds himself in the everyday lineup once again this season. The 25-year-old will serve as a speedy second leadoff hitter out of the No. 9 spot in the Angels order.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    A strained hamstring and a fractured wrist have limited Bourjos to just 43 games on the season, but he's healthy once again now, and he's put up solid numbers when he has been on the field this year.

    In 138 at-bats, he's hit .312/.368/.428 and scored 21 runs out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup. A strong finish to the season would secure his place as a key member of the team next year, and he still has the potential to be a .300 hitter and 30-steal guy for the Angels.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
    at Seattle Mariners (3)

23. San Francisco Giants (55-68, Previous: 26)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Washington Nationals (1-2)
    at Miami Marlins (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 1B Brandon Belt

    What I said back in April:

    Drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Texas, Brandon Belt turned in a phenomenal first pro season the following year when he hit .352/.455/.620 with 23 home runs and 22 steals over three levels.

    After seeing sporadic playing time in 2011, Belt was the Giants' everyday first baseman last season, and he hit a solid .275/.360/.421. However, he showed minimal power with just seven home runs and 56 RBI in 411 at-bats.

    The 24-year-old hit .410/.432/.833 with eight home runs and 19 RBI this spring, and he seems primed to take a major step forward as a power hitter and run producer in 2013. A .300 average with 20 home runs and 80 RBI seems like a realistic projection, with potential for more.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Belt followed up his hot spring training with a rough first month, hitting .235/.287/.353 with just two home runs in April. He picked things up a bit from there but was still batting just .255/.331/.425 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI at the end of July.

    He's been red-hot in August, though, with a line of .379/.463/.776 that includes 11 extra-base hits and 11 RBI in 17 games.

    For a Giants team that is thin offensively, they no doubt hope this is not just a hot streak for Belt, but a matter of him turning a corner in his career.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Boston Red Sox (3)
    vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (4)

22. Milwaukee Brewers (54-70, Previous: 27)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Texas Rangers (1-1)
    vs. Cincinnati Reds (2-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Marco Estrada

    What I said back in April:

    In the four seasons leading up to 2012, Marco Estrada went a combined 4-9 with a 5.08 ERA over 65 appearances (nine starts), as he was used primarily as a long man out of the Nationals and Brewers bullpens.

    In his first extended look as a starter last season, he made a total of 29 appearances (23 starts) and went 5-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 138.1 innings.

    He's the No. 3 starter behind Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse in the Brewers rotation, and if the 29-year-old can build off last season's performance, it would go a long way in helping the team's postseason chances.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Through his first 12 starts, Estrada went 4-4 with a 5.32 ERA before a right hamstring injury landed him on the DL on June 4.

    He was sidelined for just over two months, returning on August 7 after making three rehab starts in the minors.

    In two starts since returning to Milwaukee, he's allowed just five hits and one earned run in 11 innings of work as he looks to once again show he can make an impact in the rotation.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. St. Louis Cardinals (3)
    at Cincinnati Reds (3)

21. New York Mets (56-66, Previous: 17)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-5

    at Los Angeles Dodgers (0-3)
    at San Diego Padres (2-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 1B Ike Davis

    What I said back in April:

    Though he managed to slug 32 home runs and drive in 90 runs last season, Ike Davis still has plenty of room to break out in 2013.

    He hit just .201/.271/.388 in the first half and was on the verge of being demoted at one point, but he rebounded with a solid second half and finished the season as a dangerous bat in the middle of the Mets lineup.

    As long as he can avoid another early-season slump, Davis should improve on his numbers across the board in 2013, even with a weak lineup around him. That would be enough to make him one of the better power threats in the National League.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    After being on the verge of being demoted last year, Davis finally hit that point this year, as he was shipped to Triple-A on June 10 after opening the season with a .161/.242/.258 line and just five home runs in 186 at-bats.

    He was recalled after a 21-game stint in the minors in which he posted a 1.091 OPS, and he has looked better since, batting .284/.455/.441 with two home runs in 102 at-bats.

    There is still plenty of potential there, and he's likely shown enough improvement to get another crack at the everyday job next year, but 2013 has no doubt been a step backwards for Davis.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Minnesota Twins (1)
    vs. Atlanta Braves (2)
    vs. Detroit Tigers (3)

20. San Diego Padres (56-68, Previous: 20)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    at Colorado Rockies (1-2)
    vs. New York Mets (2-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 2B/3B Jedd Gyorko

    What I said back in April:

    The No. 71 overall prospect entering the season according to Baseball America, Gyorko has driven in 100 runs each of the past two seasons in the minors.

    He played his way into a starting role this spring. He continues to transition from his natural position of third base, where he's blocked by Chase Headley, to second base.

    He's a legitimate impact run producer, and while his bat would have played just fine at third base, he's now likely to be one of the most productive offensive second baseman in the game as soon as this season.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    It's been a decent rookie season for Gyorko, and he has been one of the most productive offensive second basemen in the NL so far, as his .737 OPS ranks fifth at the position among regulars.

    He's not the NL Rookie of the Year candidate some expected him to be, but with a .254/.303/.434 line and 13 home runs, he's held his own and been a welcome addition to the Padres lineup. Expect him to be hailed a breakout candidate once again next year.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (3)
    vs. Chicago Cubs (3)

19. Seattle Mariners (57-66, Previous: 21)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Tampa Bay Rays (1-2)
    at Texas Rangers (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 1B Justin Smoak

    What I said back in April:

    The Mariners acquired Justin Smoak at the deadline in 2010—he was the key piece they received from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal.

    Expected to be a key run producer in the team's lineup long term, Smoak has hit just .227/.304/.382 during his time with the Mariners.

    Hidden behind a .217/.290/.364 line last season, Smoak hit .341/.426/.580 with five home runs in the season's final month after shortening his swing.

    He followed that up with a strong showing this spring, hitting .407/.455/.797 with five home runs, and all signs point to him turning a corner in his development at the age of 26.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Smoak got off to another horrible start this season, hitting .237/.333/.309 with just one home run over the first month of the season. Things didn't improve much over the next month, and on May 30 he landed on the DL with a strained oblique.

    He's heated up, though, since returning from injury on June 18, and he's been particularly hot in August with a .322/.394/.627 line and five home runs in 16 games.

    That has brought his overall line on the season to .270/.364/.445 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI, and it still looks as though he can be a key part of the team's long-term plans.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Oakland Athletics (3)
    vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)

18. Toronto Blue Jays (57-67, Previous: 19)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-4

    vs. Oakland Athletics (0-1)
    vs. Boston Red Sox (2-1)
    at Tampa Bay Rays (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 3B Brett Lawrie

    What I said back in April:

    Brett Lawrie was a trendy pick to break out last season, and had it not been for a strained oblique (among other injuries), he likely would have.

    As it was, he hit .274/.324/.405 with 11 home runs and 13 steals over 494 at-bats, but the 23-year-old third baseman is capable of so much more.

    He opens the 2013 season on the DL with a rib-cage injury, but he remains a superstar in the making. If he can stay healthy, this could be the year he takes that next step towards being one of the game's most dynamic offensive threats.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Injuries continue to be an issue for Lawrie. He's been limited to just 69 games this season, as a left ankle injury landed him on the DL for a second time after he returned from the rib cage injury.

    With a .262/.317/.438 line and nine home runs in 256 at-bats, it's been a disappointing season for a guy who looked destined for stardom just a couple years ago. Whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season looks like it will be the deciding factor in if or when he breaks out, but at 23 years old, he still has plenty of time.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at New York Yankees (4)
    at Houston Astros (3)

17. Colorado Rockies (58-67, Previous: 18)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    vs. San Diego Padres (2-1)
    at Baltimore Orioles (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 2B Josh Rutledge

    What I said back in April:

    A third-round pick in 2010 out of the University of Alabama, Josh Rutledge got his chance last season when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hit the disabled list, and he made the most of it.

    The rookie hit .274/.306/.469 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 277 at-bats, and that was enough for the team to make him the everyday second baseman this season with Tulowitzki back in the lineup.

    He had an .846 OPS with 13 home runs and 14 steals in 87 games in Double-A last season before being called up, so the potential is certainly there for him to be a plus offensive option at second base.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    After hitting just .242/.298/.357 with five home runs and 13 RBI in his first 157 at-bats, Rutledge was optioned to the minors in late May, and he stayed there for nearly a month before being recalled on June 14.

    He was even worse upon returning, though, and he was sent back down again on July 20 with his season numbers at .211/.271/.313 with six home runs and 16 RBI in 227 at-bats. With DJ LeMahieu playing well, Rutledge has remained in the minors since and will likely have to settle for a September call-up to get back on the roster.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Philadelphia Phillies (4)
    at Miami Marlins (3)

16. Washington Nationals (60-63, Previous: 16)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    vs. San Francisco Giants (2-1)
    at Atlanta Braves (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: LF Bryce Harper

    What I said back in April:

    After hitting .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs and 18 stolen bases as a 19-year-old rookie and capturing NL Rookie of the Year, most players would have been officially broken out.

    Then again, Bryce Harper isn't most players.

    After a strong spring that saw him moved to the No. 3 spot in the team's lineup, Harper launched a pair of solo home runs on Opening Day.

    He has the highest ceiling of any offensive prospect in recent memory, and a .300, 30-home run, 100-RBI season as a 20-year-old and a serious run at the NL MVP seem like perfectly reasonable predictions.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    With an .866 OPS and 17 home runs, it's been a solid season for Harper, but injuries have limited him to just 85 games and will likely keep him from reaching the .300, 30-home run and 100-RBI plateaus.

    Further, with the Nationals struggling as a whole this season and potentially even headed for a losing season, he's not likely to garner any MVP consideration this year. That said, he's still one of the brightest young stars in the game and has quickly become the team's most important player. They are 44-41 when he plays this year and 16-22 when he doesn't.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Chicago Cubs (4)
    at Kansas City Royals (3)

15. Kansas City Royals (64-59, Previous: 12)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-5

    vs. Miami Marlins (1-2)
    at Detroit Tigers (2-3)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 3B Mike Moustakas

    What I said back in April:

    The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Mike Moustakas joined the ranks of the game's elite prospects in 2010 when he hit .322/.369/.630 with 36 home runs and 124 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A.

    After a subpar 89-game stint with the Royals in 2011, Moustakas hit .242/.296/.412 last season with 20 home runs and 73 RBI as a 23-year-old.

    He hit .394/.429/.718 with five home runs this spring and opens the year as the Royals' cleanup hitter. He's one of a number of homegrown players seemingly on the cusp of taking the next step this season. A breakout year would be a big help in their push towards contention.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    The Royals have stuck with Moustakas all season, but he has struggled to get on track after a slow start and is currently hitting just .236/.293/.369 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI on the year.

    The entire Kansas City offense struggled early on, and like the rest of the team, Moustakas has turned things around of late. Since the All-Star break, he's hitting .306/.362/.506 with four home runs and 13 RBI. If he can sustain that level of play, it would go a long way in assuring the Royals he can handle the everyday job next year.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
    vs. Washington Nationals (3)

14. Cleveland Indians (66-58, Previous: 13)

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    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Minnesota Twins (2-1)
    at Oakland Athletics (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 3B Lonnie Chisenhall

    What I said back in April:

    Lonnie Chisenhall has dealt with injuries the past two seasons but remains a high-upside, young hitter.

    The 24-year-old hit .400/.456/.667 with four home runs and 12 RBI this spring, and with Jack Hannahan gone in free agency, the third-base job is all his this year.

    In his last full season back in 2010, Chisenhall hit .278/.351/.450 with 17 home runs and 84 RBI in Double-A. He has the upside to be a plus bat in the lower half of a veteran-heavy Indians order this year.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    The better pick here certainly would have been second baseman Jason Kipnis, as Chisenhall has been the Indians' least productive everyday player.

    In 225 at-bats, he's hit just .218/.267/.351 with six home runs and 26 RBI. However, the team still appears to have confidence in him moving forward, as it was unwilling to include him in a deal for Cubs right-hander Matt Garza at the deadline, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Los Angeles Angels (3)
    vs. Minnesota Twins (3)

13. Baltimore Orioles (67-56, Previous: 8)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-4

    at Arizona Diamondbacks (0-3)
    vs. Colorado Rockies (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Chris Tillman

    What I said back in April:

    A highly touted prospect who was in the Orioles rotation as a 21-year-old back in 2009, Tillman was acquired from the Mariners back in 2008 in the Erik Bedard deal that also brought Adam Jones to Baltimore.

    Though he opened last season in the minors, he was the team's best starter by the end of the season. In 15 starts he went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.047 WHIP.

    The 24-year-old opened the 2013 season on the disabled list with a strained abdominal, but once he gets things going, he has the stuff to be the ace of the Orioles staff and one of the breakout starters of the year.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Tillman has in fact been the ace of the Orioles staff this season, earning a trip to the All-Star Game and going 14-3 with a 3.70 ERA over his 24 starts.

    He's benefited greatly from the run support he's received, as his 5.50 run-support average is the fourth-best mark in all of baseball.

    Nonetheless, he's been a reliable arm all season for an Orioles team that has plenty of offensive firepower but has lacked starting pitching much of the season.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Tampa Bay Rays (3)
    vs. Oakland Athletics (3)

12. New York Yankees (64-59, Previous: 14)

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    Last Week's Results: 5-2

    vs. Los Angeles Angels (3-1)
    at Boston Red Sox (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: LF Brett Gardner

    What I said back in April:

    Brett Gardner has already proven himself as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game and a dynamic base stealer. Now he's looking to emerge as a more complete all-around offensive player.

    Power will likely never be a part of his game, but he has a .355 career on-base percentage and has the tools to be a .300 hitter over a full season.

    With so many injuries to the Yankees offense entering the season, someone is going to have to step up alongside Robinson Cano. I think Gardner can be that someone in his new spot atop the Yankees lineup.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Gardner has been one of the few Yankees starters to remain healthy all season, and while he has not quite taken the step forward some expected him to, it's still been a solid season for the speedster.

    On top of a .271/.339/.408 line, he's added a career-high eight home runs and is well on his way to surpassing his previous career high of 47 RBI, with 42 already this year. With a healthy and productive group around him, his numbers would no doubt be better, and looking ahead to next year, he may assume leadoff duties moving forward.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Toronto Blue Jays (4)
    at Tampa Bay Rays (3)

11. Arizona Diamondbacks (64-58, Previous: 15)

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    Last Week's Results: 5-1

    vs. Baltimore Orioles (3-0)
    at Pittsburgh Pirates (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 1B Paul Goldschmidt

    What I said back in April:

    After an impressive 48-game audition in 2011, Paul Goldschmidt entered last season with the everyday first-base job in hand.

    He hit .286/.359/.490 with 43 doubles, 20 home runs and 18 steals last season as one of the more productive first basemen in all of baseball.

    The 25-year-old still has room to improve, and with Justin Upton gone, he'll be counted on to be a driving force in the middle of the Arizona lineup. He earned a five-year, $32 million extension last week (h/t ESPN), so all that's left is to take that next step.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    As good as he was in his first go-around as an everyday player last year, Goldschmidt has been better by a sizable margin this season, and if the Diamondbacks can make a late-season push, he is a legitimate NL MVP candidate.

    Through 455 at-bats, he's hitting .295/.391/.547, and he currently leads the NL with 96 RBI and is tied with Pedro Alvarez for the lead with 30 home runs. The extension Arizona gave him looks like an absolute steal, as he's one of the most dangerous hitters in all of baseball already.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Cincinnati Reds (4)
    at Philadelphia Phillies (3)

10. Oakland Athletics (70-53, Previous: 11)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-3

    at Toronto Blue Jays (1-0)
    vs. Houston Astros (1-2)
    vs. Cleveland Indians (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Brett Anderson

    What I said back in April:

    Generally when a pitcher earns the Opening Day nod from his team on the mound, he's already broken out, but I don't think we've seen anywhere near what Brett Anderson is capable of to this point in his career.

    The left-hander went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA as a 21-year-old rookie in 2009, finishing sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting and showing signs of a promising future.

    However, injuries have limited him to just 38 total starts in the three seasons since, though he's pitched well when he's been on the field (14-14, 3.20 ERA).

    As long as he stays healthy, I think Anderson has an outside chance to be a Cy Young candidate atop the A's rotation this season. I'm not saying he'll win it, but he could finish in the top 10 in the voting and push for the top five.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    I hit the nail on the head with a number of these predictions, but Anderson was a complete swing and miss, as he was nothing short of horrible before landing on the DL with a stress fracture in his foot.

    After allowing just two earned runs in 13 innings through his first two starts, he was shelled from there, and his ERA stood at 6.21 when he landed on the DL on April 29.

    That said, he began a rehab assignment on Saturday and could make an impact out of the bullpen down the stretch.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Seattle Mariners (3)
    at Baltimore Orioles (3)

9. Tampa Bay Rays (70-52, Previous: 10)

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    Last Week's Results: 4-2

    vs. Seattle Mariners (2-1)
    vs. Toronto Blue Jays (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Alex Cobb

    What I said back in April:

    Though he opened last season in the minors, Alex Cobb wound up being a key part of the Rays rotation, making 23 starts and going 11-9 with a 4.03 ERA.

    That was enough to earn him a rotation spot heading into spring training, and he proved why in allowing just eight earned runs while striking out 28 in 25.2 innings this spring.

    He doesn't get the attention of teammates David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, but there are few if any No. 4 starters with the upside of Cobb entering the 2013 season.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Cobb was in the midst of a breakout season before a liner up the middle hit him in the head, sidelining him for two months.

    At the time of the injury, Cobb was 6-2 with a 3.01 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 83.2 innings of work, joining Matt Moore in leading the new-look Rays staff. He returned to the mound on Thursday, allowing three hits and one run in five innings of work to pick up the win, and he'll be counted on down the stretch to pitch like he did early on.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Baltimore Orioles (3)
    vs. New York Yankees (3)

8. Boston Red Sox (73-53, Previous: 5)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-4

    at Toronto Blue Jays (1-2)
    vs. New York Yankees (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 3B Will Middlebrooks

    What I said back in April:

    With Kevin Youkilis struggling out of the gates last season, Red Sox fans were pushing for top prospect Will Middlebrooks to get the call early last season.

    An injury to Youkilis opened the door for a call-up, and by the time he came off the disabled list, Middlebrooks was hitting .297 with five home runs and a .906 OPS.

    That opened the door for Youkilis to be traded to the White Sox shortly thereafter, and Middlebrooks went on to hit .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI over 267 at-bats before a broken wrist ended his season in the middle of August.

    He's a legitimate 30-home run, 100-RBI threat, and I expect him to be among the most productive third basemen in the league this season.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    This was another big swing and a miss by me, but it's safe to say most agreed Middlebrooks was in for a big season after the way he played in his debut last year.

    Instead, he hit just .192/.228/.389 through June 20 before losing his job to Jose Iglesias and being demoted to the minors. Boston recalled Middlebrooks on August 10 after trading Iglesias to the Tigers at the deadline, and he's gone 12-for-26 with a hit in all eight games he's played since returning, so there's still hope he'll have an impact on the team's late-season push.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at San Francisco Giants (3)
    at Los Angeles Dodgers (3)

7. Cincinnati Reds (70-54, Previous: 7)

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    Last Week's Results: 5-2

    at Chicago Cubs (3-0)
    at Milwaukee Brewers (2-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: 3B Todd Frazier

    What I said back in April:

    Already 26 years old last season, Frazier was not a conventional prospect, but he stepped up big for the Reds when Scott Rolen and Joey Votto both dealt with injuries.

    Over 422 at-bats, he posted an .829 OPS while hitting 19 home runs, and that was good for a third-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting.

    With a dislocated shoulder likely to keep Ryan Ludwick on the sidelines for a while, Frazier will likely step into the cleanup role to break up left-handed hitters Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. He'll be counted on once again to be a major run producer.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    It wound up being Brandon Phillips who stepped into the cleanup role with Ludwick injured, as Frazier has failed to match last year's production this season despite the benefit of everyday playing time.

    Through 398 at-bats, he's hit just .234/.326/.392, though he does have 12 home runs and 55 RBI hitting primarily out of the No. 6 spot in the Reds lineup. Still, with his OPS down over 100 points, it's fair to say this has been a disappointing season for Frazier.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (4)
    vs. Milwaukee Brewers (3)

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (72-51, Previous: 6)

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    Last Week's Results: 2-4

    at St. Louis Cardinals (1-2)
    vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: LF Starling Marte

    What I said back in April:

    A raw prospect when he signed out of the Dominican Republic, Marte took a major step forward and announced himself as a top prospect in 2011 when he posted an .870 OPS with 12 home runs and 24 steals in Double-A.

    He made his big league debut last July and showed enough for the team to make him the everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter entering the season.

    A .303/.363/.462 hitter during his time in the minors, Marte seems more than capable of being a .300 hitter in the majors right off the bat, and something in the neighborhood of 15 home runs and 30 steals is a possibility as well.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    He's struck out a lot more than you'd like your leadoff hitter to (127 K's in 483 at-bats), but Marte has still given the Pirates offense a huge boost atop the lineup, doing a little bit of everything at the plate.

    All told, he has a .282/.343/.443 line with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs and 35 stolen bases. He's also scored a team-high 79 runs and essentially given the team a second center fielder defensively out in left field.

    He's legitimately one of the biggest breakout stars of 2013 and a major reason for the Pirates' success.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at San Diego Padres (3)
    at San Francisco Giants (4)

5. Texas Rangers (71-53, Previous: 2)

26 of 30

    Last Week's Results: 3-3

    at Houston Astros (1-0)
    vs. Milwaukee Brewers (1-1)
    vs. Seattle Mariners (1-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: CF Leonys Martin

    What I said back in April:

    The Rangers signed Leonys Martin, a Cuban defector, to a five-year, $15.5 million deal back in May of 2011. He has moved quickly, as expected.

    Last season, he hit .359/.422/.610 with 12 home runs and 10 steals in Triple-A, and following the departure of Josh Hamilton, he received a chance to win a starting job this spring.

    He hit .359 this spring to beat out Craig Gentry for the starting job, and now the 25-year-old will look to prove he belongs as an everyday big leaguer.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    It's a shame he's not eligible for AL Rookie of the Year honors after spending too many days on the active roster last season, because Martin would likely be the front-runner for the award right now, as he's taken the everyday center-field job and run with it.

    Martin has moved into the leadoff spot recently, with Ian Kinsler sliding down to No. 3 in the lineup, and he's hitting .274/.324/.398 on the year with a team-high 27 stolen bases.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Houston Astros (3)
    at Chicago White Sox (3)

4. St. Louis Cardinals (71-52, Previous: 9)

27 of 30

    Last Week's Results: 4-2

    vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (2-1)
    at Chicago Cubs (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Shelby Miller

    What I said back in April:

    Taken with the No. 19 pick in the 2009 draft, Shelby Miller has been the Cardinals' top pitching prospect since Day 1 with the organization, and he finally appears ready to make a serious impact with the big league club.

    With Kyle Lohse gone in free agency and Chris Carpenter injured, Miller won the No. 5 spot in the rotation this spring. He has a real shot at NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    The right-hander has legitimate ace potential, and he should join Adam Wainwright atop the rotation sooner rather than later.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Miller kicked off the year in dominant fashion, going 8-4 with a 2.08 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 86.1 innings of work through his first 14 starts, looking like not only the Rookie of the Year front-runner but a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate.

    He's seen some ups and downs since, but he's still been the Cardinals' second-best starter, and at 11-8 with a 2.97 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 127.1 innings, he's still very much in the NL Rookie of the Year race.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Milwaukee Brewers (3)
    vs. Atlanta Braves (4)

3. Detroit Tigers (73-51, Previous: 4)

28 of 30

    Last Week's Results: 4-4

    at Chicago White Sox (1-2)
    vs. Kansas City Royals (3-2)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Rick Porcello

    What I said back in April:

    Promoted directly from High-A to the Tigers rotation to kick off the 2009 season, Rick Porcello has been in the majors since the age of 20.

    In four big league seasons, he's gone 48-42 with a 4.55 ERA. He beat out Drew Smyly for the No. 5 spot in a talented Tigers rotation this spring.

    He went 10-12 with a 4.59 ERA last season, but he encountered some bad luck, as opponents had a .347 BABIP against him. The sinkerballer seems primed for a breakout season after a strong spring, and he has as much experience as any 24-year-old pitcher out there.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    He's not exactly broken out, and he's clearly the weakest starter in the Tigers rotation, but it's still been a decent season for Porcello.

    In 22 starts, he's gone 9-6 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, and he's stepped his game up since the All-Star break with a 3-0 record and 2.84 ERA in five starts. Depending on whether the Tigers decide to move Smyly to the rotation at some point, Porcello could be shopped in the offseason, but for now he's a very good No. 5 starter.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
    at New York Mets (3)

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (72-51, Previous: 3)

29 of 30

    Last Week's Results: 5-1

    vs. New York Mets (3-0)
    at Philadelphia Phillies (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: RP Paco Rodriguez

    What I said back in April:

    A second-round pick out of the University of Florida last June, Rodriguez signed quickly and dominated in the minors before earning a September call-up.

    In 21 appearances between High-A and Double-A, the left-hander posted a 0.92 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 19.2 innings of work. That was followed by 11 appearances with the big league club, where he had a 1.35 ERA and six strikeouts in 6.2 innings.

    With Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Scott Elbert all opening the season on the disabled list, Rodriguez earned the team's final bullpen spot this spring, and if he continues to pitch like he did last year, he could be a valuable late-inning arm by season's end.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    I admittedly did not think Yasiel Puig would see much if any big league action this season, though it is clear now that he's perhaps the biggest breakout star in all of baseball this season.

    That said, Rodriguez was not a terrible pick here, appearing in 60 games this season and posting a 1.96 ERA, a 0.76 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 46 innings. That ranks him among the best left-handed relievers in all of baseball and makes him a valuable setup man in the Dodgers 'pen.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at Miami Marlins (4)
    vs. Boston Red Sox (3)

1. Atlanta Braves (76-48, Previous: 1)

30 of 30

    Last Week's Results: 4-2

    vs. Philadelphia Phillies (2-1)
    vs. Washington Nationals (2-1)

     

    My Preseason Breakout Player Prediction: SP Julio Teheran

    What I said back in April:

    The Braves roster is ripe with breakout candidates, as a solid argument could be made for Mike Minor, Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis to be the selection here.

    Teheran was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball entering last season after a huge 2011, but he took a step back last year with a 5.08 ERA in his second go-round in Triple-A.

    He was phenomenal this spring, allowing just three earned runs and seven hits over 26 innings of work while striking out 35. That earned him the No. 5 starter spot, and he'll look to emerge as the Braves' latest homegrown arm.

     

    Did He Break Out?

    Teheran stumbled out of the gates with a 5.08 ERA through his first five starts, but it's a good thing the Braves stuck with him, as he's been arguably their best starter since.

    In 19 starts since May 1, he's gone 9-6 with a 2.46 ERA, and he's allowed more than three earned runs just three times. He'll likely remain slotted in the No. 3 spot in the rotation behind Minor and Kris Medlen, but he could be a real X-factor for Atlanta come October.

     

    This Week's Opponents

    at New York Mets (2)
    at St. Louis Cardinals (4)