The 2009 season saw many players break out of mediocrity in America's Pastime, but only a select few of them can be expected to continue their newfound success into 2010.
You can ask Ryan Ludwick or Geovany Soto: at any rate, players that put together a career year without any moderate success before hand can be expected to see a drop in their statistics.
In this article I have identified the top breakout players of 2009 and analyzed whether or not they can be expected to follow it up with a big season this year.
Reynolds' 2009 campaign can certainly be seen as a breakout. He catapulted from 28 to 44 home runs while increasing his RBI total slightly and improving his average from .239 to .260.
However, it's really not much of an increase and he has always been seen as a power hitter that sacrifices contact to go along with decent speed numbers. If his average spiked more, he'd certainly been in line for a decline, but I don't see anything in his underlying digits to suggest he can't churn out another .260/40/100 season with 200+ strikeouts.
After showing promise in his rookie 2008 season, Sandoval broke out in a big way in 2009 with a .330/25 HR/90 RBI stat line. He was quite consistent down the stretch and hits all kinds of pitchers well. Despite his free-swinging ways he managed to only strike out 83 times.
He really doesn't have anything that would suggest regression and MLB insiders have been worshipping him secretly for years, meaning he has enough raw talent to support his statistics. I personally don't see anything wrong with him either and expect him to improve on his stats with a .335 BA/32 HR/95 RBI campaign.
Morales might not have had such a celebrated season last year, going under the radar for most of the schedule, but he put up fantastic numbers batting .306 with 34 homers and 104 runs batted in. Since defecting from Cuba, he has always been seen as an immense talent, but last year was the first year he really put it together for a full major league campaign.
He's only 26 and has his best years ahead of him, but he slumped a bit at the end of the season, which certainly could be him wilting after having his first 200+ AB season, a large increase for anyone. I expect him to have a good season, but go through occasional slumps as he did in 2009. Projected stat line: .295/30 HR/95 RBI.
Zobrist was never really supposed to be much of a hitter at the major-league level. He's bounced through the roster, playing every position except for catcher and pitcher last year. However, he was able to put up a huge year by his standards: .297/29 HR/91 RBI as well as 17 SB.
Given his relative streakiness and lack of past success, I expect him to regress a fair amount, but his high on-base-percentage and decent underlying statistics will keep him afloat. He'll be a serviceable starter for the Tampa Bay Rays this year no doubt, but expect his line to look more like .295/18 HR/75 RBI with about the same amount of stolen bases.
Hill quickly silenced all doubts that he could continue his progress despite a concussion keeping him out most of 2008. He put up fantastic power numbers, hitting 36 home runs and driving in 108 runs with an above par average of .286.
Hill is a former first-round draft pick by the Blue Jays, so he certainly has the raw talent needed to continue his success as the heaviest-hitting second baseman in baseball. I see no reasons for him to regress much, as he was as consistent month-wise as it gets, never hitting fewer than five home runs in a month (except for October, all of 14 ABs).
His average did dip as the season went on last year, but that could be due to fatigue, something he should be equipped for this year. I do think that he has hit his power ceiling; Hill is certainly not a 45-HR guy by any means. Expect much of the same from last season: .295/35 HR/110 RBI.
After last season, baseball analysts were scratching their heads, "where did the power come from?" Joe Mauer hit the lights out after returning from surgery in May. Despite only scrapping together 523 at-bats, Mauer took home the AL MVP award with a batting title-winning .365 average to go along with 28 dingers and 96 runs batted in.
I expect him to drop off his power numbers a bit, as he was very streaky with his power last year (11 homers in May), but his average was right in line with his career numbers and expect murmurs of .400 being tossed about again. Prediction: .360/20 HR/100 RBI, certainly enough to cement him as the No. 1 catcher in baseball.
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