MLB Power Rankings: Madison Bumgarner and 25 Breakout Stars in 2011
Each season, players seemingly come out of nowhere and become catalysts for their team. Whether it is a high-profile rookie, a second-year player, or simply someone who finally got their chance, new stars pop up each and every season.
What follows is a list of the 25 players most likely to breakout in 2011. There are a number of top prospects on the list, as well as some former top prospects who have still not lived up to their high billing.
So as the offseason wheelings and dealings begin to unfold, here are the 25 guys who will make their teams better with a breakout season in 2011.
No. 25: Aroldis Chapman
2010 Stats: 2-2, 2.03 ERA, 19 K, 13.1 IP
Career Stats: 2-2, 2.03 ERA, 19 K, 13.1 IP
The league was taken by storm when the Reds called up uber-prospect Aroldis Chapman late last season, and he promptly broke the record for fastest pitch ever thrown. He consistently sits in the 100-102 mph range and can get by with throwing just his fastball.
Therein lies the problem, however, and if the Reds hope to make him a starter at some point, he will need to be returned to the minors in order to develop some secondary pitches and work on preserving his arm for an entire game.
Regardless, he will spend some time in Cincinnati this season, and if he progresses into a capable starter within the first few months of the season, he could be an impact pitcher for the Reds.
No. 24: Danny Valencia
2010 Stats: .311 BA, 7 HR, 40 RBI in 85 Games
Career Stats: .311 BA, 7 HR, 40 RBI in 85 Games
The Twins have been without an impact offensive player at third base since Corey Koskie was in his prime, and they have muddled through the likes of Joe Crede, Nick Punto, Mike Lamb and Brian Buscher, among others.
They may finally have found their answer in Valencia, as he broke out last season in the first big-league action of his career. There is no reason he should not be the team's everyday third baseman this coming season.
He does not have typical third baseman power, as his minor-league best was 17 long balls back when he was in Single-A, but he should hit for a high average and drive in a decent amount of runs. And at 25 years old, he still has some upside.
No. 23: Mike Moustakas
2010 Stats: Minor Leagues
Career Stats: N/A
Moustakas is low on this list, only because it remains to be seen how much time, if any, he will see in Kansas City this coming season as they try to hold onto his negotiating rights for as long as possible.
That said, it's hard to ignore his .322 BA, 36 HR, 124 RBI line from last season, when he split time between Double-A and Triple-A.
The Royals invested a lot when they made him the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, and despite the fact that they may like to leave him in the minors, he could very well play himself onto the big-league club if he puts up similar numbers to last season. If he does, he could be among the top rookies in all of baseball.
No. 22: Cory Luebke
2010 Stats: 1-1, 4.08 ERA, 18 K, 17.2 IP
Career Stats: 1-1, 4.08 ERA, 18 K, 17.2 IP
Luebke was absolutely brilliant in the minors last season for the Padres, going 10-1 with a 2.68 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 17 starts between Double-A and Triple-A before getting a late-season call-up and making three starts.
With Chris Young on his way out of San Diego, Luebke is the front-runner to take his spot in the rotation, and pitching in a friendly park like Petco could mean a great rookie season for the 26-year-old lefty.
If the Padres play the way they did in 2010, Luebke could post a Jaime Garcia-type rookie season and really solidify the starting rotation beyond Mat Latos and Clayton Richard.
No. 21: Brett Wallace
2010 Stats: .222 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 51 Games
Career Stats: .222 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 51 Games
Despite being one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball, Wallace has bounced around considerably in his young career.
After being drafter by the Cardinals, he was dealt to the A's in the Matt Holliday deal, then to the Blue Jays for fellow prospect Michael Taylor, and finally to the Astros for another prospect in Anthony Gose.
After Lance Berkman was traded, he took over at first base for the Astros, and he will get his first chance at full-time duty at that position this coming season. If his line of .301 BA, 18 HR, 61 RBI at Triple-A last season in any indication, a breakout could be right around the corner.
No. 20: Peter Bourjos
2010 Stats: .204 BA, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 10 SB in 51 Games
Career Stats: .204 BA, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 10 SB in 51 Games
Bourjos brings a little bit of everything to the table for the Angels, as he is a solid defensive center fielder, a decent hitter with some power, and a speedster on the basepaths.
He fills the hole at the top of the lineup left by Chone Figgins, while making the entire outfield defense better as his play in center allows perennial Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to shift over to right field.
He should continue to be a spark plug at the top of the Angels lineup, and will hit for much better power than Figgins ever did. A .275 BA, 15 HR, 40 SB season seems doable as he enters his first full season in the majors in 2011.
No. 19: Desmond Jennings
2010 Stats: .190 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 SB in 17 Games
Career Stats: .190 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 SB in 17 Games
If and when Carl Crawford moves on to greener pastures, and all signs seem to point to that being this offseason, the vacant outfield job will belong to Desmond Jennings, and he will immediately become one of the fastest players in all of baseball.
Following a spectacular 2009 season in which he posted a .318 BA, 31 2B, 10 3B, 11 HR, 62 RBI, 52 SB line between Double-A and Triple-A, Jennings shot up to No. 6 on the Baseball America preseason rankings, and was immediately anointed as Crawford's heir.
In a full season at Triple-A last year, his numbers dropped a bit, and his line was .278 BA, 25 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 37 SB. Still, he made his MLB debut at the end of the season, and it looks as though he is a shoe-in for the opening day lineup in Tampa.
No. 18: Travis Snider
2010 Stats: .255 BA, 14 HR, 32 RBI in 82 Games
Career Stats: .255 BA, 25 HR, 74 RBI in 183 Games
Prior to the 2009 season, Snider was a trendy pick for AL Rookie of the Year after a .275 BA, 23 HR, 91 RBI season in the minors saw him reach Triple-A at the end of the 2008 season, when he was only 20 years old.
Since then, he has had two sub-par seasons in the big leagues, and has yet to live up to the hype that surrounded him. He has suffered through injuries as well as demotions, but the fact of the matter is, he is still only 23 years old and is looking at a starting spot as Toronto's DH this coming season, assuming that Lyle Overbay leaves as a free agent and Adam Lind moves to first base.
There is a reason he was so highly regarded two seasons ago, and 2011 could be the year he shows the baseball world what he is capable of.
No. 17: Chris Carter
2010 Stats: .186 BA, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 24 Games
Career Stats: .186 BA, 3 HR, 7 RBI in 24 Games
The beast of a man that is Chris Carter finally made his big league debut last season, and he is one of the most exciting young power hitters in the league today.
At 6'5", 230 pounds, Carter has the build of someone who could hit 30 home runs a season for a long time to come, and he has launched 133 long balls the past four seasons in the minors.
He strikes out a lot, but he also draws a lot of walks, as evidenced by his .380 career OBP in the minors despite just a .284 BA. He could start the season in the minors, but the A's are short on power hitting and he will be in Oakland before too long.
No. 16: Kyle Drabek
2010 Stats: 0-3, 4.76 ERA, 12 K, 17 IP, 3 Starts
Career Stats: 0-3, 4.76 ERA, 12 K, 17 IP, 3 Starts
Drabek was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays to the Phillies, and you better believe that the Blue Jays will want to see a return on their investment as soon as they possibly can.
Drabek blew through Double-A last season, going 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 162 innings pitched in 27 starts before getting a late-season call-up and making three starts with the Blue Jays.
The Jays rotation is a bit crowded at the moment, but Drabek has the talent to force his way into the rotation out of spring training, and could be the ace of the staff as early as season's end.
No. 15: Dayan Viciedo
2010 Stats: .308 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI in 38 Games
Career Stats: .308 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI in 38 Games
After defecting from Cuba, the White Sox signed the then-20-year-old Viciedo to a four-year, $10 million contract prior to 2009 in hopes that he would be the heir to Joe Crede at third base before the contract was up.
He may have secured his spot sooner than expected, as he responded well in limited action last season, and certainly shows more upside than Mark Teahen at the position.
Whether he stays at third base or makes way for another top prospect in third baseman Brent Morel and slides over to first base to fill the void potentially left by free agent Paul Konerko remains to be seen, but he will almost certainly be a starter hitting in the middle of the lineup come opening day.
No. 14: Jeremy Hellickson
2010 Stats: 4-0, 3.47 ERA, 33 K, 36.1 IP in 10 Games, 4 Starts
Career Stats: 4-0, 3.47 ERA, 33 K, 36.1 IP in 10 Games, 4 Starts
With Wade Davis now a member of the rotation, Hellickson becomes the Rays' top starting pitching prospect, and he tore through Triple-A last season, going 12-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 123 Ks in 117.2 IP in 21 starts before being called up and splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen.
With the entire back end of the Rays bullpen gone to free agency, Hellickson may again be asked to spend time in the bullpen and serve as one of the team's primary setup men. If not, he could push for a spot in the rotation, and could immediately put up big numbers. Either way, his name will be one that baseball fans known by the end of 2011.
No. 13: Mike Minor
2010 Stats: 3-2, 5.98 ERA, 43 Ks, 40.2 IP in 8 Starts
Career Stats: 3-2, 5.98 ERA, 43 Ks, 40.2 IP in 8 Starts
Minor was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 Draft, and by the end of the 2010 season he found himself pitching in the starting rotation for a team battling for a postseason spot.
He signed early enough to make four starts last season at Single-A, then opened the 2010 season at Double-A as he was clearly on the fast track to Atlanta. Now he's slated to open the 2011 season as the fifth starter for a very good Braves team. That could mean a lot of wins if he can pitch the way he has in the past.
No. 12: Carlos Santana
2010 Stats: .260 BA, 6 HR, 22 RBI in 46 Games
Career Stats: .260 BA, 6 HR, 22 RBI in 46 Games
Santana is the future of the Indians offense, and he showed why he was Baseball America's No. 10 prospect entering last season when the Indians called him up.
The simple fact that he hit third in the lineup the day he made his major league debut should tell you something about not only how high the Indians are on him, but also the sort of potential that he has.
A collision at home plate prematurely ended his season on August 2 last year, but he should be right in the middle of things offensively when the Indians open up the 2011 season. He could immediately become one of the game's top offensive backstops.
No. 11: Domonic Brown
2010 Stats: .210 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 35 Games
Career Stats: .210 BA, 2 HR, 13 RBI in 35 Games
With Jayson Werth heading out of Philadelphia and the Phillies desperately needing to get younger in their starting lineup, the right-field job will be Brown's to lose this spring.
No. 15 on Baseball America's preseason rankings in 2010, Brown had a great season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a line of .327 BA, 20 H, 68 RBI, 17 SB in a total of 93 games.
He has the speed-and-power combination to make Phillies fans forget about Werth, and he seems ready to step in and be an impact player in what is already a loaded Phillies lineup.
No. 10: Jesus Montero
2010 Stats: Minor Leagues
Career Stats: N/A
A member of the Yankees organization since he was 17 years old, Montero was the ranked as the fourth-best prospect by Baseball America prior to 2010.
He did little to discourage his lofty ranking, hitting .289 with 21 home runs and 75 RBI in a full season at Triple-A, his first action above Double-A in his career.
With Jorge Posada's rapidly advancing age, he may have to become a full-time DH, which would open things up for Montero to take over as the full-time catcher. It is only a matter of time before Montero is behind the dish for the Yankees, and it should be sooner rather than later. Look for him to be in the running for AL Rookie of the Year if he is the starting catcher in the Bronx.
No. 9: Pedro Alvarez
2010 Stats: .256 BA, 16 HR, 64 RBI in 95 Games
Career Stats: .256 BA, 16 HR, 64 RBI in 95 Games
It was only a matter of time before Alvarez was hitting cleanup in the Pirates order, as he has been one of baseball's best offensive prospects since being drafted by Pittsburgh second overall in the 2008 draft.
In his first pro season, he hit .288 with 27 home runs and 95 RBI, and advanced to Double-A. Last season, he hit .277 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in 66 games at Triple-A before being called up.
He has the power to be a consistent 30 HR, 100 RBI guy, and as he continues to develop, he could make a run at .300 in the big leagues as well—though his power will always be his biggest asset. There is no reason he can't have a .275 BA, 30 HR, 90 RBI season as early as next year.
No. 8: Brian Matusz
2010 Stats: 10-12, 4.30 ERA, 143 K, 175.2 IP
Career Stats: 15-14, 4.37 ERA, 181 K, 220.1 IP
The fourth pick in the 2008 draft, Matusz was fast-tracked to the majors after making just 19 minor league starts. Last year, he spent his first full season in the majors and posted a respectable 10-12 record for a less-than-stellar Orioles team.
Matusz has all the makings of a future ace, and while being on the Orioles may hurt his win-loss record, the experience he has already gained at the age of 23 will go a long way towards his future development. Look for 2011 to be the year that he takes the next steps and posts something in the neighborhood of 15 wins.
No. 7: Freddie Freeman
2010 Stats: .167 BA, 1 HR, 1 RBI in 20 Games
Career Stats: .167 BA, 1 HR, 1 RBI in 20 Games
A new wave of Braves players in upon us, with the likes of Jason Heyward, Mike Minor, Tommy Hanson, and Craig Kimbrel taking center stage in Atlanta, and you can add Freddie Freeman to that list this coming season.
Freeman seems all but assured of the starting first-base job this coming season, with stopgap Troy Glaus out of the way and Freeman coming off a stellar .319 BA, 18 HR, 87 RBI season in Triple-A. The team chose to keep him down for the first few months for arbitration purposes, but rest assured the 21-year-old will be in Atlanta in 2011, and he seems to be a front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year at this point.
No. 6: Mike Stanton
2010 Stats: .259 BA, 22 HR, 59 RBI in 100 Games
Career Stats: .259 BA, 22 HR, 59 RBI in 100 Games
Simply put, the sky is the limit for Mike Stanton, as he has more pure power at 21 than anyone since Mickey Mantle. He showed it by combining for 43 HR and 111 RBI between Triple-A and the Marlins last year in his fourth pro season since being taken in the second round of the 2007 draft.
He strikes out a ton—to the tune of one every 2.9 at bats last season—but as his plate discipline improves, his average should improve as well, and he will be given every chance to succeed in the middle of the Marlins lineup as they continue to rebuild.
No. 5: Craig Kimbrel
2010 Stats: 4-0, 1 S, 0.44 ERA, 40 K, 20.2 IP
Career Stats: 4-0, 1 S, 0.44 ERA, 40 K, 20.2 IP
Not to take anything away from the season that Billy Wagner had for the Braves, as he returned to All-Star form by saving 37 games with a sterling 1.43 ERA, but Craig Kimbrel is the closer of the future for the Braves—and the future is 2011.
A third-round pick in 2008, Kimbrel has averaged 14.4 K/9 over his three seasons in the minor leagues, and he didn't miss a beat once he was called up to the majors, averaging a whopping 17.4 K/9.
He will need to cut down on his walks, as he averaged 7.0 BB/9, but his fastball/slider combination should play well in the ninth inning. With Wagner entering free agency, Kimbrel has the inside track to close in 2011 and could make a Neftali Feliz-type impact.
No. 4: Matt Wieters
2010 Stats: .249 BA, 11 HR, 55 RBI in 130 Games
Career Stats: .266 BA, 20 HR, 98 RBI in 226 Games
Before Buster Posey broke out this season for the Giants, it was Wieters who was viewed by many as the best young catching prospect in all of baseball.
Ranked as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball in Baseball America's 2009 preseason rankings, Wieters earned an early call-up during the 2009 season after just 39 games in Triple-A, and responded by hitting .288 with nine home runs and 43 RBI in 96 games with the Orioles.
The former first-round pick, drafted fifth overall in the 2007 draft, assumed everyday catching duties for the Orioles last season, but took a step back offensively as he hit just .249. Still only 25 years old, Wieters could be poised for a breakout, as his track record shows he is too good of a hitter to not at least approach a .300 average.
No. 3: Jay Bruce
2010 Stats: .281 BA, 25 HR, 70 RBI in 148 Games
Career Stats: .257 BA, 68 HR, 180 RBI in 357 Games
After a terrible 2009 season in which he scuffled to a .223 average, Bruce finally started to live up to the hype that made him Baseball America's top prospect prior to the 2008 season.
Not only should he continue to improve offensively, but he could be on his way to the type of breakout season that will make him a star and give the Reds two of the best young hitters in all of baseball, joining Joey Votto.
No. 2: Justin Upton
2010 Stats: .273 BA, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 18 SB in 133 Games
Career Stats: .272 BA, 60 HR, 208 RBI, 41 SB in 422 Games
There are few players in all of baseball that have the type of raw talent and upside that Upton does, and it is only a matter of time before he puts it all together for a .300 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 30 SB season—and he has the potential for even more.
He took over as the Diamondbacks' starting right fielder at the age of 20, and was an All-Star the following season. While 2010 was a bit of a step back, 2011 could very well be the season when he puts it all together and becomes one of the game's best.
No. 1: Madison Bumgarner
2010 Stats: 7-6, 3.00 ERA, 86 K, 111 IP
Career Stats: 7-6, 2.90 ERA, 96 K, 121 IP
It is hard to believe that Bumgarner will only be 21 years old come next season, as he pitched like a savvy veteran when it mattered most last season. He posted a 1.13 ERA in September and then won a pair of playoff games, including his Game 4 gem in the World Series, when he pitch eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball.
The 2011 season will mark the first full big-league season of Bumgarner's young career, and there is no reason why he should not be able to continue to pitch at the high level he showed this past postseason, giving the Giants three top-tier starters.