Trick Or Treat: Which MLB Breakout Players Are For Real?

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IOctober 31, 2008

Every year there are players in Major League Baseball that reach another level on their careers.

Sometimes they are for real, other times they may be a flash in the pan.

So, fittingly, on Halloween, why don't we look at a few players who might be set for a decline, a trick if you will, or which players are just getting started, the treats.

I'd just like to clarify that I'm typing this in my Halloween costume, which basically includes my normal attire, but I've opted for the Pittsburgh Pirates hat today. Why is that a costume?

Simple, I'm a bad baseball franchise.

I'm sad no one has asked me about my costume, but then again it wasn't real obvious.

At least I'm not the Joker, in a sense of that was a bad joke and in a sense that everyone and their extended family is dressing up as the actual Joker.

Let's just move along before I embarrass my sense of humor any further.


Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox OF

Here's a guy that was basically starting the year on the bench in some way and he ended it back on the bench, but because of an injury.

He missed a good portion of September, but was still second in the AL in home runs.

Quentin didn't just do this at the bottom of an explosive lineup in a hitters park, far from it.

He was the center piece of Chicago's middle of the order and they felt his absence in the playoffs in clutch situations. Their struggles in the hitting with runners in scoring position department were well documented and had Carlos Quentin been in the middle of it, things might have turned out differently.

That tells me that Quentin is with out a doubt, the real deal. He's like the full-size 3 Musketeers bar from the rich family as opposed to the run of the mill miniature Snickers.

The Verdict: Treat


Kelly Shoppach, Cleveland Indians C

Cleveland was battered with injuries all year, which enabled Kelly Shoppach to see a stable stretch of starting time.

Shoppach showed some power that many people knew he had, but didn't think would translate to the major leagues.

There is no doubt about what kind of hitter Shoppach is. Set did red for the fastball, swing as hard as you can, and pull it into left field.

You know what you are going to get with Kelly Shoppach behind the plate. It all depends on what team and what role he's playing in.

If Shoppach is a full-time starter next year, you can probably expect a poor batting average, but a home run total that nears the 30 mark.

Oh and a lot of strikeouts as well.

The Verdict: Treat


Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals OF

Ryan Ludwick went from unknown journeyman to middle of the order power hitter for the Cardinals.


Well, he's got Albert Pujols hitting in the same lineup. It isn't hard to get many pitches to mash in that scenario.

Ludwick didn't just hit home runs however. His .299 average is something to smile about and while he struck out 146 times, he had an on base percentage of .375.

Now will he continue to put up these power numbers, as one of the top home run and doubles hitters in the National League?

The league knows Ryan Ludwick at this point time. He won't see a huge drop off, but don't expect him to get 37 home runs with such ease. He isn't a bust, but the production won't be the same.

The Verdict: Trick

Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers OF

This is one that is subject to circumstances.

Ethier turned it on when Manny Ramirez arrived in Los Angeles. He hit 20 home runs with a .305 average. He's got a very sound walk to strikeout ratio.

The problem is simple. If Manny Ramirez returns, Ethier should hit in front him so he can continue to see those friendly pitches.

If not, I wouldn't count on Ethier to improve much unless he makes adjustments.

Pre-Manny, Ethier hit .276 with 11 home runs in 96 games

With Manny, he hit .364 with 9 home runs in just half the time with 45 games.

Ethier could be a trick if he doesn't make a transition if Manny doesn't return.

The Verdict: Possible Trick


Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins SP

The Marlins young strikeout artist finally got a hold of a rotation spot and he didn't let go.

Ricky Nolasco topped career highs in all major statistical categories, including an impressive WHIP that was third among all of baseball's starting pitchers, behind just World Series MVP Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay.

That really tells me all I need to know.

The Verdict: Treat


Edwin Jackson, Tampa Bay Rays SP

From 15-game loser to 14-game winner, Edwin Jackson was a huge treat for the American League Champion Rays.

So which Jackson will we see in 2009?

Thing is, the only reason he won 14 games and didn't lose 15 was because the Rays were just a little bit better than they were last year.

He was averaging almost six runs in support of his outings with a WHIP of 1.51. He also gave up the long ball, which will kill you with runners on base.

The Rays would be wise to get something while his value is pretty high.

The Verdict: Trick


Jesse Litsch, Toronto Blue Jays SP

Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett even Dustan McGowan and Shaun Marcum.

All of them probably got more attention than Jesse Litsch.

Litsch threw two complete game shutouts in 28 starts. He's showing steady improvement by decreasing his WHIP, average against, and of course going deeper into the games.

Litsch is showing real improvement and will only continue to get better.

The Verdict: Treat


Taylor Buchholz, Colorado Rockies RP

The Rockies bullpen carried them into the World Series in 2007, Buchholz was not a part of that group.

The Rockies were pretty much non-factors in 2008, and again Buchholz was not a reason.

Taylor Buchholz stepped up and showed that he is perhaps one of the elite set-up men in the National League.

While most leaders in holds have WHIPs hovering in the 1.20-1.30 range, Buchholz's is at .95. Out of all NL relievers with at least 15 holds, only Carlos Marmol had a lower WHIP than Buchholz.

More impressively, Buchholz's ERA was far and away the lowest among that group as well.

He's the real deal.

The Verdict: Treat


Who are some of your tricks and treats going into the 2009 season?


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