MLB 2012: 5 Young Players Who Will Breakout

Mitch FortnerContributor IIISeptember 28, 2011

MLB 2012: 5 Young Players Who Will Breakout

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    Every year, many young prospects take the leap from potential to production. In 2011, players like Erik Hosmer, Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda emerged from top prospects to franchise cornerstones in their first season.  

    Here are five players who will shed their prospect labels and become MLB stars in 2012. 

    Disclaimer: To be considered for this list, hitters must have logged less than 250 career at bats and starting pitchers less than 100 innings. 

    Charts courtesy of embed.statsheet.com

5: Jason Kipnis, Second Baseman, Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Kipnis delivered a walk-off single against the Angels on July 25th to record his first career hit. Six days later, he hit his first long ball at home against the Royals. He then preceded to hit home runs in each of the next three games at Fenway, to record four in as many days.

    Not a hot enough start for you? OK, fine. 

    On August 10th, he went 5-5 with four runs, a home run, and three RBI to raise his OPS at the time to 1.014. Later that night, he recovered a kitten from a tree for an elderly woman. 

    Now that's hot. 

    While I am not sure about the kitten from a tree part, I am sure about the future success of Kipnis. 

    With shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana and Kipnis, the Indians suddenly appear to have one of the most exciting offensive infields in baseball heading into 2012.

    Jason Kipnis
    Season AB R HR RBI SB BA OPS
    2011 131 24   7   19   4 .275  .857

    SS Last updated by StatSheet on 2011-09-28

4: Brett Lawrie, Third Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

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    When the Blue Jays traded Shaun Marcum last offseason straight up to Milwaukee for third baseman prospect Brett Lawrie, this was the kind of immediate impact they were hoping for.

    After a broken hand delayed his arrival to the majors, Lawrie finally got the call on August 4th and debuted a day later. In his first game at the big-league level, he recorded two hits and notched his first RBI. By the end of August, Lawrie had already launched four home runs, scored 13 runs, driven in 18 and stolen three bases.

    Decent.

    Not to be outdone by the debut of Kipnis, Lawrie hit a walk-off of his own—a home run off Dan Wheeler in the bottom of the 11th to knock off the Red Sox

    Though his season was cut short by a fractured middle finger, Lawrie proved in his 150 at bats that the Jays made the right call when they acquired him for Marcum.  

    Brett Lawrie
    Season AB R HR RBI SB BA OPS
    2011 150 26   9   25   7 .293 .953

    SS Last updated by StatSheet on 2011-09-28

3: Matt Moore, Starting Pitcher, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Surprise, surprise, the Tampa Bay Rays possess another top arm prospect. It seems almost every year the Rays have another pitcher dominating the minors, patiently waiting on his chance to perform on the big stage. In years past, it has been names like David Price, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson. The 2011 version is Matt Moore, and he could turn out to be the best of the bunch.  

    In just 9.1 innings at the major-league level, Moore already has a win, 15 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA under his belt. Certainly an impressive start, but it's his minor league totals that suggest Moore could be one of the game's best sooner rather than later. 

    According to Baseball America, Moore pitched 497.1 innings in the minors, recording a 2.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 700 strikeouts. In each of the past two seasons, he has gone over the 200 K plateau while pitching less than 155 innings.

    As great as James Shields has been in 2011, if the Rays do not bring him back, their staff may not miss a beat with this lefty getting the ball every five days.   

          Matt Moore
    Season GS IP W QS ERA WHIP SO K/BB
    2011   1 9.1  1   0  2.89   1.29  15   5.00

    SS Last updated by StatSheet on 2011-09-28

2: Jesus Montero, Catcher, New York Yankees

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    Jesus Montero, the subject of trade rumors basically anytime trading has been prominent recently, never actually got traded...and it may have been the best non-move the Yankees have made in a while.  

    Proving he was simply bored in the minors, Montero has been nothing short of special since his arrival on September 1st. Montero has hit for power, average and in clutch situations, proving there are no real weaknesses to his offensive game (don't say speed...he's a catcher). Throw in the fact that he plays in perhaps the most potent offense in the MLB, and all signs point to a big year in 2012. 

    While 2012 may be the first full season for Montero, the 2011 postseason has the potential to be his coming out party. Leaving him off the postseason roster seems impossible at this point, and Montero is sure to get his chances to leave a mark. With what we've seen from him so far, it's hard to believe he won't take advantage of the opportunity. 

    Jesus Montero
    Season AB R HR RBI SB BA OPS
    2011 57 9 4 12 0 .351 1.062

    SS Last updated by StatSheet on 2011-09-28

1: Stephen Strasburg, Starting Pitcher, Washington Nationals

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    Yes, I know, Strasburg is already a household name to anyone who even sniffs a baseball field. However, he only pitched 68 innings in 2010 before needing Tommy John surgery and still has pitched less than 100 innings in his career.  

    Strasburg, in true superstar fashion, returned quicker than some expected from Tommy John, and seems, at this point, to be even better than he was before the surgery. In 18 innings pitched, he has yet to surrender a walk and has struck out 14 batters. 

    Anytime you get a guy with that kind of power and that kind of control, you are looking at not only someone who is poised to dominate a season or two, but someone with the potential to be one of the best pitchers this game has ever seen. 

    Good luck opposing batters. 

    Stephen Strasburg
    Season GS IP W QS ERA WHIP SO K/BB
    2011 4 18 0 1 2.00 0.78 14  No Walks
    2010 12 68 5 6 2.91 1.07 92 5.41

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