There comes a point in a player's career that he makes the transition from average to good; good to great; a talented prospect to a bona fide MLB star.
The breakout year is the year that earns players reputations and helps to solidify their place as mainstays in a team's lineup. Fans grow to love players during their breakout year.
It is very hard to predict when players will break out (see: Bautista, Jose), but with new statistics, it becomes easier to identify potential candidates. You can examine anything from a player's contact rate to line-drive rate, K/BB ratio to whiff ratio.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about each team's most likely breakout candidate.
Now, I will rank the 25 players most likely to break out during the 2012 season.
Even after a player has spent years in the minors, sometimes, he may not begin to truly advance as a hitter until he reaches the majors. This, I believe, is the case with Josh Reddick. Boston's right fielder should be a leading candidate to win the starting job in 2012 and should build off a very good year last year.
He's still not fully developed, but it isn't out of the question for Reddick to hit .275 with 20 home runs for Boston next year. Add in his excellent defense and the Red Sox may have grown their own everyday outfielder.
You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen.
Tim Dillard will be an All-Star in 2012. Book it.
...No, but seriously. He will.
You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen.
Fautino De Los Santos will be an All-Star in 2012.
No, this is not a repeat of the last slide.
Yes, this is real life.
No, I am not Nostradamus.
Is there a cooler picture in sports than one taken in the rain? It's like a scene straight out of a movie. You always expect the outcome of the picture to be something epic. So did Jose Tabata hit a home run here? Maybe.
Anyways, Tabata isn't ever going to put up gaudy numbers. He does, however, have the chance to be an Andres Torres-like producer, an extra-base machine who also plays some quality defense. Tabata is showing much improvement as a hitter, and 2012 may be the year he puts it together.
If you want power, Arizona's slugging first baseman has plenty to go around. During his time in the minors last year, Paul Goldschmidt posted a .626 slugging percentage. Once promoted, that number sunk to .474. Once Goldschmidt adjusts more to MLB pitching, his slugging ways will return.
This guy has some serious power. Cutting down on his strikeouts and adjusting better to off-speed pitches will mean that Goldschmidt could absolutely explode in 2012.
The sky is the limit for Drew Pomeranz, but the Colorado lefty still has a ways to go to reach his potential. The scary part is, however, that even while still growing as a pitcher, Pomeranz has the potential to break out and have a big impact on the Rockies in 2012.
It's tough to imagine Pomeranz will have more than 20 or 25 starts next year, but given what we've seen from him so far, the Rockies' rotation will get a boost every time this lefty is on the mound.
Drew Stubbs could be a five-tool player. Seriously. He has all the ability in the world and has not yet been able to put it all together in one year. Could 2012 be the year? Possibly.
Stubbs has struggled mightily with breaking pitches during his career, leading to a very high strikeout rate. This has taken away from his disruptive ability to put pressure on the defense when putting the ball in play.
If the Cincinnati outfielder can put wood on horsehide more often, his numbers could take off.
The recently-extended Rays' lefty gave everyone a glimpse into the future at the end of the 2011 season. Matt Moore shut down the New York Yankees in the Bronx and, starting Game 1 of the ALDS in Texas, shut down the Rangers. Not a bad start to what is sure to be a terrific career.
Let's not crown him yet, but every indication about this kid says that he's going to be an ace. Don't expect a Cy Young in 2012, but he will start at least 25 games and show the AL East what they'll have to deal with for the foreseeable future.
Among this class of prospects, I believe that Lonnie Chisenhall might be one of the best pure hitters. He has a very good grasp of the game and shows advanced pitch recognition despite his limited exposure to MLB-quality arms.
However, 2011 saw his strikeout rate go through the roof, something that is likely an effect of seeing arms like Justin Verlander and John Danks on a fairly regular basis. Chisenhall's normal strikeout rate is about six percent lower than it was last year, so expect him to get on base more and hit in the area of .300.
There's an old adage that says, "It's not how you start—it's how you finish." If that is true, then Mike Moustakas' huge late-season improvement in 2011 is a good predictor of how he will perform in 2012. The rookie third baseman struck out at an uncharacteristically high rate last year, and cutting down on those will help him to get on base more.
Moustakas joins a good number of corner infielders on this list who are poised for breakout years. In his case, you can expect the Kansas City stud to crank out 20 home runs with a batting average in the range of .280.
I think we all know why Ackley will break out in 2012—because he's awesome. But I actually want to take this time to digress and talk a little bit about Seattle's organizational strategy going forward. In my opinion, the biggest losers of the Albert Pujols deal were the Mariners. Think about it. This is a team that, a few weeks ago even, was in position to be one or two years away from contending in the AL West.
Now, they may not get that chance for a while longer. If you're Jack Zduriencik, what do you do now? Do you sell high on Felix Hernandez and start stockpiling more prospects? Do you think about completely gutting the team?
Or do you try and play ball with the big boys and sign Prince Fielder?
I turn 21 on this coming Sunday, the 18th. Arodys Vizcaino turned 21 almost a month ago. I look at this guy, throwing 96 miles per hour and looking to break into Atlanta's rotation, and wonder where I went wrong in my life.
Self-deprecating aside, Vizcaino had a shaky debut in 2011 in the majors, especially as far as command is concerned. However, with a career mark of over 3.00 K/BB, Vizcaino should start finding the plate a little better. Once he does, he has nasty stuff. Expect big things from the Braves' flamethrower.
When the Angels' signing of Albert Pujols was announced, Mike Trout should have been absolutely ecstatic. Not only does he get to learn from baseball's best hitter, but, once he fully develops, he will have the best protection in the game. The Pujols-Trout combination in the middle of Los Angeles' lineup will be fun to watch.
For now, we can expect a breakout season of somewhat modest proportions from Trout. The 20-year-old outfielder still has much growing to do, but a full season in the majors might see him put up some fairly gaudy numbers.
Up until this point, every article I've written involving Dodgers' shortstop Dee Gordon has mentioned that he is the son of former MLB reliever Tom Gordon. When will he come out from his father's shadow? Well, probably this year.
The Dodgers believe that Gordon will be their leadoff hitter for years to come, and it's hard to argue. Even in his brief stint in the majors last year, Gordon showed an advanced ability to get on base and wreak havoc on the basepaths once there. It will be scary to see how many steals he can accumulate with a full season to work with.
Fun fact about Stanton: I asked Marlins' outfielder Logan Morrison via twitter about how good Stanton would be at football. He responded by saying that he once saw Stanton punt a football 70 yards.
Surprising considering that what baseball fans know Stanton for his is upper body strength, and ability to hit a baseball halfway to the moon. Chances are that an improved line-drive rate and reduced whiff rate will mean more bombs for Mike Stanton, and more chances to set off this celebration.
In my previous article about breakout players, several people questioned my choice of Wieters because he had, in a sense, already broken out. However, I don't think Wieters has reached his potential yet—not by a long shot. He has a really special ability at the plate, and 2011 saw Wieters finally start to put his talent to good use.
The numbers indicate that he should improve in 2012, and one can expect an increased batting average and somewhere around 25 home runs. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if he broke out even more, reaching the 30 home run range and solidifying his position as one of baseball's best offensive catchers.
Ben Revere came to the plate 481 times in 2011. He had an on-base percentage of .310. That's dismal, in case you didn't know. But why, then, am I picking him to break out in 2012? It's simple, really. Every good hitter is able to adapt and grow.
Revere is a good hitter. He's shown it throughout his professional career, and it's only a matter of time before he shows it on the big stage. Being able to recognize pitches is a key, and once he becomes more adept at that, he might blossom into one of baseball's most potent leadoff hitters.
Some may make the argument that Doug Fister already broke out last year, but as impressive as his body of work was once traded to Detroit, I believe there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially with a full year to work with.
If Fister can maintain his pinpoint control (3.95 K/BB in 2011), he has much to build on, especially given a full year with a potent offense behind him. I could easily envision 15 to 18 wins for Fister, with an ERA around 3.00. That would certainly solidify his position as a legitimate top-of-the-rotation arm.
What little Mets fans saw of Ike Davis last year should have been very encouraging. Missing most of the year with injury, Davis was still able to hit .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in just 149 plate appearances.
That bodes well for a team that will be desperately searching for offense in 2012. With a healthy Ike, the Mets will likely have a guy who could put up anywhere from 20 to 30 home runs with an average hovering just below .300.
This is a really boring and cliche pick, but it's hard not to believe that Montero will explode in 2012. He has all the makings of an offensive stud, and being in a ridiculously stacked lineup for a full year will certainly pay dividends for the young catcher/DH/whatever he is.
He's not going to destroy pitching right off the bat, but 2012 will be the year that Jesus Montero becomes a household name, at least on the East Coast. He'll be good for at least 20 home runs, and if he can cut down on his strikeouts, his average might surprise people.
Blue Jays fans have to be excited about the future given Toronto's moves over the past year. If the team signs Yu Darvish, which seems entirely plausible, the Blue Jays may be in position to make the playoffs in 2012.
Another big key will be just how productive third baseman Brett Lawrie will be. Last year, he showed incredible potential, and now it is time to see if he can keep up his scorching production for all 162 games. If he can (and this writer thinks he will), Toronto may have one of the best young bats in baseball gracing the middle of its lineup.
After making minor-league pitching look positively silly for a good portion of 2011, the Padres called up Anthony Rizzo to the majors. Unfortunately, he didn't quite rake in the bigs the way he did in the minors. Much of that was due to an extremely high strikeout rate, especially by Rizzo's standards.
Chances are that he will reduce his strikeouts, put more balls in play, and thus get on base more. Once that happens, we will get to see some of the huge potential that Rizzo showed so much of in the minors. 2012 may be the first of many years of excellent production for the Padres first baseman.
At 5'11" and 240 pounds, Dayan Viciedo isn't exactly built like an Olympic athlete. But what he lacks in shape, he makes up for in hitting ability. Viciedo will be a middle of the order presence next year for the rebuilding White Sox, and he should give South Siders a glimmer of hope into the future of the team.
He needs to do some adjusting, as do most of the young hitters on this list, but Dayan Viciedo has all the makings of an excellent major league hitter.
A common comparison I've heard for Brandon Belt is Derrek Lee. Honestly, that's pretty accurate. Both are top-notch defenders and are very good hitters. Belt, though, didn't quite hit at Derrek Lee levels in 2011, but that doesn't mean he never will.
The key for Belt will be getting on base more. His OBP dropped while in the majors last year, but getting it back to the .400+ levels he had in the minors could mean that he could become a mainstay towards the middle of the Giants lineup for years to come.
It's unlikely that Bryce Harper will be in the majors for the entire 2012 season, but you have to think that the Nationals will face pressure from their fans to promote their phenomenon of a prospect. I'd expect a May or June call-up for Harper, depending on how the team is doing.
Regardless, he has shown no signs of being ill-prepared for major league pitching. The way he has scorched the minors, it could be about as seamless of a transition as we've witnessed in recent memory. Harper won't come in and start putting up MVP numbers, but he will certainly burst onto the scene.