Fact or Fiction on the Biggest 2013 Breakout Stars of the AL Central

Brett Kaplan@brettkaplanCorrespondent IIIMay 9, 2013

Fact or Fiction on the Biggest 2013 Breakout Stars of the AL Central

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    While there are many great things to like about the start of the baseball season, one of the best is watching that player or two on each team who ends up being the breakout star in April and gets off to a terrific start. 

    Many different players could fit into this category. This player could be a prospect who gives his team a boost, a veteran who hasn't had success in the past or a player who has finally "figured out" how to be successful.

    Some of these breakout stars continue to surprise, while others can't sustain their strong start to the season.

    The start of May is generally when the contenders start to separate themselves from the pretenders.

    The AL Central has several breakout stars that look like they are the real deal. Let's take a look at each team's early breakout star in the division and determine if their strong start to the 2013 season will continue.

    *All statistics are accurate as of May 7.

    **All statistics are from Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com.

Minnesota Twins: RP Anthony Swarzak

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    2013 Stats: 1-0, 19.0 IP, 2.37 ERA, 15 K, 3 BB

    After not having sustained success as a starter, pitcher Anthony Swarzak has thrived in the long relief role for the Minnesota Twins.

    This season, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19.0 innings and has helped out the Twins' starters, who have a combined 4.89 ERA. Swarzak has raised his strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio to 7.1, which is better than his career average of 5.4. He has also cut down on his walks to 1.4 per nine innings.

    Some fans might want to see Swarzak as a starter, but that would be a huge mistake. In his career, he has a 5.79 ERA as a starter compared to his 3.79 ERA as a reliever.

    Then taking into account Swarzak's career pitch count statistics, he has held batters to a .266 batting average when only throwing between one and 25 pitches. After the 25th pitch is when he truly starts to struggle and loses his effectiveness. When throwing between 26 and 50 pitches, opponents' batting averages rise to .317. Hence, why it is smart to limit Swarzak's pitches per appearance.

    FICTION: Swarzak won't be as effective once he starts to face the same batters more frequently.

Kansas City Royals: OF Lorenzo Cain

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    2013 Stats: .333 AVG, 14 R, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 4 SB

    The Kansas City Royals have been a bit of a surprise so far in 2013, and the player who has been leading the way for the team is outfielder Lorenzo Cain.

    This has been a breakout season for Cain; he is currently batting .333 with 16 runs batted in and 14 runs scored in 111 plate appearances.

    He has the talent to be a perennial All-Star, but the question remains whether he can stay healthy. 

    Cain—who was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade for Zack Greinke—will never hit for power but should be able to wreak havoc on the basepaths and give the Royals a different element.

    One of the most impressive statistics is that over his career, he has batted .336 with runners in scoring position and .313 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

    Led by Cain's play, the Royals should contend for a playoff position throughout the 2013 season.

    FACT: Cain is a career .292 hitter and should finish the season with an average over .310 and 25 stolen bases.

Chicago White Sox: CL Addison Reed

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    2013 Stats: 1-0, 15.0 IP, 2.40 ERA, 11 SV, 18 K, 8 BB

    Addison Reed has been dominant as a closer so far for the Chicago White Sox in 2013. Reed has followed up his rookie season with a very impressive start and looks to surpass his 2012 statistics.

    Last season, he had a 4.75 ERA and batters had a .266 average against him to go along with 29 saves in 33 opportunities.

    In 2013, Reed already has 11 saves in 12 opportunities. He is currently holding batters to an incredible .170 batting average along with a 2.40 ERA.

    While the White Sox as a team are struggling, they at least have a steady closer who they can depend on.

    With Reed's 10.8 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio, he will have quick innings—something that will allow him to take on a greater workload over the course of the season.

    FACT: Reed will save more games than last season and have a sub-3.00 ERA.

Detroit Tigers: RP Drew Smyly

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    2013 Stats: 2-0, 20.0 IP, 1.35 ERA, 21 K, 5 BB

    The Detroit Tigers' long reliever, Drew Smyly, has been an important piece in the team's bullpen in 2013.

    Smyly lost out to Rick Porcello in spring training for the Tigers' No. 5 spot in the rotation but hasn't let that bother his pitching.

    He currently has a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings pitched. He has a 4.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is holding batters to a .171 average.

    Due to Smyly's success and the fact that he is a lefty, he'll be the first player called upon if the Tigers need a pitcher to fill in for a starter.

    Eventually, Smyly will move into the rotation and be a mainstay for many years, but in the interim he is proving that he is still valuable regardless of the role he's in. 

    FACT: Smyly will continue to pitch great throughout the 2013 season and will be in the rotation by 2014 at the latest.

Cleveland Indians: OF Ryan Raburn

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    2013 Stats: .343 AVG, 10 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB

    The Cleveland Indians have several candidates who can be breakout stars, and even though catcher Carlos Santana and starting pitcher Zach McAllister have had terrific seasons, neither can match the surprise of Ryan Raburn's production.

    Out of all the breakout stars on this list, Raburn has to be the most unlikely to have even been considered for this topic.

    Raburn was signed to a minor league contract by the Cleveland Indians this past offseason after being released by the Detroit Tigers.

    Who would have thought that he would be named the AL player of the week on May 6?

    Raburn, who is known to be a notoriously slow starter, is currently hitting .343 with four home runs and 11 runs batted in. He has finally found a home in Cleveland, away from the spotlight of Detroit.

    No one knows how long Raburn's hot bat will last, but for now he has to be the unlikeliest star of the 2013 season.

    Fans will be skeptical that he will even be on the roster by the end of the season, but for now, all of Cleveland should embrace him.

    FICTION: Raburn has batted .179 in May for his career and can't keep this type of hitting up. Or can he?