Breakout Hitters of the National League

Andrew GodfreyCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2009

BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 8:  Infielder Garrett Jones #69 of the Pittsburgh Pirates follows a fly ball against the Houston Astros March 8, 2009 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Mark Reynolds—Diamondbacks: This is the third major league season for Reynolds. He had a great year last season with 28 homers and 97 runs batted in but am including him on the list because he is on a pace to top those numbers.

He hit his 28 homers in 152 games last season but already has hit 25 this season in 95 games. His OBP has improved from .320 in 2008 to .365 this season. His slugging percentage was .458 last season but has risen to .549 in 2009.  His batting average has jumped from .239 last season to .276 currently.

His 18 stolen bases this season coupled with his 25 homers give him an outside chance of being a 30-30 player this season.

Jayson Werth—Phillies:
Werth is in his seventh major league season but this is his first season to be an everyday player and his numbers should improve with him batting more than 418 times in a season for the first time.

Hit hit 24 homers and drove in 67 runs last season in 134 games but already has 21 homers and 62 RBI in 92 games in 2009.

Andre Ethier—Dodgers:
Ethier is on the brink of having a career best season in his fourth season. His home runs and RBIs have gone up every year of his career and he is close to topping his 2008 numbers already.

He hit 20 homers in 141 games in 2008 and already has 20 this season in 94 games. He needs 16 RBI to match his 2008 total of 77.

Ethier is hitting .292 against right-handers  but is hitting only .190 against left-handers this season. He is hitting .311 at home and .214 on the road so he has room for improvement in both of those categories.

Jay Bruce—Reds:
Depending on when Bruce returns from his wrist injury he still has a chance of exceeding his 2008 numbers. He needs only three homers to match his home run output of 21 last season. He also needs 11 RBI to match his 52 of last season.

His batting average has fell from .254 in 2008 to .207 this season. He has hit .183 against left-handers and .218 against right-handers.

Still the Reds need his bat in the lineup since they have been 2-9 since he went on the disabled list. His 18 homers lead the Reds with Brandon Phillips next with 14 and Joey Votto with 13. No other Reds player has more than eight homers.

Justin Upton—Diamondbacks:
Upton batted 356 times last season hitting 15 homers and driving in 42 runs. In 348 at bats this season he has hit 17 homers and driven in 57 runs.

ESPN.com projects Upton to hit 29 homers and drive in 97 runs this season. Upton is in his third season and his percentage numbers have all improved from year to year showing he is on the brink of  a great career.

He has hit .371 against left-handers but is hitting righthanders at a .270 clip. He has hit only two points better at home with a .291 average while hitting .289 on the road.

Yunel Escobar—Braves:
Escobar hit 10 homers and drove in 60 runs in 2008 in 514 at-bats. This season in only 316 at bats he has hit 11 homers and driven in 57 runs in only 316 at-bats.

ESPN.com projects him to hit 20 homers and drive in 102 runs in 2009. He is hitting .305 lifetime currently in his third major league season.

He is only one homer behind Chipper Jones this season and leads the team and Jones in RBI’s with 57 RBI. Jones has 48 this season.

Escobar has been mentioned in trade talks lately but in my book it would be a mistake to trade Escobar who has hit four homers and drove in 14 runs in his last 10 games.

It is strange he has had a weakness against left-handed pitchers this season since he is a right-handed batter. He is hitting only .240 against left-handers but is hitting .344 against right-handers.

He is hitting .455 since the All Star break.

Matt Kemp—Dodgers:
Kemp seems to be on the brink of a great career in his fourth season with the Dodgers. He batted 606 times last season and hit 18 homers and drove in 76 runs. So far in 348 at-bats in 2009 he has 13 homers and 55 RBI.

Kemp may be one of the best bargains in baseball since he is only making $467,000 in his fourth major league season while a rookie is making a minimum wage of $400,000 in 2009.

Kemp has stolen 20 bases already and has 10 assists in 94 games. He stole 35 bases last season and threw out 16 runners in 2008 so he is in line to pass those numbers in 2009.

Player To Watch: Garrett Jones

Garrett Jones played in only 31 games for the Twins in his 2007 major league debut and showed no signs of being the player he has been for the Pirates in his second major league season. He had two homers and drove in five runs while hitting .208 for the Twins in 2007.

He has played only 19 games for the Pirates and already has 10 homers and 15 RBI.

He made his debut with the Pirates on July 1 and has hit .342, has an OBP of .398 and has slugged a phenomenal .842. He has a 1.240 OPS which leads the majors for players with at least 80 at bats. Albert Pujols is second with a 1.155 mark.

ESPN.com projects him to hit 45 homers and drive in 67 runs in 85 games this season.

Jones made his minor league debut in 1999 at the age of 18 after being drafted 444th in the 1999 draft by the Braves and played his first three seasons in the Rookie League. He played High A ball and AA in 2004 hitting a combined 31 homers and driving in 98 runs.

He hit 23 homers and drove in 92 runs for the Rochester AAA team in 2008 and then hit 12 homers and drove in 49 runs for the Pirates’ Indianapolis AAA team before being called up by the Pirates. It is strange he has hit 10 major league homers with only 15 RBI while he hit 12 homers in AAA and drove in 49 runs.

Jones has hit 158 minor league homers in eleven seasons with 629 RBIs.

He is 28 and was born in Harvey, IL.  This could be his last shot at making the majors.


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