2009 MLB Breakout Candidates

April 8, 2009 at 7:29 pm 4 comments

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Every year we get great seasons from people that we never expected. Last year it was Ryan Ludwick, Nate McLouth, Cliff Lee, and Carlos Quentin to name a few. Who is it going to be this year? Well, I have a few candidates that I believe will take that next step and have big breakout seaosons in 2009.

Elijah Dukes (WAS) – Dukes is starting the season as the National’s 4th outfielder but that won’t last long. Dukes’ talent is off the charts and he has kept his nose clean recently. He had a less-than-stellar spring but Manny Acta can’t keep him out of the lineup for long. If you project Dukes’ 2008 stats over 550 at-bats he would’ve hit .264/.386/.478 with 26 homers, 26 steals, 96 runs, and 88 RBI. That OBP of .386 would have been good for 9th in the NL. If Dukes plays he can outperform those numbers. 30/30 is not out of the question, and I would bet on 20/20 for Dukes in 2009 with a very high OBP.

Yovani Gallardo (MIL) – This guy should be a Cy Young award contender this year. Gallardo has a #1 starter package. He has good command and control of his above-average stuff. I would bet on 15-17 wins, 180+ strikeouts and an ERA that will be below 3.50 with the possibility of going south of 3.00 if the defense makes some plays behind him.

Nelson Cruz (TEX) – Cruz hit 44 combined homers in 2008 between Triple-A and the majors. He also had 27 combined stolen bases. Cruz has won the RF job for the Rangers and should be batting 4th or 5th most nights. Expect 25+ homers and 85+ RBI out of this guy with double-digit steals.

Joey Votto (CIN) – As if last season wasn’t enough of a breakout, I think Votto has more in his bat. In that park and in that lineup (assuming Baker moves Tavares out of the leadoff spot) Votto should have no problem hitting .300/.375/.535 with 30 homers, 100 RBI, and 10 steals. He should be that good.

Kevin Slowey (MIN) – Some scouts refuse to buy into Slowey and tab him as a #4-#5 starter. I disagree. A guy with his control and command and a great defense behind him, on top of his good stuff, is poised for a big season. I wouldn’t rule him out as a Cy Young candidate. Don’t be surprised if he wins 15+ games with an ERA hovering around 3.25 and 150 strikeouts with less than 40 walks in 200 innings.

Shin-Soo Choo (CLE) – I’m not alone on this breakout candidate. Many people will quote his 2008 post All-Star break stats (.343/.424/.614 with 20 doubles, 11 homers, 50 runs, 48 RBI) but scouts are also talking about his ability to drive the ball to all fields with ease and unlike before. He also has a legit shot at double-digit steals. Don’t be surprised if he ends up .300/.365/.525 with 20+ homers and 10+ steals.

Howie Kendrick (LAA) – Can he stay healthy? I think this is the year he does, and if he is healthy he will have a huge season. He will hit .300 and with a little patience he could top a .350 OBP. Look for Kendrick to hit .310+ with roughly 10 homers and 15+ steals.

Fred Lewis (SF) – Lewis has a starting job in San Fran and he will be batting near the top of the order all season. Lewis has wheels, a little pop, and good patience. Look for Lewis to hit at least .285/.360/.450 with 12-15 homers and 25 steals.

Lastings Milledge (WAS) – He has matured and he had a decent season last year that he surely to build upon. If he shows some of the patience he showed in his first two stints in the majors then he should have no problem hitting .275/.350/.450 with 20/30 potential.

Russell Branyan (SEA) – It’s hard to call a 33 year old a breakout candidate but Branyan is going to have a big power season. I don’t care about the strikeouts and yes his average will be low, but he will hit 30+ homers and post an OPS around .850 because he will take walks and has unmatched power.

Adam Jones (BAL) – He has been one of the most mentioned names among scouts and executives when asked who has impressed this spring. Jones has all the tools to be a .280 hitter with 20/20 potential. If he doesn’t breakout this year then I guarantee he will in 2010.

Ryan Spilborghs (COL) – In 668 at-bats in his career he has hit .302/.374/.466 with 21 homers, 16 steals, 104 runs, and 109 RBI. He has a starting gig in CF but should move to LF once Dexter Fowler takes over. He should get 500 at-bats and he will hit at least .290/.355/.445 with double digit homers and steals. Don’t be surprised if he puts up numbers close to his career totals either.

Josh Johnson (FLA) – Scouts are raving about his stuff this spring and he is finally healthy. He pitched very well over 87.1 innings last year and is at full strenght now. Peter Gammons picked him to win the Cy Young award and he might not be too far off as long as the Marlins awful defense can make some plays behind him. Don’t be surprised if Johnson ends up winning 14+ with an ERA below 3.50 and 170+ strikeouts.

Rickie Weeks (MIL) – Weeks has slowed his game down and he tore up spring pitching. Weeks has all the tools and an incredible eye. With a little more aggression he could have a huge breakout season. I wouldn’t rule out a .400 OBP with 15 homers and 30+ steals.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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2009 Top 175 Prospects Friday Baseball Links

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cody S  |  April 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    just want to tell you have one mistake you have branyan as a brewer but he is a mariner

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  April 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Oops! My mistake. I knew that; just a brain fart.

    Reply
  • 3. onniemarie  |  July 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I am so glad to see YoYo (Gallardo) on here. He is amazing yet and we’re glad to see him back after his knee injury. Nelson Cruz is another great one! What do you think about Elvis Andrus or Jonathan Sanchez?

    Reply
  • 4. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  July 12, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I love Andrus. He is a plus defender and his bat should improve. He has good speed and he is only 20 years old. He could be an All-Star very soon.

    Sanchez has good stuff. His no-hitter was great but that type of start is out of the norm for him. I still think he has a good chance to be a very good #4 starter if his command improves slightly. His stuff is very good.

    Reply

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