Welcome to "Chatter from the Pressbox", the website dedicated to the Pressbox of the Frisco RoughRiders, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

Today's Matchups Around the Ranger's System

Today's (5/20) Match-Ups Around the Ranger's System

Round Rock: Martin Perez (3-3 5.27) vs. Fresno Grizzlies: Andrew Kown (3-1 2.61) @ 1:00 PM CT

Myrtle Beach: Kyle Hendricks (1-4 2.91) @ Wilmington Blue Rocks: Sugar Ray Marimon (3-0 2.65) @ 12:30 PM CT

Hickory : Santo Perez (2-2 6.19) @ Asheville Tourists: Daniel Winkler (4-2 6.06) @ 1:05 PM CT

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who Will Be This Year's MLB Breakout Position Players?

It seems like almost every year there are some players that break out and have big years. Often times those players will make General Managers look like geniuses because they can be players that you'd simply never expect to see it coming. After doing research this past offseason, I came to the realization of something predictable and fairly obvious. The prime of player's careers is generally speaking between the ages of 25 and 32. The peak of a player's career on average is age 29. Using this information, I looked into some of the breakouts at ages 25 and 29 years old.

Source: Baseball-referene.com
Ages based on Baseball-reference ages on player pages


SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians (Age 25)

Breakout Numbers: .273/.332/.560/.792 119 OPS+ 60 XBH 92 RBI 87 R

Almost immediately after being traded from Seattle to Cleveland for Eduardo Perez back in 2006, Cabrera jumped on the radar as a young shortstop. Asdrubal made his debut in 2007 at just 21 years old. The switch handed hitting shortstop displayed solid offensive ability with superior defensive prowess. While his defense has yet to earn him any accolades, Cabrera's breakout power season in 2011 put him on the map, especially in the fantasy baseball world. His slugging% climbed 114 points from 2010 (.346) to 2011 (.460) as he more than doubled his career homerun total with 25 shots on the season. Cabrera's 278 total bases was by far a career high as well. Given the fact that Cabrera had 27 career homeruns in 1,874 plate appearances in the minors and then had 18 homeruns in 1,610 career plate appearances, he still needs to prove that 2011 wasn't a fluke. His power is likely to come down, but Cabrera has flashed good ability before when he had a .799 OPS in 2009 as a 23 year old.

Biggest area of improvement in 2011 was on the first pitch: 
2011: 7 doubles 6 homeruns .402/.404/.690/1.094
2010: 3 doubles 0 homeruns .340/.333/.404/.738
2009: 3 doubles 0 homeruns .351/.339/.474/.813
2008: 2 double 1 homerun .238/.222/.357/.579
2007: 1 double 0 homeruns .400/.400/.450/.850

C Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers (Age 29)

Breakout Numbers: .320/.414/.631/1.046 171 OPS+ 55 XBH 75 RBI 72 R

One of my favorite pickups of last offseason, when it happened, Mike Napoli had a year that even I (and I'm sure almost nobody) didn't expect. I've always thought that Napoli was underrated among players who even played catcher part time. Yes, his defense is not the best, but any player who can consistently put up a .800+ OPS with even below average to bad defense can still be a valuable player. And Napoli has a good enough bat to put him at first base part time. In 2011 though, Napoli took his game to the next level and had a monster season, especially the 2nd half. It's still amazing to me that he did not receive a single vote in the MVP ballot. It just goes to show how underrated of a season he had. His postseason was no fluke either. And unlike say Michael Young or Josh Hamilton in 2010, Napoli dominated not only at home (1.011 OPS), but on the road (1.078 OPS) as well. Do I expect a drop from Napoli in OPS? Yes, I do. I don't know that he's a 1.046 OPS type of player, few are. But, I do think he's a legitimate middle of the order hitter. He holds a career .875 OPS (.895 OPS over the last 4 years) and has 4 20+ HR seasons.

Biggest difference in 2011 was with 2 strikes:
2011- .291/.379/.509/.887
2010- .149/.229/.240/.469
2009- .185/.256/.278/.534
2008- .182/.286/.333/.619
2007- .179/.272/.257/.529
2006- .180/.317/.341/.658

To go from awful to outstanding with 2 strikes is quite amazing. Can he retain that ability or was it a fluke? Again something that Napoli will need to prove. If the ability to bear down with 2 strikes is real, then you could be looking at a monster hitter over the next few years, especially if he stays in Texas.


OF Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (Age 29)

Breakout Numbers: .260/.378/.617/.995 164 OPS+ 92 XBH 124 RBI 109 R

It's well documented about Bautista's rise from nowhere to stardom. Before 2010, Bautista was known more as a utility player with some pop than a cornerstone franchise player. He had shown the ability to hit left handed pitchers well before 2010 (.839 OPS vs. LHP 2004-2009), but had never hit right handed pitchers very well (.681 OPS vs. RHP 2004-2009). Since 2010, however, Jose Bautista has hit pretty much anyone and everyone. In his breakout year in 2010, Bautista's slugging% rose 209 points from .408 to .617. Bautista blasted 54 homeruns and drove in 124 runs. His .995 OPS was 238 points higher than his previous career high.

Biggest difference in 2010 was against RHP:
2010: .269/.388/.642/1.030
2009: .202/.331/.333/.664
2008: .233/.301/.347/.648
2007: .253/.331/.411/.742
2006: .216/.306/.373/.679


1B Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays (Age 25) 

Breakout Numbers: .305/.370/.562/.932 141 OPS+ 81 XBH 114 RBI 93 R

A 3rd round pick by the Blue Jays, Adam Lind dominated his way through the minor leagues by putting together a cumulative .320/.388/.512/.894 throughout the minor leagues. Over 540 plate appearances in AAA, Lind had a .333 batting average and a .931 OPS. Still, through his first two partial years in the major leagues in 2007 and 2008, Lind didn't display near the same ability. Playing half of the 2009 season at 25 years old, Lind had a major breakout year. He stroked 81 extra base hits, including 35 homeruns, en route to an increase of 123 points in his slugging% from 2008 to 2009. Lind had a .305 batting average and a .932 OPS that season, both of which are career highs to date. Lind's breakout year earned him a Silver Slugger for the season as well.

Biggest difference in 2009 was against LHP:
2011- 3 homeruns .243/.275/.364/.639
2010- 2 homeruns .117/.159/.182/.341 
2009- 7 homeruns .275/.318/.461/.780
2008- 2 homeruns .253/.303/.385/.688
2007- 2 homeruns .194/.243/.299/.542


OF Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox (Age 25)

Breakout Numbers: .288/.394/.571/.965 148 OPS+ 63 XBH 100 RBI 96 R

When Carlos Quentin broke out in 2008 he looked like a star in the making. Quentin tore up the minor leagues with a .956 OPS, but didn't get his first full season until 2008. Quentin has proven to be injury prone early on in his career, but when healthy he's been above average. Still, his 2008 season has been by far his best season. Quentin set career highs with 36 homeruns, 100 RBI, a .288 average, .965 OPS, and 148 OPS+.

Biggest difference in 2008 was with men on: 
2011- .276/.342/.510/.853
2010- .263/.353/.549/.903
2009- .273/.365/.491/.855
2008- .347/.449/.644/1.093
2007- .250/.345/.438/.782
2006- .267/.340/.523/.863

OF Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis Cardinals (Age 29)

Breakout Numbers: .299/.375/.591/.966 150 OPS+80 XBH 113 RBI 104 R

Signed as a minor league free agent by St. Louis, Ryan Ludwick spent most of his early career as an outfielder with upside that was plagued by injuries. Ludwick was drafted by the Oakland Athletics and spent time with the Rangers, Indians, and Tigers before signing with St. Louis in December 2006. Ludwick started out well enough in 2007 in AAA to earn a callup to the majors and was there long enough to appear in 120 games and get 339 plate appearances. In that time Ludwick showed some of his potential with an .818 OPS and 36 extra base hits. Still, not much could prepare the baseball world for Ludwick's breakout year of 2008. Ludwick used some extra protection from Pujols to put up career bests in average (.299), OBP (.375), SLG (.591), OPS (.966), and pretty much every counting statistic, including homeruns (37). Ludwick was selected to the all-star game, came in 15th in MVP balloting, and won a Silver Slugger award. In the three years since, Ludwick has 52 homeruns for the Cardinals, Padres, and Pirates.

Biggest difference in 2008 was against LHP:
2011- 10 XBH .264/.350/.413/.763
2010- 10 XBH .194/.268/.340/.609
2009- 12 XBH .269/.342/.400/.742
2008- 25 XBH .266/.353/.576/.929
2007- 13 XBH .221/.307/.377/.684


1B Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Age 29)

Breakout Numbers: .282/.411/.627/1.037 172 OPS+ 76 XBH 121 RBI 99 R

When Carlos Pena was coming up in the minors many saw him as a future power bat in the big leagues. He was rated as high as the 5th best prospect by Baseball America in 2002. By age 28 though it seemed as though Carlos Pena would never be more than a solid hitter. His best homerun total was 27 in 2004 and his .810 OPS that same season also marked a career best to that point. But when the Devil Rays signed Carlos Pena, the old thinking that some players develop later than you'd expect held true as Pena had a breakthrough season at age 29. Pena's 46 homeruns began a span of 3 consecutive 30+ homerun seasons for the left handed hitter and his 121 RBI also marked the first of 3 consecutive 100+ RBI seasons. Pena's 1.037 OPS is by far his biggest season to date. Pena finished 9th in AL MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger as well.

Biggest difference in 2007 was against LHP: 
2011- 10 XBH .133/.260/.333/.594
2010- 12 XBH .179/.316/.359/.675
2009- 20 XBH .211/.332/.482/.814
2008- 13 XBH .190/.302/.352/.654
2007- 17 XBH .271/.381/.571/.953
2005- 5 XBH  .157/.189/.412/.600
2004- 16 XBH .245/.315/.483/.798
2003- 11 XBH .208/.284/.356/.640
2002- 18 XBH .265/.333/538/.871


1B Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins (Age 25)

Breakout Numbers: .321/.375/.559/.934 140 OPS+ 72 XBH 130 RBI 97 R

It took Justin Morneau just one year with more than 100 games before he broke out in 2006 with a monster MVP season. After hitting well in 74 games in 2002 as a 23 year old, Morneau had a subpar first full season in 2003 when he put up just a .741 OPS, which was a far cry from his .907 minor league OPS. When Morneau reached age 25 though, like others before and since, Morneau had a break through season. The Twins first baseman hit .321 with 34 homeruns, 130 RBI, scored 97 runs, and put up a .934 OPS and 140 OPS+ en route to his first MVP award and Silver Slugger award. Since then Morneau has put up 3 more 100 RBI seasons and 2 more 30 homerun seasons. He also has added another Silver Slugger and was 2nd in MVP voting in 2008. Over the last 2 years Morneau has been plagued by injuries with just 150 games over that 2 year span.

Biggest difference in 2006 was against LHP: 
2011- 4 XBH .144/.189/.211/.401
2010- 16 XBH .325/.391/.575/.966
2009- 25 XBH .277/.336/.500/.836
2008- 25 XBH .284/.324/.453/.778
2007- 19 XBH .228/.283/.411/.693
2006- 26 XBH .315/.345/.559/.904
2005- 12 XBH .201/.255/.331/.586
2004- 8 XBH .240/.289/.427/.716

With all of these players listed, the question becomes what players that will be 25 or 29 in 2012 will be the next to join the list of breakouts.Below is a list of the players that would qualify:

Age 25

1B Yonder Alonso, San Diego Padres
3B Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
C Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
2B Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
OF Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
1B Kyle Blanks, San Diego Padres
OF Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels
OF Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians
OF Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
OF Ezequiel Carrera, Cleveland Indians
SS Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
SS Chase D'Arnaud, Pittsburgh Pirates
1B Ike Davis, New York Mets
2B Daniel Descalso, St. Louis Cardinals
SS Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
2B Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
2B Logan Forsythe, San Diego Padres
OF Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers
OF Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays
2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians
OF Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
OF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
3B Brent Morel, Chicago White Sox
SS Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees
OF Gerardo Parra, Arizona Diamondbacks
OF Carlos Peguero, Seattle Mariners
C Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
OF Colby Rasmus, Toronto Blue Jays
OF Josh Reddick, Oakland Athletics
3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
C Dave Sappelt, Cincinnati Reds
OF Michael Saunders, Seattle Mariners
OF Jordan Schafer, Houston Astros
1B Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners
OF Eric Thames, Toronto Blue Jays
C Josh Thole, New York Mets
OF Rene Tosoni, Minnesota Twins
1B Brett Wallace, Houston Astros
2B Jemile Weeks, Oakland Athletics

Age 29

OF Michael Bourn, Atlanta Braves
3B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
3B Alberto Callaspo, Los Angeles Angels
2B Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
SS Ronny Cedeno, New York Mets
OF Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
SS Stephen Drew, Arizona Diamondbacks
1B Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
SS Yunel Escobar, Toronto Blue Jays
3B David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals
SS Alberto Gonzalez, Texas Rangers
OF Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle Mariners
OF Tony Gwynn, Los Angeles Dodgers
SS J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles
C Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels
SS Paul Janish, Cincinnati Reds
1B Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians
C George Kottaras, Milwaukee Brewers
C Russell Martin, New York Yankees
3B Michael Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies
C Jeff Mathis, Toronto Blue Jays
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
3B Casey McGehee, Pittsburgh Pirates
1B Juan Miranda, Arizona Diamondbacks
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
SS Donnie Murphy, Miami Marlins
3B Jayson Nix, New York Yankees
2B Eric Patterson, Detroit Tigers
1B Steven Pearce, Minnesota Twins
OF Hunter Pence, Philadelphia Phillies
OF Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres
SS Jose Reyes, Miami Marlins
OF Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
OF Seth Smith, Oakland Athletics
C Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
OF Will Venable, San Diego Padres
2B Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
3B David Wright, New York Mets
C Bobby Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

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