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Breakout Candidates in 2009 – Players to Watch

  • C- Pablo Sandoval

    Many wonder if his power stroke displayed in the spring will carry over to the regular season.  With catcher eligibility in many leagues and hitting in the heart of the order, I’m a firm believer in his power and think he could well exceed his projections.

     

    1B- Joey Votto

    With an OPS of about 1.000 in the second half of 2008, he shows all capabilities of making the elite jump.  His plate discipline looks promising and he has a fulfilling power/speed combo.  Expect a .300 Avg, 24-27 homeruns, and 10 steals.

     

    2B- Ian Stewart

    This guy brings a plethora of fantasy upside that screams Chase Utley from 2005.  He can do a little bit of everything and is currently projected to get 400-500 ABs.  He’ll soon be eligible at three different positions and there are just too many possibilities that could make him an everyday player between Helton’s injury-plagued history, an imminent Atkins trade, or Barmes/Smith underperforming.  It wouldn’t take an enormous amount of luck for the 23 year old to supply similar value from the 2B spot to B. Phillips or A. Ramirez.

     

    3B- Alex Gordon

    He lowered his strikeout total in 2008 and showed a power increase in the second half.  If his offseason regiment successfully assists him in figuring out southpaws and boosting his fly ball rate, we’re looking at a ceiling of 28-30 homeruns with a .280 average.

     

    SS- Stephen Drew

    A second half comparable to Hanley Ramirez where he had a .950 OPS makes him a rarity at middle infield.  Batting third for the Dbacks in 2009, expect solid numbers across the board with a few steals this time.

     

    OF- Corey Hart

    He’s almost a lock for another 20/20 season, with 30/30 still in reach.  Hart is slugging at about a .800 clip this spring, which statistician John Dewan would say is a useful future indicator.

     

    OF- Nelson Cruz

    Right now he is projected to bat cleanup for the Rangers against southpaws and 5th against righties.  Either spot is incredibly conducive for RBIs in Texas.  After seeing him continue his September dominance in the spring, expect a 27/15 type of year for Cruz.

     

    OF- Adam Jones

    With a full major league season under his belt, this year we’ll see his real power.  I’d say 20/20 is feasible for Jones.

     

    SP- Kevin Slowey

    He dominates with control, walking just 24 batters over 160.1 innings in 2008.  His strikeout rate won’t kill you, and it’s way up this spring.  He could be the ace of the staff come July.

     

    SP- Johnny Cueto

    Even Edinson Volquez said Cueto was better.  Cueto’s major league K rate and minor league peripherals are in support of this.

     

    SP- Clayton Kershaw

    Month by month his walk rate improved last year while fanning 

    almost a batter per inning.  He’s still only 21 and very raw but could still make the leap this year.

     

    SP- Jonathan Sanchez

    Being known for his ability to make hitters miss, a Kazmir-like breakout awaits him if he lowers his walk total this year or the next.  Guess what, his K/BB ratio in the spring is 15:2.

     

    RP- Frank Francisco

    If he stays healthy he’ll get plenty of strikeouts and saves, while he has no remote threats that could seize the job.

     

    RP- Chris Ray

    Expect him to take Sherrill’s job by the end of April.  Sherrill has even stated publicly that he doesn’t mind Ray closing after his less than dominant spring.  And one more thing, Ray’s velocity in the spring is reportedly higher than it was pre-surgery.

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