If you had written last offseason that Mike Trout was going to score 129 runs, hit 30 home runs, and steal 49 bases in 139 games, you’d have to have impressive skills, like breasts that can tell you when it is going to rain, like Amanda Seyfried’s character in the movie Mean Girls.
Not everyone can be perfect with their inferences, but at least making predictions can be entertaining…especially when you look back and see how wrong you were months later. How wrong will I be this year? Here are my top breakout candidates for the 2013 MLB season:
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2012: 11-11, 3.81 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 175:81 K:BB, 177.1 IP
2013 prediction: 17-8, 2.92 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 191:77 K:BB, 208 IP
Why Moore Will Breakout: Over his final 14 starts in 2012, Moore was 6-5 with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, posting a 79:31 K:BB in 77.2 innings, a tremendous improvement over his first half statistics (5-6, 4.42 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 96:50 K:BB in 99.2 IP). He has devastating stuff and an oddly familiar development, nearly mirroring David Price. If he continues that path, Moore will be an elite-level talent in 2013.
Kyle Kendrick, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
2012: 11-12, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 116:49 K:BB in 159.1 IP (37 games, 25 starts)
2013 prediction: 15-6, 3.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 167:60 K:BB in 201 IP
Why Kendrick Will Breakout: Kendrick turns 29 late in the 2013 season, but you have to wonder if finally having a role will allow him to thrive. Since the Phillies traded Vance Worley and let Joe Blanton walk in free agency, he should settle into the No.4 spot behind Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee in the Philadelphia rotation. not to mention, in 12 second half starts in 2012, Kendrick was 7-4 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and a 51:14 K:BB in 70.1 innings. Kendrick may be overlooked due to the talent ahead of him in the rotation, but he could be a nice addition, especially if the Phillies veteran offensive talent rebounds and stays healthy.
Chris Tillman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2012: 9-3, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 66:24 K:BB in 86 IP
2013 prediction: 16-9, 3.29 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 157:60 K:BB in 205 IP
Why Tillman Will Breakout: Tillman, a former top 25 prospect, saw his fastball jump from 89.5 mph in 2011 to 92.4 mph in 2012, which had a lot to do with his success. Tillman didn’t make his first start for Baltimore until July 4 last season, so a full season could lead to similar results. He had a bright star early in his career and with a solid roster forming around him in Baltimore, there is no reason to think that the soon-to-be 25-year-old can’t continue to establish himself as a viable major league starter.
Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
2012: .301/.328/.471, 16 2B, 11 HR, 39 RBI in 305 PA
2013 prediction: .298/.339/.483, 26 2B, 17 HR, 71 RBI in 497 PA
Why Perez Will Breakout: Perez is a monster at 6’3″, 245 pounds, and he is healthy after missing time due to knee surgery last season. He won’t even turn 23 until May, but Perez has shown that he can hit in the big leagues over 463 plate appearances over the last two seasons. With Billy Butler settling in as an All-Star quality bat and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, likely, taking positive steps in their development, Perez’s numbers will likely shoot up in 2013.
Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
2012: .227/.308/.462, 26 2B, 32 HR, 90 RBI in 584 plate appearances
2013 prediction: .267/.353/.508, 32 2B, 35 HR, 112 RBI in 623 PA
Why Davis Will Breakout: An OPS of .888 with 20 bombs in the second half is one reason to get excited about what Ike Davis could become in his age-26 season in 2013, but a full, healthy season is the most enticing thing to look for. In 2011, Davis shredded his ankle and upon his return in 2012 from that injury, he lost a lot of power after coming down with Valley Fever last spring. After having flu-like symptoms from that illness for several weeks, on top of recovering from his ankle, Davis seemed to find his stroke, but not until he had already posted an ugly .201/.271/.388 line in the first half of the 2012 season. A healthy Ike Davis could become one of the top power hitters in baseball, an elite first baseman, and a great offensive producer for a Mets team with David Wright and very little else offensively. After posting a .246 BABIP in 2012, Davis could have more luck and get back to his career levels (.321 in 2010 and .344 in 2011) for BABIP and come close to 40 home runs.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012: .286/.359/.490, 43 2B, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 18 SB in 587 PA
2013 prediction: .283/.374/.503, 38 2B, 27 HR, 105 RBI, 13 SB in 613 PA
Why Goldschmidt Will Breakout: Goldschmidt is about to become a superstar and he will be playing the 2013 season at the age of 25. After combining for 65 home runs in High-A and Double-A in 2010 and 2011, the slugging first baseman seems poised to present more of that power at the major league level, transferring some of those 43 doubles from 2012 into more home runs in 2013. Goldschmidt was much better in the first half (.920 OPS) than in the second half (.782 OPS) in 2013, but with adjustments and growth, those numbers could level out, which would make Goldy an All-Star caliber player.
Chris Johnson, 3B, Atlanta Braves
2012: .281/.326/.451, 28 2B, 15 HR, 76 RBI in 528 PA
2013 prediction: .271/.319/.463, 31 2B, 18 HR, 72 RBI in 543 PA
Why Johnson Will Breakout: With Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, and Jason Heyward in the lineup, the only non-threats in the Atlanta Braves’ lineup would appear to be Andrelton Simmons and Johnson. While Johnson will always be a liability due to his defense and inability to take a walk (4.8 percent career walk rate), he does have a bit of power and he should see a lot of fastballs, which will only help his power numbers and contact rates. It is unknown at this point if he is going to win the third base job, as Juan Francisco could take this spot as another free-swinging alternative, but Johnson was solid after being dealt to the Diamondbacks last season, posting an .824 OPS over 44 games with the Snakes.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
2012: .260/.305/.463, 19 2B, 19 HR, 51 RBI, 37 SB in 452 PA
2013 prediction: .255/.305/.455, 24 2B, 24 HR, 67 RBI, 47 SB in 574 PA
Why Gomez Will Breakout: The statistics above aren’t really breakout level, but Gomez could surprise a lot of people if he were to repeat or come close to repeating the numbers that he put up last year. To say that Gomez is a free-swinger is an understatement: His 107 career walks in 2,130 plate appearances are just two more than the 105 that Adam Dunn drew in 649 plate appearances in 2012…if you listen closely in the winter, you can hear Gomez swinging a bat somewhere in the world. Gomez has been around for a long time because he was rushed to the bigs by the Mets, a shocking development considering that is what the Mets always do. Still, if Gomez can steal bases, hit home runs, and not have to share his job with the likes of Nyjer Morgan, as he did for part of 2012, he could continue to establish himself as a valuable fantasy and real-life commodity.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies
2012: .300/.389/.474, 18 2B, 11 3B, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 12 SB in 530 PA
2013 prediction: .280/.378/.469, 22 2B, 8 3B, 17 HR, 22 SB in 642 PA
Why Fowler Will Breakout: Fowler continues to show impressive on-base skills and he has the ability to spray the ball all over the field. He will probably show a significant decrease in the batting average category, as his .390 BABIP was absurd in 2012, but keep in mind that it was .354 in 2011, so he does have quite a bit of luck with where he can put the ball into play in his career. Fowler is an interesting player, as he is heading into his age-27 season (fully in his prime), he has a nice blend of power, speed, and on-base skills, and he plays in a friendly home ballpark in Denver. Look for him to take another step in the right direction in 2013.