So much of our time on this site is spent analyzing, with as much fervor as we can possibly muster, our Detroit Tigers and it’s roster. Most of us, including myself, are just baseball fans when it comes down to it. We pay attention to other teams, and can appreciate other teams players. I suspect as spring rolls around you will see some more lists like this one popping up on our site. It’s fun for me as a writer, and hopefully generates some discussion from our readers. I decided to borrow liberally from MLB Network’s Prime 9 series and use that to pick out 9 players who I think could break out this season. One from each position.
Without further delay…..
Ryan Lavarnway (Boston)-
As if Boston needs to add some offense to their team, Lavarnway is a catcher that shows some pop and some ability to defend behind the dish. After getting a cup of coffee for 17 games with the Red Sox last season, I expect Lavarnway to begin to see a lot more time behind the dish in Boston this season. With Kelly Shoppach and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the way, he might not see time right away, but by summer, I think he will be a working his way into the regular lineup.
Justin Smoak (Mariners)-
This was a tough position to pick, as most guys at 1st in the A.L. are pretty established as being pretty darn good. Still, Smoak is a guy that is improving and has yet to break out completely. Smoak improved pretty much across the board from 2010 to 2011, and if he does so again in this 3rd season, he might start becoming more of a household name.
Jason Kipnis (Indians)-
This might be the toughest of all the positions I am looking at here. Dustin Ackley and Jemile Weeks also received quite a bit of consideration. I went with Kipnis for one reason. I think he offers the most pop out of the bunch. He can hit for average too, and after seeing him play D quite a bit, I’m convinced he can play the position pretty well down the road.
Mike Moustakas (Royals)-
Another tough call between him and Brett Lawrie. Lawrie showed real well in a short stint before suffering injury, but I think he has some growing pains to go through in 2012. I think Moustakas went through those already much of last season. I like when young hitters finish a rough rookie year strong, and that is exactly what Moustakas did. He posted an OPS of .960 in the last month after a strong August.
Alcides Escobar (Royals)-
Most of the A.L. shortstops are pretty established. Still, Escobar improved a little bit offensively, and from 2010 to 2011 he went from below replacement level to average big league SS, thanks in large part to his defensive skills. I think he can improve that even further as he learns to cut down on his errors. His range is outstanding, his arm fantastic, and if he can continue to push the batting average towards .270, he is a very useful player.
Peter Bourjos (Angels)- Nobody goes and gets the baseball in CF like Bourjos does in my opinion. He is blessed with tremendous speed and plays the position with reckless abandon. He kind of broke out already in 2010, however, not a lot of people noticed his 5 win fWAR season. When he does it two years in a row, people will.
Josh Reddick (A’s)- Reddick was acquired from the Red Sox among others for closer Andrew Bailey. I think people underestimate his quality all around skills. Reddick plays the game hard, is athletic, has some pop and can defend. What fans the A’s do have at this point should enjoy watching him.
Desmond Jennings (Rays)- Jennings was a guy that came out of the chute real fast last season, then faded greatly down the stretch. I think he will learn from that, and he is going to be more consistent. His all around game is going to help Rays fans forget about Carl Crawford. If they haven’t already.
Brandon Morrow (Blue Jays)-
Obviously with the number of pitchers in the league, this was a tough call. Morrow though has top of the line starter stuff, and has shown brilliance at times. He just needs some consistency, and I believe he will break out this season and finally live up to top of the rotation potential.
Those are my Prime 9 candidates to breakout this season in the American League. What are some of yours?