The New Guys
The Junior Circuit is a place where a breakout player is a difficult thing to find. A majority of the good teams in the AL revamp rosters through their George Costanza size wallets rather than by calling on youth like the pop industry. Most of the studs on the Junior Circuit have more gray hair on their balls than the passengers of an Alaskan cruise. However there are young players in the AL that could make a huge mark this year, and could be on their way to stardom by the end of 2011. Last year Neftali Feliz, closer for the Rangers, won the Rookie of the Year, however we are choosing to avoid the rookie of the year status because we don’t want to do any research so we are trying to pick a breakout player. My crop involves a couple potential ROY’s and a couple guys who have been up, but may be in for a bigger year than in years past.
The first guy on my list is a guy I have mentioned previously, pitcher Brett Anderson. This Oakland lefty has the potential to be a big time starter. He’s big, left-handed, and has good command. Anderson has the potential to shut down most lineups and could really win this award so long as he can be hurt when they visit Texas. And I don’t mean hurt like the Red Sox pitchers were I mean hurt like Greg Oden. The Rangers can flat rake, and any player that wishes to win any awards this year better not throw too many innings against them. Unfortunately, they play the Rangers 19 times and I don’t see Brett getting hurt randomly for those series’ so it’s going to be tough for him to be this years true breakout player.
The next two players are guys on the same team. One is presently in the bigs and the other is currently in the Minors. Justin Smoak was a key cog of the Cliff Lee trade, and as a 6’4 switch hitter with big time pop he has a chance to go ont he road and put up some serious numbers (lord knows he isn’t hitting them at SafeCo). I really like Smoak, he’s a former first rounder, he’s young, and it appears the people who actually do research like him. Further, he’s in a situation with absolutely no pressure because the Mariners should really suck (they are one year removed from losing a guy to a slow pitch softball team), and he is surely going to have at least one guy on base in front of him most of the time. Thus he has potential to be the breakout player this year. The other guy from the Mariners is Dustin Ackley. Now, Ackley is going to start the year in the minors, however I think this is probably because, as mentioned supra, the Mariners will suck and they are probably waiting so they can get another year before arbitration. For those who don’t know how arbitration works, a guy with 2 years who is in the top 17% of players with this level of MLB experience and has been on an active roster for at least 86 days in the previous season. I think the Mariners will keep him in the minors so they can buy another year before having to pay him. Ackley is a guy who can rake, he is a lefty with a sweet swing and should be a consistent .300 hitter once he gets his opportunity. I watched this guy play in Omaha (CWS) and he is the real deal. If Ackley gets the chance I really believe he could be the Breakout Player, however I’m skeptical about my assessment of his getting a chance, and thus can’t pick him with confidence.
As a Royals fan I hope my Breakout Player can come through this year. As I’ve noted previously they are going to give up a lot of early runs, but with a guy like this in the lineup it’s possible they could make up for a few. I’m tempted to put Alex Gordon on this list because I think he’s a standup guy, a good left fielder and a guy who could have a true breakout season. However, a different Royal, Kila Ka’aihue, could be this years best new player. Kila is a left-handed first baseman who can hit a ball as far as anyone in the bigs. We’re talking about a guy who could hit 30 homers and for the Royals drive in about 35 runs. Kidding, the Royals put guys on base last year and with Kila in the lineup maybe some of those folks will get an opportunity to touch the dish. I’m a huge fan of Kila and I really think he has the potential to be a guy that could be the next stud for the giants of the AL East when the Royals trade him because they can no longer afford to have a star. With that, Kila Ka’aihue is your 2011 AL Breakout Player of the Year.