I don’t like the term “breakout campaign”. When used in baseball terms it usually refers to a player that was already good and had already seen success at previous levels and now had the numbers to match the skill set. Most of the time, these breakout players were already somewhat well regarded. For example, in 2012, Mike Trout had a breakout season. Never mind the fact that he had already drawn comparisons to Mantle while he was in the minor leagues. Sure, not many of us knew he’d be THIS good, but Mike Trout was already the second most popular name in prospect circles (after Bryce Harper). The following list of players, sort of fit this mantra in that they are already tremendously talented individuals, but are overshadowed even on their own teams.
Kole Calhoun. If you’re looking for fantasy advice and are into ‘Nsync references (who isn’t?) then BUY BUY BUY. Seriously. Calhoun is not going to make many headlines this season, playing on the same team as Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be a stud in his own right. Calhoun is a left-handed batter that’s generously listed at 5’10 (more like 5’8), but is built like a tank. He doesn’t do one thing great, but does everything particularly well. Despite UZR rankings from last season, Calhoun has plus range in RF to go with a plus arm. On the offensive side, Calhoun has above average contact abilities, plate discipline, speed and power. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll be batting into front of the aforementioned Trout, Pujols and Hamilton. In terms of Wins Above Replacement, Calhoun looks like a 3-4 win player right now and should draw valued comparisons to Hunter Pence and Shin-Soo Choo. If you’re looking for a vote of confidence from the Angels, consider this; GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia felt so confident in Calhoun’s abilities, they parted ways with Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo in order to open up an everyday spot for him. Not bad for a player that never once appeared in a Top 100 ranking and wasn’t taken until the 8th round of the draft. Look for Calhoun to gather 20 homers, 20 steals, and 100 runs in 2014. Leonys Martin. Martin came over from Cuba at the wrong time. Sure, the Rangers inked him to a five-year deal worth $20 million at age 23, but think about had he been born 4 years laster. If he were a 23 year old with his abilities coming to the U.S. on the heels of Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, Martin would’ve probably made twice as much. Martin had roughly a full year worth of at bats in 2013 and didn’t disappoint (35 extra base hits and 26 steals) but this was hardly a coming out party for Martin as he was constantly on the verge of being relegated to 4th OF duty. Now entering his age 26 season and the starting CF spot all but guaranteed, look for Martin to reach new highs. Sure, he made it onto a couple of top prospect lists in the minors, but he was never considered an “elite” prospect. More like a suitable replacement. Still, he hit .359 in AAA with double digits in homers and steals. Batting in the juggernaut lineup that the Rangers have and hitting in the bandbox that is the ballpark in Arlington, it’s hard to envision Martin not flourishing. Martin could and should emerge as a 4-5 win player for the Rangers in 2014. Expect in the neighborhood of a .290 average, 15 home runs, and 40 stolen bases. Brad Miller. I’m not quite on the Miller bandwagon like I am with Calhoun and Martin, but I do think he’s being overshadowed as the guy that is not Nick Franklin. Last year at age 23, Miller posted impressive power numbers and decent enough defense for the Mariners, which came on the heels of him absolutely torching AAA. Miller is a little on the lankier side defensively at shortstop and certainly isn’t grace in motion the same way other shortstops are (we’re looking at you Simmons, you artist). Still, he should be adequate to hold down the everyday job across from Robinson Cano. Offensively, Miller has a pretty legit shot at 15-20 home runs, 10-15 stolen bases, and depending on how the guys around him hit, 80 runs and 75 RBI. Miller won’t be a superstar, but I’m confident he’ll emerge as one of the core players for the future for the Seattle Mariners. Jake Marisnick. Marisnick was actually a well-regarded prospect, entering 2013 ranked the 71st best prospect in the minor leagues by Baseball Prospectus. Marisnick responded with double digit doubles, homers, and stolen bases to go with a .350 OBP. He finished the year with the Marlins and was clearly timid and overpowered. However, he’s in a dog fight for the starting CF spot for a young Marlins team in 2014 and has been scolding hot this Spring batting .436, which literally means nothing. It’s actually somewhat surprising Marisnick is a CF at all given his size (6’4 230), but watching him run, it’s clear mobility is not as issue for him. I hardly expect Jake to be an all-star in 2014, and he will undoubtedly have his peaks and valleys, but I think the end result should be something rather solid. Much like Brad Miller, I’m seeing the in the neighborhood of 15 homers and 15 steals with a decent enough batting average and defense.