Every team features at least one breakout star that, for whatever reason, defies everything and performs much better than expected. Then there are those that dash our hopes both for our favorite real teams, and our very own fantasy rosters. Those are the busts that we dread discovering in the course of 162 games. Help is here. With a little luck and some predicting I will guide you through each team and what players will surprise us for the good, and for the bad and ugly.
Breakout: Justin Duchscherer- In 2008 he was on track to contend for the Cy Young award before he got hurt. He has a career 3.13 ERA and is a two-time All Star. Even just three quarters of a season from him could mean well for Baltimore.
Bust: Brian Roberts- It is still midway through spring training and Roberts has already been scheduled for an MRI. He’s 33 and has back troubles, I’m not buying.
Boston Red Sox
Breakout: Jarrod Saltalamacchia- He’s hitting in a dang good lineup and is a former first round pick with a starting gig. He’ll take this chance and run with it.
Bust: Clay Buchholz- He doesn’t strike enough batters out and every other team in baseball is going to have to outscore boston every time. Look for all the pitchers on Boston to underachieve.
New York Yankees
Breakout: Curtis Granderson- He’s off to a hot start in spring training and hopes to remain healthy all season.
Bust: Phil Hughes- Like Buchholz, another young pitcher who got lucky in 2010. He did pitch well in the first half, but his second half was closer to his real self.
Tampa Bay rays
Breakout: Reid Brignac/Sean Rodriguez- Both are young and very talented hitters with starting roles locked up. They’ll need to fill the void left by Pena and Crawford.
Bust: Johnny Damon- In 2010 he wasn't very good for Detroit, and although he isn't getting paid very much, he won't be any better for Tampa Bay in 2011. Read what I wrote about him here
Toronto Blue Jays
Breakout: Brandon Morrow- Had he qualified, he would have led MLB starters in K/9 with 10.95 and his post-AS break ERA was more than a full run less than his pre-AS break ERA.
Bust: Jose Bautista- He’s an obvious answer here. He won’t touch even 40 home runs this year.
Chicago White Sox
Breakout: Gordon Beckham- Beckham started the 2010 season in unspectacular fashion, but finished strong, climbing out of a .216 BA hole to hit .310 after the break and finish at .252 on the year. In 2009 it was the same story but with his power. He hit 11 HRs after july. At 24 he’s on the verge of putting everything together.
Bust: Jake Peavey- Yes, he was terrific in San Diego. Yes, he is a previous Cy Young award winner, and yes, he pitched well in his first three games with the White Sox in 2009, but the AL is much different from the NL. He pitches in a tough division, in a hitters park, and he’s very injury prone.
Breakout: Carlos Carrasco- He went 2-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 7 starts in 2010 and at 23 his 38 K’s in 44.2 IP is very encouraging. He will be the tribe’s best starting pitcher in 2011 and is a huge sleeper pick.
Bust: Grady Sizemore- He’s extremely talented and is still just 28, but he always finds a way to land on the DL; He just plays too hard. His BA has declined every year since 2006 as well as his games played. Even if he’s healthy, the rest of the Indians lineup doesn't scare anyone and he isn't due to get some help.
Breakout: Max Scherzer- The demotion to, then re-promotion from AAA helped Scherzer in ways fantasy owners only dreamed about. He came back with a vengeance striking out 14 Athletics on May 30 and ended the year lowering his second half ERA more than two runs from his first half in the same amount of starts.
Bust: Austin Jackson- I’m not buying the average and he doesn’t offer anything in the way of power. His speed barely showed on the base paths with only 27 steals. Too much hype.
Kansas City Royals(This was a fun one)
Breakout: Alex Gordon- He’s failed us too many times to count, but a full season in LF could do wonders for the former second overall pick. He’s 27 and still has time to make the turnaround similar to that of Brewers slugger, Ryan Braun.
Bust: Alcides Escobar- Many think he'll be better in 2011, but he won't. He posses almost zero power, rarely walks, and strikes out twice as many times as he takes a free pass. Stealing bases was supposed to be his bread and butter last season, but he didn't even do that well as he was caught 4 times in 14 attempts.
Breakout: Michael Cuddyer- He was the only Twins hitter who’s home runs total didn’t suffer from the new home park, Target Field. He killed the ball filling in for Morneau in the last month of 2009, he can do it again.
Bust: Justin Morneau- Perhaps I should’ve done the bust before the breakout in this case. Who knows when Morneau will come back from his concussion and play enough to be important. He already is a first half performer more than a second half one. What happens if he misses the majority of the first half of the season? (see breakout above)
Los Angeles Angels
Breakout: Peter Bourjos- The Halos made room for him when they traded Jaun Rivera and Mike Napoli because they know what he brings to the table. He’s a solid power/speed combination and just 23-years old. Even though he hit .204 in 2010, he stole 10 bases and hit 6 home runs in 181 ABs. He’s entering Drew Stubbs territory and could produce a 20/20 season in 2011.
Bust: Vernon Wells- He’s a career .226 hitter with just 3 homers and 19 RBIs in Angel Stadium, his new home. He has battled injury and inconsistency in recent years, don't expect too much in 2011.
Breakout: Brett Anderson- He is an awesome talent and only 23-years old, but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what ESPN.com’s Tristan H. Cockroft has to
Bust: Kurt Suzuki- Defensively he’s one the best catchers in the game and mostly goes unnoticed for it. He handles a young pitching staff extremely well and catches a lot of games, a whole lot more than any catcher in baseball. That caused his offensive numbers to dip severely from 2009. He did spend some time on the DL last season, but he was awful when he returned.
Breakout: Justin Smoak- It is hard to imagine a 24-year old moving from Texas to Seattle and improving. Well, that is exactly what Smoak did in 2010. After his trade from the Rangers to the Mariners he was sent down to AAA briefly, but when he returned he hit 30 points higher and slugged 54 points higher. Now the jump from .209 to .239 in BA isn’t exciting, but it is a step in the right direction. His power is what excites people, 13 home runs in 100 games is not great, but he showed promise and improvement throughout the 2010 season that should spill into 2011.
Bust: Dustin Ackley- Even though, he isn’t slated to crack the opening day starting lineup, he potentially will push his way into the mix shortly after he gets a feel for the major leagues. The move from AAA to the MLB so soon is a bad idea though. Ackley is a very talented hitter and was extremely polished throughout college, but in AA and AAA last season he hit just .267 with 7 home runs. Safeco Field is a tough place to start out and could hamper his growth into a solid big leaguer.
Breakout: Nelson Cruz- This is the year that he puts a fully healthy season on his resume. He hits a HR every 18 ABs in his career and steals bases at a dangerous rate for an outfielder with hamstring problems. He’ll hit 35 bombs with 20 SBs and a .290 AVG in 2011.
Bust: Mitch Moreland- He was never a particularly big power hitter in the minors and his BA didn’t translate in his audition with Texas in 2010. He’s got Chris Davis (who killed the ball in spring training) still hanging around and breathing down his back. At 25, Moreland still has plenty of room to improve, but 2011 is not the year he shines.