I have fear that this entry will leave me a little exposed. See I’m in two fantasy leagues, and stating my breakout picks before a draft might be stupid. But I’ve received requests for breakout choices, and for that reason I will respond. Some of these choices I’m much more confident with than others, but building a list of twenty potential breakout players is not easy. I’m not going to find the next Podsednik here, but drafting a player like that would be stupid anyway.
Brad Wilkerson- OF- Montreal- This is assuming a couple of things. I’m hoping Frank Robinson can realize that Wilkerson is not built for the leadoff role, and is not built for centerfield. Being in those two spots could potentially decrease offensive numbers, as it’s more added stress for the player. Wilkerson is one of the bright young hitters in the game, mixing fine on-base skills with developing power. He’s not very far from thirty home runs, a goal I see him accomplishing in the next two seasons. A fantastic low round selection, I’d hate to miss out on a big Wilkerson 2004.
Aaron Miles- 2B- Colorado- Second base, 27, Coors Field. Southern League MVP, International League Rookie of the Year. Throw those five numbers together and what do you have? A fine sleeper choice in the NL West. Miles is a must for the Rockie second base job, although don’t be suprised if Clint Hurdle is awed by Damian Jackson. Miles is good for an OBP of about .350, forty extra base hits (primarily doubles), and about ten steals. OBP and XBH leagues will value him higher than the traditional 5x5 league, but he’s worth a late round selection in either instance.
Josh Phelps- DH- Toronto- I’ve never been a big believer in curses (I’m a Cubs fan), so I just can’t buy the Baseball Prospectus cover curse. Phelps will turn 26 in May, and his OPS topped .900 in the second half. He could rake the ball in the minor leagues, and that should start to translate very soon. I once predicted 40 home runs, and while I won’t back down from my prediction, it should be more like 30 this year. It’s too bad Phelps isn’t qualifying at catcher anymore, otherwise he’d be owned in 100% of fantasy leagues. As it stands, his DH position won’t do much, but I think you could do worse than thirty homers in your utility role, don’t you?
Joe Crede- 3B- White Sox- If you can’t tell, I’m a big believer in two things: minor league numbers and second half performance. Crede has numerous MVP trophies from his days in the minor leagues, and I expect a big bounce back from his Sophomore slump this year. In fact, Crede is a much better bet to make it back to form than 1B Paul Konerko. After a disastrous .625OPS in the first half last year, Crede was .892 the rest of the way. He had ten more extra-base hits in the second half, and I would expect something like .280-25-90 this year, so think about him as a corner infielder for sure.
Milton Bradley- OF- Cleveland- I understand the argument that Bradley’s coming out party was in 2003, but I think that he’ll only grow from his performance. Injuries and speeding violations forced him to not eclipse the 400AB mark, so his fantasy numbers were reasonably low. But remember, he stole 17 bases last year, and some of his 34 doubles should start to head over the wall. Bradley is the opposite of most of my selections (worse 2nd half, sketchy minor league career), but he’s too talented to be forgotten. A 20/20 year is always valuable, and Bradley will be one of the key reasons the Indians make a hard run at third place.
Travis Hafner- 1B- Cleveland- I’ll be honest. In trying to pick an unlikely Rookie of the Year winner a year ago, I chose Hafner. He was coming off a fantastic 2002 minor league season, and was basically handed a Major League job. Hafner had an absolutely dreadful first half (.229/.289/.423), and an even worse April (.167/.244/.359). Yet despite all this, his OPS managed to top .800. Hafner reminds me a lot of Aubrey Huff, minus the athleticism. Six hundred plate appearances means about thirty home runs, yet Hafner may struggle to be trusted with an every day job due to his nasty platoon splits: .629OPS vs. LH.
Jason Phillips- C/1B- Mets- There’s not a considerable amount of power here, but Phillips has talent. He’s Paul Lo Duca-ish, and should post high averages with fairly low home run totals. He’s young, so the yearly HR totals may rise, but I doubt Phillips will ever top 25. Instead, he’ll post batting averages that are consistently at .300, well, until Justin Huber comes and steals his everyday job. Phillips was drastically better in Shea last season, a problem that sometimes happens to rookies. That should change in 2004, and Phillips’ numbers (at catcher!) should start to rise.
Eric Hinske- 3B- Toronto- Is it possible to call an ex-Rookie of the Year a sleeper? I really do believe Hinske belongs on this list, simply because he’s been forgotten in a fairly deep third base class. I did think Hinske’s home run total was a little high his rookie season, but I didn’t think it would be halved. Some of those forty-five doubles will be a little longer this season, boosting Hinske’s HR number back to about 20. He has to be better than a .240 hitter, and should regress into the .270s or .280s this year. He remains one of the best basestealers in the game today, although Carlos Tosca limits how much Hinske is allowed to run. Just how great is a 15/15 season? Ehh...I’d take Crede first.
Eric Munson- 3B- Detroit- If your league counts OBP, skip this guy. If you’re not in an AL-only league, skip this guy. But besides that, be introduced to Eric Munson. In only ninety-nine games last year Munson hit eighteen home runs, a testament to his 500-foot power. He remains pretty weak to southpaws, but Alan Trammell should give the kid a chance. If I was in an AL-only league, Munson would be a good choice, more worthy of a draft choice than even Melvin Mora (when ignoring the SS eligibility factor).
Keith Ginter- 2B- Milwaukee- This kid reminds me more and more of Marcus Giles every time I look at him. He’s in a competition with Junior Spivey right now, but just like the Oriole 2B twins, they should be split up before Opening Day. Ginter hit 14 home runs in limited action last year, and is a perfect selection in OBP leagues. Ginter’s power started to blossom after the All-Star Break last season, so 20-25 HR this year isn’t out of the picture. Hopefully Ned Yost is smart enough to realize Ginter is the perfect two-hole hitter, but I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon.
That list of 10 was it for today. Who do you think will breakout next year? Leave it in the comments...
Finally, I want to touch on a piece a reader pointed me to yesterday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Terence Moore wrote his newest piece on Ken Griffey Jr...
Consider this: They should switch Chipper Jones from left field back to third base, where he wasn't bad. In fact, he was good at that position, give or take a botched grounder or three. They should put newcomer J.D. Drew in left, and they should move the wonderful glove, arm and instincts of Andruw Jones from center to right.
And in center?
Ken Griffey Jr.
First of all, this is a terrible idea. Chipper is disastrous in both positions, and Andruw is ten times more valuable in center than Griffey. And even if the team were going to think about this, Griffey’s contract would pose a bit of a problem:
2009: $4M buyout
If the team wouldn’t give Gary Sheffield a three-year deal for a little more money, why would they get Griffey for five years? Griffey is way too risky to acquire, and asking three prominent players to switch positions in Spring Training is a bad idea. A few more of my favorite quotes:
- “Barring Yankee Stadium sliding into the East River by opening day, Griffey will add to Steinbrenner's collection of elites.” And why does Moore say this? He claims it’s “Just a hunch.” Good investigative journalism.
- “Steinbrenner knows that Griffey’s injury situation is a fluke.” What? Are you kidding me? Griffey has a chronic injury, and as Will Carroll points out in an interview at Red’s Daily, “If he's a step faster, he doesn't dive and hurt his shoulder.” Griffey’s injury is hardly a fluke, it’s a major concern.
- And why all the thought that “Griffey likes the Yankees”? Isn’t this the same guy that received hundreds of death threats after declining a trade to New York?
Poorly written article, not as well thought out as a columnist should be. But I won’t continue my criticism, Aaron Gleeman’s better at that than I am.
Editor's Note- Shortly after writing this article, I find the irony that Gleeman spent his whole piece today bashing Moore. Who knew?