by Don Phan
Every major league baseball season brings not only hope to long-suffering fans but also gives players the opportunity to fulfill the expectations that they’ve been dealt with, sometimes unrealistically.
Every team has several “phenoms” that are looked upon to justify all the hype and hoopla that surrounds them, and the pre-season serves as a “clean slate,” when last season is more or less forgotten.
The list of sure-fire prospects who fail miserably is never-ending, while less ballyhooed prospects have the opportunity to increase their standing with perseverance and maximum effort.
It’s impossible to predict with any degree of certainty which players will “step up” their game, but several factors tend to give some more of an advantage than others. Injuries, trades, free agent defections and the trite but true axiom, “in the right place at the right time” all come into play. Another route to the breakout season involves prospects who suddenly “click” after several seasons of struggling to adapt to the big leagues.
For the upcoming 2013 season, the following 10 players are poised for that “breakout” season.
10. P Jose Fernandez, Miami
A first-round pick in 2011, Fernandez has moved up rapidly through the Marlins’ organization and is expected to be a strong contender for a spot in the starting rotation. A combined 14-1 in two 2012 minor-league stops, Fernandez has a 97 MPH fastball and a wicked slider and only lacks a major-league changeup to complete an impressive repertoire.
9. SS-2B Jurickson Profar, Texas
Despite having Elvis Andrus ahead of him at SS, Profar’s skills and potential will force the Rangers to find a position for him in 2012. Rated as one of the best minor-league prospects in baseball, the 19-year old Curacao native has improved in each of his three professional seasons and demonstrated his readiness by hitting a home run in his first MLB at-bat on September 2.
8. OF Byron Buxton, Minnesota
One of the best young “five-tool” prospects in the majors, Buxton oozes athleticism, particularly with his elite speed. Still very much a work-in-progress, the 19-year old Georgian appears to be tailor-made for Minnesota’s outfield, where speed and range are a necessity.
7. OF Jason Heyward, Atlanta
Even though 2013 will be his fourth big league season, the “J-Hey Kid” is still seeking the consistency that will undoubtedly make him one of the game’s superstars. With the off-season acquisitions of the Upton brothers (B.J. and Justin), Atlanta’s outfield could be almost unfairly athletic, and with those additional bats surrounding Heyward, 2013 could be the season Braves fans have been waiting for.
6. OF Jackie Bradley, Boston
It seems as if the Bosox have been seeking an athletic-type such as Bradley forever. The 22-year old has excellent power potential and although not blessed with blazing speed, plays CF very intelligently and never seems to be out of position. Expect Bradley to be a fixture in Beantown soon.
5. 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Despite having been bounced around thus far in his young career, Rizzo appears to have not only found a home with the Cubs, but he’s also quickly becoming a critical component in the club’s rebuilding process. Called up in late June, the left-handed Rizzo immediately made an impact with three game-winning RBIs in his first five games, a Cubbie first. Over 87 games, Rizzo hit .285 with 15 HRs and 48 RBIs, numbers expected to increase in 2013.
4. SS-OF Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati
With an astounding 155 SBs in just 132 minor league games over the past two seasons, it’s no mystery as to Hamilton’s forte. Still learning to switch-hit, the Reds are hoping he can develop better plate discipline and become a dynamic leadoff hitter. The primary question involves his position, although his athleticism may force Cincinnati to find a slot for him.
3. OF Tyler Austin, NY Yankees
A natural-born hitter, Austin hit a combined .354 in 2012 between four stops and will find the spacious grounds of Yankee Stadium to his liking. A 13th-round draft pick in 2010, Austin’s offensive capabilities may soon land him a RF slot in the Bronx much sooner than anticipated.
2. OF Nick Castellanos, Detroit
Impressive physically (6’4 210-lbs.), Castellanos is on the fast track to the major leagues after just two seasons in the Tigers’ system. Not yet an accomplished power-hitter, the 21-year old is expected to continue maturing with added experience and become a fixture in Detroit, perhaps as soon as 2013.
1. OF Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Perhaps the closest thing to Bryce Harper in the 2013 class, Myers has already convinced scouts that his future (barring injury) is a bright one. Splitting 2012 between Double-A and Triple-A, Myers finished second (among all minor leaguers) in HRs, fourth in RBIs and third in slugging percentage. Dealt (grudgingly) from the Royals to Tampa Bay, look for Myers to quickly become the face of the Rays’ franchise.
Author bio: Don Phan writes sports content for Fanatics Inc. Fanatics provides the latest in licensed sports merchandise and have a great selection of MLB baseball gear of all Major League Baseball teams.