With the football season now in completion, the sports world is starting to turn its attention back to the great game of baseball. This week has seen the return of fantasy baseball as many sites are rolling out leagues for the 2010 campaign. Now is a great time to start getting prepared for your drafts and trying to get that extra edge on your fellow league members. In the first part of our fantasy preview, I want to take a look at some potential breakout candidates from the American League. Last season had its fair share of breakout performances in the AL with such names as Zack Greinke, Kendry Morales, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, and Ben Zobrist making great strides in their careers. Who are some potential breakout candidates this season?
- Matt Wieters (C) Baltimore Orioles – Wieters came into the league last season as a hyped can’t-miss prospect. While he didn’t display the numbers many hoped for last season, he has fantasy owners encouraged by his second half line of a .301 AVG, 6 HR, and 33 RBI along with a .362 AVG last September. He will be handed the everyday job this season and has power that is still developing. Wieters has arguably the most upside of any young hitter and is an All-Star in the making.
Bill James Projection: .311 AVG, 20 HR, 92 RBI, 75 Runs, .865 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .304 AVG, 19 HR, 90 RBI, 81 Runs, .856 OPS
- Adam Jones (OF) Baltimore Orioles – Another Orioles youngster has the chance to reach his great potential this season. The former Seattle Mariners prospect played his second season in the Orioles outfield last season and put up some respectable numbers for fantasy owners. While he has battled some nagging foot injuries the past two seasons which included missing all of September last season, his power numbers took a step up as he increased his HR from 9 in 2008 to 19 last season. Jones also possesses good speed, but has yet to translate that into SB so far in his career which could be due to his foot injuries. He has the talent to be a consistent 20 HR-20 SB player in this league and the possibility exists that he could reach those numbers this season. I predict a Justin Upton-like performance from Jones this season.
Bill James Projection: .284 AVG, 22 HR, 83 RBI, 95 Runs, 13 SB, .804 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .283 AVG, 21 HR, 86 RBI, 90 Runs, 14 SB, .807 OPS
- Gordon Beckham (2B) Chicago White Sox – The 2008 first round draft pick of the White Sox needed only 233 AB in the minors to reach the big league club last season and he did not disappoint in his time in the majors. Some would argue that Beckham was snubbed for the Rookie of the Year Award last season as he finished fifth in the voting despite finished with a solid .270 AVG, 14 HR, and 63 RBI in only 378 AB. Beckham will be a solid choice for fantasy owners this season as he should display more power with more AB and also brings the added luxury of multiple position eligibility as he will shift from third to second base this season.
- Billy Butler (1B) Kansas City Royals – I guess you could say Butler already had his breakout season as he had a .301 AVG, 21 HR, and 93 RBI last season. However, I feel Butler is just scratching the surface and will establish himself this season as one of the elite power hitters in the AL. While the projections show numbers comparable to last season, I expect Butler to become a 30 HR-100 RBI hitter and maintain his .300 AVG. Butler should produce some great numbers as a middle-round pick as the first base position is loaded with depth. If your skeptical of Butler’s chances to repeat last seasons numbers take a look at his second half line of a .314 AVG, 13 HR, and 55 RBI in 287 AB for guidance.
Bill James Projection: .307 AVG, 17 HR, 81 RBI, 67 Runs, .837 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .307 AVG, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 86 Runs, .875 OPS
- Franklin Gutierrez (OF) Seattle Mariners – Gutierrez saw time as an everyday center fielder for the first time in his career last season with the Mariners. He rewarded the Mariners with a solid season in which he had a .283 AVG, 18 HR, 70 RBI, and 16 SB. I expect Gutierrez to take the next step in his career with a new contract in tow and an improved lineup around him in Seattle. He is entering the prime of his career as he will turn 27 this season and a 20 HR-20 SB season isn’t unrealistic for this season. Gutierrez could be quite a pickup for fantasy owners this season.
Bill James Projection: .277 AVG, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 88 Runs, 14 SB, .773 OPS
MLB.com Projection: .278 AVG, 16 HR, 74 RBI, 87 Runs, 18 SB, .758 OPS
Up Next: NL Breakout Candidates