Every year there seems to be a few players who enjoy an amazing break-out season. It was truly remarkable to witness what Carlos Gonzalez did in 2010. The almost-MVP did virtually everything imaginable for the Rockies. The powerful, fast, and defensively sound outfielder simply broke out like no one else. In 2010, along with Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista and Delmon Young were others who made a surprising major impact. Let's take a look at some players who might do the same in 2011.
"I'm going to dominate in '11."
-Alex Gordon to Bob Dutton, KC Star
The former second overall pick in the 2005 Draft has dealt with injuries along with inconsistency over the past two years. Before that, 2008 was a semi-breakout season. The former "can't-miss" prospect had an OPS+ that year of 109 accompanied with a 2.3 WAR -- Not great, but satisfactory. Especially for Alex Gordon.
Since then, it's all gone downhill for Gordon, as the converted left fielder has seen his value and playing time decrease. However, as long as he can stay healthy, Gordon is expected to be the Royals everyday left fielder in '11, in what is probably his last chance to prove that he deserves the role.
In an email conversation I had with Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton, he described a moment he had with Alex. Gordon said firmly to Bob, "I'm going to dominate in '11." As Spring Training nears, Gordon is someone to keep an eye on for the upcoming season and his potential impact in the Royals lineup would go a long way as prospects such as Eric Hosmer, Christian Colon, Mike Moustakas, and Wil Myers would greatly benefit from Gordon's potential middle of the order presence.
Over the past week or so, Vladimir Guerrero has been the center of attention in Baltimore as the Orioles, appear to have the most interest at this point. Presumably, if they sign Vladdy, Luke Scott would most likely be the left fielder. Even with Scott's not so terrible career defensive numbers (9.2 UZR), many with knowledge of the Orioles believe Pie should be the everyday left fielder. From August 2010 on, Pie hit .302/.322/.477.
A healthy 2011 season could go a long way for Pie though. The once top prospect has plenty of tools and is eight years younger than Scott. For a team like the Orioles, it might be smart to give their younger and controlable players a chance. Like Alex Gordon, Pie has always had the talent, the question is will he put it together. If so, he might be able to do some special things with his bat in 2011.
Stanton was fantastic in his rookie year. Not only was he amazing with the bat, but a 7.1 UZR in the outfield is quite impressive as well. Stanton sported a .355 wOBA and a 1.19 WPA/LI for the Marlins. Forgetting about all of the comparison that he's been given, Stanton looks to hold his own this year and for many to come. The powerful, strong, and instinctive outfielder looks to be an integral part in a possible Marlins division run in 2011.
Ah, the guy who was traded for Miguel Cabrera. Since the trade prior to the '08 season, things haven't gone so well for Maybin. There is simply no statistic imaginable that will prove that Maybin will break out, except for the fact that he was once a can't miss prospect, something like our good friends at the top of this list. Well, Maybin is now in a different organization and gets a fresh start. The Padres, at least in my opinion, gave up more than they needed to for Maybin, but since the trade everyone has been riding the Maybin trade. We'll see what happens.
Despite not getting past the first round of the post-season, the 2010 Rays might not have even won the division if it were not for Joyce's late season impact. In only 261 2010 plate appearances, Joyce put up a .361 wOBA and a 127 wRC+. The 6'4 former Tiger is destined to be the Rays everyday right fielder in 2011.
After losing Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, it's not out the question to think that Joyce can make up for some of the loss. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez will probably do so as well. Bill James projects him to be a three-win player. However, projections are projections and Joyce may very well have a breakout season. In terms of defense, Joyce was fantastic in the outfield. His 4.2 UZR in 472 innings is something to hang his hat on.
Of course, It's just as likely that none of these guys has a break-out CarGo-style year. The fact that we can speculate about their potential breakouts is somewhat telling of their already-disappointing careers. Some due to injury, some due to factors beyond their control, and some due to just not putting it all together. Whether or not one of these guys have the season we've been expecting, we know someone will have it. And we'll wonder why we didn't see it before.