Breakout Candidates- AL West

Posted: 03/03/2014 by levcohen in Baseball

Now onto the AL West, arguably the best division in baseball, for some more breakout candidates.

Kole Calhoun, Angels: This is a shot in the dark. Kole Calhoun is a 5’10” player who was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft by the Angels. Due to his height and supposed lack of power, Calhoun was immediately slapped with a “fourth outfielder” label by scouts and not given a second thought. Those labels are hard to shake, but Calhoun has actually been pretty good, from the time that he was drafted through last season, when he got his first real taste of the MLB. His cumulative on base percentage in the minor leagues is .402 (which translates well to the MLB), and, believe it or not, he can actually hit for power. Calhoun hit eight homers in his 222 plate appearances last season, and that wasn’t a fluke; he has averaged about 15 homers per full season in the minors. So Kole Calhoun is a corner outfielder who isn’t a minus in the field, can hit for power, and is a great on base guy? Sign me up! But there’s more. The Angels traded Peter Bourjos away to the Cardinals (the rich get richer), and didn’t sign a replacement. Could it be that they were opening a spot for Kole Calhoun? I think it could easily have entered their minds, and I also think that Calhoun has a great shot of hitting leadoff in this lineup. There has been nothing to suggest that he can’t get on base, and Calhoun has enough speed and power to become an all around plus in the lineup. Now, I don’t think that Calhoun will hit 30 homers or steal 30 bases any time soon. But I do think he could easily be an above average leadoff hitter. And I’m pretty sure that he’s no fourth outfielder.
Projected line: .290/.357/.471 with 17 homers and 14 steals in 621 plate appearances. 3.6 WAR

Yoenis Cespedes, Athletics: In each of his first two seasons with the Athletics, Yoenis Cespedes has had something missing. In 2012, he was great offensively but his metrics were awful defensively. Last year, Cespedes improved greatly defensively, but his offense faltered. Are we going to get both sides of the coin this year? I’m a big Yoenis Cespedes fan. He has good power, some speed, can take a walk, and is 29 years old and entering his third season. This guy has a lot of upside, as he did when the Athletics signed him before the 2012 season. I was actually surprised by how well he played in his debut season, and disappointed by how he did last year. I think Cespedes has the tools to make this the year that he breaks out from his two WAR seasons and takes a jump. I know I’ll be targeting him in my fantasy league, so that counts for something.
Projected line: .271/.350/.513 with 31 homers and 12 steals in 580 plate appearances. 4.5 WAR

Mike Zunino, Mariners: Coming into last year, Mike Zunino was a top 20 prospect with great power and solid defense. He was supposed to be ready by 2014. Then, the Mariners called him up a little too early, and Zunino inevitably struggled. He ended up spending over a month on the DL with a broken hamate bone. So the numbers didn’t end up very good. I think last year has to be considered a throwaway year for Zunino. His track record in the minor leagues is good, and this is a guy who was drafted #3 overall less than two years ago by the Mariners. The talent is clearly there. Zunino mainly needs to strike out less, which is probably correctable. I don’t think he will become a star this year (that might come later), but I do think he’ll take a major step forward.
Projected line: .271/.333/.463 with 18 homers in 430 plate appearances. 3.8 WAR

Brad Miller, Mariners: As of now, the shortstop position for the Mariners is still up for grab. After signing Robinson Cano, Nick Franklin, one of the top young players in the system, is without a position, so he is expected to challenge Miller, who ended last year as the starting shortstop, at the position. I think Miller will win the job for two reasons. One is simply that he is a better fielding shortstop. There is a reason that Franklin came up as a second baseman. The other is that he was a lot better than Franklin last season, even as a less touted player. There’s nothing flashy about Brad Miller, but he’s a shortstop who fields his position well and ended last season with 1.7 WAR in half a year. He even hit leadoff, although that might change because he doesn’t draw many walks. He has power and speed, and could hit 15 homers and steal 15 bases. Coupled with a decent batting eye (he doesn’t strike out much) and solid defense, and you get a well rounded shortstop.
Projected line: .270/.344/.453 with 15 homers and 14 steals in 540 plate appearances. 4.4 WAR

Also considered: Jurickson Profar (too obvious), Martin Perez, Derek Norris

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