February 13, 2013
The Lineup Card
9 Breakout Candidates
1. Ruben Tejada
2. Matt Moore
3. Johnny Giavotella
Giavotella is the Getz alternative. He's currently the understudy because he's been terrible as a major-league ballplayer, hitting .242/.271/.342 in a couple extended looks with the big club. It's hard to believe that is the same guy who has been steadily line-driving and base-on-ballsing the Pacific Coast League to death over the past two years. With Omaha, Giavotella is a .331/.391/.477 hitter, a little guy with credible pop, a strikeout every 10 plate appearances and a hard-to-hit strike zone.
In the majors, he's opted out of that plate discipline and his BABIP has plummeted and he's been terrible. Admittedly, the major-league sample might be more persuasive—even if it's a third as large. But the Royals are banking their 2013 hopes on upside, and Giavotella could be a big part of that. Few positions offer a larger gap between the 2012 baseline and the 2013 upside than second base, if Giavotella can replicate his Triple-A success. —Sam Miller
4. Mike Minor
Last year's breakout darling, Kris Medlen, may have stolen the show for Atlanta for much of the second half, but Minor quietly logged a 2.16 ERA, while allowing just seven homers and 16 walks in 87 1/3 innings. The secret, according to the southpaw himself, was harnessing his deep arsenal, which features four pitches that he uses more than 10 percent of the time. In particular, after coughing up several home runs off of his changeup during the latter part of his disastrous May, and being skipped once in the rotation by manager Fredi Gonzalez, Minor increasingly turned to his fastball versus left-handed batters and relied more on his curveball to put away righties. The result: After allowing at least two homers in five of his first 15 starts and issuing at least three walks in nine of them, he didn't surrender more than one home run in any of his last 15 trips and committed the three-or-more walk sin only once.
Minor's impressive second half was buoyed by a likely-unsustainable .252 BABIP, but while he should not be expected to maintain his 2.16 post-All-Star-break ERA over a full season, the strides that he took during that span seem legitimate. Meanwhile, the Braves' brotherly offseason figures to give Gonzalez's squad one of the best defensive outfields in the league — an asset that is music to Minor's ears, because he was the league's third-most-extreme fly-ball pitcher last year, inducing grounders on only 35.4 percent of the balls put in play against him. Between his own improvement and the team's additions, all of the pieces are in place for Minor to thrive. He was barely a replacement-level pitcher on the aggregate in 2012, amassing just 0.1 WARP, but a 2.5-win effort could very well be on the way. —Daniel Rathman
5. Jason Kipnis
Kipnis turns 26 on the season's second day and has shown the ability to hit at the highest level. His first full big-league campaign didn't live up to expectations created by his 2011 cup of coffee, and he tailed off in the second half. Still, he owns a career 863 OPS in the minors and hit well with runners in scoring position last year. That latter fact is just me trying to rationalize my choice, but the former is important: Kipnis' track record coming up through the Indians system matters.
Now that he's gotten some experience and proven that he can hold his own in the big leagues, it's time for him to take the next step and go all... uh, his top PECOTA comp is Warren Morris. No, not that. Scott Sizemore? No. Marcus Giles? Well, there was that one season. Sure, let's say Kipnis goes all Marcus Giles on the world and hits .285/.360/.450, which is somewhere between his 80th and 90th percentile projections.
Okay, not the best example. But this time I can feel it in my alimentary canal: Kipnis will break out in 2013. —Geoff Young
6. Travis Snider
The Pirates took a stab at a change-of-scenery guy last July, when they acquired Travis Snider from Toronto in exchange for reliever Brad Lincoln. Snider, not so long ago, was praised for his sound approach at the plate and a quick, controlled bat. Things got out of whack, but Snider maintains the abilities that made him a top prospect and, when the Pirates acquired him, he was excited to be a part of a “contending organization.” (What a difference an offseason makes.)
Snider enjoyed a splendid first month with the Bucs, posting a .287/.370/.402 line through August. His .353 batting average on balls in play screamed regression, but he did draw 11 walks on that span. The now-25-year-old was oddly terrible against right-handed pitching in 2012, and some regression there, coupled with the ability to hit southpaws, should bode well for Snider in 2013. It isn’t incredibly likely, but Snider could have a very strong year ahead of him in 2013. The physical ability is there, and if he finds a way to make things work, he could break out this season. —Hudson Belinsky
7. Salvador Perez
By the way, what if of the prospect dream class of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, etc., one guy from that era of development became a very-good-or-better Royal and that was Sal Perez? —Zachary Levine
8. Chris Carter
Carter slugged .514 over the course of 260 PA last year, his age-25 season. In 2013, he should see regular playing time with Houston and will have the Crawford Boxes in his sights for half his plate appearances. If he can build on the adjustments he made last year with Oakland, then 30 bombs and a respectable on-base average are very real possibilities. Carter is a potential bright spot in what promises to be a fairly dim Astros season. —Ian Miller
9. Eric Hosmer
The 2012 season was one for adjustments, and Hosmer was slow to make them. There is too much talent and track record (albeit in the minors) for a repeat of Hosmer's sophomore slump. PECOTA is forecasting a .272 TAv that is much closer to his rookie season of .281 than his second season of .242. That would be a disappointment, though. The Royals' push for contention is built around three notions: An upper-tier lineup, a dominant bullpen, and an average rotation. The last of those three has gained the most attention, and it might also be the most far-fetched. However, it almost seems like it's taken for granted that Royals will field a first-division lineup, as if 2012 never happened. If the young position players don't develop into top performers, then all the consternation over the rotation will be moot. Hosmer is in the middle of that—the Royals need him to resume his star trek, and I think he'll be up for the challenge. —Bradford Doolittle