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Opening Day and has come and gone, and while it’s clear guys like Jason Heyward will make a fantasy impact this season, it’s also important to keep an eye on the lesser-known sleeper candidates. With that in mind, I present to you the Fantasy Baseball Insiders’ 2010 All-Breakout Team!
Check out the 2009 All-Breakout Team, which featured Billy Butler and Matt Wieters.
C – Adam Moore – Seattle Mariners
Moore is an especially deep sleeper, given the fact that he’s currently splitting time with Rob Johnson – who hit a HR in Monday’s opener – though lacks the offensive upside that Moore possesses.
According to Baseball America, Moore “generates plus-power for the catching position.” The Texas native has hit 48 HRs in the minors the last three seasons, and owns a career .301 minor league average.
Given a healthy amount of at-bats, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Moore could prove to be fantasy-relevant at some point this season.
FBI Forecast: 400 at-bats, 40 runs, 13 HRs, 50 RBI, .270 batting average
1B – Matt LaPorta – Cleveland Indians
The centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade, LaPorta has displayed legitimate power in the minors. After hitting 22 bombs at Double-A in 2008, the former first-round pick smashed 24 HRs last year between Triple-A and Cleveland.
In addition to his “well above-average power,” Baseball America claims he also “has the patience to take walks.” This is displayed by his career minor league walk rate of 10.4 percent.
With Russell Branyan starting the season on the DL, the 25-year-old LaPorta will start at first base everyday for Cleveland. Despite a disappointing 0-for-3 debut on Opening Day, LaPorta has the potential to slug 20 HRs in his first full season.
FBI Forecast: 500 at-bats, 60 runs, 19 HRs, 70 RBI, .260 batting average
2B – Scott Sizemore – Detroit Tigers
After collecting 17 HRs and 24 steals while batting .308 between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Sizemore became the favorite to replace Placido Polanco as the Tigers’ starting second basemen.
Sizemore won’t wow you with any of his tools – though he does have 15/15 potential – making the 25-year-old capable of becoming fantasy-relevant at the second base position.
FBI Forecast: 500 at-bats, 60 runs, 13 HRs, 50 RBI, 10 stolen bases, .270 batting average
3B – Chase Headley – San Diego Padres
In 2008, Baseball America ranked Headley as San Diego’s No. 1 prospect – ahead of Mat Latos (No. 3) and Kyle Blanks (No. 10) – saying he had “well-above-average hand-eye coordination and power to all fields.”
In his first full season with the Padres in 2009, the former Tennessee Volunteer hit 12 HRs and stole 10 bases with a .262 batting average.
In his second go-around, Headley is likely to become fantasy-relevant batting fifth in the Padres’ order behind Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks. If Headley’s Opening Day performance (2-for-4, one RBI) is any indicator, the soon-to-be 26-year-old could be primed for a breakout season.
FBI Forecast: 550 at-bats, 70 runs, 16 HRs, 80 RBI, 10 stolen bases, .285 batting average
SS – Alcides Escobar – Milwaukee Brewers
While defense is his calling card, Escobar’s improved hitting ability and plus speed will soon make him fantasy-relevant.
In 2009, Baseball America ranked Escobar as the Brewers’ No 1 prospect, claiming “he projects to hit 10-15 long balls annually.” In addition to this, he’s stolen 34 and 43 bases at Double-A and Triple-A in the last two seasons.
His biggest weakness at the plate is his unwillingness to take walks (4.9 percent walk rate in the minors), which is likely to prevent him from batting near the top of Milwaukee’s lineup.
Given a full season as the Brew Crew’s everyday shortstop, the 23-year-old should be a cheap source of steals.
FBI Forecast: 500 at-bats, 70 runs, 6 HRs, 50 RBI, 30 stolen bases, .285 batting average
LF – Kyle Blanks – San Diego Padres
After combining to hit 44 HRs and 207 RBI between High-A and Double-A in 2007 and 2008, Blanks smashed 22 HRs last year, including 10 with the Padres in 148 at-bats.
The 23-year-old features a rare combination of size and athleticism. He’s built like a tight end (6’6″, 280 pounds), and possesses the ability to hit for power, average, and can even swipe a base if needed.
Given a full season as San Diego’s starting left fielder, there’s reason to believe Blanks can smash 20-25 HRs while maintaining a solid average as the Padres’ cleanup hitter.
FBI Forecast: 500 at-bats, 70 runs, 23 HRs, 80 RBI, 5 stolen bases, .278 batting average
CF – Drew Stubbs – Cincinatti Reds
The center field position is home to several good, young players. Colby Rasmus and Dexter Fowler, for example, are popular sleeper picks. Given their production in 2009, however, both players are already fantasy-relevant.
Drew Stubbs, on the other hand, collected just 180 at-bats with the Reds last season. Despite limited playing time, Stubbs totaled eight HRs and 10 steals with a .267 batting average. A strong spring reinforced his case for the Reds’ starting center field job in 2010.
Despite coming off the bench on Opening Day, Stubbs went 2-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI. It shouldn’t be long before the former first-round pick is starting everyday, and given his 20-HR/50-SB potential, he’s one of my favorite sleeper picks of the season.
FBI Forecast: 550 at-bats, 85 runs, 15 HRs, 60 RBI, 40 stolen bases, .270 batting average
RF – Will Venable – San Diego Padres
Following a sizzling August last season in San Diego (16 runs, six HR, 17 RBI, three steals, .313/.383/.573), Venable established himself as the lone right field candidate on the 2010 All-Breakout Team.
According to Baseball America, some folks in the Padres’ organization see David Justice-upside in Venable, saying he could become “a 20-25 HR hitter in time.” He’s also an average runner and has the ability to hit for a decent average.
Given a full season in 2010, the 27-year-old lefty could prove to be fantasy-relevant in deeper leagues.
FBI Forecast: 500 at-bats, 60 runs, 15 HRs, 70 RBI, 10 stolen bases, .260 batting average
SP – Mat Latos – San Diego Padres
No, I’m not a Padres fan. Latos is the fourth Padre on this list, and for good reason.
The 22-year-old Latos features a 94-95 MPH fastball, that is “at least a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale,” according to Baseball America. He also features an effective slider and an improved changeup from his high three-quarters arm slot.
In 184 2/3 career minor league innings, Latos posted a 2.49 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.5 K/9 and a walk rate of 2.3. After an impressive spring, Latos was named the Padres’ fifth starter.
Although he’s on a 150-inning limit this season, the 6’6″ right hander has ridiculous upside. Because half of his starts are likely to come in Petco Park, he has decent potential for 2010.
FBI Forecast: 150 innings, 130 strikeouts, 60 walks, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
CL - Chris Perez – Cleveland Indians
Five relievers who have little to no closing experience are starting the season as their team’s closer.
The value of Ryan Madson and Franklin Morales will likely diminish upon the return of Brad Lidge and Huston Street. Jason Frasor has Scott Downs breathing down his neck and an Opening Day blown save working against him.
Jon Rauch is a candidate for breakout closer of the year, though he’s likely to relinquish his duties to either a younger, fresher arm in the Twins bullpen, or a reliever with more closing experience that the Twins may trade for.
Chris Perez will serve as Cleveland’s closer while Kerry Wood is out with a strained shoulder muscle. Although he’s targeting an early-to-mid May return, Wood’s well-documented injury history makes his claim tough to believe.
The 24-year-old Perez has shown flashes of brilliance is the past, punching out 12 batters per nine in the minors. His mid-90’s fastball and hard, mid-80’s slider have translated to the majors, as he’s mowed down 10 batters per nine via strikeout.
Assuming Perez holds down the ninth-inning duties for the entire season, the former Miami Hurricane is capable of posting high strikeout totals with 25 saves.
FBI Forecast: 60 innings, 25 saves, 70 strikeouts, 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP.
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