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BREAKOUT MARLINS!


The_Punisher
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When Major League teams break camp this week in Florida and Arizona, armed with the best 25-man rosters management can assemble, there are players eager to have the kind of breakout season that becomes a measuring stick for future seasons.

The New York Mets had one of those players last season in third baseman David Wright, who nearly doubled his home run output (14 to 27) and more than tripled his RBIs (40 to 102) from 2004 to '05.

 

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went from a solid player in 2004, batting .266 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs, to a Team USA roster spot for the World Baseball Classic with a breakout season in '05 -- .291 average, 28 home runs and 105 RBIs.

 

Some breakout years occur much later for some than others. Take Yankees right-hander Aaron Small, for example. He started the '05 season as a 34-year-old journeyman Minor Leaguer at Triple-A Columbus, and had one win when was promoted to the Yanks on July 17.

 

The pinstripes came on and Small came up huge for the eventual American League East champions, becoming only the fourth pitcher in MLB history to finish a season with at least 10 wins and no losses. Now that is a breakout season.

 

Here are some of the candidates for breakout seasons in 2006:

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

 

Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Just like his daddy, Cecil, this 22-year-old first baseman has power to burn. He could be worth the price of admission just to watch him launch baseballs.

 

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: The Nationals third baseman has spent just 85 days in the Minor Leagues and probably will not spend another one there. A Gold Glove is in his future.

 

Xavier Nady, RF, Mets: Moving from pitcher-friendly PETCO Park to Shea Stadium should be just what this smooth-swinging outfielder needs to put up big numbers.

 

Jeremy Hermida, RF, Marlins: The early-season favorite to capture Rookie of the Year honors based on strong showing at the end of last season. He had solid .383 OBP in 23 games.

 

Brian McCann, C, Braves: Batted .347 with runners in scoring position during his rookie season, which was capped by a three-run home run against Roger Clemens in the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

Previewing the 2006 season

? Awards: MVP | Cy Young | Rookie of the Year

? Breakout players | Bounceback players (3/29)

? Teams to watch (3/30)

 

Keep an eye on

 

Matt Cain, RHP, Giants: Very young (21), but very good.

 

Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: His 13 home runs in 360 MLB at-bats last season were impressive.

 

Brandon Backe, RHP, Astros: All he needs is to stay healthy.

 

Conor Jackson, 1B, Diamondbacks: Equipped with all the tools to become a star.

 

Miguel Olivo, C, Marlins: Fourth team in three years could be the charm.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

 

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners: The amount of innings he pitches will be monitored closely, but he could win close to 15 games even with those limitations.

 

Casey Kotchman, 1B, Angels: Seven home runs and a .339 batting average over the final 40 games of the '05 season is clear evidence that this former No. 1 draft choice is ready for a breakout season.

 

Joe Blanton, RHP, Athletics: Don't be surprised if you hear his name mentioned in the Cy Young Award talk near the end of the season. He posted a 2.81 ERA last year when pitching on four days rest.

 

Joe Mauer, C, Twins: The third year as a big leaguer should be the charm for this talent-laden catcher. At least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs should be the result.

 

Mark Teahen, 3B, Royals: With one MLB season under his belt, he can now relax and produce the way he did during his Arizona Fall League season at the end of 2004.

 

Keep an eye on

 

Kris Benson, RHP, Orioles: A 20-game winner waiting to happen.

 

Josh Beckett, RHP, Red Sox: Much too talented to be seven games over .500 in his MLB career.

 

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: A future star on a team of current stars.

 

Sean Burroughs, 3B, Devil Rays: New home revitalizes career.

 

Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: He has the potential for a 35-homer, 100-RBI season.

 

Jim Street is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

 

 

PLAYERS PRIMED FOR MLBBreakout Seasons..LINK

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