The 2012 Baseball season has had more than enough surprises including the struggles of the Philadelphia Phillies who have come out of the gates slow or the Baltimore Orioles who have gone from the basement to competing in the AL East. This only goes to show that the league can sometimes have a drastic change of power from one year to the next.
Some players can go from having a good or bad season last year, to turning it around or going through a tough stretch the next season. Every year there seems to be a few players you've never heard of have an amazing season. Or players you didn't think would ever be more than a bench/role player suddenly turn into an all-star.
The poster boy for breakout seasons in this generation has to go to Jose Bautista. In 2009 Bautista was batting .235 with only 13 bombs and 40 Runs Batted In. In the past two seasons Bautista has hit .281 with 97 homers, and 227 RBI's. Bautista has had the biggest turn around in MLB history in my opinion.
There are plenty of players who could potentially have breakout seasons if they keep their current play up. Here are the Top 5:
I know, some people are going to think I'm insane putting Kemp on this list because of the season he had last year. But if you look at the numbers, there is a huge difference. Last year he finished number two in the MVP race, and in my opinion he got robbed by Ryan Braun. In 2011, he had a .324 average, to go along with 39 Home Runs, 126 RBI's, 195 Hits in 602 At-bats, and 115 Runs in 161 Games Played.
That's an incredible season, but if he keeps playing the way he is now (which is highly unlikely) he will have arguably the greatest season in baseball history. In 23 games he is hitting .417 with 12 HRs already, 25 RBI's, 35 Hits in 84 At-bats, and 24 Runs. He has put up better numbers in just 23 games than most bench players do for an entire season. I know it's early, but he is by far the most valuable player in the game at this point. But since he is expected to have great numbers year after year, i'll put him at the bottom of the list.
It's safe to say that it's looking like the Mariners got the better end of the deal that sent pitcher Michael Pineda to the Yankees for catcher Montero. Pineda is out for the season and his career is in doubt with a labrum tear of his pitching shoulder. He didn't make one start for the Yankees this season.
Last year for the Yankees you could see Montero's all-star potential. In 18 games he hit .328 with 4 Home Runs, 12 Runs Batted In, and 20 Hits in 61 At-bats. He looked to be the Yankees catcher of the future with Posada's rapidly declining play which lead to his retirement. But the Yank's made a trade no one saw coming, to add some much needed pitching depth.
In my opinion, I wouldn't have made that trade. Hitters last longer than pitchers in this league. This year Montero is making a name for himself in the small market of Seattle. In 22 games he's batting .294, with 4 Home Runs, 13 Runs Batted In, and 22 Hits in 85 At-bats. He is the future middle-of-the-order monster for the Mariners.
A guy who who has had an up and down career since 2005, seems to have finally figured it out this year. And it's never to late for that, especially when you're a Blue Jay, and especially when you're Jose Bautista who needs all the help he can get. Up to this point, Encarnacion has had an average career. He has at times shown a lot of promise, and at other times he has shown that he didn't deserve a roster spot, which was clear after the Reds shipped him off to Toronto in 2010.
His best season came in 2007 in Cincinnati. He hit .289 with 16 bombs, 76 RBI's, 25 Doubles, 145 Hits in 502 At-bats, and 69 Runs in 139 games played. Fairly solid numbers for a young third basemen. But he could never keep it up year after year. It was almost as if he had a good year, then a bad year, and so on and so on.
So far this season he looks to be heading to the all-star game. He's hitting .323 while already racking up 8 homers, 21 RBIs, 8 two baggers, 30 Hits in 93 At-bats, a .667 Slugging Percentage, a 1,048 On Base Percentage, and 15 Runs scored in only 24 games. If he keeps this up he could be named the most improved player of the year, and possibly be in the MVP race.
2) Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
After a solid rookie year in 2008, where he batted .285 with 17 Home Runs, 55 Runs Batted In, 23 Doubles, 84 Hits in 295 At-bats, slugging .549, with 51 Runs scored in only 80 games, he did little to impress anyone in the following seasons. In fact, he was somewhat scary to watch as during his last season with Texas in 2010 he hit a terrible .192 with only 1 home run, 4 RBIs, a .279 On Base Percentage, slugged a horrific .292, with 23 Hits in 120 At-bats, and only 7 Runs scored in just 45 games. He was the complete opposite of a breakout player.
But this season he looks to have finally figured it out in Baltimore. He is hitting .333 with 5 bombs, 13 RBIs, 7 Doubles, while slugging .627, with a 1.005 On Base Percentage, 25 Hits in 75 At-bats, and 12 Runs scored in just 22 games for the Orioles. He is still a young player, and could potentially turn his career around.
Being from Houston, I have been able to watch virtually every game. But trust me, after the season they had last year, there is no chance of me being biased and pulling for my beloved Astros. I know how horrible they were last year, and I was one of their toughest critics. But this season they have been very competitive, and in my opinion are the most surprising team so far this season.
They have the most improved player in the league in Altuve, who is on his way to have not just a breakout season, but potentially an all-star season. Ever since Craig Biggio has retired the Astros haven't come close to filling his shoes. But Altuve might just be that person.
After being called up from Double A Corpus Christi in the second half of last season, the Astros had long been out of the race, and had the worst record in baseball. there wasn't much hope for them. But with the call-ups of Altuve, J.D Martinez, and Jimmy Paredes, The Astros finally showed some hope for the future. Altuve took over at second and hit .276 with 2 homers, 12 RBIs, 10 Doubles, 61 Hits in 221 At-bats, and 26 Runs scored in just 57 games. But he did have one glaring hole. He hardly ever took a walk, in 221 at-bats he only had 5 walks, with a very low .297 on base percentage.
But like all young players he worked hard on his pitch selection during the offseason. And by the time Spring Training got here he was showing off his new and improved plate discipline. So far this season in 23 games he's hitting .367 with 1 homer, 10 RBI, 7 Doubles, 3 Triples, 33 Hits in 90 At-bats, 16 Runs scored, 8 Walks, which is 3 more than all he had last year in 57 games, and A .414 on base percentage. In my opinion he has the potential to be the Astros second basemen for the next 10+ seasons, and maybe even an all-star.
Other players who just missed my top 5 list were Robert Andino, Mike Moustakas, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Jed Lowrie. By the end of the season, this list could be completely different. Baseball is the hardest sport to keep a hot streak going, and the hardest sport to break out of a slump. For their teams sake hopefully these players keep up their amazing numbers.