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Who Are This Year's Potential Breakout Players?

April 03, 2012

Spring Training statistics have been the subject of many debates in baseball circles. On one hand, teams are making roster decisions based on how players have performed this spring. On the other hand, hitters are working into shape and working on their swings while pitchers are building up strength and refining new pitches. Especially early in March, raw minor league prospects play as much as major league veterans, so the quality of competition is hardly consistent.

However, our past research has shown that in certain cases Spring Training stats can predict breakout seasons. We found that players who beat their career slugging percentage by more than 200 points in Spring Training have over a 60 percent chance at beating their career slugging percentage. The most recent example was Jose Bautista, who topped our 2010 list with a phenomenal spring and followed up with 97 homers over two seasons. Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon were two names on last year's list who had career years in 2011.

Here's the list of 2012 breakout candidates (minimum 200 regular season at-bats and 40 spring training at-bats through April 1, 2012):

Slugging Percentages of Top Breakout Candidates
Hitter, Team Spring Career Difference
Andre Ethier, Dodgers .896 .479 .417
Cody Ross, Red Sox .860 .456 .404
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies .795 .393 .402
Alex Gonzalez, Brewers .780 .399 .381
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers .729 .366 .363
Chris Johnson, Astros .737 .417 .320
Joe Mather, Cubs .694 .384 .310
Darwin Barney, Cubs .647 .345 .302
Chris Young, Diamondbacks .737 .437 .300
Luke Hughes, Twins .644 .347 .297
Delmon Young, Tigers .714 .428 .286
Ryan Raburn, Tigers .735 .456 .279
Howard Kendrick, Angels .698 .434 .264
Ian Kinsler, Rangers .729 .469 .260
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs .765 .506 .259
Albert Pujols, Angels .870 .617 .253
Eric Hosmer, Royals .714 .465 .249
Jeremy Hermida, Padres .660 .415 .245
Tyler Colvin, Rockies .661 .422 .239
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox .660 .422 .239
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals .711 .479 .232
Jemile Weeks, Athletics .636 .415 .221
Melky Cabrera, Giants .617 .398 .219
Curtis Granderson, Yankees .711 .493 .218
Billy Butler, Royals .672 .458 .214
Alex Gordon, Royals .646 .434 .212
Chris Snyder, Astros .600 .394 .206
Austin Kearns, Marlins .622 .417 .205
Travis Snider, Blue Jays .625 .423 .202

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