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Who Are This Year's Potential Breakout Players?

March 27, 2013

For the most part, Spring Training statistics provide little predictive value. Many players use that time to play into shape and to work on specific aspects of their game, such as developing a specific pitch. Often, players face less than major-league quality opponents. On top of that, the sample sizes are so small in Spring Training that, even if teams played them as they do the regular season, it would be difficult to predict performance levels for the rest of the season.

However, we have found one element of spring training performance that has some predictive value: power spikes. Players that show a 200-point increase in their slugging percentage over their career levels have performed significantly above their career marks in the upcoming season 60 percent of the time. Jose Bautista in spring of 2010 is the most famous recent example. Last season, the predictions nailed the breakout performances among catchers in Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Lucroy, and A.J. Pierzynski. Cody Ross, Billy Butler, and Tyler Colvin also enjoyed career years.

Here’s the list of 2013 breakout candidates (with a minimum of 200 regular season at-bats and 40 spring training at-bats through March 26, 2013):

Slugging Percentages of Top Breakout Candidates
Hitter, Team Spring Career Difference
Brandon Belt, Giants .906 .418 .488
Justin Smoak, Mariners .811 .377 .434
Howard Kendrick, Angels .833 .428 .405
Ryan Raburn, Indians .833 .430 .403
Nick Hundley, Padres .773 .390 .383
Rick Ankiel, Astros .780 .422 .358
Michael Morse, Mariners .824 .492 .332
Mike Moustakas, Royals .726 .395 .331
Brent Lillibridge, Cubs .675 .350 .325
Mark DeRosa, Blue Jays .725 .412 .313
Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians .725 .421 .304
Kevin Youkilis, Yankees .778 .482 .296
Domonic Brown, Phillies .675 .388 .287
Mitch Moreland, Rangers .727 .441 .286
Wilin Rosario, Rockies .805 .522 .283
Dexter Fowler, Rockies .705 .427 .278
Alex Gordon, Royals .714 .439 .275
Craig Gentry, Rangers .618 .355 .263
Gaby Sanchez, Pirates .683 .420 .263
Bryce Harper, Nationals .730 .477 .253
Juan Francisco, Braves .692 .440 .252
Elvis Andrus, Rangers .604 .353 .251
Brandon Crawford, Giants .577 .333 .244
Steve Clevenger, Cubs .523 .281 .242
Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays .655 .414 .241
Lucas Duda, Mets .660 .427 .233
Raul Ibanez, Mariners .700 .470 .230
Luis Cruz, Dodgers .600 .371 .229
Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks .625 .400 .225
Freddie Freeman, Braves .671 .449 .222
Peter Bourjos, Angels .614 .402 .212
Ben Francisco, Yankees .636 .425 .211
Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks .636 .432 .204
Lorenzo Cain, Royals .615 .412 .203

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