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Here in central Pennsylvania, it is finally above freezing and the snow of the long winter has begun to melt. As winter begins to fade away and the subtle signs of spring begin to move in comes with it the promise of new beginnings. One of these begins is the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. The best time of the year, baseball season is only a few short sleeps away. With the start of a new season comes men who will figurately and literally step up to the plate. While some will buckle under the weight of playing against the best in the world.  To kick off baseball season here at Pressing Coverage I will be giving y’all my players who will break out this upcoming year. By breakout, I don’t mean they will have a performance rivaling a fusion of Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout, but a player who will rise to the opportunity and become relevant in the national spotlight. I also will spell out the players I believe will look back on 2017 as a year to forget. So sit back, crack open some peanuts and crackerjacks, and enjoy.

NL West 

Breakout

Matt Moore SP San Fransisco

Flashback to 2011. An unknown singer from England named Adele dropped her first hit single “Rolling in the Deep.” The iphone 4S had just been released. And the top three prospects in major league baseball were Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Matt Moore.  Now seven years later, Adele just won album of the year, the iphone continues as a commercial success, and two of those three prospects have risen to stardom. Standing alone is Matt Moore. After breaking into the league by storm, Moore was sidelined for 16 months due to Tommy John surgery. After an encouraging return initially, Matt never seemed to look like his old dominant self. Flash forward to this past season where Moore  was shipped off to the golden state in a trade deadline deal. After moving to the more pitcher-friendly Bay Area, Moore posted better results with a FIT half a point lower than his actually ERA. This would suggest that better results are to be seen in 2017. Given his top prospect pedigree, I would put my money on Matt Moore this upcoming season.

Projected Stats: 3.68 ERA 1.21 WHIP 180 K in 190 IP 

Hunter Renfroe OF San Diego

Hunter was drafted 13th overall by the Padres in the 2013 First-Year Players draft. Since then, he has slowly but surely conquered his way through the San Diago system. This past season, Renfroe was given a taste of the Majors in September. In a very small sample size, he put up 4 HR and 14 RBI in only 36 plate appearances. I expect Hunter to take the league in a very similar way to Stephen Piscotty. Though getting to the majors a few years later than their peers, they are able to get up and start producing immediately. Look for Renfroe to be one of the first pieces to fall into place for the rebuilding Padres.

Projected Stats: .265/.310/.422 20 HR 64 RBI  

Breakdown

Ian Desmond 1B Colorado

After starting 2016 scorching hot, Desmond looked to be on his way to an MVP campaign or at least a career. This dream was soon cut short during the second half of the season. Where Ian posted an abysmal .630 OPS. For most a move to Colorado would mean an increased offensive performance, yet Ian’s season already seems in jeopardy of a bust. A severe hand injury which will have him sidelined for 4-6 weeks seems to be a sign of things to come for Desmond. Along with having to learn his third position in three years. I can see Desmond having a tough time in 2017. Though given the great times he gave Rangers fans in his short time in Arlington, I really really hope that I am wrong.

Projected Stats: .245/.295/402 15 HR 54 RBI 

Fernando Rodney CL Arizona

After being one of the most dominant closers in the game, Rodney has slowly fallen from grace. Rodney also had a fantastic start to his season, dominating in San Diego. Yet, after being traded to Miami Fernando posted a hilariously bad 5.89 ERA. Given Rodney’s tendency to give up home runs, moving to the desert is most likely going to only make his problem worse.  Fernando also had difficulty with handing out free passes, walking over 6 batters per 9 innings. Due to his inconsistent track record, I can’t see Rodney firing the arrow in Arizona for too long.

Projected Stats: 4.34 ERA 1.30 WHIP 5 Saves in 43 IP 

NL Central 

Breakout

Chad Kuhl SP Pittsburgh

Chad has very quietly dominated in his time through the Pirates farm system. Due to his history of success, Kuhl was given a change in the Pirates rotation. At 23 Chad was able to hold his own against major league hitting. His 4.20 ERA and 3.95 FIP suggest that better results are coming in the near future. While he is not destined to be the next Clayton Kershaw he should be able to put up 200 respectable innings as the number 4 starter for the Pirates. Which is a lot better than what most other teams could say.

Projected Stats: 3.88 ERA 1.25 WHIP 157 K in 205.1 IP 

Wilson Contreras C Chicago

While mostly overshadowed by the Tremendous performance of Gary Sanchez. Wilson also had a fantastic offensive and defensive year for the Cubs. Where he was able to put up 12 HR and 35 RBI in a little over 280 plate appearances.  After being a relatively unknown prospect Conteras started to garner hype in 2015 which eventually lead to his call-up in the middle of the 2016 campaign. Given a full year as the backstop in the middle of a stacked Cubs lineup. I can see Contreras being the best offensive catcher in the National League.

Projected Stats: .274/.332/.444 17 HR 75 RBI  

Breakdown

Eric Thames 1B Milwaukee

After failing to gain his footing in the MLB, Thames made a name for himself in the KBO. Over a three year span, he launched 126 home runs. This turned the heads of MLB executives which prompted his return to American at age 30. I am extremely skeptical that Thames will be able to handle the quality of pitchers in the pros. Which are on a whole another level compared to the KBO.  Given his previous difficulties in finding success in the majors, I can’t see Thames doing much better in his second go around.

Projected Stats: .220/.285/.402 12 HR 41 RBI  

Junior Guerra SP Milwaukee

Guerra was one of the surprises of the 2016 season. after putting up an elite (did someone say Joe Flacco?) 2.81 ERA in a little over 120 innings pitched. After bouncing around the minors for most of his career Junior made the most of his opportunity in a big league rotation. Yet his FIP which sat at almost a point higher than his ERA, suggests he may have been extremely lucky last year. With a year at the pros under his belt, I don’t see Guerra completely imploding, yet I expect him to make a sharp regression to the mean in 2017.

Projected Stats: 3.92 ERA 1.26 WHIP 143 K in 176 IP 

NL East 

Breakout

Zach Wheeler P New York

Another victim of the dreaded Tommy John. Which has sidelined Wheeler since 2014. Yes you read that correctly, 2014. Before his injury, Wheeler looked to be the Robin to the Met’s Dark Night. Due to injury Wheeler has been given a shot at New York’s rotation to start out the 2017 season, yet he will be on a strict 125 inning limit due to his injury history. While his value may be limited in 2017, I expect Wheeler to regain his old form and once again establish himself as a dominant starter in a loaded Met’s rotation.

Projected Stats: 3.76 ERA 1.17 WHIP 130 K in 125 IP 

Dansby Swanson SS  Atlanta

Dansby has had a wild career so far. After being drafted first overall in the 2015 draft. He was subsequently sent as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade to Hotlanta. Where he was called up to a major league roster a little over a year after being drafted. Swanson thrived in his short 38 game stint in the Majors. Where he posted a .301/.361/.442 line after ONLY 569 minor league at bats. He looks to be the center of the up and coming Braves’ rebuild. Dansby will be their leadoff man and shortshort of the future.

Projected Stats: .286/.334/.407 11 HR 60 RBI 

Breakdown

Micheal Saunders OF Philadelphia

Saunders had a breakout season north of  the border, in the middle of a stacked Blue Jays lineup. This season he looks to be the premier hitter of the less impressive Phillies lineup. 2016 will stand out as an outlier for Saunders. Moving to Philly will provide him with less opportunities for meaningful stats with less talent in the lineup. Also, his .321 BABIP compared to his .253 average suggest he was getting lucky during the course of the season. Finally, his lack of a track record of success in his previous seven years in the majors suggests he was a product of his environment and not of his talent.

Projected Stats: .243/.302/.410 15 HR 53 RBI 

Brandon Phillips 2B Atlanta

Phillips move to Atlanta stands as one of the most head-scratching moves of the 2016 offseason. For a team in the middle of a rebuild, they decide to add a 35 year old 2B who seems to be in the in the later stages of his career. Though this article is not on offseason moves so I digress. At 35 years old father time is bound to catch up to Phillips in the near future. And with a mostly lackluster lineup around him, the situation does not look very good for him. Though Brandon might have great value off the field, serving as a great mentor for the many younglings of Atlanta’s future.

Projected Stats: .271/.313/.394 5 HR 46 RBI

AL West 

Breakout

Jurickson Profar Util Texas

I’m going to get this out of the way. This is 110% a homer pick by me. As a yuge Rangers fan, I am DYING to see Profar blossom into the star everyone expected him to be. With his return to the major league team after nagging shoulder issue, Profar showed…. some signs of hope. The most encouraging one was him getting back on the field. Profar can’t become the next AL MVP if he never gets to swing the bat. So his return to the diamond was an encouraging sign. Next Profar showed why he was considered the top prospect in baseball from a few years ago with his World Baseball Classic where he has a 1.266 OPS, a homerun, and 4 RBIs. The only thing holding Profar back is finding him a consistent position to get at bats. If the Rangers can find a way to get Jurickson on the field. Watch out world.

Projected Stats: .275/.340/.414 8 HR 55 RBI  

Jharel Cotton SP Oakland

Jharel Cotten has worked his way from being a 20th round draft pick to top prospect, and now a major league starter. After being traded to the A’s at the trade deadline, Cotton was given a chance to start for Oakland. Over 5 starts, the 25 year old put up a fantastic 2.15 ERA. Cotton followed up this showing by earning a spot in the rotation for the upcoming year. Look for Jharel to provide stability in what has been a mediocre Oakland rotation.

Projected Stats: 3.66 ERA 1.22 WHIP 160 K in 150 IP  

Breakdown

Josh Reddick OF Houston

After being moved to Los Angeles at the trade deadline, Reddick put up one of the worst post trade deadline performances that I have ever seen. He was given the shot to play for a team competing for a title and responded by putting up a .258/.307/.335 line with 2 HR and 9 RBI. Combine this with Reddick’s long history of being injury prone makes me very turned off by his potential in 2017. The only thing that encourages me is that Reddick is joining a stacked Houston lineup. Only time will tell if Reddick is able to regain his old form.

Projected Stats: .248/.307/.415 14 HR 49 RBI 

Jean Segura SS Seatle

Segura looked to be one of the rising stars of the league with a breakout performance in 2013 with the Brew Crew. Yet followed that season up with two more of mediocrity. After moving the desert, he was once again able to regain his form. Last season Segura had a career high BABIP at .352 and ISO at .181. Two that I feel are bound to regress in 2017. Also, given his inconsistent history, it is hard to believe this is the real Jean Segura. I expect him to take a step back as a member of Seattle.

Projected stats: .270/ .311/.380 9 HR 46 RBI 

AL Central 

Breakout

Raul Mondesi 2B Kansas City

After being consensus top prospect, Mondesi’s stock took a nosedive after being suspended for PED use. Raul was then rushed to the major leagues where he was overwhelmed by the talent at the sport’s highest level. Even still, Mondesi has a fantastic track record in his time in the minors. Manager Ned Yost has also instilled confidence in him by naming him the opening day starter at 2B. While he may struggle at first, I fully expect Mondesi to push through the adversity and thrive in the majors.

Projected Stats: .260/.322/.416 3 HR 36 RBI  25 SB 

Daniel Norris SP Detriot

After being a highly touted prospect for many years Norris was finally given the chance to stick to a rotation this past season. During his 13 game stint in the majors, he had a 3.38 ERA with 71 Ks. With an equally as impressive spring, Norris has earned a stop with the Tigers in 2017. Given his prospect pedigree and his short time in the majors, I can see Norris establishing himself as a fantastic middle of the rotation starter for Detroit. At only 24 years of age, Norris can establish himself as a major asset for the Tigers for years to come.

Projected Stats: 3.77 ERA 1.28 WHIP 176 K in 168 IP 

Breakdown

Tyler Naquin OF Cleveland

Naquin broke out for the Indians and played an important role in the road to the World Series. Yet his absurd BABIP of .411 and strike out rate over 30% suggests that things may be too good to be true for the young center-fielder. Also, Tyler played in a platoon to limit his at bats against lefties which he has historically had difficulties with. A luxury that he will have less of in 2017 as he serves as the primary CF. I expect Tyler to hit a sophomore slump in the upcoming season.

Projected Stats: .247/.315/.405 12 HR 51 RBI 

Jose Quintana SP Chicago

Quintana has been one of the most reliable and consistent starters in baseball over the last fours years. Yet he has had the good fortune of being behind Chris Sale for those years. With Chris now out of the picture, the title of ace has been passed to  Jose. And with it comes all the weight of the title. Quintana has been a fantastic SP2 yet I feel he does not have the makeup of a true ace. I feel the expectation and pressure of his new found situation will be a detriment to his ability on the mound. Also, his high BABIP and FIP suggest he has had a fair bit of good luck in the past. Will Quintana still be a solid pitching in 2017 ? Yes. Though the White Sox should highly consider trading him before his stock is diminished by a step backwards.

Projected Stats: 3.81 ERA 1.24 WHIP  170 K in 188 IP

AL East 

Breakout

Aaron Judge OF New York

Aaron Judge is not your average baseball player. At 6-7 230 pounds he looks more like an NFL linebacker than a right fielder. As one of the top prospects in the rich Yankee’s system Judge looks to have the highest power potential out of every player in the system and most in the league. Judge reminds me very similarly of Joey Gallo. Both are players who will live and die  by there ability to hit home runs. In his cup of coffee with the major league club, Aaron has had some major difficulties. Though his ability to earn the starting right field job suggests he will have every opportunity to figure things out and become the next in line to be one of the great Bronx Bombers.

Projected Stats: .230/.301/.476 25 HR 66 RBI 

Chris Archer SP Tampa Bay

After establishing himself as the ace in Tampa, Archer took a step back in 2016. Where posted an ERA over 4. Though his FIP suggests that the ace struggled with bad luck over the course of the season. An encouraging sign was a perfect start with team USA during the WBC. After a down season, I fully expect archer to bounce back and serve as a role model for the young Ray’s staff.

Projected Stats: 3.40 ERA 1.16 WHIP 217 K in 205 IP 

Breakdown

Chris Sale SP Boston

Yep you read that correctly, but lets take a moment to think this through. Highly touted left handed pitcher? Check. Previously flawless track record? Check. Moved to an AL East team? Check.  Even given his spotless history in Chicago, with the recent struggles of David Price on my mind I can only feel the world for Sale. Moving into the AL East is one of the most volatile environments for a pitcher. Which makes me extremely bearish for his projections for his upcoming season.  Will Sale be a bust this upcoming season? Most likely not. Though, I feel his performance on the field will not equate to what was given up to acquire him.

Projected stats: 3.65 ERA 1.17 WHIP 210 K in 200 IP 

Jose Bautista OF T0ranto

As Jose approaches his age 36 season, the stats he put up last year looks to be the first signs that time is beginning to catch up to him. Where he saw decline and career lows in many of his stats across the board. While the potential for power will remain there I expect Bautista to continue he gradual decline.

Projected Stats: .233/.330/.440 19 HR 61 RBI

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