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2013 Draft Prep: Al Melchior's Breakouts

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Mike Trout had the ultimate breakout performance a year ago, but he was far from being from the only young player to exceed expectations.

Chase Headley, Jason Heyward, Austin Jackson, Ian Desmond and Max Scherzer were just a few of the players to take notable leaps in their Fantasy value in 2012, and each provided a nice return for the owners who drafted them. Yet each of them showed signs of their upside potential, and there are similar players waiting to be taken in this year's drafts.

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Players tabbed as breakout candidates are far from sure things to outperform their draft position, but they are the ones who have the greatest potential to do so, and possibly by a wide margin. I've identified a dozen breakout candidates for 2013, and only a few are currently being taken in the earlier rounds on average in CBSSports.com leagues. That's the way it should be with breakouts, as they are typically high-risk, high-reward types that you should avoid as you're filling out your first few roster spots.

What these 12 players have in common, aside from relative youth, is a past history -- usually in the minor leagues -- of better skill indicators than what they have shown recently. Just as Scherzer's minor league K-rates and Headley's minor league power numbers suggested further improvement, the players profiled here have a track record that at least opens up the possibility of a great leap forward.

Jesus Montero, C, Mariners (Roto: Rd. 10, H2H: Rd. 13)

As a prospect, Montero was an enticing Fantasy keeper in long-term leagues not only because of the power he brought to the catcher position, but also because he could hit for average. In his rookie season, Montero did neither, but the potential is still there for him to deliver on both. His batting average was held down by a .293 BABIP that could have easily been higher given his 23 percent line drive rate. Montero didn't have great power at home or on the road, but with a year of experience under his belt and the Safeco Field fences coming in, he could make the jump from 15 homers to 20-plus homers.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (Roto: Rd. 23, H2H: Rd. 25)

When Belt zoomed through the Giants' system in 2010, he displayed an impressive combination of home run power, gap power and a good understanding of the strike zone. The home run power was present during his 2011 rookie campaign, but the latter two were lacking. Then last season, Belt's doubles and triples power emerged, but his home run power dissipated. The increase in line drive power that Belt experienced came mostly at the expense of his grounders, not his flyballs, but sometimes it takes a hitter time to bring the various facets of his skill set together. Perhaps 2013 is the year that he gives owners homers, triples, doubles and a high batting average all at the same time.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (Roto: Rd. 7, H2H: Rd. 7)

Freeman has already established himself as a 20-homer threat, and he's still just 23, so a jump to the 25-to-30 homer bracket wouldn't be shocking. More important, though, he should vastly improve on last season's .259 batting average. Though Freeman is no speedster, he can top last year's .215 average on grounders, plus he has put the vision problems that put a damper on his 2012 season behind him.

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 10)

Clearly, Altuve isn't going to come near the .389 batting average he achieved during his 2011 minor league season, but his contact skills and ability to square up the ball support the notion that last year's .290 average was legitimate. He just didn't make good on the potential for 10-to-15 home runs. Altuve's power tailed off in the second half as he launched fewer flyballs, and he seemed to have lost some mojo after missing a week in late June due to a hamstring injury. Maybe the timing was coincidental, but the bigger point is that Altuve was making strides as a power hitter in the first half, and he could build on that this season.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 14)

After a lackluster rookie season, Moustakas flashed some power last year, but his overall production was still lacking. He hit just .242 and failed to score or drive in as many as 75 runs. An astronomical 16 percent popup rate hurt Moustakas' value, but unfortunately, that was also a weakness of his in the minor leagues, if not quite to the same extent. However, he was able to hit for average in the minors because he made contact more frequently. Moustakas may never be a .300 hitter, but he should reach or exceed the .263 average he posted as a rookie while continuing to build his power-hitting résumé.

Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres (Roto: Rd. 19, H2H: N/A)

Low strikeout rates have enabled Cabrera to hit .333 and .297 in his last two minor league seasons, yet in spending parts of the last four years with the Padres, he has compiled a measly .240 batting average. He has struggled to make contact in the majors, especially when hitting as a righty. According to a report from MLB.com, Cabrera has been working on his right-handed swing this offseason, and he has actually experienced success against lefties as a major leaguer, back in his 2009 rookie season. With more contact and more hits, Cabrera would not only raise his average but also give himself a chance to steal 50-plus bases. The biggest risk for Cabrera right now is his reported link to the defunct South Florida PED clinic, Biogenesis of America. However, owners can get Cabrera late enough in drafts to minimize the risk involved should he receive a suspension.

Lorenzo Cain, OF, Royals (Roto: Rd. 16, H2H: Rd. 23)

Even more so than Cabrera, Cain has the upside of a .300 hitter, and one with power and speed to boot. Even with last season shaved down to just 61 games due to groin and hamstring injuries, Cain showed off some of his power and speed potential by clubbing seven home runs and stealing 10 bases. Cain's .266 batting average was a disappointment, though, and like Cabrera and Moustakas, he has shown that he is capable of making contact at a much higher rate. While his .327 BABIP was better than the major league norm, there is room for improvement there as well, as he compiled much higher rates at several of his minor league stops.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies (Roto: Rd. 25, H2H: Rd. 24)

It's easy to overlook Brown. The Phillies have continually passed him over when assembling their starting outfield, and in each of the last two seasons, he has validated their decision by putting up mediocre stats in the majors and Triple-A. It's hard to defend his performance, given his escalating ground ball rates and vanishing power, but at least he has maintained decent contact rates, and last season he managed a .286 batting average at Lehigh Valley, even though he was dealing with a variety of ailments, including injuries to both of his knees. The power he showed three seasons ago could reemerge, and the rest of his skill set appears to be largely intact. The Phillies did give Brown an extended look late last season, and he looks to get regular playing time in 2013.

Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 8)

Morrow appeared to be on his way to a breakout season in 2012, as he compiled a 2.90 ERA through his first 12 starts. He sustained an oblique injury in his 13th start and it kept him out for the next two-and-a-half months. Morrow did fare well upon his late-August return, and his final stat line featured a 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and improved walk and ground ball rates. The only thing missing was his typical double-digit K/9 rate, but after subtracting out his first four starts, Morrow posted a closer-to-typical 8/8 K/9. Morrow has never had a season where he put it all together -- a high innings count, good control and an impressive strikeout rate -- but just maybe 2013 could be that year. If so, he could be a top 20 starting pitcher.

Matt Moore, SP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 9, H2H: Rd. 8)

After an up-and-down rookie season, one might think Moore would profile as a sleeper, but he is being drafted within the first 10 rounds of typical mixed leagues. Apparently, owners see Moore's potential to be a top 30 starting pitcher as soon as this season even though he fell far short of that a year ago. Particularly in the first half, walks and home runs kept Moore from excelling, but from his fourth start on, he averaged more than a strikeout per inning. Moore has shown in the past that control doesn't have to be an issue, and his flyball tendencies weren't especially strong in the minors. He improved enough to post a 3.01 ERA in the second half, and Moore could progress even further this year.

Alex Cobb, SP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 20, H2H: Rd. 16)

Cobb isn't as heavily pursued as Moore, but like his highly-touted teammate, he started to live up to his prospect status late last season. The key for Cobb is pinpoint control, and according to BaseballReference.com, he threw only 62 percent of his pitches for strikes through the first 10 starts of 2012. In his subsequent 13 starts, though, he increased that rate to 67 percent, and he was rewarded with a 3.32 ERA over that stretch. Cobb doesn't allow many homers, and his minor league numbers hint at the potential for higher swinging strike and strikeout rates. If everything comes together for Cobb, he should be far better than the late-round option his average draft position makes him out to be.

Addison Reed, RP, White Sox (Roto: Rd. 15, H2H: Rd. 19)

As a rookie, Reed didn't quite match the ample strikeout rates from his two seasons in the minors, but there was nothing all that wrong with his 8.8 K/9 rate last year. What got Reed into trouble was a 24 percent line drive rate, and that likely contributed to unfavorable BABIP (.331) and strand (67 percent) rates. All three of those metrics are often subject to random fluctuation, and all three could easily move in the right direction this season. Add in the potential for improved strikeout and walk rates, and owners could have a top closer on their hands.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Tim Hudson wins despite short outing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:37 pm ET) Giants pitcher Tim Hudson couldn’t last six innings Friday against the Nationals.

Hudson allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out three and issued one walk during the outing. Hudson allowed one run in the first frame, but it was due to an error. The Giants made a throwing error on a double steal, allowing Anthony Rendon to come home. Hudson would later give up a solo home run to Jayson Werth. That run was charged to Hudson. He was pulled after giving up a single to Werth in the sixth inning. Hudson threw 95 pitches during the start.

With the win, Hudson improved to 9-9. He’ll take on the Rockies in his next start. 


Shane Greene earns no decision Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:35 pm ET) Yankees pitcher Shane Greene lasted five innings Friday against the White Sox.

Greene allowed three runs on nine hits over five innings of work. He struck out seven and walked two during the outing. All three runs came in the first inning. Alejandro De Aza and Carlos Sanchez led off the game with singles, and then Jose Abreu clobbered a three-run homer out to left field. Greene was able to get out of the inning without giving up any additional runs. Greene worked around base-runners two other times during the start. He put two men on in the second and fifth innings. He wound up throwing 92 pitches during the start.

Greene earned the no-decision for his efforts. He'll take on the Tigers in his next start. 


John Danks picks up no decision
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:34 pm ET) White Sox pitcher John Danks lasted just five innings Friday against the Yankees.

Danks allowed three runs on six hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked three during the game. Danks got through the first two innings without any issues, but ran into trouble in the third. With a man on, Martin Prado took Danks deep for a two-run shot during the frame. The Yankees struck again in the fifth inning, when Jacoby Ellsbury managed to double in a run. 

Danks left with the game tied, picking up a no-decision. He’ll take on the Indians in his next start.


Carlos Carrasco turns in a strong start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:15 pm ET) Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco turned in a fine start Friday against the Astros.

Carrasco gave up one run on two hits over six innings. He struck out eight and walked two during the outing. The only blemish against Carrasco during the start was a solo home run. In the top of the fifth, Marwin Gonzalez managed to take Carrasco out to right to start the scoring. Other than that, Carrasco was excellent against Houston. He was pulled after throwing 90 pitches. He left with the game tied, earning the no-decision.

Carrasco will take on the White Sox in his next start. 


Drew Smyly throws two-hitter Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:09 pm ET) Rays pitcher Drew Smyly threw a two-hitter Friday against the Blue Jays.

Smyly allowed just two hits over nine scoreless innings. He struck out four and did not issue any walks. Smyly threw 105 pitches during the outing. Smyly gave up a hit to the first batter he faced during the contest. He quickly erased that hit with a double-play. The only other hit against Smyly came in the third inning. He was able to work around the hit without giving up a run. Smyly faced just one batter over the minimum throughout the start. 

With the win, Smyly improved to 8-10. He'll take on the Orioles in his next start. 


Marcus Stroman gets knocked around Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:05 pm ET) Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman had a tough start Friday against the Rays.

Stroman allowed four runs, three earned, on 10 hits over five innings. He struck out six and walked three during the outing. The Rays slowly chipped away at Stroman each inning. An Evan Longoria solo shot started the scoring in the second inning. After a scoreless third inning, Stroman gave up a run in each of the next three frames. A walk and double brought in a run in the fourth, a double and force out brought in a run in the fifth and three singles plated a run in the sixth.

With the loss, Stroman dropped to 7-5. He’ll take on the Red Sox in his next start.


Kyle Kendrick has tough start, but picks up a win
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:03 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick had a tough start Friday against the Cardinals.

Kendrick allowed four runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one during the outing. Kendrick found himself in trouble right off the bat. He gave up two singles to open the frame. Both runs came in on an RBI-double by Matt Holliday. Holliday would advance to third on a groundout, and come in to score on a sac fly. The Cardinals also struck in the third, after Matt Adams led off the inning with a solo home run. 

Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright also struggled during the start, giving Kendrick the win. He improved to 6-11. He’ll take on the Nationals in his next start.


Adam Wainwright picks up a loss
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:02 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright had a tough start Friday against the Phillies. 

Wainwright allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits over six innings. He struck out two and walked three during the outing. The Phillies managed to scratch a run across in the first inning, but really got to Wainwright in the third. Wainwright put the first three batters of the inning on base. A groundout brought in the first run of the inning. A single and sac fly drove in the next two runs. With two outs, Wainwright walked Domonic Brown, and gave up another run on a single. 

With the loss, Wainwright dropped to 15-8. He’ll take on the Pirates in his next start.


Joe Kelly pulled for 'precautionary reasons'
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:00 pm ET) Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly was pulled for "precautionary reasons" Friday against the Mariners.

Kelly allowed one hit over five scoreless innings. He struck out five and walked three during the outing. Kelly was pulled after throwing 88 pitches. It was announced later in the game that the club pulled him for precautionary reasons. The team did not specify the extent of Kelly's injury. Kelly left with the game tied, picking up the no-decision. 

He'll take on the Blue Jays if he can make his next start.


Xander Bogaerts leaves after being hit in the head
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:56 pm ET) Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts left Friday's game after being hit in the head by a pitch.

Bogaerts was hit in the head while up to bat in the fifth inning. Trainers looked at Bogaerts following the play, but he managed to stay in the game. Bogaerts actually stayed in through the following inning, but was pulled at the beginning of the seventh. He will be evaluated for a concussion. Bogaerts was 0 for 1 with a strikeout before leaving the game. 


 
 
 
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