Viva La Vidro Presents: Baseball’s Breakout Stars of 2011.

Jhoulys Chacin (SP-Colorado Rockies): Although many observers consider Ubaldo Jimenez the “crown jewel” of the Colorado Rockies pitching staff another gem is emerging in the Mile High City who may shine even brighter than his All-Star teammate…that man is Jhouyls “of the Nile” Chacin. Lost in the midst of Jimenez’s stellar season and Charlie Sheen’s 47 84 109th trip to rehab, Chacin put together a solid 2010 campaign, posting a 9-11 record with a 3.28 ERA and 138 K’s in 137 innings (a strikeout rate higher than that of Jimenez). Still just 23, the native of Venezuela has plenty of room for growth and could see his ERA dip below three with improved control and some help from his defense. If Chacin gets better run support in 2011, he’s got a legitimate shot at a top five Cy Young finish…and that’s not just whistling Dixie.

Reid Brignac (SS-Tampa Bay Rays): Buried beneath a glut of middle infield talent in Tampa (Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett, Sean Rodriguez) former second round pick Reid Brignac hasn’t had the chance to flash his all-star level talent yet, but with Bartlett now in San Diego and Zobrist shifted to the outfield, 2011 will be the year that the Bayou Bomber finally takes center stage. Brignac managed to get 300+ plate appearances in a utility role last season, and while his plate discipline leaves something to be desired (77 K’s/20 BB’s), he showcased the power (8 HR’s, 13 2B’s, 45 RBI’s) that had the Rays thinking future star when they drafted him out of high school. With a retooled lineup (so long Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza; hello Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon) hoping to stay afloat in the always competitive AL East, Tampa Bay will be counting on Brignac to produce big in 2011; the Cajun Crusher will prove that he is more than up to the challenge.

Jordan Zimmerman (SP-Washington Nationals): With Stephen Strasburg on the mend (which we all hope goes better than Barbaro’s “recovery”) the coveted title of Washington Nationals’ staff ace will be passed to Jordan Zimmerman for 2011 (unless John Lannan’s horse tranquilizers finally kick in). Zimmerman returned from Tommy John surgery in 2010 and while the results weren’t great (1-2, 4.94 ERA, 27 K’s in 31 innings) the fact that he showed no ill effects from the operation bodes well for his prospects in the coming year. The hard throwing right-hander breezed through the minor leagues (16-7, 2.60 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) and has the raw stuff (that phrase out of context would sound awful) to contend for a Cy Young award one day. Throw in the fact that a comparable pitcher returned from T.J. surgery and dominated the NL in his second year back (Josh Johnson) and the stars are aligned for Jordan Zimmerman to have a breakout year in 2011. You heard it here second.

Jay Bruce (OF-Cincinnati Reds): Joltin’ Jay Bruce ended 2010 with a bang, sending Cincinnati to the playoffs with a walk-off home run in the season’s waning weeks. The home run was a fitting finish to a superb second half for Bruce (.306-15 HR-34 RBI’s-.951 OPS) who appears ready to team up with Joey Votto to form a dynamic 1-2 punch in the middle of the Reds’ order. Bruce has some troubling home/road splits (19 HR’s at home vs. 6 on the road) but as long as he continues to play half his games at the Great American Ballpark (which is just a little hitter friendly) that should prove to be a moot point. The powerful left-hander is also a stellar fielder (he ranked fifth in the NL with a 1.6 defensive WAR) and if he plays as well in all of 2011 as he did in the second half of 2010, the Cincinnati Reds might just have back-to-back MVPs.

Michael Saunders (OF-Seattle Mariners): I can’t get away without plugging a hometown kid can I? Well, even if I could, I wouldn’t (the fact that I have a giant stash of his cards does not influence my decision whatsoever) because Michael “The Condor” Saunders is finally going to live up to his enormous potential in 2011. The young lefty got a chance to play everyday in 2010 and made dramatic improvements at the plate (most notably drawing more walks and hitting for more power) after struggling mightily in his brief call-up to Seattle in 2009. Saunders possesses all the physical tools to be an above-average fielder and hitter, and with the Mariners expecting him to produce this year, the Condor will deliver like Newman…large and in charge.

Stay tuned for a Seattle Mariners season preview coming soon!

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One Response

  1. Great call on Jhoulys Chacin, Bud- set for 15+ wins I think – though a nickname might be necessary if he’s really ready for stardom (pronounced YOE-LeeSH SHAsheen)…Can’t wait for your 2011 World Series Predictions Bud, I really think this is the Rockies year! (as long as Dinger doesn’t ruin things with his behind home plate antics)

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