The 2014 MLB All-Breakout Team with 1 Month to Go
The baseball season is full of surprises. From Jose Abreu becoming one of the best players in MLB in his first big league season to utility man Josh Harrison transforming into an All-Star, you never know just what to expect.
What follows is a rundown of the 2014 MLB all-breakout team. The selection criteria is simple. Players who have far exceeded their respective MLB track records (or who didn't have one) made the cut. There was lots of competition for every spot in the lineup, but nowhere was it fiercer than at starting pitcher.
Catcher: Stephen Vogt, Oakland Athletics
You know you've made it in the big leagues when every time you step up to the plate the fans in the right field bleachers jump up and down chanting your name.
After getting left off of the Opening Day roster, Stephen Vogt didn't join the Oakland Athletics until June 1. Since then, the 29-year-old hasn't stopped hitting. Vogt owns a .318 average, a .505 slugging percentage and nine home runs in 66 contests.
Currently, a foot injury is limiting him to the outfield and first base. When he does play catcher, though, Vogt has an excellent throwing arm.
First Base: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
Jose Abreu isn't just a lock to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, he is also a legitimate contender for the MVP.
The Cuban has been racking up extra-base hits. He has 33 home runs, which is tied for the second-most in baseball. He has also added 30 doubles, which makes the 27-year-old the first rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 to collect at least 30 doubles and 30 home runs, according to Christopher Kamka of CSN Chicago. In addition, Abreu tops baseball in slugging percentage (.602) and OPS (.973).
Playing in the first season of his six-year, $68 million deal, the first baseman has provided the Chicago White Sox with ridiculous power and incredible value.
Lucas Duda of the New York Mets is also worth an honorable mention here. The 28-year-old has gone yard 26 times and has posted an .848 OPS.
Second Base: Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dee Gordon has been one of the most productive table-setters in all of baseball in 2014. As Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes, the second baseman "has pretty much become the ideal leadoff hitter."
That would have been impossible to predict entering the season considering that Gordon posted a .234 average and a .612 OPS a season ago.
This year, he has raised his average to .293, but it's what he's done once he reaches base that has been most impressive. The 26-year-old has been a menace on the basepaths, leading MLB with 58 steals. Gordon also ranks No. 1 baseball with 12 triples.
Shortstop: Eduardo Escobar, Minnesota Twins
Eduardo Escobar has been piling up doubles in 2014.
The 25-year-old has totaled 33 two-base hits, which gives him a share of the lead in that department among all shortstops. According to Mike Bernardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Escobar is aiming to end the season with 40 doubles.
Chris Owings was also in the running to claim this spot. However, the 23-year-old's promising rookie campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks has been interrupted by a shoulder strain. Owings is currently rehabbing with Arizona's Triple-A club, according to Sarah McLellan of AZCentral.com.
Third Base: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
The future is looking bright for Anthony Rendon.
The right-handed hitter has demonstrated surprising power in 2014, totaling 32 doubles, six triples and 17 home runs. Rendon has also swiped 13 bases in 14 attempts and provided plenty of value with his glove as well. The 24-year-old has saved five runs at third base, according to Baseball Info Solutions calculations on Baseball-Reference.com.
All that production led teammate Wilson Ramos to dub Rendon an "amazing player," via James Wagner of The Washington Post.
Todd Frazier has also been putting up numbers that can't be ignored. However, the Cincinnati Reds third baseman gets edged out by Rendon because Frazier's stats have fallen off in the second half. Since the All-Star break, Frazier has just three home runs after collecting 19 in the first half.
Left Field: Josh Harrison, Pittsburgh Pirates
Josh Harrison came out of left field to earn a spot on the NL All-Star team this season.
Since his surprise inclusion in the Midsummer Classic, the 27-year-old has been playing even better. In the second half, Harrison has posted a .910 OPS and connected on 14 doubles and seven home runs. On the season, the right-handed hitter is batting .304 with 12 home runs and 17 steals for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In the field, Harrison has started games at five different positions and has recently settled in at third base. He won't win the NL MVP award, but he will land in the top 10 on the ballot.
Center Field: Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins
After rising through the minor leagues as a shortstop, Danny Santana has found a home as the center fielder for the Minnesota Twins.
The switch-hitter, who owns a .319 average, has been providing all sorts of production for the AL Central club. Santana has collected 17 doubles, six triples and six home runs while also swiping 12 bases.
There's no question that the 23-year-old has been excelling in the outfield. However, as manager Ron Gardenhire explained, via Tyler Mason of Fox Sports North, Santana is destined for a return to shortstop.
"I want him to get in there and get the time in there playing. I don't want him to forget about it. ... We think he's going to be a good shortstop," he said.
Right Field: Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
Marcell Ozuna is a rising star.
Just 23 years old, Ozuna has clubbed 19 home runs for the Miami Marlins in his first full season in the big leagues. Plus, as manager Mike Redmond explained, via Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel, the outfielder is clutch.
"He seems to rise to the occasion. I always feel confident when he's at the plate. He's one of those guys that can get a big hit at any time."
Having spent nearly all of the season in center field or left, Ozuna is slightly out of position on this team. However, as you can see in the MLB.com video above, he definitely has the arm to play right.
Designated Hitter: Chris Carter, Houston Astros
Chris Carter is on an absolute tear.
Since July 1, the right-handed hitter has gone yard 20 times. He has now hit a career-high 33 home runs on the season, which is tied for the second-most in baseball.
His manager, Bo Porter, thinks that the 27-year-old could crack the 40-home run plateau in 2014, per Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle: “I think it’s definitely in reach. You look at how he’s been swinging the bat, and 40 home runs is definitely in reach and I hope he’s able to get it.”
Punchouts remain a major issue for Carter, but the designated hitter has batted .289 over the past two months.
The Starting Lineup
- Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
- Jose Abreu, 1B, Chicago White Sox
- Chris Carter, DH, Houston Astros
- Stephen Vogt, C, Oakland Athletics
- Josh Harrison, LF, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Marcell Ozuna, RF, Miami Marlins
- Danny Santana, CF, Minnesota Twins
- Eduardo Escobar, SS, Minnesota Twins
Starting Pitcher: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians
It's remarkable to look back and realize that Corey Kluber didn't make the All-Star team in 2014.
The right-hander has been dealing for the Cleveland Indians, posting a 13-8 record with a 2.52 ERA in 28 starts. The 28-year-old is also second in all of baseball with 213 strikeouts.
While the right-hander gets the nod, there were plenty of other starters in the mix. Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels, who recently tore his patellar tendon in his left knee, was a leading contender. Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs, Tanner Roark of the Washington Nationals and Wily Peralta of the Milwaukee Brewers were also part of the conversation.
Closer: Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
Sean Doolittle hasn't given up a run since July 6. The left-hander won't be allowing one for a while, either, as he recently landed on the DL with a strained right intercostal, per Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area.
The key to success for the Oakland Athletics closer has been his unmatched command. Doolittle has thrown 75 percent of his pitches for strikes this season, which is the highest percentage for any pitcher who has worked 50 innings, per ESPN Stats & Info. In 55.1 frames, the lefty has 80 strikeouts and just five walks.
While he's not a closer, Dellin Betances is worth an honorable mention. The 27-year-old has posted a 5-0 record with a 1.52 ERA for the New York Yankees. Betances has also totaled 114 strikeouts in 77 innings and limited the opposition to a .146 average.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.