There’s an old scouting adage: “He’ll tell us when he’s ready.”
While that mainly pertains to gauging minor league players and their major league readiness, it also applies to young major leaguers trying to live up to their potential and looking for that “breakout” season.
It’s that season when all the tools, talent and abilities come together to fulfill the many high expectations on all the scouting reports. It offers the talent evaluators confirmation that they got it right while proving the critics wrong.
Take a look at the breakout seasons Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez enjoyed over the past several years. Long regarded as five-tool players with elite physical talent, their teams and fans waited and waited for the corresponding elite production to come. It happened for a 24-year-old Kemp in 2009, when he hit 26 homers with 101 RBIs and won his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards after slowly increasing his production since his major league debut in 2006. Likewise, the same explosion happened for Gonzalez in 2010 at age 24, and then for McCutchen in 2012 at age 25.
The 2013 season should be no different. Here are seven individuals, all just about the same age as our aforementioned trio, who have barely scratched the surface of their massive potential and are primed to be among baseball’s breakout players in 2013.
1. Justin Upton | OF | Age: 25
With six years of experience, Upton is primed to finally reach his potential. He’s different than Kemp, McCutchen and Gonzalez because he’s already had a successful start to his career that includes two All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger Award and a top-five showing in 2011 NL MVP voting. He has the potential to produce 35 homers and 100 RBIs annually, but he has yet to put together a consistent year from start to finish that would really signify his arrival. Being traded to the Atlanta Braves might just be the trigger. Playing beside his brother B.J. and surrounded in the lineup with other elite young players such as Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman could spur him to bring his game to another level. The Diamondbacks didn’t believe in him and he will be motivated to show them that they were wrong to trade him.