by Craig Paulson
Every Major League Baseball season has its breakout stars, players who were previously flying under the radar or rising through the minor leagues but make the most of an opportunity and emerge as genuine standouts. For the 2011 baseball season, a handful of players appear to have all the qualities of potential stars.
Here are five players who have yet to achieve true stardom, but who have demonstrated flashes of greatness and are primed for breakout season in 2011:
Madison Bumgarner: At the age of 20, Bumgarner was called up to the San Francisco Giants from triple-A Fresno in the middle of the 2010 season and went on to help the Giants win the World Series. A left-handed starting pitcher, Bumgarner compiled a 7-6 record with a 3.00 earned-run average (ERA) and 86 strikeouts in 111 innings pitched. He pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only three hits, to beat the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series.
Bumgarner should receive every chance to show off his considerable skills as a member of the Giants’ starting rotation in 2011. Bumgarner first shows up in the 2006 AFLAC sets but his earliest mainstream cards include 2007 Bowman Draft Picks, Chrome Draft Picks, Bowman Sterling Prospects and Donruss Elite Extra Edition.
Jay Bruce: Fresh off signing a six-year contract worth $51 million with the Cincinnati Reds during the offseason at the age of 23, Bruce hopes he can live up to the high hopes of the franchise in 2011. Bruce made his debut as a Reds outfielder in 2008 but had some youthful struggles in the next couple of seasons. In 2010, however, he showed signs of putting it all together, belting 25 home runs with 70 RBIs and a .281 batting average on the season.
In an encouraging sign for those seeking a breakout season in 2011 for Bruce, 15 of his 2010 homers came in August and September. His rookie cards from the 2005 Topps Update set and the the 2005 Bowman Chrome set could offer value for collectors. He has six main rookie cards in ’05.
Gordon Beckham: Beckham was near the top of every prospect-loving fan’s list in 2009. He rocketed through the minor leagues after a stellar career at Georgia and had a solid rookie season. Last year? Hard to figure. He struggled in April and May, rebounded in the summer with a stretch where he hit .310 with six homers and 27 RBI in 171 at-bats. Then, it was back to mediocre in September.
Sometimes it just takes awhile for a player to master the game.
Beckham has talent and tools. He’s still young. And this year he’s got a pretty fearsome lineup around him. He’ll be a tough out hitting in the #2 hole for the Sox and that could lead to a breakout year. He’s on two rookie cards in 2008: Bowman Chrome and Donruss Elite Extra. Also watch his ’09 Bowman and Topps Chrome.
Pedro Alvarez: A 24-year old third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Alvarez looks like a good bet to live up to his early promise in 2011. Selected with the second overall pick by the Pirates in the 2008 draft, Alvarez displayed his power-hitting abilities in September of 2010, finishing the season with 16 home runs, 21 doubles and 64 RBIs in just 347 at-bats. His rookie cards from the 2008 Upper Deck USA and 2008 Razor sets should attract plenty of interest.
Mike Minor: A first-round pick in the 2009 draft, Minor, a 23-year-old left-handed starter, figures to earn a spot on the Atlanta Braves’ pitching rotation in 2011. In eight starts in 2010, Minor had a strong strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 43 to 11. He struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings during his stint in the minor leagues and consistently throws a fastball at 95 miles per hour. Pitching regularly for a Braves team that appears to be a strong NL pennant contender should allow Minor to rack up victories. Collectors might consider his 2010 Topps Update or Red Hot Rookie card a good buy.
Here’s a link to rookie cards of these 2011 breakout candidates on eBay.