Harper, Hosmer highlight all-breakout team
It is the quarter mark of the 2015 season, and we're at the point where was can finally get a sense if certain breakout seasons are for real.
With that in mind, here's a look at my all-breakout team. These aren't necessarily superstars -- though some are -- but rather a look at players who appear to have found a new level of play that should be somewhat sustainable for the foreseeable future.
Catcher: Stephen Vogt, A's
Catchers are frequently late bloomers and Vogt is now blooming. A 12th-round Draft pick of the Rays in 2007, Vogt was purchased by the A's in 2013 and has found his power stroke. The 30-year-old has as many homers this year (nine) as he had all of last year. Vogt was good last season (.752 OPS in part-time duty), but should be an All-Star in this one.
First base: Eric Hosmer, Royals
The world has been waiting for Hosmer to be an impact hitter, and the time has come. His walk rate has jumped from 6.4 to 10 percent and his slugging percentage is more than 100 points higher than his career mark.
Second base: Logan Forsythe, Rays
Dee Gordon isn't the only second baseman having a great year in Florida. While I don't think Forsythe will maintain his current OPS of .852, I love the fact that he has cut his strikeout percentage down from 21.1 to 13.3. And the fact that he can fill in at third base and in the outfield makes him a valuable asset.
Third base: Mike Moustakas, Royals
Like Hosmer, his teammate in Kansas City, Moustakas is another first-round pick finally living up to his promise. He has learned how to beat the shift that teams were implementing against him, and is poised for career highs in batting average, OBP and slugging.
Shortstop: Zack Cozart, Reds
The 29-year-old is posting the highest hard-hit rate of his career, which explains why he already has six homers, matching his total for all of last season. Cozart's .496 slugging percentage is tied for second among all shortstops.
Left field: Alex Guerrero, Dodgers
Guerrero has split time between left field and third base, and will probably continue to do so given the Dodgers' loaded roster. But he's hit when given the chance, slugging .627. Guerrero is signed to a four-year deal, and be wary if you hear his name come up in trade talks: He has a clause in his contract that allows him to opt for free agency at the end of a season in which he is traded, which limits his value.
Center field: Joc Pederson, Dodgers
The 23-year-old is as good as advertised, with 10 homers and stellar defense in center. What might be more impressive is his walk rate of 19.6 percent, which shows rare patience for a first-year player. Pederson is an early favorite for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Right field: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Simply put, Harper has been the best player in baseball thus far, the kind of player we expected when he was the No. 1 overall Draft pick in 2009. The best sign of his growth is his walk rate, which is more than twice as high (21 percent) as it was last year (9.6 percent). It is absolutely scary to think what this 22-year old might do if that plate discipline continues.
Starting pitcher: Michael Pineda, Yankees
The 26-year-old has 55 strikeouts and just three walks in 51 2/3 innings, giving him an American League-leading strikeout-to-walk ratio of 18.33. If Pineda can stay healthy for the first time in four years, he will be an AL Cy Young Award candidate.
Reliever: Yimi Garcia, Dodgers
The Dodgers have tried in recent years to buy an elite bullpen, but this year they are succeeding with a homegrown crop, and Garcia is the breakout name. The 24-year-old has fanned almost 15 batters per nine innings and gives manager Don Mattingly a bridge to Kenley Jansen.