Five to Watch: Ready to leap to stardom
Posey, Rasmus, Santana, Upton, Wieters poised for big years
You see it in their numbers, in their eyes or in the way talent evaluators gush about their abilities.Some ballplayers are bound for glory, it seems. And some years the time feels right and the player looks ripe to break out in a big way. "All you can do," said Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton, "is prepare yourself for that big year." As we count down to Opening Day on March 31, MLB.com will identify Five To Watch in various categories -- from big names looking to get healthy to big prospects looking to crack the roster to those with big question marks looking to get their acts together.
To begin, here are five players who appear primed to take a big leap forward this season. These are players who have had accomplishments but can raise themselves to superstar status in the coming six months.
Buster Posey, C, Giants To think, earning Rookie of the Year honors while catching and batting cleanup for the world champions was only the beginning for Posey. Could an MVP trophy be next? It's not inconceivable, given Posey's natural talent and calm-under-pressure mentality. He has poise, and he has power to all fields. Furthermore, he couples those skills with the defensive acumen to call games for what was baseball's strongest starting staff in 2010. Posey hit .305 with an .862 OPS, 18 homers, 23 doubles and 67 RBIs in 108 games last season. He turns 24 next week. He's only just begun. Colby Rasmus, CF, Cardinals Rasmus has already improved his once-testy relationship with manager Tony La Russa. His next step is to improve his consistency. If he does, he could be one of the more dynamic center fielders in the game. Last year, he hit .276 with an .859 OPS (132 OPS+), 23 homers, 28 doubles and 66 RBIs. Those were respectable numbers, no matter how streaky the path taken to get to them. La Russa appears likely to bat Rasmus in the No. 2 spot in the order, which will hurt Rasmus' run production (and he certainly has the power to slot lower) but should make him a reliable table-setter for Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Carlos Santana, C, Indians The last time the Indians had a switch-hitting catcher with a sweet swing, it worked out pretty well. His name was Victor Martinez. Santana once idolized Martinez, but he has the skill to perhaps have even more of an impact at the Major League level because of his power and plate discipline. The Indians got a taste of what Santana can contribute after they called him up in June, and he hit .345 with a 1.165 OPS in his first 18 games. The league adjusted to him in July, but before Santana could be given reasonable time to readjust, his season ended on a vicious home-plate collision at Fenway Park. Now he's healthy and ready to show everybody what the fuss is all about. Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks As the first overall pick in the 2005 Draft, Upton has been in the public consciousness for so long that it's easy to forget he's only 23 years old. He is, in fact, five months younger than Posey. So while Upton hasn't yet lived up to expectations, aside from a strong 2009 season, he is young and talented enough to suggest the best is yet to come. First and foremost, Upton must stay healthy. He's never appeared in more than 138 games in a season. Last year, he hit .273 with 17 homers, 27 doubles and 69 RBIs and was the subject of rampant trade rumors. But the D-backs kept him, and they have seen improvement in his swing this spring.
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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.