Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
I've typically gone with a position player in my projection for a breakout, but I think this year I'm going to have to go to the mound and pick Brayan Villarreal. Villarreal was bordering on dominant last season in West Michigan, and would have finished amongst the top pitchers in the minors if he didn't tire down the stretch. I expect Villarreal's arm strength to improve after having now been through a full season, and with the reins off, him to continue firing those hard fastballs in there. His body may not have the projection that screams top prospect, but everything about what happens to the ball once he releases it does.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
It seems as though somebody picks him every year, and this year will be my turn to name Audy Ciriaco as my true breakout candidate. Initially sidelined with a bruised wrist, Ciriaco's tools have never been in question. His ability to translate those tools to actual production has been in question, however. Toward the end of last year, numerous scouts indicated they saw a drastically improved approach at the plate, as the game seemed to 'slow' for him. In speaking with Roving Infield Instructor Kevin Bradshaw over the off-season, he indicated he noticed the change as well. During the Fall Instructional League, Ciriaco showed improved pitch recognition, increased comfort at the plate, and some of his raw power translating to game action. After steady improvement at shortstop, Ciriaco will begin seeing significant time at third base as a means to get him additional at-bats. With all of those improvements working in his favor, Ciriaco will still have to overcome the challenge of facing advanced pitchers for the first time in Double-A. In the end, the numbers may not jump off the page and scream future stud, but the progress will be significant and he will begin his climb back up national prospect lists.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I'm not going to go too far off of the proverbial limb and say Jacob Turner. The Tigers' first-round pick from a year ago had a solid season debut, and I fully expect him to have a big year at West Michigan. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Turner earned a promotion at some point during the season, although the Tigers may be content to let him stay with the Whitecaps for the entire season ala Casey Crosby from last year. It will be interesting to see what the Tigers do with Turner should he dominate like Crosby did last year.
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