In the final installment of this series, we look at the two teams with the best regular season records in baseball last year. Both teams are loaded with talent, so it takes special talent to be a breakout candidate.In Los Angeles, Alex Verdugo might just squeeze his way into a crowded outfield, and in Cleveland, Francisco Mejia is going to catch some attention Luis Severino Jersey
, even if he has to learn a new position to do it.MORE: Full list of spring training reporting datesHeres a closer look at both:Dodgers: Alex Verdugo, OF2017 stats: .174/.240/.304, 23 AB, 1 HR, 0 2B, 4 K, 2 BBThe Dodgers arent sporting a roster that will leave a lot of room for anyone new to crack the depth chart, but Verdugo might be the guy to do it. The 21-year-old was good enough as a pitcher and hitter as an amateur to warrant questions about how he would be drafted, but thus far Verdugo has rewarded the Dodgers decision to select him as a batter.The 2014 second rounder has mashed at every level, and if given the opportunity its reasonable to expect that he will do the same in the majors. Last season, Verdugo had only a handful of plate appearances, and he may not have impre sed in that stretch, but his mature approach and above-average hit tool will make for a quality major league hitter.Verdugos first look in the majors was brief, coming at the end of the season when rosters expanded. He had only four hits, but one of those a pinch-hit solo blast against the Rockies on Sept. 10 showed a sparkle of the promise that Verdugo holds.Why he could break out: Even though Verdugo didnt do a lot of hitting in his 23 at-bats with the Dodgers last season, there is every indication that he will if given greater opportunity. Verdugo has the previously mentioned above-average hit tool and the potential for power, though it has not translated to in-game just yet. Even if it doesnt, Verdugos plate approach belies his years and profe sional experience.In his short stint last season, Verdugo struck out only 16 percent of the time, but this was up significantly from his usual rate in the minor leagues. Prior to being recalled to the majors, Verdugo was striking out only 10 percent of the time in Triple-A. Though the sample is small, his tendency to swing outside the zone is slight, and when he does venture beyond the strike zone he makes regular contact. It would take more than 15 games to show whether he can do this consistently, of course, but his low strikeout rate and relatively high walk rate in the minors indicate that Verdugo can maintain his polished approach over the long term.With the glove, Verdugo has a strong arm and has shown that he can handle all three outfield spots, though right and center are more natural fits. That presents a problem, with Chris Taylor who had something of a breakout of his own last season blocking the way in center, and Yasiel Puig doing the same in right. But regardle s, Verdugos potential with the bat is legit, so Dave Roberts is going to find him room in the lineup in 2018.OTHER BREAKOUTS: Nationals, Astros |Cubs, Red Sox |Diamondbacks, Yankees New York Yankees Cool Base White Jersey
|Rockies, Twins |Brewers, Angels |Cardinals, Rays | Marlins, Royals | Pirates, Mariners | Braves, Rangers | Padres, Blue Jays | Mets, Orioles | Reds, A's | Phillies, White Sox | Giants, TigersIndians: Francisco Mejia, C2017 stats: .154/.214/.154, 13 AB, 0 HR, 0 2B, 3 K, 1 BBThe 11th-ranked prospect on MLBs list and the top-ranked catching prospect in baseball, Mejia jumped from Double-A Akron to the majors last season. In September, he got the call, but with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez in front of him Mejia didnt get much opportunity to showcase his skills with the bat. He had only two hits, both singles. However, Mejia is unquestionably the real deal, and his minor league track record speaks for itself.Mejia wont turn 23 until nearly the end of the 2018 season, so theres plenty of time for him to develop. And with the aforementioned logjam at catcher, he might start at Triple-A this year, but theres a hint of a po sibility that Mejia might find a way to force himself into the lineup at another position. After his debut last year, Mejia went to the Arizona Fall League, where he spent time at third base, a position thats something of a question mark for the Indians with Michael Brantleys injury potentially shuffling Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez to different spots on defense.But even with the roadblock on the depth chart at catcher, Mejia might simply be good enough to force Terry Franconas hand at some point during the season, even if its not opening day. Eventually, Mejia is going to Men's New York Yankees Team Jersey
make himself a presence in the Indians lineup.Why he could break out: Dont let Mejias paltry performance with the bat last September fool you: He has the unmistakable ability to hit, and hit well. As a minor leaguer, Mejia has a .293 career average, and its worth noting that during his major league tenure Mejia was penciled into the lineup as a starter only once. That means that 10 of his 14 at-bats came as a pinch hitter, an unenviable position for a 22-year-old still fresh out of the Eastern League.Nonethele s, when Mejias time does come, hes going to tear the cover off the ball. Hes a bit of a free swinger, but he has consistently hit the ball to all fields as a minor leaguer. And in his small sample last season, Mejias average exit velocity was about 7 mph above the MLB average. Before reaching the majors, Mejia showed little propensity to strike out, and he hit extra base hits in bunches while in the Indians farm system, something thats of great value coming from your teams backstop.Defensively, Mejia is still a bit of a question mark, but he has a showstopper for an arm, so whether he sticks at catcher or this hot corner experiment goes further, hes going to show it off. His bat is ready despite being a bit aggre sive, so look for Mejia to do a lot more than just pinch hit this season.