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Who will be 2014’s breakout star?

Homer Bailey is the newest member of the $100-million club, but before his 2012 breakout, he looked like he might be a bust. Which player will transform our perceptions this season?

Top priority for Bailey post-extension: buy a giant beer stein
Top priority for Bailey post-extension: buy a giant beer stein
John Grieshop

The Reds have extended pitcher Homer Bailey with a 6-year, $105 million deal. Bailey was a top prospect when he was in the minors, ranking as high as ninth on the Baseball America top 100 list, but he didn't immediately dominate when he reached the majors. Instead, he progressed slowly, improving fundamentals like his walk rate and strikeout rate season by season while posting ERAs in the mid-fours. Then, in 2012, he broke out and shaved almost a run off his ERA with his improved command. Bailey is a good reminder that not every top prospect will light up the game the way Mike Trout has. Young players don't stop developing just because they reach the majors. For some players, it takes years of making adjustments before they finally breakout.

This isn't any big revelation, of course. It seems like every year someone shatters any reasonable estimation of their potential and becomes a star. In the recent past, we have seen a guy who kicked around the league as a replacement-level player rebuild his swing and become one of the game's best sluggers. We have seen a top prospect turn comparisons to Mickey Mantle from something to be treated with skepticism to something of an undersell. Last year, Chris Davis put years of failure and frustration behind him with a league-leading 53 home-run breakout. As the saying goes, you can't predict baseball.

Yet, we love to do just that. As spring training approaches, predictions about baseball are everywhere. We can't get enough of them. Let's have some more. There is no shortage of reasonable breakout candidates for 2014. Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts could light the world on fire. Maybe 2014 will finally be the season Mike Moustakas figures things out. The Oliver projection system is even projecting Miguel Sano, who topped out at Double-A for the Twins last season, to hit 40 home runs. Given how unlikely Jose Bautista's breakout was, you can make a case for just about anybody. Who do you predict will breakout in 2014 and become a star?

Breakfast Links 2/20:

Standing out in the market: the last gasp attempts from remaining free agents

I know exactly what is going to happen, I'm going to be one Kevin Gregg away from a free Kevin Gregg and they are going end the promotion. Never fails.

Orioles rumors: Baltimore as 'The New Colossus'

Dan Duquette would like all the tired over there for infield practice, the poor to start their running and the huddling masses yearning to breathe free... all you breathers, you head to the bullpen.

The pretty OK and extraordinarily wealthy Homer Bailey

Is this the point where the crazy-contract bubble begins to burst? It's a definite maybe.

Nelson Cruz rumors: Mets deny negotiations with free agent OF

The Mets say they aren't talking to Cruz, but what about those missing minutes on the tapes from Alderson's office? And why is Dustin Hoffman constantly meeting some shadowy figure in a poorly lit parking garage in Flushing? Follow the money, people.