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Take, for example, the number of talented rookies that made an impact last year. While their numbers were impressive, they lack an established track record that we can use to predict their future success. For all we know, they've just had the best season of their careers; it could be all downhill from here.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. It's certainly possible for a player who's had a down year to break out of his malaise, or for an unheralded rookie to make the leap. We saw many examples of both in 2006. Whose destiny will change this year?
The Baseball Analysts: "The case on [Gary Sheffield] is pretty straightforward. He is 38 years old and two full seasons removed from being anything resembling a superstar contributor. He has endured shoulder problems to boot. Still, the defending American League champs saw fit to acquire Sheffield. Far be it from me to criticize the great Dave Dombroski, but Sheffield is going to disappoint badly in 2007."
March 7, 2007
More name than game
Joe Torre on Carl Pavano: "I've liked what I've seen from him. Not only stuff on the mound, but his whole demeanor. I think it would be a progression if he was the one. I don't think it would make any kind of statement other than we're comfortable where he is."
Mar. 14, 2007
Karsten's elbow could hand Pavano Opening Day start
Why he'll break out: King Felix has tasted both success and failure on the major league level. He followed up a dazzling rookie season with a disappointing sophomore campaign. Now that he's the featured ace on a depleted staff, with a year to adjust to new catcher Kenji Johjima, a slimmed down Hernandez could finally master his impressive arsenal.
Why he'll break out: Peavy realized his promise in 2004 and 2005, posting back-to-back seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. He took a step back in 2006, putting up a 4.03 mark which was only slightly above league average. However, his strikeout rate remained steady, and he experienced only a slight jump in walks and home runs allowed. Look to Peavy to put up a quietly impressive season as the ace of the Padres.
Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek
Why they'll break down: Posada and Varitek have been offensive stalwarts on either side of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry for many years -- which is the basic problem. Posada had an excellent 2006, while Varitek's was injury-plagued, but both are 34-year old catchers. Catching isn't exactly a position that lends itself to longevity: Johnny Bench, for instance, was done as a full-time catcher by age 33 and was done as a player by age 35. While both Posada and Varitek started as full-time catchers fairly late in their careers, each game they spend behind the plate adds to the possibility of a breakdown.