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Posted: Friday April 3, 2009 12:41PM; Updated: Friday April 3, 2009 4:39PM
Jon Heyman Jon Heyman >

Thirty breakout candidates, Peavy trade still possible and more notes

Story Highlights

Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm was about the best starter down in Florida

Will the poor economy force a gigantic selloff this summer?

If the Yanks don't live up to expectations, Joe Girardi could be replaced by ...

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Paul Maholm
Paul Maholm went 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA for the Pirates last season.
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I see breakout seasons everywhere. Thirty of them, to be exact.

And here they are ...

1. Paul Maholm, Pirates starter: He was about the best starter down in Florida (2-0, 1.52). Apparently not at all affected by his big winter contract (three years, $14.5 million).

2. Corey Hart, Brewers outfielder: He showed none of his September struggles, hitting like a fiend all spring (7 HR, 17 RBIs, .362).

3. Andre Ethier, Dodgers outfielder: Gigantic second half, including a .462 September, may be attributable to the presence of Manny Ramirez, or maybe just personal improvement. In any case, Manny's back.

4. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins starter: Popular pick for stardom, his dynamic second half included 119 strikeouts and 13 walks the last three months.

5. Khalil Greene, Cardinals shortstop: Perhaps the noted introvert just didn't fit in with the Padres. Big spring.

6. Chris Getz, White Sox second baseman: Speedy player had a nice spring that included an inside-the-park home run.

7. Alex Gordon, Royals third baseman: Greatness was always expected for him. Perhaps now's the time.

8. Josh Fields, White Sox third baseman: Hampered last year by knee trouble, he looks primed for a big year.

9. Brandon Wood, Angels infielder: They've got to find at-bats for this guy with monstrous power.

10. Rick Ankiel, Cardinals outfielder: Yet another full year with the stick can only help. Great all-around talent, obviously.

11. Chris Volstad, Marlins starter: Underrated member of a great young rotation showed big potential late last year (6-4, 2.88).

12. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers starter: Tremendous talent might be a year away. Or maybe not.

13. Pablo Sandoval, Giants third baseman: Huge Cactus League offensive numbers can be misleading, but his stats, including a .459 batting average, were crazy.

14. Travis Ishikawa, Giants first baseman: Big spring (seven homers) provides hope to the Giants' other corner.

15. Rickie Weeks, Brewers second baseman: Underachieving No. 2-overall pick is looking at a make-or-break year. I say he makes it.

16. Chan Ho Park, Phillies starter: "Looked great this spring," according to a scout. But with a stash of fine young pitchers, his hold on the No. 5 spot isn't impenetrable.

17. Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs first baseman: Maybe it's just me, but this guy's an unstoppable force whenever I see him. Unfortunately for him, he's blocked at first by Derrek Lee.

18. Micah Owings, Reds pitcher: Known previously more for his hitting, but he's showing signs. Big year for Micahs.

19. Johnny Cueto, Reds starter: Some scouts think he's more talented than Edinson Volquez.

20. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox starter: Tremendous spring (2-0, 2.52) portends better things to come.

21. Adam Jones, Orioles outfielder: Already very good defensively, he might be ready to make a leap as a hitter now.

22. Brett Anderson, A's starter: He's considered the best of a great stable of young A's pitchers.

23. Jayson Werth, Phillies outfielder: Serious contributor to world championship team who plays the game right and keeps improving.

24. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians outfielder: He was very good last year (his second half OPS of 1.038 trailed only Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Mark Teixeira), but maybe someone will notice this time.

25. Chris Iannetta, Rockies catcher: Very impressive display in the WBC won plaudits.

26. Chris Young, Diamondbacks outfielder: His 2008 season will prove to be an aberration offensively.

27. Kendry Morales, Angels first baseman: They tried to keep Teixeira, but this fellow looks pretty decent so far.

28. Javier Vazquez, Braves pitcher: Switch back to National League may prove big for this innings-eater.

29. Brett Gardner, Yankees center fielder: Speedy and cocky, he beat odds just by getting a chance to win the job to man that hallowed ground. One caveat: Any sign of a slump, and the Yankees are always a threat to go out and acquire someone to replace him.

30. Joey Votto, Reds first baseman: Big-power potential means he might take over Adam Dunn's old role as 40-homer hitter in a Great American (hitters) Ballpark.

Peavy trade still possible

Asked whether star pitcher Jake Peavy could be traded during this season on Thursday, perpetually honest Padres general manager Kevin Towers answered, "Who knows? A lot depends on how we play. We'll see how the season is going. If we start spinning our wheels, we might engage in discussions."

Towers talked extensively this winter to the Braves and Cubs, two teams on Peavy's original, informal list of teams he might consider (he has a full no-trade now, so it's up to him). The Brewers have been mentioned as a possibility more recently, and they certainly have what it takes to pull off a deal (hot-shot shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar would be a nice start). Peavy supposedly much prefers the NL. As to whether Peavy would accept a deal to the Brewers ... who knows?

In an attempt to quell all the speculation and accompanying anxiety, Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod, asked weeks ago that Towers only come to him when something gets serious, and while Axelrod admitted to "hearing rumblings" lately, he said nothing's been brought to them lately.

Meanwhile, Towers, who cut the Padres' payroll some $35 million into the mid-$40s, isn't quick to give up on the season. "I like our ball club a lot better than last year," Towers said. Although, Towers conceded that with eight new faces on the pitching staff, there are a lot of questions to be answered. "If our pitching struggles, we won't be very good," he said.

Nonetheless, Towers' teams have won more than they've lost over the years, and he isn't giving in to the outside reviews, which are almost all bad. "The expectations internally are probably a little bit better than externally ... That's the best way to sneak up on people," Towers said.

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