MLB.com Columnist

Dan O'Dowd

Leap year? 10 players poised for a breakout in 2015

Leap year? 10 players poised for a breakout in 2015

With Opening Day just around the corner, you're hearing a lot of people talking about "breakout players." In that spirit, here are 10 players I expect to make a leap toward stardom in 2015.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles
Gausman was dominant down the stretch last year, posting a 2.87 ERA with a strikeout per inning in his final five starts. He already has mid-90s heat and is just a click away from commanding a wicked slider that will make him a true No. 1 starter.

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Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Breaking down the arrival time for top prospects

Rising stars made impact in Spring Training even if they won't be on Opening Day rosters

Breaking down the arrival time for top prospects

Spring Training isn't only about making the 25-man roster that breaks camp for Opening Day. There are countless prospects who, either because they are on the 40-man roster or are there on a non-roster invitation, get the chance to simply show what they can do against a higher level of competition, perhaps making a strong impression with the powers that be.

As the calendar forges toward the start of the regular season, spring rosters are slowly being pared down as clubs begin to figure out who will "head north" to start the year. Many of the game's top prospects have made their presences felt and been optioned or reassigned to Minor League camp. Where will they start the year and, more important, when can we expect to see them in the big leagues on a permanent basis? Here's a look at those in the top half of our Top 100 prospects whose time in big league camp has come and gone.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

QB Wilson to suit up for Rangers today

QB Wilson to suit up for Rangers today

Russell Wilson will trade his Seattle Seahawks uniform for a Texas Rangers one on Saturday, as the two-time Super Bowl quarterback is scheduled to join the club in Surprise, Ariz.

Wilson, whose Seahawks lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, is making his second Spring Training visit with the Rangers. He is expected to participate in the team's morning workout but unlikely to play in the 4:05 p.m. ET game against the Padres.

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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

What to watch for in today's games

What to watch for in today's games

The regular season draws near as Grapefruit League and Cactus League action continues today, featuring some high-profile pitchers and a matchup between crosstown rivals.

Here are a few things to watch for:

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Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Astros unveil on-the-go chicken waffle cone

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Astros unveil on-the-go chicken waffle cone

Have you ever been in the mood for chicken and waffles, but because of your hectic and busy schedule, don't have time to sit down for a meal? Are you at a large sporting event and lack a table and utensils with which to eat your meal? Well, have no fear: The Astros are happy to solve that little issue. 

From the makers of the BBQ baked potato, arguably the most delicious ballpark food of 2014, comes the resplendent chicken and waffles cone. 

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MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Tigers crossing fingers on Verlander

Triceps cramp puts damper on day right-hander showed Cy Young form

Tigers crossing fingers on Verlander

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- What a strange, confusing, scary day for the Detroit Tigers. One moment, there was Justin Verlander at his dominant best.

"That's about as well as I've seen him throw in Spring Training in years," Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Verlander sneaks up on fan for selfie

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Verlander sneaks up on fan for selfie

Normally, people who take selfies in Starbucks lines are just way too excited about the massive amount of sugar and milk foam they're about to consume. But sometimes, they're professional baseball players who are super excited about … you.

Well, not you, necessarily -- not unless you're this lucky kid wearing a Verlander shirsey. 

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Harvey celebrates b-day with breezy outing

Mets' ace fans five, allows one run in 4 1/3 innings against split Cardinals squad

Harvey celebrates b-day with breezy outing

JUPITER, Fla. -- Consider this mathematical improbability: Matt Harvey was one of four Mets players to celebrate a birthday on Friday, receiving an early-morning cake in the clubhouse alongside outfielder Michael Cuddyer and catcher Johnny Monell. (The fourth, outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo, is in Minor League camp.) But Harvey's celebration did not linger. At age 26, there was much work to do.

It certainly seemed like business as usual later in the day, when Harvey waited out a brief rain delay before setting a spring high of 80 pitches in his 4 1/3-inning, one-run outing against the Cardinals in the Mets' 5-4 loss. Though Harvey was less efficient than he would have liked, the most remarkable aspect of his afternoon was how unremarkable it all seemed. He was just plain old Harvey, hitting 97 mph on a notoriously slow Roger Dean Stadium radar gun while keeping the Cardinals largely off the basepaths.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

Skipper, whose Rays grew vs. Yanks, Sox, says competition helps young players develop faster

Maddon sees NL Central as the new AL East

MESA, Ariz. -- When Joe Maddon took over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, lots of people -- Lou Piniella included -- felt they were on a dead-end street, trapped in the American League East like a house hunter on a budget in the Hamptons.

Every preseason publication -- including the baseball preview in Cigar Aficionado -- started with the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays and then, just to be nice, threw in a couple hundred words about the Rays. That was life in baseball's best division, and Maddon loved it.

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gonzalez exits game vs. Padres with sore left knee

Rockies right fielder had knee surgery in August

Gonzalez exits game vs. Padres with sore left knee

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez was removed from Friday's game against the Padres because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Gonzalez called the injury "nothing serious" and will be re-evaluated in the morning.

Gonzalez, who had surgery on the knee Aug. 19, aggravated it after a catch-and-throw off a Will Middlebrooks fly ball in the bottom of the third. He finished the inning, and he batted in the top of the fourth before being removed in the middle of the frame.

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AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ventura dazzles with his Opening Day form

Ventura dazzles with his Opening Day form

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Royals ace Yordano Ventura figured out he had a no-hitter going on Friday night somewhere around the fifth inning.

That's when he had a message for catcher Salvador Perez.

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Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Get an edge in your league with Fantasy 411's Cheat Sheet

Get an edge in your league with Fantasy 411's Cheat Sheet

With fantasy-baseball-draft season in full swing, MLB.com put together a cheat sheet for fans in need of expert advice. Make sure to have the one-stop information shop on hand during your auctions or snake drafts.

For comprehensive coverage of the player pool, check out MLB.com/preview. And follow @Fantasy411 for daily- and annual-league tips all season long.

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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MadBum builds pitch count in sharp Minor League outing

Penultimate spring appearance for ace proves he's ready for season

MadBum builds pitch count in sharp Minor League outing

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The World Series wasn't on the line and millions weren't watching, but Madison Bumgarner was just as dominant pitching in late March as he was in late October.

Five months ago the left-hander was dominating the Kansas City Royals under the bright lights as he led the Giants to a World Series championship. Friday, he was pitching under a hot Arizona sun in a Minor League game against the A's with fewer than 100 fans in attendance.

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William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

Cubs president of baseball operations hasn't had a rookie debut on Opening Day

Top prospect Bryant aims to break Epstein's track record

MESA, Ariz. -- Whether or not Kris Bryant will be on the Cubs' Opening Day roster has been a hot topic, and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday that no decision has been made regarding the team's top prospect.

In his career, Epstein has never had a player make his Major League debut on Opening Day, other than a Rule 5 Draft pick or a Japanese player. While most of the focus has been on Bryant's callup being linked to the start of the service time clock, Epstein said this is not a business decision.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Fred Zinkie

Fantasy roundtable prepares you to draft

MLB.com experts strategize for daily and season-long fantasy success

Fantasy roundtable prepares you to draft

MLB.com's Fantasy 411 is the most comprehensive resource available for all things fantasy baseball. As draft prep and speculation heated up, four experts -- Fred Zinkie, Zachary Finkelstein, Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano -- discussed their tactics for success. Get comprehensive daily and traditional fantasy coverage at MLB.com/fantasy, and follow @fantasy411 on Twitter.

Tell us about daily fantasy baseball.

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Fred Zinkie is a senior fantasy writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB. Zachary Finkelstein is MLB.com's Manager of Fantasy Baseball and Content Initiatives. Follow him on Twitter at @Fantasy411. Cory Schwartz is the VP of Stats for MLB.com and a co-host of the Fantasy 411 podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @schwartzstops. Mike Siano is the VP of Multimedia for MLB.com and founder and co-host of the MLB.com Fantasy 411 podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Contract status last thing on Zimmermann's mind

Contract status last thing on Zimmermann's mind

VIERA, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann is enjoying one of the best springs of anyone at Nationals camp. The right-hander's latest performance came on Friday afternoon, when he limited the Cardinals' split-squad team to one run on four hits and a pair of walks while striking out four in six innings. His Grapefruit League ERA sits at 1.37 after his fifth start.

Yet Zimmermann seems prepared to enter the 2015 season pitching in the final year of his contract. He has said he doesn't want to talk about his contract once the season starts, and he reiterated that point after the Nationals' 1-1 tie with the Cardinals.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Healthy Pujols is in vintage form this spring

Healthy Pujols is in vintage form this spring

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Albert Pujols has never really had a bad Spring Training. He's hit at least .286 and as high as .407 over the last 10 springs, because he always shows up in shape and it never takes him long to find his timing.

He just seems, well, different this spring.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

HS center fielder uses header for 8-7-6 double play

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HS center fielder uses header for 8-7-6 double play

We'll spare you the "heads up" puns and just get right down to business with this one. D'Iberville High School in Biloxi, Miss., turned one of the craziest double plays you'll ever see. 

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Marcus Stroman is going back to college

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Marcus Stroman is going back to college

Marcus Stroman is heading back to school. It will probably be a little different than how Adam Sandler did it. 

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Teheran earns Opening Day assignment for Braves

April 6 start vs. Marlins will be second consecutive nod for right-hander

Teheran earns Opening Day assignment for Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been among the many who have long assumed Julio Teheran will make his second consecutive Opening Day start for Atlanta this year. But Gonzalez did not make it official until he shared a brief casual exchange with his young right-hander after Friday's rain-shortened win over the Red Sox.

Teheran responded with a smile and then prepared to speak to the group of reporters who were standing nearby waiting to ask him about being given the chance to start the April 6 season opener in Miami.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

International prospects have fun in first game vs. high school team

International prospects have fun in first game vs. high school team

CARY, N.C. -- The team of prospects from across Latin America competing in the inaugural International Prospect Series at the USA Baseball National Training Complex knew they were in for a memorable experience even before they stepped on the field against North Carolina's South Caldwell High School on Friday afternoon.

In the end, it was everything they had hoped. And not even the final score, the 8-1 victory by South Caldwell, or the cold and drizzling could spoil the day. The team of international prospects will square off against Providence High School on Saturday.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cuban Baldoquin brings plenty of promise to Angels

Shortstop prospect has impressed with work ethic, attitude since defecting last year

Cuban Baldoquin brings plenty of promise to Angels

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Maybe one day, when enough time has passed and the wound isn't so fresh, Roberto Baldoquin will share his escape story, because every Cuban defector has one. Thursday just wasn't that day. He was still settling in, to life as an Angels prospect, to baseball in the United States and to the logistics that come with it all.

Baldoquin was still trying to create some distance.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox want Rodon to be 'complete product' in debut

Talented lefty likely to earn roster spot only when he's ready to stay for good

White Sox want Rodon to be 'complete product' in debut

MESA, Ariz. -- The prevailing school of thought concerning Carlos Rodon and breaking camp with the White Sox is that once he arrives in the Major Leagues, he's there to stay.

Comments from manager Robin Ventura on Friday concerning the talented 22-year-old southpaw did nothing to change that point of view.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Dedicated to craft, Peavy evolving with age

Dedicated to craft, Peavy evolving with age

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Give Jake Peavy credit for constantly trying to adjust. At 33 years old and at this point in his career, the Giants right-hander's fastball isn't what it used to be. But whose is at an advanced baseball age? Just ask Justin Verlander and Tim Lincecum.

As recently as 2007, when Peavy won the National League Cy Young Award and the league's pitching Triple Crown for the Padres, Peavy's fastball topped out at 100 mph, and his average was 94. Last year, his top velocity was just a tad over 93, and his average was only a skosh under 90.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Despite progress, Reddick not expected for Opening Day

Outfielder scheduled to play in Minor League game Sunday

Despite progress, Reddick not expected for Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. -- A's outfielder Josh Reddick is not expected to be ready for Opening Day, though making steady progress in his rehab from a right oblique strain.

Reddick is tentatively scheduled to be back in a game Sunday, though on the Minor League side, and the belief is he'll need more time to accumulate enough at-bats ahead of his return.

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Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brantley heeds dad's advice, eyes opposite-field power

Brantley heeds dad's advice, eyes opposite-field power

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Before Michael Brantley leaves for Spring Training each year, his dad offers a suggestion for the upcoming season. Mickey Brantley is a former big league outfielder and hitting coach, so the Indians' left fielder always takes the advice to heart.

What did Mickey Brantley have in mind for this season?

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Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Betts locked in for Red Sox

Center fielder is hitting .487 this spring

Betts locked in for Red Sox

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Another day, another stellar showing by Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts.

In Friday's 4-2 loss to the Braves, Betts clubbed a two-run homer as part of a 2-for-3 afternoon that also included a stolen base, a walk and a diving catch in center field.

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Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Verlander not concerned with triceps cramp

No MRI scheduled; right-hander's status pending further evaluation

Verlander not concerned with triceps cramp

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Justin Verlander left his start against the Blue Jays on Friday with a cramp in his right triceps after running to cover first base on a third-inning ground ball.

Verlander will be evaluated further on Saturday. At this point, however, no MRI exam is scheduled, and Verlander said he expects to make his next start on turn.

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Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Ortega's homers back Lackey's seven strong

Right-hander helps split Cardinals squad edge Mets with 84-pitch gem

Ortega's homers back Lackey's seven strong

JUPITER, Fla. -- Starters Matt Harvey and John Lackey each looked sharp in their penultimate starts of Grapefruit League play on Friday, though it was the Cardinals who came away with a 5-4 split-squad victory.

Efficiency allowed Lackey, in his third start of the spring, to become the first Cardinals pitcher this spring to cover seven innings in a Grapefruit League outing. He scattered six hits and didn't allow the Mets to advance a runner past second until the seventh, when New York used back-to-back hits by Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Michael Cuddyer to foil the shutout bid.

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Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Buchholz battles, Betts blasts for Boston

Starter pitches into fifth inning through multiple jams

Buchholz battles, Betts blasts for Boston

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pedro Ciriaco cleared the bases with a three-run double off Clay Buchholz and Julio Teheran completed six strong innings as the Braves claimed a 4-2 win in a rain-shortened game over the Red Sox on Friday afternoon at Champion Stadium. Ciriaco's second-inning double accounted for the only runs Buchholz allowed until his day concluded with Kelly Johnson's leadoff homer in the sixth inning. The only two runs Teheran allowed over 5 ⅔ innings came via Mookie Betts' fourth-inning homer.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

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Mark Bowman and Ian Browne are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.