Before defecting from Cuba in 2013, Abreu had established himself as one of the island's all-time great sluggers. That success helped land him a record-setting free-agent contract with the White Sox. Thus far, the investment has proven more than worthwhile for the South Siders.
Abreu went straight to the Majors in 2014 and immediately showed the talent that made him a star in Cuba. He hit .317/.383/.581 in 145 games, leading the AL in slugging percentage and finishing fifth in both batting average and on-base percentage. His 36 home runs also tied him for third in the league.
Abreu is one of many recent Cuban defectors to find success in the Major Leagues, and if 2014 is any indication, he should be one of baseball's very best players for years to come.
Though he had flown under the radar in one of baseball's deepest farm systems, Danny Santana broke out in a big way in 2014.
Santana signed with the Twins in 2007 as a 17-year-old international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Although he never attracted as much attention from scouts as other members of the organization, he pushed through the Minors, finally making his Major League debut on May 5.
Santana went on to play in 101 games as a rookie and put up eye-opening numbers. He not only hit .319/.353/.472, but showed speed too, stealing 20 bases while getting caught just four times. And he did all this while splitting his time between shortstop and center field.
With more young talent on the horizon, the Twins are hoping Santana's breakout 2014 is a sign of even bigger things to come.
Matt Shoemaker may have fallen through the cracks as an amateur player, but he didn't let that stop him from developing into one of the AL's best young pitchers.
After going undrafted during his career at Eastern Michigan University, Shoemaker signed an amateur free-agent contract with the Angels in 2008. He spent the next five years weaving his way through the Minor Leagues with mixed results -- until this season.
Shoemaker pitched 136 innings over 20 starts and seven relief appearances in 2014. He managed to compile a 16-4 record with a 3.04 ERA in one of baseball's most competitive divisions. He was especially impressive in the second half, putting up a 1.87 ERA and holding his opponents' batting average to just .199.
Matt Shoemaker may not have been a name on many radars coming into 2014, but he's going to be on everyone's radar in 2015.
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