Even if you do not follow baseball closely, you have most likely heard of stars such as Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard and Josh Hamilton.
However, there are a lot of players who possess star potential that often go unnoticed on small-market, struggling franchises.
While their teams probably won’t win the pennant, a few players are destined to be breakout stars this season.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder
Some might say McCutchen is too good for the Pirates, who have historically struggled in the NL Central. Struggled might not even be the right word; more like the Pirates give up before the season even starts.
But McCutchen might just prove he deserves a place in baseball’s elite this season.
Despite coming off a 2011 campaign where his batting average dropped from .286 to .259, McCutchen has begun 2012 on fire. He’s currently hitting .333, with an on-base percentage of .405.
Aside from McCutchen, Pittsburgh’s offense has been woeful to start the season and is last in the majors in runs scored. It is not surprising that McCutchen is often left stranded on the bases.
Hopefully he won’t let his team’s poor performance get him down, as he just signed a six-year, $51.5 million contract with Pittsburgh.
Luckily, the star center fielder is only 25-years-old, so when his contract is up, he will be one of the most coveted free agents on the market.
Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies right fielder
Cuddyer is another one of those great players that is overlooked by large-market franchises.
In 11 years with the Minnesota Twins, he hit 141 home runs and knocked home 580 RBIs while hitting .271.
Cuddyer recently signed a three-year, $31.5 million deal with Colorado this offseason, and the Rockies couldn’t be happier.
So far he has been a beast at the plate, putting up a .371 average that includes one HR, five doubles and 13 hits. Cuddyer is on track to becoming the Rockies new superstar, as Troy Tulowitzki can’t seem to keep up with the new slugger.
But, unfortunately for Cuddyer, he is 33 years old. While that is still young in baseball years, he doesn’t have a lot of time remaining to land a large-market contract.
The Phillies considered him this offseason, but deemed him too expensive as they were reaching the luxury tax threshold. This alone shows he has potential, and it should be a great boost to his confidence during his short time in Colorado.
Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians catcher
Thanks to guys like Santana and San Francisco’s Buster Posey, catchers are expected to be not only perfect behind the plate, but also pack power with the bat. A new brand of catcher has been born.
Santana just signed a contract extension worth $21 million with the Indians that keeps him in Cleveland through 2016, with a club option in 2017.
In 2011, Santana was one of only four players in the league to hit at least 25 homers, 35 doubles and draw 90 walks.
Santana has started off in a slump in 2012, but he has the potential to be one of the best catchers in the game.