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The 5 breakout candidates for the 2015 MLB season

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These players, or someone like them, will all be worth about $40 in your fantasy league this year. Plan your auction accordingly.

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Pitchers and catchers report for most teams Thursday. They will all see their shadows, which means six more weeks of preseason listicles and formulaic preview columns. It's not like I'm good enough to break free from that tradition.

This is a column about breakout players. The goal isn't to look at various prospects and see who will get an opportunity. The goal isn't to look for the veterans last year who were unlucky with balls falling in, or who took a step forward with their plate discipline without a step forward in production. This is about the breakout players whom no one should predict, the ones who will make sense only with the benefit of hindsight.

This is the Adam Dunn of columns, then. Wild swings that probably won't make contact. Even if one of them does, its overall value is still severely limited. However, it's the thrill of the hunt we're after. Which players will break out in 2015? Let's take some wild stabs and find out.

1. Eury Pérez - OF, Braves

I think he's an outfielder. Let me -- yes, an outfielder. He's had 23 at-bats in the majors, with four hits, six strikeouts, and no walks. The Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Nationals, but then lost him off waivers to the Braves. He has a career .301 average in the minors, but with limited power and dodgy patience.

The alternate header for this category: The random Triple-A player who arrives without fanfare and becomes a dependable starter. My comp was going to be David Peralta of the Diamondbacks, but he had never even played in Triple-A. He showed up straight from Double-A, just a few months after being teammates with a 39-year-old Jason Johnson in Amarillo. So maybe Pérez is too experienced, too obvious.

Do you think it is a coincidence that Pérez has passed through both of baseball's zombie teams? I do not. There will be an opportunity for Pérez in Atlanta if he pushes through in the spring. The projection systems put him at close to replacement level, but -- well, we're just guessing here. Someone's going to make us look stupid. Why not this guy, pulled almost at random?

2. D.J. LeMahieu - 2B, Rockies

What was Michael Brantley before last season? He was a nice player. A nice, youngish player who did the little things to help his team win. Caught the ball, threw the ball, hit the ball a little, ran well. Did all the little things. He went to bed in November, woke up in March, and was a surprise MVP candidate. It's not like he was a career .350 hitter with power in the minors, either. So this category is reserved for the nice, youngish player who does the little things well.

Welcome your third-place 2015 National League MVP finisher, then, the Rockies' D.J. LeMahieu. We'll finally have to learn how to spell his name and stop making jokes about him spinning trance records until sunrise at a swanky St. Tropez club. LeMahieu won a Gold Glove without hitting a lot -- that's how good his fielding is, people -- but he has the average-dependent profile of a player who will hit .330 in Coors one of these years. Why not this season? Because he isn't good enough? Baseball cares not for your opinions of who's good enough. Baseball will decide that, you fool.

LeMahieu does a lot of the little things well, you know.

3. Tyler Lyons - LHP, Cardinals

Last year at this time, no one cared about Dallas Keuchel. He belonged to the genus Southporis Unremarquedum, a highly populated dustbin filled with innings eaters and generic left-handers. Now he's excellent and one of the reasons we can't laugh at the Astros anymore. Thanks, Dallas. Thanks a lot. I had so many jokes left.

What happened? There are evidence-based explanations, sure, but the easier answer is the cosmic wheel of baseball stopped on him, as it does for a left-handed pitcher every year. There's a tipping point of command and control inside of every fringe lefty that nudges them on the desirable side of the Tom Glavine Spectrum.

Does Tyler Lyons have a shot at the Cardinals' rotation? Why were his minor league numbers so blah? How hard does he throw? No idea on all counts. All I know is that this is the year he becomes a star. He's left-handed and playing the Wheel of Baseball. We don't even have to invoke the specter of Corey Kluber in this section to prove the point.

(He's probably Corey Kluber.)

4. Steve Clevenger, C/1B, Orioles

People ask what I do with the vast, grassy acreage of the offseason, how I spend my time when there's nothing to do. I'm polite, but I explain that this stupid sport never stops making news, and right when you think it's going to slow down for a month, someone gets traded, someone gets busted, Alex Rodriguez dines and dashes at the French Laundry, someone shows up in the best shape of his life -- there's always something to read, write, and react to.

And that's how baseball gets you. Because what I should be doing -- what we should all be doing -- is studying. Boning up. This should be the year that baseball is out of surprises for all of us. This should be the year I can name the starting lineup for the Huntsville Stars, or at least figure out if the team still exists. This should be the season I know who Steve Clevenger is before the season starts.

Instead, there's going to be a bench player with no experience as a starter who hits like a maniac and helps his team to a playoff spot. All of the Postseason Preview Matchup Spectaculars we read and write will pretend it's normal that he's there, that he's a reliable hitter we're all used to. It won't make sense until we live through it.

Clevenger might hold the bat with his toes before transferring to his hands when the pitcher is in the middle of his delivery, and he might close his eyes when the ball is 15 feet from the plate. No matter. Break. Out. Candidate. He's going to be the bench player with no experience as a starter who thrives after he's thrust into a position he's not terribly qualified for. You know there will be at least one of those this year. Why not Sam Clevenger?

Steve, sorry. Why not Steve Clevenger?

5. Brett Jackson - OF, Giants

Lies. Baseball is a fount of lies. What we know doesn't matter. These players, these stats, they're all memories and data points implanted in our brains by the shadow gods who rule this sport.

There will be a busted prospect who reveals he's been playing a rope-a-dope, and we'll all feel confused and stupid. I was going to use both Jeremy Hermida and Andy Marté for this slot. They're playing for the Nippon-Ham Fighters and KT Wiz this year, respectively. They'll be awesome, too. Brett Jackson was a toolsy prospect for the Cubs who made three straight Baseball America top-100 lists. Now he's on the Giants, a minor league Rule 5 pick behind Justin Maxwell, Juan Perez, and Jarrett Parker in the sixth-outfielder race. He has trouble using bats to make contact with baseballs. There's almost no way he gets an at-bat this year, much less thrives.

Seems more like an even-year breakout candidate, to be honest. But if not Jackson, then Brandon Wood. If not Wood, then Lastings Milledge, back from Japan. Your fantasy league will be decided this year because someone claims Fendry Danston on waivers in May. He will cost you money, actual legal tender. The only thing we know about the breakout candidates of 2015 is we'll never be able to guess them, not with 1,000 guesses. Baseball is horrible. Baseball is the best.

Watch out for these breakout candidates. They have low FIPs or BABIPs or something, unless they have raw, untapped potential. Watch out.