Next stop, stardom: 2011 breakout picks – Derek Holland

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Cliff Lee’s departure left a huge hole in the Rangers’ rotation and they signed rehabbing former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb in the hopes he could fill the void if healthy, but 24-year-old left-hander Derek Holland emerging as a front-line starter is the more likely way for Texas to forget all about Lee.

Holland was slowed by a knee injury last spring and began the season in the minors, but earned a call-up in mid-May by posting a 0.93 ERA and 37/7 K/BB ratio in six starts at Triple-A. He pitched well through three starts, but then looked nothing like his usual self against the Twins on May 30 and missed the next two months with a shoulder injury.

Holland returned from the disabled list in mid-August and threw 38 innings down the stretch, finishing with a 4.08 ERA, .247 opponents’ batting average, and 54/24 K/BB ratio in 57 innings overall. Toss in his 1.83 ERA and 85/27 K/BB ratio in 93 career innings between Double-A and Triple-A, and it’s easy to see the young southpaw’s star potential. His fastball averaged 92 miles per hour last season and Holland’s low-80s slider is his best pitch, with a solid changeup giving him the repertoire to thrive as a starter long term.

Being a fly-ball pitcher in Texas’ power-inflating ballpark works against Holland, but he misses enough bats and throws enough strikes to succeed even while serving up some long balls. Counting on Holland to truly replace Lee is obviously wishful thinking, particularly at age 24 and with just 31 career starts under his belt, but he has the ability to emerge as one of the top left-handed starters in the league and looks capable of taking the first big step this season.

My other 2011 breakout picks: Carlos Santana, Colby Rasmus, Justin Upton, and Brandon Morrow.

The Marlins made another trade for international bonus pool money

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The Miami Marlins’ primary offseason goal thus far appears to be acquiring as much international bonus pool money as possible. Last week they traded their closer to the Nationals to get some. This morning they traded a couple of low-level prospects to the Astros to get more. Specifically, they traded lefty reliever Brayan de Paula and outfielder Adonis Giron to Houston for an unknown amount of slot money.

De Paula, 19, has pitched in the Dominican Summer League for the past two seasons while posting a 3.05 ERA and 57/16 K/BB ratio over 59 innings. Giron, 17, has one season of Dominican Summer League experience under his belt, where he hit .255/.331/.362 with three homers in 67 games.

The Marlins have made no secret of the fact that they’re after top international prospect Victor Victor Mesa and, possibly, his younger brother, Victor Mesa, Jr., which would explain the stockpiling of bonus money.