With April rapidly approaching, America’s pastime is almost upon us. Unfortunately, this could be a rough year for Texas baseball. The Astros are on the verge of another 50-win season, as they are welcomed to the AL West and the Rangers will fight for one of the top two spots in the division with youthful Oakland, the up-and-coming Mariners and the lavish Angels.
Though, this doesn’t mean we still can’t look forward to another memorable season. At the end of the season, it is always intriguing to take a look at the breakout seasons certain players had, especially when those player began the year as sleepesr or relatively unknowns.
Here are five players I predict will have breakout seasons in 2013:
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs:
Last year, Rizzo was called up to the majors after tearing it up in Triple-A, hitting 23 homeruns and batting .342. Then, in 87 games with the Cubs, he hit .285 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs. Chicago padded its lineup a bit this offseason with the additions of Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston, and this should only improve Rizzo’s production by giving him more opportunities. Only 23, the first baseman has a great capacity for improvement. Don’t be surprised if Rizzo posts a .280, 30-plus home run and 100 RBI line this year for the Cubbies.
Yoenis Cespedes, LF, Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics’ signing of Cespedes was a big headline during last year’s offseason, but when the leftfielder got off to a slow start in his first MLB season, us fickle sports fans almost seemed to forget about him. He finished last year batting .292, with 23 home runs, and 82 RBIs in 129 games. I fully expect Cespedes to start at least 140 games this year, and after making the adjustment to MLB pitching, I expect a 30-plus homerun season and a possible all-star selection. While I see his batting average dipping a bit, I also see a noticeable increase in power, giving Oakland a potent one-two punch with Josh Reddick.
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
In his first full MLB season, Moore exceeded expectations. While finishing with a 11-11 record doesn’t seem that impressive, his 3.81 ERA and 175 strikeouts show that he has great stuff. He averaged close to nine K’s per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .238 clip. He does need to improve his control some, as he finished 7th in the AL in walks, but he will need to be a central part of the Rays' season if they wish to make another postseason run. Don’t expect Clayton Kershaw-like numbers just yet, but he owns a devastating changeup and an overpowering fastball that can get up to 98 on the gun.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Baseball fans will not soon forget Freese’s 2011 World Series heroics, especially during the legendary game six. While Freese did get voted to his first All-Star game last year, I can’t help but see his numbers as underachieving for a player of his talent. My view of his production lies in his power numbers and run production. From what I saw in the 2011 postseason, Freese has the potential to be a 30-plus homerun third baseman. Unfortunately for Freese, a loaded Cardinal lineup takes some production away from him. I don’t see the Cardinals lineup producing the way it did last year, and should Craig, Beltran, Hollida, or Molina go down with an injury, expect Freese to be the guy to pick up the slack.
Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Last year, after the month of June, Minor held an ERA greater than 6.00. He was 3-6 and struggling to challenge hitters. But after an outing against the Yankees, in which he went 7 1/3 innings and only allowed one run, it was smooth sailing. Minor finished the season with an 11-10 record and a 4.12 ERA, including a 2.16 ERA after the All-Star break. If he can continue where he left off in 2012, Minor should be one of the centerpieces of the Braves' rotation for years to come. Perhaps Medlen-Minor will develop shades of Maddux-Glavine.