Predicting 8 First-Time MLB All-Stars for the 2013 Season
With just over a month separating us from the start of spring training, fans are starting to take a closer look at their teams' reshaped rosters, as each franchise has made its share of changes leading into 2013.
We'll no doubt see some strong performances from the league's best, but a new season also affords lesser-known players the opportunity to step up and make their mark.
These players have all had their bright spots in recent seasons, but with strong starts in 2013, they just might be primed for appearances in the Midsummer Classic.
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As a member of the Detroit Tigers, it was thought that Jacob Turner could be the type of pitcher that would fill in as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy behind ace Justin Verlander.
That all changed last summer when the Tigers moved Turner to Miami, bringing Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Motor City.
With Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson both out of the picture in Miami, Turner should be able to finally solidify himself as a strong starter in Major League Baseball. He has the stuff to build on the 3.38 ERA he put up as a Marlin last year.
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2011 proved to be Brett Lawrie's best year with the Toronto Blue Jays, as he went deep nine times while driving in 25 runs in only 43 games.
He hit 11 home runs last season and notched 135 hits, though injuries cut his season down to 125 games.
If Lawrie can remain healthy in 2013 and beyond, there's no doubt that he has what it takes to become a perennial All-Star.
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Despite some hiccups along the way, 2012 proved to be a relatively strong season for rookie White Sox reliever Addison Reed.
He managed 29 saves in 62 appearances last season, winning three games while posting a sub-4.00 ERA.
Reed strikes out nearly a batter per inning, but will become an even more valuable late-inning option once he's able to command his finesse pitches more frequently.
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Lefty Mike Minor gave plenty of reason for pause during the first half of last season, going 5-6 with an ERA just shy of 6.00 while struggling with his command all along the way.
Luckily for the Braves, he came around in the second half, going 6-4 with a 2.18 ERA.
If he can replicate his second half throughout the entirety of the 2013 season, we could be seeing the emergence of a top-flight starter.
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It was an impressive debut for Will Middlebrooks last season, as the third baseman took over in Boston and hit 15 home runs while batting nearly .300 in 75 games before going down with a broken wrist.
Middlebrooks has the tools it takes to be a star in this league; his power and defense are both above average. Once he gets some more at-bats under his belt this spring, he may be primed for a breakout season in 2013.
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After spending the first four seasons of his career as a relief pitcher, Marco Estrada made 23 starts with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012 and showed that he might just belong in a starting rotation moving forward.
Estrada went 5-7 as a starter, posting a 3.76 ERA and striking out better than a batter each inning. If he can continue that throughout 2013 and improve on his 1.152 WHIP, he should be headed for bigger things next season.
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Starting pitching was ultimately the downfall of the Minnesota Twins in 2012, as the staff was pieced together with less-than-stellar prospects who would hardly crack a major league roster anywhere else.
Denard Span was a bright spot, though his name came up in trade rumors this season, much like in 2011 when the Nationals discussed a potential deal.
They finally got the deal done this offseason when Span was sent to Washington in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
Span will join a strong outfield in 2013 and has all the tools necessary to break out on a bigger stage.
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Al Alburquerque may have only made eight appearances in 2012 as he recovered from elbow surgery, but he made the most of them once he did return, posting a 0.68 ERA while allowing only six hits in 13 innings.
In 2011, he was 6-1 with a sub-2.00 ERA while striking out nearly 14 batters per nine innings.
With Jose Valverde out of the picture in Detroit, Alburquerque could play a high-profile role in the Tigers pen, one that could lead to the emergence of an All-Star.