10 MLB Players Ready to Explode in 2013

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2013

10 MLB Players Ready to Explode in 2013

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    To clarify, no bodily harm will come to these MLB players who are ready to "explode." Rather, this list analyzes breakout candidates who should provide much more value in 2013 than they have in previous seasons.

    As you would expect, all of the following are young and relatively inexperienced—under 30 years old with less than four years of major league service time.

    An individual can't truly explode if he has produced at an MVP-caliber level before. That's why Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout, for example, have been excluded. Though neither has peaked, the viewing public is already in awe of their brilliance.

    From a fantasy baseball perspective, these difference-makers should be drafted early. Their stats will certainly improve from the previous summer.

    Understandably, opposing players want to keep their distance from these emerging phenoms.

Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers)

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    Yu Darvish made six straight sensational starts during August and September, showing precisely why the Texas Rangers invested more than $100 million in him. The right-hander pitched deep into each game, recorded high strikeout totals and surrendered only one home run throughout the 44-inning sample.

    Opposing batters are utterly helpless when Darvish gets ahead in the count. He possesses sharp offspeed pitches with which to put them away.

    Darvish's overpowering stuff should be just as crisp in his age-26 season.

Nathan Eovaldi (Miami Marlins)

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    The Miami Marlins shipped an underachieving Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer and got Nathan Eovaldi in return. For about one-30th of the salary, he might be the more valuable player in 2013.

    For one, Eovaldi is going to start every fifth day. MLBDepthCharts.com projects that he'll be Miami's No. 4 option, which could change if Ricky Nolasco gets traded.

    Striking out left-handed batters has been a challenge for Eovaldi early in his career.

    However, they will not dominate him this season. Hard-hit balls to the left side won't get through athletic shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and third baseman Placido Polanco. Eovaldi's superb velocity can induce late swings and funnel line drives in their general direction.

Andrelton Simmons (Atlanta Braves)

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    A broken finger interrupted Andrelton Simmons' standout rookie campaign. He batted .296/.336/.452 prior to the injury and made dazzling defensive plays.

    The production dropped following his return to the lineup, but he continued to make contact at an impressive rate. It was no fluke—Simmons whiffed only 77 times in 1,042 minor league plate appearances. Such a skill will come in handy against the strikeout artists who comprise NL East starting rotations. 

    This 23-year-old will have an everyday job from Opening Day onward. Anchoring a deep Atlanta Braves batting order, expect him to frequently step to the plate with opportunities to drive in runs.

    It's very likely that Simmons could represent his team on the National League All-Star roster.

Matt Moore (Tampa Bay Rays)

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    There were startling similarities between the age-23 seasons of Matt Moore (2012) and David Price (2009). They shared a 1.35 WHIP and practically finished with a matching ERA+ and average start length.

    Whichever way you crunch the numbers, Moore is actually developing faster than his teammate did.

    His strikeout-to-walk ratio—particularly after midseason—belittled Price's. He was also more effective against right-handed batters and confident in his secondary pitches.

    Keep in mind, Price emerged as an All-Star the following year and finished runner-up to Felix Hernandez in AL Cy Young voting. In hindsight, we would be able to say that Moore "exploded" in 2013 if he claims the same individual honors. 

Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles)

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    A longtime shortstop, Manny Machado shifted to third base without protest in his first MLB stint. He quickly became an excellent defender at the position.

    His extraordinary all-around talent convinced the Baltimore Orioles to select him with the No. 3 overall draft pick several years ago.

    On top of that, though, Machado has been praised for his work ethic and understanding of the game.

    The 20-year-old could spend 2013 in the heart of Baltimore's lineup if the team doesn't add another power hitter. It's a logical fit considering his .367/.396/.551 triple-slash line with runners in scoring position last season.

Matt Harvey (New York Mets)

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    The New York Mets traded away ace R.A. Dickey earlier this winter, but have already cultivated an adequate replacement.

    Matt Harvey can dial up his fastball into the upper 90s and make opposing batters look foolish with any of his three offspeed pitches. Baseball-Reference.com shows that his swinging strike percentage was significantly better than the league average in 2012.

    Harvey also contributes off the mound. He batted .333 in his 10 MLB starts and provided everything from sacrifice bunts to extra-base hits.

    After throwing nearly 170 innings between Triple-A and the majors, the right-hander will be plugged into the rotation without restrictions.

Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals)

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    Baseball-Reference.com was impressed with Bryce Harper's rookie performance and calculates that he provided 5.0 Wins Above Replacement for the Washington Nationals.

    Because he's so young and laden with so much potential, however, we probably haven't witnessed his true explosion yet.

    Harper slumped miserably following the All-Star break because he chased too many pitches outside the strike zone. This was particularly evident against left-handed pitching. He began to adjust in late August by adopting a more patient approach, and the results speak for themselves (1.053 OPS over final 38 games).

    It is entirely reasonable to believe that Harper can contend for the 2013 NL MVP award.

Brett Lawrie (Toronto Blue Jays)

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    Brett Lawrie made a terrific splash in 2011, flaunting plenty of power and speed in two months at the major league level. There was a consensus among observers that he would evolve into an outstanding third baseman the very next year.

    But poor fortune derailed his campaign (as it did for so many other Toronto Blue Jays).

    Opposing catchers plucked Lawrie from the basepaths eight times in his first 16 base-stealing attempts—an awful efficiency. He followed that with five straight thefts and came close to restoring his success rate to respectability...until an oblique strain relegated him to the disabled list. He didn't run again upon returning in early September.

    Lawrie's regression as a hitter was even more surprising. The former top prospect only raised his home run count from nine to 11 in triple the plate appearances.

    Mike Podhorzer of FanGraphs insists that an injury-free version of him could be a great run producer by adjusting his swing trajectory.

    One thing's for sure: being surrounded by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes in the lineup means Lawrie should get plenty of pitches to clobber.

Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals)

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    Salvador Perez is a gifted catcher on par with the league's best.

    Last season, he gunned down 42 percent of would-be base-stealers, just like Miguel Montero. Perez managed that despite working with a mostly right-handed Kansas City Royals pitching staff.

    He also compares favorably to Yadier Molina. Both have totaled eight pickoffs since 2011, but Perez needed less than half as many innings behind the plate to do so.

    Let's not overlook his offensive prowess.

    The Venezuelan debuted at the same age as Joe Mauer. Through two MLB campaigns, he has a higher batting average than Mauer did at this stage of his career and a near-identical OPS!

    Going back to 2007, this rising star has improved as a power hitter in each of his professional seasons. Perez needed just three months to launch 11 home runs in 2012, which means he could easily wind up with 20-plus bombs next summer.

Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals)

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    Due to a team-imposed innings limit, the viewing public was deprived of Stephen Strasburg down the stretch last season.

    Only a handful of his MLB contemporaries average 96 mph per fastball as a starting pitcher. Of those who do, there aren't any with comparable curveball control and sinking action on the changeup.

    Durability is obviously a concern for Strasburg because he has already undergone major elbow reconstruction.

    However, if the right-hander continues to paint the corners with the aforementioned filthy repertoire in his fourth season, he could post gaudy numbers that the baseball world has seldom seen.