Dark Horse NL Cy Young Candidates

Sam StrykerContributor IIIFebruary 12, 2013

Dark Horse NL Cy Young Candidates

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    The big-name pitchers in the National League will continue to be the favorites for the Cy Young Award—think Clayton Kershaw, Matt Cain, Gio Gonzalez and the newly-arrived Zach Greinke.

    But beware of the dark horses. Last year, then-Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey came out of nowhere to take the 2012 NL Cy Young Award.

    Though Dickey was traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason, don’t be surprised if another low-profile candidate emerges from the woodwork to be one of the top pitchers in the league. 

    Whether it is a converted closer like Aroldis Chapman or a youngster like Wade Miley looking to raise their game to the next level, the NL is ripe with upset candidates for the Cy Young.

    All statistics are gathered from ESPN.

Ryan Vogelsong

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    Even with former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum having an off year in 2012, San Francisco used a top-heavy rotation headlined by Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner to win the World Series last season.

    Ryan Vogelsong is part of that deep group of starters as well. The right-hander posted a 3.37 earned run average and 158 strikeouts in 189.2 innings pitched. 

    His 14-9 record and the fact he is 35 don’t exactly scream Cy Young candidate. However, Vogelsong pitched 16-consecutive quality starts at one point last season.

    As he plays in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, expect Vogelsong’s career resurgence to continue—maybe even with a Cy Young.

Aroldis Chapman

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    Chapman was supposed to be a starter for the Reds last season, but bullpen injuries forced the Cuban left-hander into the closer’s role.

    There Chapman thrived, as he finished 2012 with 38 saves and a minuscule 1.51 ERA. But perhaps most impressive was the fact Chapman struck out 122 batters in just 71.2 innings.

    Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports says Chapman “may be the team’s best closer and best starter.” That’s saying a lot, considering how deep Cincinnati’s rotation is.

    With an All-Star lineup backing him up, expect Chapman to excel in his first full year as a starter.

Tim Hudson

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    The 37-year-old Braves starter is nothing if not reliable—he’s never pitched a season in his 13-year career where he has had more losses than wins.

    Hudson has been on a roll his last three seasons, winning 17, 16 and 16 games, respectively. Last year he pitched to a 16-7 record and a 3.62 ERA.

    Though he doesn’t strike out a lot of batters—just 102 last season—Hudson is still a top-flight starter. 

    Until he proves otherwise, the Atlanta righty is once again a dark horse candidate for the NL Cy Young this season.

Mat Latos

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    Latos is the second member of the Reds’ rotation to make this list and for a reason. Cincinnati has one of the best starting rotations in the league, but doesn’t feature a high-profile ace. 

    2013 may be the year that one of the Reds’ starters finally earns some postseason accolades, and Latos could be that guy.

    In his first year in Cincinnati, the former Padres left-hander pitched to a 14-4 record with 185 strikeouts and a 3.48 ERA. 

    Perhaps most impressive was the fact Latos pitched so well after making the transition from pitcher-friendly Petco Park to the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. 

    With a deep Reds lineup offering Latos protection, expect the towering hurler (he stands 6'6") to challenge for some postseason hardware in 2013.

Jonathon Niese

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    Niese pitched in the eventual Cy Young winner Dickey’s shadow last season. But with the knuckleballer shipped out of town in the offseason, expect the New York spotlight to shine bright on the 26-year-old left-hander.

    Luckily for the Mets, he’s ready. 

    2012 was a breakout campaign for the southpaw, as he pitched to a 13-9 record with 155 strikeouts and a 3.40 ERA for lowly New York. 

    Now that he’s the top gun in Queens, expect Niese to make some noise in the NL in 2013.

Wade Miley

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    Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper edged out the Arizona left-hander last season for NL Rookie of the Year. That should tell you the type of campaign Miley had.

    The southpaw was a bright spot on the mediocre Diamondbacks, pitching to a 16-11 record with a 3.33 ERA and 144 strikeouts. 

    Miley is just 26 and with a full season under his belt, expect him to take it up a notch in 2013 and contend for a Cy Young.

Ross Detwiler

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    The Washington leftie may fall in ace Gio Gonzalez’s shadow, but Detwiler could be a pitching force to be reckoned with. 

    In 2012 he started 27 games and pitched to a 3.40 ERA and 105 strikeouts, both good, but not great numbers.

    But he most impressed in his lone postseason start, where he threw six innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals, holding St. Louis to three hits. 

    Detwiler is still just 26 and probably the biggest long shot on the list to win the Cy Young, but he could surprise in 2013.