We all know guys like Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout will be the most sought-after fantasy baseball players in 2013. But as most successful fantasy owners know, it's the unheralded, under-the-radar finds that usually culminate in a league championship.
Whether the reason is a change of scenery, more experience in the big leagues or finally getting healthy, the following three players are poised for monster seasons in 2013.
Let's meet the candidates.
2012 Stats: 108 games, .227 average, 24 HR, 56 RBI, 53 RS and .343 OBP
After a somewhat injury-plagued season in 2012, Mike Napoli now finds himself in Boston as a member of the Red Sox following a two-year stint with the Texas Rangers.
Playing in a more hitter-friendly park like Fenway, Napoli will be one of the leaders in this Red Sox lineup.
According to NBC Sports, he recently received good news regarding his hip:
Furthermore, Napoli enjoyed his time at Fenway Park last season, sporting a .462 batting average with three home runs and eight RBI in 13 at-bats.
For the last three seasons combined, the 31-year-old owns a .366/.438/.854 line at Fenway.
With his hip getting better, Napoli should be able to turn on inside fastballs and drive them into/over the Green Monster in left field, making for a productive season in Boston.
2012 Stats: 87 games, .285 average, 15 HR, 48 RBI, 44 RS and .342 OBP
No one is doubting Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo's potential. He just needs the opportunity to showcase it.
The 23-year-old didn't appear in a game for Chicago until June 26 last season, but he still produced on a Cubs team that ranked 28th in runs scored in 2012.
Chicago skipper Dale Sveum has confidence in his young first baseman, telling ESPN:
I have all the confidence in the world in him to double what he did last year. "He came up, did well, had a little hiccup but other than that he was really good. There will be some bumps along the road but you give Rizzo 600 plate appearances there's going to be some damage done.
I wouldn't expect a high total of RBI from the young slugger, given the lack of production up and down the Cubs' lineup, but I do expect his average and power numbers to improve.
The lefty excels against pitches down and in the middle of the zone, which will be something for you to keep an eye on this season.
Nonetheless, 2013 will be a breakout year for Anthony Rizzo.
2012 Stats: 16 games, .323 average, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 7 RS and .417 OBP
New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner played in just 16 games for the Bronx Bombers last season after suffering an elbow injury to his non-throwing hand in mid-April (h/t ESPN).
According to Dan Martin of the New York Post, Gardner's elbow has healed and he's ready for the 2013 season. “'I probably rushed it back a little bit last year to get to the playoffs, but I felt great when I played,' Gardner said of his injury, which he says is fully healed. 'It’s completely in the rear view mirror, which is a good thing.'”
Fantasy owners know they won't be getting power numbers from Gardner, but they should expect hits, runs and stolen bases, as Gardner possesses some of the best speed in the league.
In 2010 and 2011—seasons in which the 29-year-old played in at least 150 games—Gardner swiped 47 and 49 bags respectively, and he could very well bring that type of production to your lineup this year if he stays healthy.
New York has plenty of depth in the lineup to drive Gardner home; he just needs to remain healthy and get on base to make it happen.
After missing practically the entire season last year, Gardner will be hungry and productive in 2013.
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