With the Major League Baseball season still about a month away, it's not too early to get a gauge on which underrated players will experience career years in 2013—and most importantly, provide help for your fantasy squad.
Three 20-somethings stand out as players who were just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential last season but didn't quite post the gaudy numbers that they were capable of.
Here is a breakdown of some emerging names to watch for as fantasy draft day approaches.
Dexter Fowler, CF, Colorado Rockies
The speedy center fielder seems to have All-Star written all over him, and he recently put it all together at the plate.
Dexter Fowler is only 26 and poses problems to opposing pitchers due to his ability to switch hit. He is effective from both sides of the dish and has the outstanding ability to drive the ball for a player who will likely be at the very top of the order (h/t ESPN).
Now that he is armed with a two-year, $11.5 million extension (h/t Denver Post), there is insurance that his baseball future in Colorado will be intact.
Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus documented a stunning shot that Fowler hit during spring training:
In 2012, the Rockies center fielder hit 13 home runs, 18 doubles and 11 triples, which is a testament to how fast he is and how he can stretch bases when necessary. Especially with the thin air at Coors Field, it would not be surprising to see Fowler increase his home run total.
His 12 stolen bases were a surprisingly low number, and he has plenty of room to improve in that regard. As long as he cuts back on the 128 strikeouts from a season ago, Fowler could easily have a breakout year.
James McDonald, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Prior to the All-Star break in 2012, the 28-year-old was 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA as the Pirates held a one-game advantage in the National League's Central Division.
As the wheels began to come off of Pittsburgh's superb start, everything collapsed for James McDonald as well. McDonald had a nightmarish end to the year and wound up seeing his ERA balloon to 4.21 and his command elude him.
But that doesn't mean he can't bounce back in 2013. There were plenty of promising signs for McDonald, and he has enough versatility in his pitching arsenal to excel.
There is an inherent risk on taking a flier on a Pirates hurler, considering how putrid the team has been in not posting a .500 record or better in any of the past 20 seasons. That's why McDonald is such a sleeper, though.
Oh, and it's also a contract year, since McDonald will be a free agent next winter. A spectacular showing could easily net him a long-term extension in Pittsburgh or traditionally greener MLB pastures in terms of both money and success.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
This past year marked the first full season for the third baseman, who is only 24 and has a ton of upside moving forward.
Mike Moustakas socked 34 doubles, 20 home runs and 74 RBI in 2012, and that was with very inconsistent pitch selection and a lackluster eye. He struck out 124 times while only drawing 39 walks, which is something he's undoubtedly looking to improve in spring training.
Royals manager Ned Yost did nothing to dismiss the hype surrounding the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft back in January, as reported by MLB.com's Vinnie Duber:
Look, if you're looking for the finished product, that ain't going to happen...He improved greatly all season long, defensively, offensively. But he's still just scratching the surface of what he's going to be able to do. I think when it's all said and done, he's going to be a consistent .275, 25-to-30 [home runs], 100 RBIs with great defense.
If hitting for as many extra bases as he did last season is any indication, there is no telling where Moose's ceiling is.
Minor League Blog's Twitter page highlighted how hot Moustakas' bat has been this spring, which is always an encouraging sign:
#Royals Mike Moustakas is hitting .583 on the spring. He was 2 for 2 today2/28/2013, 4:18:35 AM
The sort of production that Yost is forecasting for his young stud's future would unquestionably make Moustakas a fantasy asset. As long as he can become more disciplined and make contact with slightly more regularity, Moustakas has an extremely bright future and is well worth a fantasy investment.
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