Predicting 10 MLB Players Who Will Have Hot Starts to the Season
As Opening Day approaches, players across Major League Baseball prepare for a new season.
Every year, there are a handful of players who get off to hot starts right from the get-go. Last season, strong Aprils came from Josh Willingham, Jake Peavy, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Kemp, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton and many more.
Who will make the most noise early in the 2013 season?
Here are my predictions for the 10 hottest starts to the year.
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After missing over half of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury, a healthy Evan Longoria is returning to action this spring poised for another big season with the Rays.
He's looked great so far in spring training, posting a .391/.463/.696 line with 10 extra-base hits and 14 RBI in 46 at-bats.
Tampa Bay's star third baseman has also had a history of success in the beginning of the season, owning a career .424 wOBA in March/April.
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Could Jonathon Niese emerge as the New York Mets' ace in 2013?
After a solid year last season and a terrific spring, the Mets have every reason to believe that the 26-year-old southpaw can lead their rotation this year.
Niese's Grapefruit League numbers include a 1.23 ERA and .167 opponents' average through five starts (22.0 IP).
He's red hot, and with his first three starts of the season against the Padres, Marlins and Twins, expect him to get off to a great start.
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Mike Moustakas has a had a huge spring with the Kansas City Royals, hitting .406/.440/.739 with five homers and 16 RBI.
The 24-year-old appears to be getting better as he continues to develop as a player, and could potentially be on his way to a big season.
Also worth noting is that Moustakas got off to a hot start last year, hitting for a .392 wOBA in the month of April. Whether he'll cool down as much as he did in 2012 is the question, but after the fantastic spring he just had, a slow start to the season would come as a bit of a surprise.
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Brandon Belt has been arguably the best hitter in all of spring training this year. San Francisco's first baseman has been absolutely scorching in his Cactus League campaign, batting .448/.471/.925 with eight long balls and 19 RBI.
Belt also enjoyed a strong spring in 2012, which led to a good start to the year. After his spring tear, we can expect another impressive April out of him in 2013.
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Kevin Youkilis has been a successful hitter early in the season throughout his entire career, and the banged-up Bronx Bombers are going to need him to continue that this year.
Youkilis has very good lifetime numbers in March/April (.381 wOBA and 131 wRC+), and even better stats in the month of May (.431 wOBA and .249 ISO).
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After an impressive debut with Washington last season, Bryce Harper eyes a breakout sophomore year in 2013.
The Nats' phenom slugger appears to be positioned for a hot start to the season, putting up a .484/.507/.734 line with 15 RBI thus far in spring training.
Harper's left thumb, which was bothering him earlier this week, has apparently healed, so no health concerns for him entering Opening Day.
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Acquired by the new-look Blue Jays as part of Toronto's offseason shopping spree, Josh Johnson could be a big part of a star-studded rotation in 2013.
He's looked great in Grapefruit League play, posting a 1.13 ERA and a .238 opponents' average over 16 innings pitched.
Early season success is not something unfamiliar for Johnson, who owns a career 2.88 ERA in March/April and a 2.66 ERA in May.
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Jesus Montero appears be hitting his stride in Arizona, hitting .395/.435/.674 with eight extra-base hits and 11 RBI.
Seattle's backstop will see a new role in 2013, playing as the M's full-time catcher rather than a DH who fills in at the position. With his offensive capabilities, don't be surprised to see Montero emerge as one of the better offensive catchers in the American League.
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Jon Lester is one top-notch arm with a full head of steam coming into the 2013 season.
Boston's Opening Day starter has posted a 0.75 ERA with a .101 opponents' average through six starts this spring.
Lester has walked just four batters while striking out 20 in his 24 innings pitched, which is definitely a great sign as well.
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If I had to bet on just one player to get off to a hot start this year, it would be Josh Willingham.
He's been outstanding in the first month of the season throughout his entire career. The Twins' veteran slugger owns a .399 wOBA in March/April.
Willingham has also swung the bat well in spring training, batting .340/.450/.540 in 50 at-bats.