American League West: Highlighting All the Early Breakout Stars of 2013
The 2013 season is barely under way, but already several players are separating themselves from the rest of the pack in terms of their on-field performance.
Oddly enough, none of those are the usual suspects, the Mike Trouts and Josh Hamiltons and Felix Hernandezs, who are projected to put up MVP-caliber numbers year in and year out.
Two weeks into the new season, here are the A.L. West's best players so far, some you've heard of and some you probably haven't.
Coco Crisp, Oakland
Oakland's red-hot start has been aided heavily by veteran outfielder Covelli "Coco" Crisp. To go along with his .327/.426/.673 slash line, Crisp's displayed some uncommon power, hitting four home runs and six doubles. He's also drawn nine walks and swiped four bags, leading to 15 runs scored and helping the A's take an early division lead.
Ian Kinsler, Texas
The Rangers lost a lot of offense this offseason with the departures of superstar Josh Hamilton and veteran Michael Young. Luckily for Texas, Ian Kinsler is picking up right where they left off. The second baseman is among A.L. leaders in home runs (four) and RBI (nine) and contributes every night, reminding us why he was coined as one of the best second baseman in baseball.
Jed Lowrie, Oakland
Another Oakland run producer, newcomer Jed Lowrie leads A.L. shortstops in eight offensive categories. Although he plays in a small market, his .357 average and nightly contributions to Oakland's success are giving baseball fans a reason to watch the A's.
Justin Maxwell, Houston
Houston Astros fans know it'll be a rough season. Jose Altuve broke out as a star in 2012, and this year outfielder Justin Maxwell is making his name known. Maxwell has bounced around the league and up and down the minors, but he now has an opportunity to be a full-time starter after having a solid campaign last season. He's an athletic and flashy outfielder and has triples speed, allowing him to generate runs for a young Astros squad.
Lance Berkman, Texas
Another viable source of offense for the Rangers has been veteran slugger Lance Berkman. No matter how old he gets, he always seems to put up numbers. Berkman has the highest batting average in the A.L. West (.389) and leads the American League in OBP at a nifty .500. He's hit just one home run thus far, but his huge averages create runs and cause problems for opposing pitchers.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle
The best Mariners pitcher this season has not been Felix Hernandez. Second-year hurler Hisashi Iwakuma has been nothing short of spectacular in his first three starts, winning two with 16 strikeouts against just one free pass in 20.2 innings. The Japanese-born pitcher also has an MLB low 0.48 WHIP and has allowed just nine hits so far, giving the Mariners a more than capable second starter.
Alexi Ogando, Texas
Ogando's struggled to stay in the starting rotation throughout his career, but he should have no trouble this year based on his first three starts. He's 2-0 with 17 K's in 16.2 innings and an A.L. West-leading 1.08 ERA. With the losses the Rangers suffered in the offseason, Ogando (among others) is poised to keep the club at the top of the division and a favorite to make a playoff run.
Bud Norris, Houston
The unlikely ace of the Houston Astros, Bud Norris is silencing critics and pitching like a true ace. His first three outings have resulted in two wins and three well-pitched outings by the fifth-year hurler. Norris is a fan favorite at this point in Houston, and provides a bright spot on what should be another frustrating rebuilding year.
Derek Holland, Texas
Another strong pitcher in the Rangers' rotation has been Derek Holland. The 26-year-old has improved every season of his career and is off to a blazing start with a 0.77 WHIP and 1.64 ERA through three starts. Needless to say, Holland has pitched much better than his 1-1 record might indicate.
Yu Darvish, Texas
No surprise here, another Rangers pitcher making headlines as one of baseball's best. Darvish has cooled down considerably since his near perfect game, but he's still struck out more batters than any other pitcher (28) and is among league leaders in hits allowed with 10, contributing to his low 0.76 WHIP. There's no doubt Darvish will be a crucial cog to Texas' success in 2013.
Who will best sustain their early season success?
Who are your breakout stars of the A.L. West this season? Follow me on Twitter and share your thoughts.
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