7 MLB Players Who Will Become Household Names in 2014
I want to take you back to 2007. The Dodgers had a young outfielder by the name of Matt Kemp who had just completed a very strong season in which he appeared in 98 games, hit .342 and collected 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases.
However, he wasn't garnering very much media attention outside of Los Angeles. He was off to a fast start but hadn’t quite hit the national news.
In 2008, he began to show his potential. He stayed in the majors for an entire season and hit .290 with 18 home runs. He also managed to steal 35 bases, and he established his reputation as a talented all-around player.
Some players will do the same thing this season. Maybe they had promising debuts last year, but when they finally remain in the majors full-time, they will show everything they are capable of.
Most of my predictions here will be based on strong showings in 2013. These seven players seem to be right on the edge of becoming established stars, and it will take just one more season to get them there.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners seem to have a way of finding young arms with tons of potential. Felix Hernandez started it a few years ago, and now it seems like James Paxton could continue that trend.
Last year, he ended up making only four starts near the end of the season, but I was most impressed by his 21 strikeouts in 24 innings. His ERA was also very strong at 1.50, but that strikeout potential seems like a great sign.
This left-hander is now 25 years old, and this could be the year we finally see him break out and fulfill his potential.
Travis d'Arnaud, New York Mets
Travis d'Arnaud was underwhelming in his debut last year for the New York Mets, but before he got called up, he was hitting .333 in Triple-A in 2012. Hitting has never been his problem, so there's no doubt he will figure that out once he becomes more comfortable in the majors.
The intriguing thing about d'Arnaud is that he can hit with power. Mets fans are hoping to see the return of a bat similar to Mike Piazza’s. Defensively, he also seems like an upgrade, and if he can develop the offensive attack at the plate, you'll be hearing from him for a very long time.
Martin Perez, Texas Rangers
Martin Perez does not pile up many strikeouts, so some people might not be crazy about him for that reason. However, he has been rising through the Texas Rangers organization slowly and finally showed some potential last year.
He made 20 starts in the big leagues and ended up at 10-6. His ERA was a respectable 3.62, and he only issued 37 walks. Because he can’t rely on strikeouts to get out of sticky situations, a major determinant of his success will be keeping men off the bases.
Since he demonstrated his best control last year and seemed to do a good job getting, on average, six innings into every game, he will start piling up victories and become well-known to baseball fans.
Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton is fast. We all know that, and he basically steals bases whenever he wants. Last season, even though he struggled a bit in Triple-A and only hit .256, he stole 75 bases.
Let's draw that number out. In total, he got 129 hits. Since most of his stolen bases were probably going to second, he had 101 singles and 38 walks. Basically, he stole second base almost half the time he stood on first base. (I know that this is a very rough calculation, but I wanted to put that number in perspective.)
In the minors, he is a career .280 hitter, so if he is able to get back to that number in the majors, we are looking at a legitimate threat to steal 100 bases this season. He did it in the minors twice, and if he does it in the big leagues, he will definitely become a household name.
Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros
Jarred Cosart was originally a prospect with the Philadelphia Phillies, but he was traded to the Houston Astros and finally made his major league debut last season. He seems like a great candidate to break out because of his great start in 2013.
His record ended up being 1-1 in the majors, but he started 10 games and put up a 1.95 ERA. Sophomore pitchers do sometimes hit a wall when major league hitters finally adjust to them, but he has had success at every level of the minor leagues. He seems to have a good mindset and will be up for this challenge.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
Chris Archer is going to be looking to complete his first full season in the majors in 2014, and if he does what he did last season, he could win 15 games. Last season, he made 23 starts and ended at 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA. He is not much of a strikeout pitcher, but he seems to have pretty solid endurance.
Even though he only averaged about six innings per start, he was able to go the distance on two separate occasions. That indicates two things. First, he seems to be very durable. Second, when he is on, hitters have a very hard time knocking him around. He has the potential for great games.
With the combination of potential and durability he seems to be showing, don't be surprised to see him pile up a lot of victories in 2014.
Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Nick Castellanos finally developed some power last season, and that will benefit a Detroit Tigers lineup that just traded away Prince Fielder. He hit 18 home runs last year in Triple-A, and even though his average dropped a little bit, he is a career .303 hitter in the minors.
The one major drawback is that Castellanos does strike out quite a bit, but his 100 strikeouts last season were the fewest in his entire career. Perhaps he is beginning to gain more plate discipline and learning more about the strike zone. That will help his batting average climb back up to what it was before.
Detroit has been waiting on his development for a few years, and he has arguably been the top prospect. Now, it is time to see him turn into a household name.