10 Starting Pitchers Poised for Big Breakout Seasons in 2014

Zak SchmollAnalyst IFebruary 8, 2014

10 Starting Pitchers Poised for Big Breakout Seasons in 2014

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    We have almost made it to spring training, and 2014 is looking like a bright year for several young pitchers. Young pitchers seem to have a tendency to break into the majors with authority.

    It has been said that one of the hardest things to do in sports is to hit a baseball, so you can imagine that young pitchers might have an advantage. If they have not been seen yet by the competition, they have the element of surprise on their side. Hitters will not be able to perfectly anticipate everything that each individual young pitcher has, and as a result, you do see several pitchers burst into the majors.

    Here are the 10 pitchers that I think are most likely to do that this season.

Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    Mike Minor did a nice job in 2013. He went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA. He also went over 200 innings for the first time in his career, and he averaged nearly a strikeout per inning. Beyond that, he only issued 46 walks which was 10 less than the previous season.

    He has the potential to break out because the Atlanta Braves are certainly a team on the rise. That win-loss record will get better as the team gets better, and if he keeps his ERA on a similar level to last year, you could easily see him with 15 to 18 victories.

Tyler Thornburg, Milwaukee Brewers

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    john bazemore/Associated Press

    Tyler Thornburg had a strange season in 2013. When he was in the minors last year, he went 0-9 with a 5.79 ERA. However, in the majors, he went 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA over 66.2 innings. What that indicates to me is that he started to find something that was working near the end of the season.

    Part of that might be what I outlined in the introduction regarding young pitchers stepping in and dominating from the beginning, but really, until that stumble in AAA last season, he has succeeded at every level and showed the potential in the majors to keep doing it.

Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Taijuan Walker actually had a losing record last year at a few levels of the minor leagues for the Seattle Mariners. He went 9-10 which was unfortunate considering his ERA was a very strong 2.93 and his WHIP was very good at 1.20.

    The Seattle Mariners are another team that are on the rise. They have a much better lineup, and if Walker is able to break into the rotation at the beginning of the year, he should receive the run support that he needs to make an impression this year.

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    James Paxton wasn't having the best season in AAA for the Seattle Mariners last season, but something seemed to click when he made it to the majors near the end of the season. He started four games and went 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA.

    Beyond that, he struck out 21 opponents in 24 innings. He had been praised by scouts for a long time, and as was the case with Walker, he will have the run support of an improved Seattle lineup. His potential, combined with that offense, seems like a great fit.

Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Unfortunately, the New York Mets are going to be without young ace Matt Harvey this coming season, but Zack Wheeler might be able to help fill in that gap. He made his debut last season and went 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA.

    He does need to work on his command a little bit and bring down his walk total (46 in 100 innings), but if he is able to do that, he has quite a bit of strikeout potential. It might take a lot for him to replace Matt Harvey, but he could definitely help the Mets get more competitive this season.

Martin Perez, Texas Rangers

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    Martin Perez went 10-6 last season for the Texas Rangers, and he was able to keep his ERA rather low at 3.62. He is not going to overpower you or strike you out. So much of his success is going to come by way of bad contact.

    Last season, opponents hit .267 against him, and you have to assume that as he gets better, that number will fall. As soon as he is able to drop that batting average, he is going to take off. He can’t necessarily strike out opponents to get out of tough situations, so he needs to make sure he doesn’t get in those situations.

Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Chris Archer can be forgotten in the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation that features the likes of David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. However, he did a very good job in 2013 in the highly competitive American League East. His ERA was 3.22, and his WHIP was 1.13.

    He only made 23 starts last season, so if he is able to stay healthy and make 30 or so starts this year, I would expect him to win at least 15 games in 2014.

Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    Tony Cingrani overpowered the major leagues last season, and I would expect more of the same in 2014. He struck 120 opponents in 109.2 innings. He also only allowed 78 hits over that span which is incredibly impressive for a young pitcher.

    Of course, opponents might start to figure him out, but even if that does happen on some level, I think that he is going to develop into a household name in 2014. That domination is very reminiscent of his teammate Aroldis Chapman.

Jarred Cosart, Houston Astros

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    You would never guess by his 1-1 record that Jarred Cosart started 10 games last season. He doesn’t strike out very many, but he was able to control the damage and keep his ERA at a very low 1.95. That was largely done by keeping his opponents’ batting average down to .220 against him.

    I have said this before, but I think that the Houston Astros are taking positive steps. Cosart’s future development will help that process along, and if he pitches that well for the bulk of 2014, you should see the victories start piling up rather than all of these no decisions. That will make his profile rise.

Nathan Eovaldi, Miami Marlins

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Nathan Eovaldi had a strong 2013, but you would never guess that by his 4-6 record. Of course, playing with the Miami Marlins, he did not receive very much run support, but he did put together a very competitive 3.39 ERA.

    He only made 18 starts last year, so it will be interesting to see how his numbers project over an entire season. He does issue too many walks, so that will be what he needs to focus on improving. That being said, he showed enough promise last year to hopefully build on that for this campaign.